Just a reminder that today marks the 200th Anniversary of The Star Spangled Banner! On September 12, 1814, Francis Scott Key was held prisoner on a ship. During the rainy night, he witnessed the bombardment of Baltimore and observed that the fort’s small “storm flag” continued to fly. Once the shell and rocket fire stopped, smoke filled the air making it impossible to know how the battle had turned out. In the morning, he could see that the smaller storm flag had been lowered and a much larger flag had been raised. Although the large flag had been blasted until it was riddled with holes, it announced the American victory to the world. Key was so inspired by the sight that he wrote a poem on the back of a letter he kept in his pocket. That poem became our National Anthem.
To view a PDF worksheet outlining key signature, click on the link: Major Key Signatures
All musicians must learn to identify key signatures and play within them. In particular, sight singing requires a clear understanding of key signatures. This is because the solfege scale is moveable and students must learn to find “do.” This is done by identifying the key of the song. If a song is in the Key of C Major (no sharps or flats) then “do” is on “C.”
Keys with Sharps
Memorizing the order of the sharps can easily be done by using the following mnemonic device:
Fat Cats Go Down Allies Eating Bananas. (F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#, B#)
The name of the key is 1/2 step higher than the last sharp.
For example, in major keys, if the last sharp is F#, the name of the key is G Major. That means that “do” is “G.”
If the last sharp is C#, the name of the key is D Major. That means that “do” is on “D.”
If the last sharp is G#, the name of the key is A Major. That means that “do” is on “A.”
If the last sharp is D#, the name of the key is E Major. That means that “do” is on “E.”
Keys with flats
Memorizing the order of the flats may be done by using the following mnemonic device:
But Even A Dumb Goat Can Fly. (B flat, E flat, A flat, D flat, G flat, C flat, and F flat)
The key with 1 flat (B flat) must be memorized. It is the Key of F Major. In the Key of F Major, “do” is “F.”
Subsequent flat keys may be identified by naming the second to the last flat.
For example, if I have a key with 2 flats (B flat & E Flat) the second to the last flat is “B flat.” The name of the key is B Flat Major. That means that “do” is “B flat.”
If I have a key with 3 flats (B flat, E flat, & A flat) the second to the last flat is “E flat.” The name of the key is E Flat Major. That means that “do” is “E flat.”
If I have a key with 4 flats (B flat, E flat, A flat, & D flat) the second to the last flat is “A flat.” The name of the key is A Flat Major. That means that “do” is “A flat.”
There has been a lot of interest in my scale sheets. As promised, I just added the minor keys. To get to them, simply search under my music studio tab, or you can click HERE
Have a great piano practicing day!
I decided it was time to add a scale unit to my website. When I’m teaching, I generally reach for my tattered old scale chart and make a copy of it for my students. It is difficult to read AND it’s getting old. That’s why I have decided that it’s time for a new and improved solution. As I add these scale/chord worksheets, I will make a post so that anyone else in need of this resource will get the notice.
Scales, Chords, and Arpeggios for all key signatures, beginning through advanced studies.
Each worksheet contains: a five finger pattern, primary chord progression, octave scale, contrary motion scale, 2 octave scale (the same fingering as 3 — 4 octave scale), and tonic chord arpeggio.
* The fingerings listed follow university standards.
C Major (No sharps or flats): Scales, Chords, Arpeggio
G Major (1 sharp): Scales, Chords, Arpeggio
D Major (2 sharps): Scales, Chords, Arpeggio
A Major (3 sharps): Scales, Chords, Arpeggio
E Major (4 sharps): Scales, Chords, Arpeggio
B Major (5 sharps): Scales, Chords, Arpeggio
F Sharp Major (6 sharps): Scales, Chords, Arpeggio
C Sharp Major (7 sharps): Scales, Chords, Arpeggio
F Major (1 flat): Scales, Chords, Arpeggio
B Flat Major (2 flats): Scales, Chords, Arpeggio
E Flat Major (3 flats): Scales, Chords, Arpeggio
A Flat Major (4 flats): Scales, Chords, Arpeggio
D Flat Major (5 flats): Scales, Chords, Arpeggio
G Flat Major (6 flats): Scales, Chords, Arpeggio
(Minor keys will be added soon ~ Annette 9.26.13)
Sometimes parents ask me, “How old does a child need to be to begin music lessons?” In order to answer that question, it is best to understand the developing mind.
