TEACHING Piano Adventures®

Note Names & Interval Contour

Steps and Skips

Musicians read note names and the interval contour. Both skills combine for musical fluency.

Recognizing Note Names

Question: Which is more important, naming notes or reading intervals? But reading by note name alone often leads to unmusical, note-by-note decoding.

Reading by Intervallic Contour

But reading by interval without note recognition may lead to disorientation, inaccuracy, or embarrassment.

Melody is the motion of pitch in time. Read the contour of notes to find musical shape and meaning.

Up or Down?

Ask: Which direction? Up, down, or same?

The interval of a second (step) and the interval of a third (skip) are so prominent in music that we easily focus only on steps, skips, and repeated notes at the Primer Level.

Step or Skip?

Then ask: Are the notes stepping or skipping?

Note Naming

Most teachers have seen piano students equate notes with finger numbers. This is no surprise considering that most methods teach notes using a fixed, preset hand position.

In Piano Adventures®, fingerings are varied when new notes are introduced. For example, Middle C March is played with fingers 1, 2, and 3, not just with the thumb. Treble G is played as frequently with finger 3 as with finger 5. Bass F is handled similarly in My Invention and The Dance Band. The student learns that a note's position on the staff indicates a particular key (or pitch), not a particular finger.

Steps and Skips

The typical Primer student relates better to the terms step and skip than second and third because these terms describe the actual motion:

Stepping up or down … Similarly for skips …

These aspects of steps are addressed in the pre-reading pages with C-D-E-F-G March. The student hears, feels, and sees the stepwise motion, while learning adjacent letter names and assimilating the mirror image fingerings between the right and left hands.

Reading Steps and Skips

On page 38, after orientation to the staff with the notes Middle C, Treble G and Bass F, the student is presented with a set of three notes—D, E, F—all at once. While we expect the student to learn these note names over the next several weeks, the immediate aim is to read by note contour. Thus, the page is paired with Mister Bluebird which introduces stepwise motion on the staff (LINE to the next SPACE, or SPACE to the next LINE).

Notice how Mister Bluebird seeks the integration of individual note recognition and reading by intervallic contour. The Discovery Question asks the student to name each note, and the questions above each measure ask whether the notes are stepping up, stepping down, or repeating.

Page 48 introduces skips on the staff, first as LINE to LINE, then later on page 50 as SPACE to SPACE. The student needs time to imprint each of these visual patterns.

Teacher and student pointing to page