Saturday, December 3, 2011

Introducing the Staff

Every Good Boy Does Fine
Memorize it.  Got it?  Good... here's your quiz.

BORING!!!  Leaning the names of the lines and spaces on the staff doesn't have to put your students to sleep.  There are tons of songs, video clips, games, and tools that can make it easy to remember those pesky seven letters.  Here are three of my favorites:

1. Quaver's Marvelous World of Music
starring Guido De Arezzo (aka Chip the Monk)

Quaver's Marvelous World of Music (QMWOM) is a new music curriculum using very entertaining DVD lessons and interactive online games and tools.  Although I feel it is a bit pricey, I think they do an amazing job of making some traditionally boring bits of music theory very fun to learn.  They have two lessons on each of their 15 DVDs.  You can preview each lesson here.

My personal favorite preview is on DVD 4 entitled "Middle C & The Grand Staff."  Here your students will meet the creator of the modern staff, Guido de Arezzo, and in a one minute clip, they will learn that a song stuck on one line can sound quite boring, and that by simply moving the notes up and down the 5-line staff, the same song can be a lot more interesting.  Let them try singing both versions of "We Are Monks" to see the difference.

There is a slightly longer version of this video available on their interactive website, but you have to jump through some hoops to see it:
  1. Create a profile (click the login window in the upper right corner.)
  2. Go to "Music Room" in the upper left corner.This will take you to your own personal, customizable room to play games, watch videos, and listen to the songs you have written Quaver's other interactive games.
  3. Click on the Interactive White Board in the back of the room
  4. Click "Animations" 
  5. Fianlly, click "Middle C."
Your students will love the last 30 seconds of the clip.  Our favorite line is "Ah, shucks!"

2. Quaver's Marvelous World of Music
Lines and Spaces (Chip Strikes Again!)

I am by no means saying that videos are the answer to every music lesson, but QMWOM has another short clip that has a song that will make sure your students remember the names of the lines and spaces on the treble clef for the rest of their lives.  This is from lesson "Lines & Spaces" on DVD 5.

After watching the video, have your students sing the song.  You can split the class into two groups.  Have the first group sing Guido's part, and have the second group sing his friend's part.  After getting these mnemonic devises ingrained in their brains, have them come up with their own EGBDF sentences.  These are some of my students' favorites:
  • Every Grandpa Buys Donkey Food
  • Electric Geese Bite Dead Fish
  • Eggs Go Bad During Flight
  • Every Gross Bacteria Dies Friday
  • Evil Guys Believe Doughnuts Fight
If you want, you can have your students come up with sentences for the FACE spaces.  I have found that most students like "FACE in the Space" best, but I have had a few students use their own creations.

3. The Note Trainer
Ricci Adams'

After learning the names of the lines and spaces, you will want your students to practice naming them.  You can use flashcards if you'd like, but Ricci Adams' has a trainer called The Note Trainer.  This is a web-based tool used to review note names on the treble, bass, alto, and tenor clefs.  The really nice feature is that The Note Trainer keeps track of the score so you can use this site to easily assess your students.

Adams came out with a new site about a year ago with many ways to customize your trainers.  At the bottom of the customization menu, you will find a link that you can use to quickly go to specific lessons.  This is handy if you want to use the trainer for specific grade levels.  I teach my 1st graders Middle C, D, and E.  I created a trainer for those notes.  Click here to use it.

Although Adams came out with his new site, he was very kind in keeping his classic site available.  Although the Classic Note Trainer is limited with its options, and you have to set the note range each time, I do prefer its user interface.

New Note Trainer
Classic Note Trainer

The buttons in the classic trainer are larger and easier for shorter students to press.  Also, the score is larger and easier to see.  Adams has also made his entire classic site available for offline use with this download.  If you use SMART Notebook, you can drag the trainers into your lessons.  This feature is nice if your internet is not available for some reason.  I also add a timer to my lesson so I can assess speed as well as accuracy.

You can have your students use this site in a computer lab, with a laptop lab, or up on an interactive white board.  Adams also came out with a mobile version of his trainers on an app called Tenuto.  You can purchase this app on the iTunes App Store.

Final Thoughts

I have been using Ricci Adams' Note Trainer for the past five years and my students love it every time.  Quaver Music is new, but clearly a very fun and education site.  I used the two video clips for the first time this year, and my students are in love with "Chip" the monk.  Whatever you can do to make learning seven letters on five lines and four spaces fun will make it memorable.

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