with Emma – aged 7
- Present the Treble Clef and the Treble G line
- Present Middle C
- Practise drm motifs as alphabet strings with Hot Cross Buns
- Introduce hands together activities
I ask Emma if she can find all the Fs on the piano. She can. I ask her how she finds them and she explains that she’s looking for three black keys. I challenge her to find the Gs and she does so easily. She has clearly understood the sequential nature of the letter names on the keyboard.
“Here’s a tricky one, can you find the Cs?” We haven’t done this before.
Emma looks thoughtful for a few seconds and then goes to the bottom of the piano. She counts up from A to the first C and then plays the remaining Cs by spotting the pattern. Of course she misses the highest note so I tell her about the secret C at the top and she giggles as if she’s been let into a very important secret!
I asked her how she found the Cs. She wasn’t sure. I reminded her that to find the Fs she looked for the three black keys.
“I looked for the two black keys!”
“To find which letter?”
I ask Emma to play all the Cs again. This time she also plays the secret C at the top.
Hunt The Fs Game
Today I have hidden the landmark notes underneath the mice cards from Sing and Play Game Cards.
Can you find the cards that show Fs. Emily starts revealing the cards. The first two cards are not Fs. She reveals the third card. “An F!”.
“How do you know it’s an F?” “Because the dots are in between the F.”
That’s close enough for me!
Emily runs off and plays the lowest F on the piano.
“Is that the correct F?” “No! I need Bass F!”
Emma plays Bass F with her left hand by standing in the middle of the keyboard and finding the closest F that’s lower than the middle.
Bass Clef and Treble Clef
As I get out my stave whiteboard I ask Emma if she remembers the name of the symbol that shows the F line. She can’t remember. I sing the Bass Clef song while I draw one on my whiteboard.
“Bass Clef, Bass Clef
Show me how to find the F.
You look like a fancy F
So your two dots show F, Bass Clef.”
“Do you remember we drew some Bass Clefs last week. Did you do some more at home?” Emma gets out her manuscript book and shows me the page of Bass Clefs and Bass Fs that she drew at home. I was pleased to see they were all correct.
“What am I looking for to tell me that they have been drawn correctly?” “The dots!”
I point out that there’s another symbol on the high stave. I sing the so-mi Treble Clef song.
“Treble Clef help me please,
I just cannot find the Gs.
Curl around the G line so that
I can find the G please.”
I show Emma the Treble G line on the high stave, and label it by drawing a capital G and a lower case G where the G line cuts through the circle of the G. Then I show how we can make it more and more fancy until it looks like a Treble Clef. The Treble Clef is the special signpost we use to find the G line. All the line notes on the G line are Treble Gs.
I dot some Treble Clefs in her manuscript book. She then traces over my dots in the manuscript book and tries some more of her own. Each time, she must draw a note-head on the G line to show the Treble G position.
Hunt The Gs Game
I lay out the landmark notes and mice cards again but this time Emma needs to find the Fs and the Gs. I point out that Treble G is on the high stave so she needs to use her right hand. She finds each one and plays them on the piano. She understands that Treble G is higher than the middle.
Emma seems to be understanding very well, so when she reveals a Middle C card I ask her if she’d like to know what it is. Of course she does!
I pick up the Middle C card along with a Bass F and a Treble G and place them on the piano. I ask Emma to put them in order from lowest to highest. She realises that Middle C is higher than Bass F but lower than Treble G.
“So we’re looking for a note in between the F and the G.”
I play a Bass F and Treble G at the same time and then in contrary motion, step towards the middle and land on C. I ask Emma if she knows what letter name I have landed on. She does! It’s a C. I explain that it’s not just any C. It’s called Middle C because it’s in the middle in between the two clefs. We look at its position on the stave and see that it floats in the middle on its own line.
Hot Cross Buns
Emma answers that it’s do. I agree and ask her which letter name this do is. I point to the three landmark cards we were just using and ask which one matches. She identifies it as F.
