Note Reading

March 01, 2010

As I am learning to play violoncello via the Suzuki method, my playing thus far as been through listening and memorization. The music in the method book is notated with finger numbers so I haven't had to learn to read music.

However, some of the pieces toward the end of book 1 only show the finger number for the first occurrence of a note or sequence, forcing the student to remember the finger or pencil them in or, I suspect preferably, learn to associate the note with the correct fingering and string.

One of the things Sibylle gave me when I started lessons was a set of note flash cards; it's now time to get them out and start using them. At my lesson last Friday my teacher suggested that I add the string and finger information to the answer side of the cards, so that instead of just saying "F", for example, I'd need to say "F, 3rd finger on the D-string." This will not only help me to recognize the notes, it will help to reenforce how they are played. He said the goal is to instantly recognize each note and be able to name it and its position on the fingerboard.

He also taught me a trick to find the open strings in the bass clef. The A-string is the top line in the bass staff, the D-string is the middle line in that staff, and the G-string is the bottom line in the staff. The C-string is two ledger lines below the bass staff.

An image of the open string notes

With these landmarks in mind it is already easier to identify other notes. From the little bit of piano I know I already knew that the clef itself identified the F (3rd finger on the D-string). Hopefully some daily drilling with my flash cards will soon have me able to read music, without the finger numbers as a crib.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.