Let’s go ahead and use ALL the tools available to us!

Embarrassingly enough, I’d like to admit something I did recently. My husband and I moved into a new townhouse last July. Now the appliances in the kitchen were new to us, and we were beyond excited about them once arriving in our new home. Fortunately for us, the previous owner was meticulous with records regarding these appliances and had left the manuals and warranties in an organized bin for us to sift through and familiarize ourselves with our new appliances. Now while equally impressed with the organization of the previous owner, and our shared ideas that we ought to both ‘be that good’, we sadly, did not thoroughly investigate this comprehensive collection of information and provided tools for success that were meticulously organized for us. Essentially we chose to shoot ourselves in the foot by not familiarizing ourselves with the tools right in front of our eyes! (Does this sound familiar?) Fast forward to eight months into our new home, we were troubleshooting an ‘ice maker’ issue in the freezer, when we inadvertently discovered we had an ‘ice water dispenser’ right inside the refrigerator door and neither of us had even noticed! Until now, this had been something we thought we had given up in our move! I’d like to throw in, because I have creative license to do so, that we are both fairly intelligent people, so this was thankfully something we can chuckle about now, but for a few minutes, we were both chagrined. LOL. Clearly we had FAILED to use the very TOOLS that were available to us like our eyes for instance in this specific case AND/OR the review of the owner’s manual, to our benefit!

When it comes to learning the note names, there are many ways to start learning the note names. First, we can look at the note names and come up with clever ways to commit them to memory in this fashion. When I was a child, memorizing simple concepts and new ideas was my A game! I was so good at logging new information right into my brain by merely associating whatever the topic was with something already in my brain and just simply tying it together there. What a smarty pants! Now, many years after I have left school, I’m here to admit to you, that while for a brief time I can memorize some things, sadly, the note names are not one of them! I’ve found that largely of course repetition is what I need. As I went through the first course of adult group lessons, many tools were shared with me about how to merely commit all of the notes to memory. Simply said, hard to employ. One of the first suggestions was flashcards.

I think these are a great tool to use and if you choose this route, (pro tip!) you are going to want to focus on at the very most, about five flash cards at a time, per day! Clearly I learned this from experience. It had been a long time since I held a flashcard stack, and ever the ‘overachiever’ I tried the entire stack to begin with. (I KNOW!) I think there are at least 88 keys on the piano and yikes sometimes it feels like 3000! That’s a ton of flashcards, so aim for a few at a time. Once you’re pretty comfortable with a few of them, set those aside and move on to a few more. Once in a while, possibly review the whole pile that you have been working on. But whatever you do, do not attempt to memorize the entire stack at once! I had clearly been over-zealous in my first attempt with my flashcards, and you can learn from my mistake, trust me! But using smaller groups, and I mean very small groups, flashcards have reemerged in my life as one good way for me to get some new information in my brain. I would wager they will also work for you! But alas, sometimes I misplace the flashcards…. *sigh*….. which brings me to my next tool to share with you.

Were you ever or are you a ‘gamer’? I am not a gamer. I do remember learning a couple of video games in my entire lifetime. Video games were not really prevalent when I was young, in fact I think Pac Man had just showed up! (Yes, I can hardly believe I am THAT old too!) However, video games became a huge part of my life when my kids were young. I remember setting a timer for my kids for their ‘video game time’. LOL. Life has a funny way of bringing us full-circle, don’t you think? So back to my note learning. As this challenge is an ongoing process for me, I decided that maybe I should try to arm myself with as many tools available to help further my success with note reading. In class I recall that downloading an ‘app’ for learning notes had been mentioned. Not being an ‘app downloader’ that often, I sort of overlooked this sage advice! Here I am still struggling on note reading so a couple of weeks ago, I remembered this app suggestion, and decided to try it. One of the note reading apps that was suggested in class, was I believe called NOTES TEACHER, so I searched for this in my app store on my phone and downloaded it! (Yes, it was FREE!) Turns out there are many apps available to learn notes. Now my ‘app’ on my phone helps me do drill my notes instead of checking social media or deleting junk email, and I try to visit it as often as possible to brush up on my notes. One thing I like about this particular app, is that it shows the note and also shows you the note on a little piece of music staff, and also plays the note when you push the name of the note at the bottom of the screen. I cannot say enough good things about this! It has really helped me with my note name association, the note itself being played out loud, which is a nice extra way to get it to stick in my brain, and it TIMES you while you are playing with a little timer feature. WHAT?

So the timer function is automatic and the app decides when you can move to a new note. And, you are only competing against yourself, which is safe and ego boosting! Essentially the app keeps you on the note you are struggling with as long as it takes for you to get a little better at it. While it amuses me to share this, I think I’m currently addicted to this small ‘video game’, right there on my phone and I can be playing any time at all. (LOL) One more thing, I lose my phone WAY less often than I loose my flashcards, so that is also fairly convenient! Between the cracks of my life, I find myself having a few minutes here and there and when those opportunities arise, I work on my note sight reading right on my phone! I can tell I am getting better at it as the days go by because of the little timer function and that makes me feel good of course! I recognize I have a long way to go to be proficient with note reading. Yet, I am happy to tell you that I am using multiple tools to get this new information to stick inside my brain and with any luck at all, travel down to my fingertips also! I can tell you that I’m getting some great ‘ear’ training by listening to the notes being played while I am naming them, and I think this is an extra side benefit of the app tool. And while I find myself forgetting where I put my phone from time to time, I ultimately end up finding it so the misplacing the tool issue is also solved! I am certain I’m not familiar with all of the tools out there to help learn note names, but I have decided that I’m open to using ALL OF THE TOOLS I can get my hands on, to get new musical information into my brain and to get these note names to stick! I hope you’ll join me!


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