Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Throw Logic Out the Window

If I could, I would go back in time to rename a few things to make them more logical. For example, the language of music is confusing. Why does a half note get 2 beats and an eighth note gets 1/2 a beat? Instead of the quarter note getting a quarter of a beat, it gets 1 beat. It's the sixteenth note that gets a quarter of a beat. A student the other day asked me, "Why don't we call the half note a two note?" The eighth note could then be called a half note since it gets 1/2 a beat. Of course, this is all 4/4 time. Change it to 6/8 and everything changes. I didn't think my students were ready to hear all that.

I've tried different things with my students to get them to read music. It just takes time. One of my favorite activities is having 4 chairs that represent 4 beats. I then assign different kids to be different notes. One kid is a whole note and takes up all 4 chairs. Half notes take up 2 chairs, quarter notes take up 1. When we get to eighth notes, there are 2 people on each chair. Sixteenth notes mean that 4 people are on one chair because 4 sixteenth notes equal one beat.

All of it is confusing for some students and will take time and practice to learn. Considering the time that it has taken for music to evolve into its current notation form, I don't think things will change anytime soon. In the meantime, I'll just keep telling the students, "A half note does not get 1/2 beat," and "A sixteenth note does not get 1/16 of a beat nor does it get 16 beats."

Aye, aye, aye.


  1. Holy cow! I'm confused! No wonder I never learned to read music the real way. I'm glad your students are learning it young - it just gets harder and harder to learn the older you get. Good luck, Sister Catherine!

  2. I love the chair idea! I used to have the kids take giant steps for whole notes, half of the for half notes, downsize still more for quarters, 8ths and 16ths were the baby steps. I'd call out the notes and they'd move from one end of the room to the other...

  3. That's why I always asked my friends who where in band. I still don't know how to really read music.