Category Archives: Theory

Throwback Thursday Simple Sharps and Fearless Flats

Drawing Key Signatures

Simple Sharps and Fearless Flats

Simple Sharps and Fearless Flats are great to help students who are having trouble writing key signatures. Sometimes students are confused or have trouble putting the accidentals on the correct line or space.  A couple of years ago one of my students was struggling on learning how to draw key signatures on staves. His brother was there and said, “You haven’t done Simple Sharps and Fearless Flats? That’s the only way I was able to learn them.” Honestly, I was really amazed he could remember the name of these handouts after all those years. I can’t even remember what I named a worksheet last week!

I laminate these and use them as helpful posters when I am showing how to write key signatures.  They can also be printed and put in the  student’s binder for reference. The blank staff at the bottom can be used for practice. If you print multiple copies, try using the “fast” or “economy” setting to save ink. I do that and they look fine, just not as vibrant. They also work well in black and white, if you want to save color.

The large staves and spaced apart sharps and flats really do make writing key signatures simple and fearless, especially if I use them with 2 other helpful posters on a giant staff, Down a Fourth and Up a Fourth.

How to draw key signatures

Down a 4th up a 5th Bundle

By the way, I know so many US teacher use “Fat Cats Go Down And Eat Breakfast” and “BEAD Greatest Common Factor.” That is what I used in college, actually. But I like the Canadian/UK  “Father Charles” method because it is the same backwards and forwards. Certainly, you can teach your students either one!

Filed under Intermediate Students, Texas State Theory Test, Theory, Worksheets

Shamrock Interval Worksheet

St. Patrick's Day Music Intervals

Shamrock Harmonic Intervals

Not too long ago I asked for suggestions for worksheets for various holidays, and an interval worksheet was suggested. I am posting one today with a St. Patrick’s Day theme which I call Shamrock Intervals. 

You know, as teachers we can never assume our students know anything they haven’t specifically been taught and reinforced. Roman numerals comes to mind, as well as fractions for rhythm. That is something I remind teachers when I give workshops.

I poignantly remember one sweet little student. I was reminding him that the spaces in the treble clef spell FACE. He hung his head in shame and in the most despondent voice said, “I can’t read.” I know I’ve told this story before, but I will probably repeat it, because it made such an impression on me. It changed the way I taught, not only children, but when I give workshops to adults, or even when I help someone at the computer.

You might be wondering what this has to do with intervals! The fact is, teachers have to explain what the word interval means, and we have to say it a lot if we want them to remember it. They will forget!

Also, we can’t assume students know how to write ordinal numbers with suffixes, such as  1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.

Students sometimes have no idea that “octave” is often abbreviated by writing “8va,” or 8ve, even if we write that in their assignment book regularly. We have to explain that while 8va means to move up one octave in piano music, it is often abbreviated in theory. It is not an official proclamation from the Kingdom of Music Theory, but that’s just the way it is, at least from my experience.

So on this worksheet, I wrote the intervals both ways and included octaves. I hope your students get something out of it!


Filed under iPad Ideas, St. Patrick's Day, Theory

Free Valentine Resources for Piano Teachers

Did you know you can find all my free Valentine resources on this page?

Free Valentine Piano Resources

Last week I posted one of my all-time favorite games, Steal a Heart, which is really good for groups. Today I want to mention two games that I made for student and teacher, Hearts and Clubs Notes/Keyboards and Hearts and Clubs Intervals. The file for Hearts and Club Notes also contains  keyboard flash cards, for beginning students who have not learned notes.

They both use flash cards, which I included in the files. The objective for both games is to quickly identify either note names or intervals. They are suitable for elementary through teens because I tried to keep the art more “game-like” and less cartoony.  The art doesn’t really mention Valentines, so you can use this year round.

Also, check out Are You a Line or a Space. It’s not a game, really, but a fun activity my students really enjoyed. At their lesson, a student would  choose if they wanted to be on the line or space team. All week as students came to their lesson, I kept score, but I didn’t put anyone’s name down, just the team. That took all the pressure off students. At the end of the week, the team with the most points won. The next week, all the spaces had to do lines and all the lines had to do spaces. That made it more fair, since the spaces are easier, usually! You can read more about it and get all the free printables at the link.

Are You a Line or Space?

If your students are working on rhythmic dictation, and I really hope they are, I made four worksheets to help them get started. There are one measure hearts and two measure hearts in both 4/4 and 3/4 time. In my blog post I explain how this Kodaly method is the best way to teach eighth note dictation.

Rhythm Hearts BeatsMore Rhythm Heart Beats

When you go to the Valentine Page, all you need to do is click on the picture and it is supposed to take you to the original blog post with the directions for the games. If there is a broken or incorrect link, please let me know!

Filed under Games, Texas State Theory Test, Theory, Valentine's Day

Throwback Thursday: Keyboard Labels for Scale Fingerings

One Octave Keyboard Labels

One Octave Keyboard Labels

[This was originally posted Oct. 2009. The file is updated with new keyboards that are slightly larger and are different colors. I suggest you use Avery™ #55160 “repositional” address labels if you plan on using these in an assignment book. That is what I use, because I find I can remove them easily and put them on a new page, which saves time and money!]

The other day I was drawing a tiny keyboard on my younger student’s assignment book and I had her draw dots on the correct keys. As we worked together looking for whole and half steps,  I casually said that my drawing was kind of sloppy, and it would be a lot easier to read and more fun if I had some keyboard stickers. So I sat down at my computer and designed some!  Actually they were easy to make because I’ve been designing my own labels for years. However, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like this, so for your whole and half step pleasure, I’m offering  Keyboard Labels.  Please let me know what you think!

Filed under Picture Scales, Steps and Skips, Teaching Business, Theory