Replacing Rhymes


by Jenny Simaile
Goonellabah, New South Wales, Australia


f you’d like to teach your students the letter names of the notes, and would like to try something other than the time-worn methodology of associated rhyming (Every Good Boy Does Fine), then here's another way. It teaches you how you can help students file information into their brains so that recall is immediate and accurate! Not only will it teach them the names of the notes, it will aid them in developing other skills, such as sight-reading.



keyinfo.gif (1045 bytes)Repetition is the key to retention



In very basic terms, we take in musical information in three ways:

  • what we SEE (visual),
  • what we HEAR (auditory),
  • what we DO (kinaesthetic).

This method for learning note names combines all three. (To find out which way you learn predominantly, you may want to visit Styles of Learning. This site also has links to various tests and further information about how we learn.)

Using The Method

It is up to each teacher to determine the best time to introduce the names of the notes. However, for this method to work well, the student should ALREADY know the names of the keys (ABCDEFG) and how to find the keys on the piano quickly and accurately.


  • A hand held small white board
  • Permanent marker - to draw the Grand Piano Staff
  • White board markers – preferably in various colours
  • Cloth to erase notes (so you can re-use your board)
  • Piano/keyboard.

    • Sit next to the student at the piano.
    • Draw treble clef, explain purpose, have student practise drawing
    • Introduce CDE on white board (or any three notes ‘in steps’) I draw as semibreves (whole notes) first, because its easier and faster.
    • Student draws a row of C, then D, then E,.

    Here is where the combination of visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning is used – the modes of learning in brackets are from the student's point of view.

    • Teacher writes a note (for student, this is visual), student names the note (kinesthetic) out loud (auditory).
    • Teacher writes a note, (visual) student plays (kinaesthetic) on the piano (auditory).
    • Teacher names a note(auditory), student writes note (kinaesthetic) on whiteboard (visual)
    • Teacher plays a key(auditory and visual), student writes note (kinaesthetic) on whiteboard (visual).

    Remember, repetition is the key to retention!


    • Introduce a few piano scores – vary the level of difficulty, this isn’t for playing, it’s for note identification.
    • Teacher points to a single note, student names it out loud. (The note does not have to be by itself, e.g. using a C7 chord CEGBflatC – the student ‘names’ the E.)
    • Teacher points to notes on score, student names them out loud, then plays them on piano.
    • Teacher points to notes on score, student plays them on piano.
    • Teacher calls a note, student finds them on page and points.
    • Teacher calls a note, student finds them on page, points, then plays on piano. 
    • To vary this ‘game’, ask the student to find EVERY particular note on the score e.g., ‘find all the C’s etc.

    The process is repeated for every three notes introduced. Always tie previous knowledge with new knowledge. Although possible, I wouldn’t advise trying to teach too many notes at once. The brain is given a pretty taxing workout with this method and benefits from a change of pace – a ‘release’ so to speak onto something else. In my studio, in a thirty minute lesson, only five notes are introduced this way, and then we’re onto different concepts.

    Why It Works

    Traditional rhyming taught to us as children has endured because it does work – the rhymes are simple to learn, and easy to apply. However, their application falls short considerably: the student has to say the entire rhyme to identify one note, and notes with ledger lines are not even addressed.

    Combining the three main learning styles in the above method not only helps the student recall the NAME of a note quickly and accurately, but aids in other skills such as sight-reading. Why? Because of the WAY the information has been filed in memory, a student sees (visual) a note and can respond quickly to where that note (or whole clusters of notes) are on the piano (kinaesthetic). It is similar in concept to solfege signs. It is theorised that, if taught correctly, a person can sing the correct pitch just by making the associated sign. (See Classics For Kids).

    Although this method eradicates the need for rhymes, it doesn’t eliminate the need to practise! It is an idea that’s old, but as of yet, not outdated. Practise makes perfect!

    Page created: 10/10/06
    Last updated: 01/30/15
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    Reprinting from the Piano Education Page The Piano Education Page, Op. 10, No. 1,
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