Alice Letts

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Music, Maths, and more

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Reading music

Would you like to play an instrument and wonder if you need to learn to read music? Are you a music teacher wondering when to introduce pupil’s to music notation? Some say that learning music will help one with their maths? Others say that one needs to already be good at maths to read music and play an instrument effectively. Some experienced piano teachers have found that students find reading music an obstacle to their musical expression. As a result, some of these teachers decide against teaching pupil’s to read music.
Using the example of the piano, some instead teach students to play a tune on the piano by writing down the alphabetical names of the notes, and pointing to the piano where it is they should play the tune. Others teach students to play by ear. Another technique is to teach students to play the piano by numbers. These methods may be fantastic in the short term, but they do have their restrictions. These techniques exclude the pupil from the opportunity to play a wide range of music from manuscript. It also makes it difficult for them to write up their own compositions for either themselves or someone else to play it again at a later date.
The traditional way to teach an instrument is to teach pupil’s to read music from the outset. Indeed if one is to take music exams, the ability to read music is as assumed skill. The approach used to teach pupils to read music will differ depending on the individual pupil. Is the pupil an adult or a child? Do they have special needs or other requirements? Is the child a very young child, or an older child? Is the language on instruction the pupil’s first language?Nothing can be assumed when introducing ‘notes’, ‘rhythm and timing’ to pupils. A teacher must establish whether or not a pupil can understand the following concepts:(a) alphabet from A to G;
(b) numbers one to eight; and
(c) fractions: whole 1, half 1/2, quarter 1/4, eighth 1/8.

Therefore, if a pupil is so young that they have not yet studied fractions at school, or if they have not yet mastered fractions, then your first task as a music teacher will be to teach fractions to the pupil. Only after they have understood these concepts can the teacher then move on to explaining how these fractions and counting, relate to the notes and timing and rhythm.


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