Do you have students that struggle with note reading? Memorizing the names and positions of notes on the staff can be a tricky task for students, and finding the right way to approach it an equally tricky challenge for teachers.
I was recently contacted by Alyssa from Right Brain Music, LLC, and delighted to learn about a new approach to note-reading that she and her business partner Eileen have developed. As the name of the company suggests, their materials are designed to help right-brain learners who thrive on colorful pictures, stories and humor (and may struggle with more traditional learning methods).
In the Right Brain Music system, each note on the staff is portrayed as a character. The character designs are memorable, often humorous, and come with a detailed description that helps students remember their placement on the staff. Here are a couple of my favorites:
This dog is so silly. Every time he stands up, he bonks his head on the music staff above him. Ouch!
(Editor’s note: What a great way to remember the difference between the often-confusing Bass B and Treble D!)
This grandpa is always grumpy because his ear hair grows so fast. He can hardly hear a sound with so much hair coming out of his ears.
(Yep… this one’s a little gross. Gross enough that your boy students will love it… and better yet, remember it!)
The system includes 26 characters that represent notes from the ledger line D below the bass clef to the ledger line A above the treble clef. I have to admit, when I first opened the materials, I was a little overwhelmed by the number of characters that looked back at me. However, after just reading through all of their descriptions once, I was able to remember almost all of them!
The characters are designed to be introduced a few at a time (the instructions suggest that teachers start by introducing the characters for Middle C and 2 other notes of their choice). Depending on your students, you might choose to learn the whole set of characters, or just establish a few as landmarks and let students read the rest of their notes by interval.
The trick to this method lies in the level of detail that’s included in each character. A dog isn’t particularly memorable, but a dopey dog who hits his head on the staff is. For visual learners, there are details built right into the artwork that help with memory. If you look closely, you’ll notice that almost all of the line note characters have a line or some other strong horizontal element incorporated into their design.
There are a variety of materials, from the basic set of flashcards to games, manipulatives and charts available for purchase on the Right Brain Music website. When I received my materials, I was really impressed at how well-constructed they were – these will stand up to lots of use!
I particularly love their set of static cling decals that are designed to stick on your piano keys (or a student’s keys at home) an help to reinforce the relationship between the note on the staff and corresponding key on the piano. Using these, you could also start introducing characters from the time a student learns the names of the piano keys, then transition easily to using them on the staff when a student is ready to begin on-staff reading.
Right Brain Music has offered a 10% discount on all products to Pianimation blog readers. Just enter code RBM10%1 at checkout to receive your discount.
If you’ll be at next week’s MTNA Conference, you can find Right Brain Music in Booth 123 in the Exhibit Hall. You’ll definitely want to stop by to check out all of their materials and visit with a couple of wonderfully creative teachers! If you won’t be joining us in Anaheim, be sure to check them out online at rightbrainmusic.com.
(Editor’s Note: I’m also looking forward to attending the MTNA conference, and hope to see many of you there!)
Disclaimer: I received a set of materials from Right Brain Music, LLC in exchange for this honest review.