Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Memorizing All Major Key Signatures

As the newsletter editor or the Suzuki Association of Utah newsletter, I get to read a lot of great articles about teaching.  I particularly liked this one from the SAU Flute VP about memorizing key signatures.  This is one of my goals for my Book 4+ students this year.  

I was also thrilled because I just received a new shipment of key signature dice.  I've had the dice with the basic key signatures (C, G, D, A, F, and B-flat), but I've had several requests for the more advanced key signatures, so here they are!

Memorizing All Major Key Signatures

By Katrina Young

Since the Utah Suzuki Flute players are learning their major scales for our SAU Sweet Scale competition on October 12th, I thought I would include some tricks and incentives that have helped my studio in the past to learn and memorize their scales. 

For visual learners:  I adapted this idea from Cindy Henderson.  Cindy includes in her student flute journal the note names of the scales written out with the sharps and flats circled.  I realized that some of my students would respond better with color and being able to focus on only one scale at a time.  I made these major scale flip charts for my students.   If you would like to make a set for yourself, they can be downloaded here.          
 We discuss how each scale is like houses on a street.  For example, the “E street” has two sets of sharp houses that live next door to each other.  The “F# street” has only one house that is not sharped on the entire street!  When we venture into the flats neighborhood, we discuss how flats also like to live next door to each other.  These cards help students see and recognize the patterns of major scales.  To make these cards, simply print onto white cardstock, cut on the black line, punch a hole in the corner, and place on a binder ring.  I arrange the scales on the ring based on the circle of 5ths for my students.

For Kinesthetic learners:  I give these students the following worksheets.  By writing down the letter names of the scales themselves, they understand how the scales are formed and why we have a circle of 5ths and 4ths. Using the sharp major scale worksheet, I walk students through how we move around the circle of 5ths.  We start with the C major scale.  Have students count up to the 5th note of the C major scale (G) and this is how we find what the next scale will be around the circle of 5ths.  They fill in the next set of boxes starting with G.  To find what note will be sharped in this scale, the rule is to always add the sharp to the 7th note or degree of the scale.  In the G major scale this is F#.  When the worksheet is finished, it leaves students with a handy chart to refer back to.  You can download these worksheets here.

Make up a sentence to help you remember the circle of 5ths and 4ths:  Cindy Henderson uses these sentence “gimmicks” in her studio.  For the sharp keys in order around the circle of 5ths she says: 
                                    #        #
God Destroyed All Earth By Fire of Course.
                    # of sharps in key: 1      2               3   4       5   6         7

For the Flat keys going around the circle of 4ths she says: 
                                                 b       b    b        b                b               b
Fat Boys Eat Apple Dumplings Greedily of Course.
            # of flats in the key:  1    2       3    4        5               6                7

My own eight year old daughter made up a sharp order sentence the other day.  It is silly, but it helped her memorize the order in one day:  Good Dogs Always Eat Breakfast Fastly and Cleanly!  Make up your own sentence!  It will stick in your head better.

Make an incentive to learn them:  Each student in my studio has a fishy scale card from susanparadis.com.  As they pass off one of their scales, I fill in a scale on their fish card.  Once they learn all of their scales for the sweet scale competition, they will get a box of Swedish fish!  Sometimes, incentives such as these really help when things seem hard to learn. 


Sarah Hemm said...

Just found your website and blog! So good! It is so great to live in the Internet age. When I was growing up as a Suzuki kid it was not nearly as much fun. I wish my teacher would have taught me more about key signatures. This is a great idea! Thanks for all the free downloads and everything available on your site!

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for your excellent free downloads. I'd love to prepare a copy of these flip charts for my daughter, but the link takes me to a page which says it cannot find this - would there be any way of providing another link to this fantastic resource?

Unknown said...

Could you send me your scale flip cards. I can't seem to get them to open up. Thanks so much. Great idea.

Jacqueline said...

Hello! I enjoyed reading your blog post and would love the download of your flip card and worksheet for kinesthetic learners. When I click on the link, it doesn't take me to the PDF.

Many thanks in advance for your help!