Emma places her fingers, with a quick reminder about hand shape, and plays Hot Cross Buns with the first line inverted. I wonder whether to mention it but since the second line is correct I suspect that if I ask her to play it again it will be correct. She plays it correctly and then her eyes widen. She has realised that it was different. I ask her how it was different and she explains that the first time she played it the wrong way round. I smile and say “You spotted that it was different!”
Hot Cross Buns with G-do
I point out that we now know some new notes. I turn the page and show her another version of Hot Cross Buns. I ask Emma if she knows what the new do is. She knows it’s G. I ask her how she knows. She points to the marking at the start of the piece that says do=G. I’m always amazed how many students don’t notice this marking!! However I know that the marking won’t always be there and Emma needs other strategies to find her do.
“What if it didn’t say? How would you find do in a piece? At the beginning, middle or end?” Emma says at the end. Again I’m surprised how many students suggest the beginning, despite the fact that none of the pieces they have encountered start on do.
I ask Emma to point to the end note. She points to the first do. I tell her that’s not the end of the piece. She points to the end of the line. I tell her that’s still not the end of the whole piece. Finally she points to the final note. I ask her if that’s a G. She says it is, so do is G! Emma cheers!
“So can you play Hot Cross Buns with your RIGHT hand, finishing on G?”
I have never had a student do what Emma does next! She puts fingers 234 on FGA and tries to play a variation of Hot Cross Buns but finishing on G. Her first attempt is A F G. I suppose it meets the objectives but even she knows it’s not correct. She is totally stumped. She can’t work out how it can possibly be done. I too am stunned. My students never fail to create new challenges to overcome!
I suggest she moves her hand but she doesn’t understand me. I get out some of our animal puzzle erasers. She chooses an animal and I ask her to put it on the note we know is do. She places it on the G. “So if that’s our do, where is our re?” She places the next animal on A. “And where’s our mi?” She places a third animal on B. Now she realises, puts her fingers on GAB and confidently plays Hot Cross Buns.
Hands Together Challenge
“Can I give you a challenge?” “Yeah”
“Can you play with both hands at the same time?”
I wonder if she’ll realise her left hand also needs to be GAB. She does. I ask her if her do is the same in both hands and she says it is. She plays it well, but her hand shape has gone a bit awry so I ask her to do it again remembering her hand shape.
Singing with the letter names
“Here’s another challenge. Can you sing it with the letter names? What are the letter names that we need?” “F?”
“We didn’t use F this time.” “No, we used G….”
“What’s one higher than G?” “A”
“And what’s one higher than A?” “B! G, A, B!”
“So what do we start with?” “B A G!”
Emma sings with letter names. When singing in singing names or solfa we can sing in any comfortable key. When we sing with letter names we always sing with the correct absolute pitch.
Hot Cross Buns with C-do
I show Emma the final version of Hot Cross Buns and ask her what our new do is. She points at the last note and then looks at the landmark cards. She points to the Middle C card and says C.
“So where is Middle C on the piano?” Emma plays middle C and I ask if she can play Hot Cross Buns ending on C. She can. It looks like she’s got the hang of transposing by moving around the piano.
I give her a different challenge for this piece. I ask her if she can play both hands but this time the left hand has to be the opposite. This is much more challenging for Emma. I find that some students find playing the opposite easier than playing the same. The first week of trying these activities I will select the one they find easiest to send them home to practise. There will be plenty of opportunities for challenge later.
“So which letter names are we using this time?” “K? No C.”
“What’s one higher than C?” “G? A? B?”
“A, B, C…” “D! And the top one is E! My name!”
Emma sings the letter names EDC.
While I type up Emma’s homework tasks on Evernote for her mum I ask Emma to play in C-do with opposite hands.
We read through the notes I have made explaining the Treble Clef and the G line, and also Middle C. I remind Emma that she must sing with the letter names as well as playing on the piano. I also challenged her to play the two versions with different left hands. One the same and one opposite.
Emma tells me that I must have been really excited when she played for me today because she’d practised so well.
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