Throw The Boy Down The Well

Sometimes assumptions are made about Music Teaching, and people seem to follow the same staid rules of how they were taught. Reading the notes on the staff is just one of them. At the end of this lesson, you will be able to read all the notes on the staff (with the exception of ledger lines) in a way that may surprise you.

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Ultimate Guitar
13
Assumptions sometimes kills the ability for evolution. People assumed the world was flat until someone challenged it. Galileo challenged wisdom and convention of his day, and we learned the universe doesn't revolve around us after all. There has not been a death to innovation nor has everything been taught yet. Today, open up a music book and you will see that when it comes to learning the notes on the staff it's taught the same way - F A C E in the spaces and E G B D F on the lines. Furthermore, every student has been taught Every Good Boy Does Fine. This is the mnemonic for the E G B D F on the lines of the musical staff. That leaves us a total of 9 notes to find the position for. What a remarkable system? Today I wanna throw that good boy down the well, and leave him there. The best learning is done when the brain has two things that it can do. 1. Learn small pieces of information 2. Apply that information to something it already knows. (Its less abstract that way) We are going to do that very thing in this lesson. Its so simple its profound, yet at the end of this lesson, a question is left by implication: Why has no one been teaching this? Let's get into the method. First, the small piece of information: 1. Spell the word FACE Second, lets apply it to something we already know 2. Your ABC's or Alphabet. Lets get going. First of all if you can visually determine what a space is from a line, you're halfway home. You figure out the lines relative to their position from the spaces. If I can spell the following:
E

C

A

F
These are my Spaces, this is the word FACE. So if the note is NOT in a Space, then its one a LINE and the LINE is not comprised of letters in the word FACE. So, let's say its this note as illustrated below. What note is the "-?-". (By the way I use a dash on both sides to denote that its on a line)
E
-?-
C

A

F
Simply go up one letter in the ALPHABET from the C (The C is in the word FACE and right below our Mystery note)
E
-D-
C

A

F
So the note on the line was D. All I do, is read up FACE until I get to the SPACE below the Line, in this case it was C, and then move up one letter in my ALPHABET. The speed in which you do this, makes IDENTIFYING notes FASTER than the traditional method involving the previously mentioned boy we threw down the well. Simply read up FACE and move to the line that was right after the Space. Its that simple. Its faster to get a note in 1-2 steps. You'll either get on it by FACE or be one note upwards from it. Or below, if you look at this example:
E

C

A

F
-?-
In this case go one letter of the alphabet BACK, and you'll land on E. With this licked, you need only know ledger lines a few below and a few below to have a pretty quick grasp on any note, or series of notes on the staff. Of course that's not to speak of things like Key Signatures or Accidentals, but that is a lesson for another time. For now, this should provide you with a nice simplified way to start instantly identifying the notes on the staff for beginning sight-reading purposes. (And leave the good boy in the well, but throw him a sandwich or something...maybe make him tune and string your guitars... reutilize his purpose as a roadie) ;) Best, Sean

8 comments sorted by best / new / date

    mity88
    Interesting,nothing revolutionary,but its nice to see it differently...
    Sean0913
    Exactly. It's just a simplified way of streamlining the process if youve ever wanted to be able to learn without having to follow two paths to do it. What it does, is saves you time and gets you reading faster. Ultimately from practice you'll come to know the notes differently by sight, but for starting out, this is an easy way to get going...the idea is to build confidence from realizing that you can start identifying notes, say in the key of C, which has no sharps or flats, and is typically the first key someone is exposed to.
    a0kalittlema0n
    mity88 wrote: Interesting,nothing revolutionary,but its nice to see it differently...
    agreed, nothing epic, but well explained, i would like a lesson on how to read chords, or tricks you find in sheet music to figure out which chord to play, that would be nice and i know you can do it sean nice lessons
    Sean0913
    I actually teach these things in our Academy Online, but I will try and find an approach that is specific to sight reading. I think it would be useful of course to know what the chord is that you are playing, as well as know how to play the chord. For instance on a staff of sheet music you may identify the G Bb and D, all on lines, but, would you know, or need to know if its a G Major or G Minor, as well?
    a0kalittlema0n wrote: mity88 wrote: Interesting,nothing revolutionary,but its nice to see it differently... agreed, nothing epic, but well explained, i would like a lesson on how to read chords, or tricks you find in sheet music to figure out which chord to play, that would be nice and i know you can do it sean nice lessons
    21Fretter
    If we look at this lesson as exactly what it is meant to be i.e. teaching beginners how to read the notes of a staff then it has succeeded very well, well it certainly helped me because I knew nothing and now i feel like I know exactly what is going on
    tonibet72
    just to clear something up (I saw it on that tv show QI with Stephen Fry), the majority of mankind never thort the world was flat, in fact one only need to climb a tall enough hillside to literally witness the curvature of the earth, it was in fact a famous poet who jokingly in his fictious play mocked that the earth was flat and the then version of the tabloids blew it out of control and so was born another urban myth (just saying)