Why It’s Called The “Trouble” Clef

Trouble Clef

On a recent visit to Michael’s I found this cute little notepad. As with a lot of random things that are in my studio at any given moment, it became a teaching aid in a piano lesson. Just as I was presenting the treble clef symbol using Faber’s Queen Treble Clef song from My First Piano Adventures, my eyes were drawn to this notepad. The treble clef at the bottom of the paper was a perfect visual to reinforce the lyrics of the song which say she got in trouble for trying to play the low notes!

Hmmm, was it genius or merely desperation that led me to that discovery? Clearly there is a thin line between the two!

Music Notation Made Easy

I recently found this
visual of the grand staff on wikihow.com which is great for quickly showing kids how the Treble Clef
and Bass Clefs are related.
After looking at the picture the phrase “Ace In The
Hole” came to my mind as a way to help kids connect the two staffs.
I often find that students have a hard time learning to look at both clefs at the same time.
They also tend to forget
the name of the note on the top line of the Bass Clef. “The Ace In The Hole” phrase can also
reenforce the concept of middle C being in the middle of the two staffs, which seems to
also be a surprisingly difficult concept for students to grasp.

Source: wikihow.com via Dana on Pinterest

A Staff Made Of Noodles!

I was inspired to create a 3-D life-sized musical staff after watching an episode of Quaver’s Marvelous World. I’m not crafty at all, but this is the result.

To make it I used:

5 swimming noodles purchased at Wal-Mart

4 plastic mini-basketballs purchased at Dollar Tree

2 Wooden Dowels purchased at Home Depot

Craft Paper


Now, all I have to do is figure out a way to make it free-standing!

Easter Egg Surprises

Here is a quick activity that can be used in the piano lesson or as a piano assignment to be done at home! To use it in the piano lesson, you will need 12 plastic eggs, a sharpie or other permanent marker, and some candy. On each egg draw a staff, add a treble clef or bass clef and draw a note. I used treble clef space notes since my students have been working on these lately. I also made one egg for each space note as a quarter note, half note, and whole note since some kids struggle to grasp the concept that ANY note can be a quarter note, half note, or whole note. You can have students hunt for the eggs around your studio or randomly pick one from an egg carton or Easter basket. If they can correctly identify the note and its value, they get to open the egg and keep the prize inside!

As an at home assignment, kids can draw the notes themselves and write the letter name on the back. A special prize can be given for completing this assignment.

Piano Lessons Are Like TV Shows…

Based on my children’s TV watching habits, I sometimes think that the best parts of a TV show are the commercials. I generally use the commercials as a time to go grab a snack or do some other “thing” before the show comes back on. But, not my kids! They’d rather die than miss the commercials. (OK a little bit of exaggeration). The point I’m making though is they live for the commercials. I guess that’s why companies spend so much money on them. So what does this have to do with piano lessons? Well, just like a good TV show, a good Piano Lesson needs some breaks in between scenes (activities). YouTube is so great for finding music education videos that can be used as commercials during lessons. Of course whatever video you choose has to be entertaining! Here is an example of a video that I repurposed as a commercial just yesterday…

Play-Doh Re-Mi, Anyone?

Making A Staff

Sometimes it escapes me how much difficulty piano students have learning to read notes on the staff. You see, the more than 30 years that I’ve spent playing the piano have fooled me into thinking that reading notes on a music staff is EASY-PEASY. Not to worry – reality quickly sets in once my students sit at the piano and I put a sheet of music in front of them. The cheerful, excited faces they had during the pre-staff notation days of their lessons are suddenly absent – replaced by blank stares and a series of failed attempts at finding the right note. So, what to do?

Enter… Play Doh!

Step 1: Have the student make a staff. Some surprising revelations can occur at this time. Here’s one from a student: “There are only 5 lines?”

Step 2: Now the student can add space notes or line notes.  Another revelation: “You mean the space notes have to fit BETWEEN the lines?” 

Happy FACE notes

Step 3: The teacher can add a Treble Clef OR Bass Clef. Then give the student the appropriate phrase to remember the note names. Now have them make up a phrase of their own.

Step 4: Take a picture of that beautiful smile your student is flashing!

3-D Bass Clef Staff