“Windows” for learning coincide with childhood brain development. For example, the language window begins to close between the ages of 4 and 6. Prior to the closure of the language window it is easy for a child to learn a new language. After the language window begins to close, it becomes increasingly difficult to learn a new language. Learning windows do not close all at once, neither do they close completely. If they did, adults wouldn’t be able to learn anything new. But the development of the brain that accompanies learning only happens during childhood. (In general, learning windows may be kept open longer by focusing on a specific skill set prior to the window’s closure.)
The pitch window
The pitch window coincides with the language window, which begins to close between the ages of 4 and 6. During this stage of brain development, the understanding of pitch may be maximized. This is easily accomplished by singing and playing a musical instrument. It is important to note that a Harvard University study found that extensive early childhood music education resulted in an increase in size of the corpus callosum, the bundle of nerves that connects the hemispheres of the brain. This increase has the potential to affect all other areas of learning, particularly math and science. This is where the baby Mozart idea came from. While the theory behind listening is a nice idea for parents, the study found that nothing can replace actual instrument practice. Playing an instrument forces both hemispheres of the brain to work together, combining pitch and coördination with abstract thought.
So why doesn’t everyone have their three-year-old in music lessons? This is a complex issue that many people do not understand. Young children have a short attention span and require constant supervision. As a result most teachers will not accept students at this age, thus creating a shortage of music teachers for the very young. This lack of acceptance by teachers also creates the false assumption that music education for the young does not matter. Compounding the issue are misinformed parents. Another issue is practice. There are very few young children who will practice without an adult at their side. So even those young children who are taking music lessons may not benefit completely since their parents MUST supervice at home practice. As a result of these difficulties, music lessons are frequently postponed until after the pitch window has closed.
Benefits of catching the pitch window
Perfect pitch seems to corrolate to homes where music is taught at an early age. It is unclear whether this is because of genetics or early exposure, or a combination of both.
Prior to the closure of the pitch window, tone deafness can be easily corrected. This is generally done by asking the child to sing a pitch, any pitch. The teacher matches their pitch. Then the child is asked to follow the teacher as they go up or down, one step at a time. As the child improves, more difficult exercises can be implemented. Singing is an excellent way to improve the understanding of pitch.
After the pitch window closes, tone deafness can frequently be corrected throughout childhood, though it may not be as complete. Tone deafness can sometimes be corrected in adults, though it is important to remember that the process becomes increasingly difficult with age.
The coördination window
The window for coördination typically begins to close between the ages of 10 and 12. It is extremely important for music students to begin taking lessons prior to the closure of this window. The question of public music education comes to mind here. In most school districts, band and orchestra instruction begins in 5th grade. This is not because it is the optimum time for students to begin their music studies. It is because music educators have to fight to get their programs in the school. On the district level they have to make it known that if children don’t get an instrument in their hands by this age, IT WILL BE TOO LATE. And as usual, public music education is treated by the school district with a minimal approach. Since that is the age that the window begins to close, that is the age the public schools begin band and orchestra.
A student who begins lessons after the coördination window closes will face increasingly difficult issues with dexterity. This is not to say that teenagers and adults cannot learn to play an instrument. In general, teens and adults progress rapidly, particularly in the first year of instruction. The issues that hamper their progress come with more advanced music and almost always relate to dexterity.
For more information on music and the developing mind visit these websites:
I have had a few requests for this, so I decided to just make a post. Below is an audio recording of “Treasure the Light.” I have also included the sheet music, which is available for either solo voice or choir. Both versions have piano accompaniment.
Audio only: Treasure the Light Note: to play, click on the link. To download, right click and follow the directions next to your mouse.
Free Sheet Music: Treasure the Light — Solo with Piano Accompaniment
I wrote this song in early July, 2012 after a meeting with the youth committee from the thirty stakes involved in the Youth Cultural Celebration. The lyrics were taken from the youths’ suggestions for themes. As I listened to them call out their ideas, I realized that they would make great lyrics. So I decided to take their ideas and turn them into a song.
