The One-Minute Club

As the year begins to wind down (from my perspective, possibly not from the students’ perspective!), my goal for a number of my 2nd and 3rd year students is to be able to say the letter-names of all the notes on the grand staff on flashcards in a minute or less. Prepping them for this last week, I noted with satisfaction that most could play the right note on the piano, but that they couldn’t necessarily put the labels (note-names) on the notes.

The idea of the one-minute club has been around for decades. I remember my mom doing it with her piano students many years ago – and Susan Paradis mentions that she got the idea from Jane Bastien many years ago. I re-read Susan’s post on this topic – she addresses a number of questions about this kind of challenge. One point that resonates with me is to make sure the students have the potential for success. It’s not necessarily for every student.

I made a quick chart and posted it beside the 50-Piece Challenge. The chart just has the names and dates for the remaining weeks of the piano year (we’re done June 23). Every week I’ll enter the time it took to say all the letter-names. I should add that all of these students have a set of flashcards and are expected to practice this every day.

I’ve tried many methods over the years of drilling these letter-names into the brains of the students. What I’ve finally settled on is focusing on the treble clef spaces (FACE rhymes with space) and the bass clef lines, by using the Grizzly Bears mnemonic and picture from that hangs on the bulletin board in the studio. The low G is for Grizzly – I think they find this easiest to remember.

And, as they always seem to expect some sort of reward – the intangible life-long knowledge of note-names not enough at this stage – I’ll have to make sure the Treasure Box is well-stocked for the next few weeks. A certificate at the final recital is also in order. Susan Paradis is posting a certificate version of her One Minute Club “Membership” cards today. Be sure to check out the numerous posts that she has written about this.

I’m interested to know how other teachers may have handled this. Leave a comment and let me know :)

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About LaDona's Music Studio

Musician, pianist, teacher, blogger.
This entry was posted in Piano pedagogy, Sight Reading, Theory and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The One-Minute Club

  1. Where were you when I needed you? Could play (poorly). Reading music was alien language….

  2. (1) I can assure you I was not the teacher 30 years ago that I am today.
    (2) You’re right. It IS a foreign language and kind of needs to approached as such. It’s definitely not too late for you. It takes a generous supply of time and patience, though.
    (3) You’ve made my day – again. Thanks, Dave :)

  3. Mine do one letter at a time- when they have conquered the A’s, they move on to the B’s and so forth. It gets progressively harder as letters are added. We begin by either using “sentences” or naming the note (Low C, High C, Middle C, Cows, Face C). Then we “practice” at the table by just saying the letters in under 60 seconds. Then finally, they must all be played in 60 seconds. They get a membership card (Thanks, Susan!) a special treat at the Double Scoop and End of the Year Recitals, and a $3 gift card to Menchies. You are right- its not for everyone. My advanced older students aren’t as interested (they don’t really need the exercise anyway). And its too difficult for my younger beginners- but I let them know how great it will be to get in the club next year!

    Incidentally, here are my sentences: Empty Gargbage Before Dad Flips, FACE, All Cows Eat Grass, Garfield Bit Dad’s Foot Again. (I should have re-thought this because having two “Dad”s has caused confusion. But generally they like the sentences.)

    Thanks for your Blog- Its wonderful!!

    • Thank you for sharing what you do, Suzanne, and thanks for your kind words. I like the idea of doing all one letter-name at a time – I`ll have to incorporate that into lessons in fall.
      The reason I focus just on FACE and Grizzly Bears is because I had too many students not be able to keep straight which acronym was for which clef – kind of like your 2 Dads. But so many things work – it really is not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing.

      • Miss Amaryah says:

        LaDona… I too settled on the Grizzly Bears acronym for the same reason… too many “good boys”. I also like “Every Good Band Deserves Fans” or “Every Girl Band Deserves Fans” (for the girls) in the treble. Thanks for your insightful blog!

  4. Pingback: Drill the skills | LaDona's Music Studio

  5. fgassette says:

    Thanks for sharing. Thank you for stopping by my blog.


  6. Thank YOU, Francine. It seems David’s influence is reaching farther and farther!

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