How to Help Kids Memorize Musical Notes

The musical staff is a relatively simple system of five lines and four spaces, but it often causes confusion for kids learning to read music. When an individual is just starting out, it is helpful to provide phrases based on acronyms, derived from the note names, to help memorize the names of the lines and spaces on the musical staff. With enough practice, kids will begin to recall the notes without having to resort to gimmicks, and should maintain a lifetime understanding of basic music theory. Once the notes have been memorized, turn the process into a game to make the activity more enjoyable and promote practicing.

Learning The Notes of the Staff

Show the kids what a treble and bass clef look like. The treble clef looks like a stylized G with the loop towards the bottom wrapping around the second line, in which the note G is placed. The bass clef looks like a stylized F with the two points of the F turned into two dots on either side of the F line. Teach the kids how to draw the treble and bass clef staff, and then let them decorate the staff with crayons and other art supplies.

Teaching Musical Note Names

Teach the kids the names of the notes on the lines of the treble clef. Starting with the bottom pitch the notes are E, G, B, D and F. Give them a phrase such as "Every Good Boy Does Fine" to remember the letter name of each line. Have them create their own phrase to increase familiarity with the lines of the treble clef. Explain to the students that if they look between the lines of the treble clef, they will see their "FACE." Then explain that the notes on the spaces of the treble clef spell out F, A, C, and E from bottom to top. Provide the students with another acronym for the lines of the bass clef. "Good Boys Do Fine Always" is a traditional phrase that will help them remember. Again, have them create their own phrases to help cement this knowledge in their memory. Explain that the notes on the spaces of the bass clef spell out A, C, E, and G and provide them with the phrase "All Cows Eat Grass" to help them remember the spaces.

Talk About Ledger Lines in Music

Explain that when notes go above or below the staff, additional lines are needed to extend the staff. These lines are called ledger lines. To identify a note with a ledger line, pretend that the staff is extended upwards by these short lines. Since the top line of the treble clef is F, the next note sitting on top of the F line is G. The note above G with a single ledger line through it is A. Provide several examples, and have students identify the notes until you're certain the students understand this concept.

Note Naming Game

Create two staves, one in the bass clef and one in the treble clef. On each staff write in twenty different notes between both staves. Hand the sheets out to the kids face down so the notes can't be seen ahead of time. Give the kids 30 seconds to complete the sheets. When the time is up, tell the kids to turn the sheets over and place all pencils on the desk. Grade the sheets and reward the kids that finished all of the sheets, or got the most notes correct with a certificate or some other reward. Play this game each week and use the competition to enhance retention.


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