Anyhow, during the course of the meeting a young man raised his hand and said that the girl next to him had a great idea. She quickly offered her idea, which was, “Just one little light.” Since the meeting was running short, leadership flet that it was time to close down the brainstorming session, while I was busy thinking, “Hey! That’s a great line!” I have no idea who this girl is, but I felt her distinct frustration that night — as if she were sure that she felt prompted to speak. Even though I have no idea who she is, her words touched me deeply. As you will notice, I used her thought as the first line in the song. I don’t know if she’ll ever notice my appreciation for speaking up. Life is a strange that way. Sometimes we never see the repercussions of our actions. But I am glad that she shared.
Highlighted in this recording are the following artists:
Katie Johnson, Annie Johnson, Morgan Cooley, Gabby Genta, Lexie Jeppson, Melinda Harper, Christina Walker, Haylee Jones, Gabby Ririe, Joy Purnell, Steven Mackey, Spencer Madsen, Austin Peery, Jake Thibault, Masen Thompson, Tanner Myler, and Cade Anderson. Thanks you guys! You were GREAT!
This song played during the prelude portion of the Youth Cultural Celebration for the Boise Temple, which was performed on November 17, 2012 in the Taco Bell Arena. It was such an honor to be involved in this event. Thank you to everyone who participated!
For those who are new to this site, the music studio tab is where I post music education materials. Believe it or not, it takes me a lot more effort to write these worksheets than it does for my students to complete them. So you might wonder why I spend all that time creating them — as you can see I have posted a lot! The answer is simple. Although there are many fabulous music method books currently available, most do not offer sufficient practice, especially with regards to rhythm. It’s a gripe a lot of teachers have. Don’t ask me why there are so few method books addressing this issue. It certainly doesn’t change the need. Rhythmic proficiency is one of the greatest obstacles in a student’s ability to sightread, and ultimate goal of independence. So I’ve done my part, small as it may seem. Print and practice. That’s all there is to it.
I have often laughed at this poem, and thought others might enjoy it too. I think only an organist can truly appreciate just how funny this really is. We’re told by various congregation members, who are all talking about the same song, “That was too loud. It was too soft, too slow, too fast.” Hahaha. Just makes me laugh. Especially the part about the variations. Just let me say this now … I’d love to throw in a lot more of that, but as written below, it just “confuseth” everyone.
Acts chapter 29 By Garrison Keillor.
1. And it came to pass, when Paul was in Corinth, he and certain disciples came upon a mob that was stoning an organist.
2. And Paul said unto them, “What then hath he done unto thee that his head should be bruised?”
3. And the people cried with one voice, “He hath played too loud!
4. Yea, in the singing of the psalms, he maketh our heads to ring as if they were beaten with hammers.
5. Behold, he sitteth up high in the loft, and mighty are the pipes and mighty is the noise thereof, and though there be few of us below, he none the less playeth with all the stops, the Assyrian trumpet stop and the stop of the ram’s horn and the stop that soundeth like the sawing of stone, and we cannot hear the words that cometh out of our own mouths.
6. He always tosseth in variations that confuse us mightily and he playeth loud and discordant and always in a militant tempo, so that we have not time to breathe as we sing.
7. Lo, he is a plague upon the faith and should be chastised.” Paul, hearing this, had himself picked up a small stone, and was about to cast it, but he set it down, and bade the organist come forward.
8. He was a narrow man, sallow of complexion, with dry skin, flaking and thin of hair.
9. And Paul said unto him, “Why hath thou so abused thy brethren?”
10. And the organist replied, “I could not hear them singing from where I sat, and therefore played the louder so as to encourage them.”
11. And Paul turned round to the mob and said loudly, “Let him who has never played an organ cast the first stone.”
12. And they cast stones for a while until their arms were tired and Paul bade the organist repent and he did.
13. And Paul said unto him, “Thou shalt take up the flute and play it for thirty days, to cleanse thy spirit,” and afterward they returned to Corinth and sang psalms unaccompanied and then had coffee and were refreshed in the faith.
I wrote this arrangement back in 1993 when I was directing church choir. If anyone still has the old version, you may notice that I changed the key to make the arrangement more suitable for guitarists.
Sheet music: Silent Night SATB, Piano, Organ, optional Guitar PDF file.