Flashcards are my favorite tool for my students to learn to read music notes. Years ago, I downloaded a set of free printable music note flashcards and have been printing them off for my students for both testing student’s note reading ability and for them to use during the home practice. However, I often like students to learn to read notes in a certain order, so I have been sorting the flashcards into groups of notes and handwriting the group on the back of the card. Now, I have created my own set of slightly smaller note reading cards (8 per page instead of 6) that have my note reading groups printed on the card to make my studio life easier.
Why I like to use music note flashcards
- Flashcards can duplicate the note reading experience exactly. You have to read the note, then move your hand (body) to play the note, and then you hear the note being played. This accesses the multiple learning paths of visual, kinesthetic, and aural, just like when actually reading music. While note reading apps on your phone or tablet might be fun and engaging, they often don’t actually translate reading the note to identifying the location of the associated piano key very well. Sometimes, you are just learning the letter name of the note, which although useful, doesn’t actually matter when learning to translate written music to the playing of a particular piano key. For example, it doesn’t really matter if the note is an “A”, what matters is how that particular staff note associates with a piano key location.
- These flashcards only have one clef for each note. I like that because I like to have my students learn to associate the Treble clef with the right hand and the Bass clef with the left hand when they are beginning to read music. In fact, I make them switch their hand use depending on which card is being displayed. Brent Hugh has a wonderful page on teaching note reading skills with flashcards. On his page, he does say that he thinks all piano note flashcards should have the grand staff on each card, because it can be confusing to the student to have only one clef. However, I haven’t had this experience with my students.
- Music note flashcards can be easily arranged into strings of cards to check random note reading, steps, skips, intervals, etc. Music note flashcards are very flexible and the piano teacher can organize them in many different ways to promote different types of learning. I particularly like random ordering of the music note cards as a way of testing note recognition because that means that a student has no context for the upcoming note and has to recognize that note solely based on the staff position. In Tara Gaertner’s post about Flashcards and the Musical Brain, she mentions that flashcards actually test a student’s recall of a note and that you shouldn’t remove cards once they are learned well, especially as a beginning piano student.
- Notecards can travel easily with a music student. I have some adult students who would simply keep their note cards with them at all times and go over the cards while waiting at the Doctor’s office, etc. So, I have also created a paper keyboard that student’s can take with them so they keep the physical act of locating a key to a certain extent for my flashcard Groups 1 and 2.
- Notecards can facilitate a certain music note learning order. I like to teach beginning music students their note names in particular groups. I’m particularly fond of landmark notes and therefore try to make my students learn these important notes first. In fact, I like having my note name card groups so much that it was the main driving factor to me making my own note name cards. Having groups also mean that I can simple tell my students to only work on Group 1 and 2 for example, etc.
Group 1: First Landmark notes – This is middle “C” for both hands plus treble clef “G” and bass clef “F”. Working on these notes first also allows me to introduce the clefs and discuss the history of the “G” clef and the “F” clef.
Group 2: C pentascale notes – These are the in-between notes from bass clef “F” to treble clef “G”. I often find that these notes need to be introduced after the first landmark notes because then my students can use all the music in their beginning piano books.
Group 3: Extended Landmark notes – I really like the idea of extended landmark notes. I love the rather mathematical symmetry of the extended landmark notes as mentioned in Igino Vaccari’s Landmark System post and think that only having the three landmark notes as mentioned in many method books is really not enough for intervallic music reading. Regardless of how well an intervallic approach to reading music works, it still makes a nice division for deciding the order of learning your notes.
Group 4: Staff notes – This group includes all the staff notes that haven’t been learned in a previous group.
Group 5: Leger notes – This group includes some commonly used notes that extend beyond the grand staff via leger lines.
Note Name Cards and Paper Keyboard for printing at home using card stock
DawnTM Piano Note Name Cards
(Make sure to print at actual size and not “fit on page” for your home printer or disproportionate scaling may occur) These cards designed for 8 1/2 x 11 inch card stock.