How to Remember the Piano Notes Without Using Mnemonics

What’s the easiest and quickest way to remember the piano notes without using mnemonics? In this article, I’m going to show you how.

 

how to remember the piano notes

 

If you’ve been wondering how to remember piano notes, you’ve probably come across several tactics such as using mnemonics like FACE and Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit. But are they really that helpful?

 

In this article, we’re going to discuss why mnemonics might not be the most effective way to remember notes and what tricks you can use instead to identify notes more easily.

 

Why mnemonics are not useful for remembering notes

A common approach to remember notes is to use mnemonics such as the following:

 

mnemonics for the space notes

mnemonics for the line notes

 

While these mnemonics are useful in remembering the notes long term, they are not so useful when it comes to identifying notes quickly, which is ultimately what we want.

 

The biggest problem I see in using these mnemonics is that in order to identify a note (or letter), you need to go through many steps, as we’ll see with the example below.

 

N.B.: For the letters EGBDF, I’ve used Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit here, but sometimes you’ll see Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge or Every Good Boy Deserves Food, which just makes things more confusing.

 

To show you why these mnemonics are not the most effective ways of recalling notes, let’s take an example.

 

Say we want to identify this note:

treble B

Here’s the process you would need to go through:

  1. Recall the appropriate mnemonic – this step in itself requires you to remember the correct mnemonic which corresponds to the right staff and the right type of note. The note is in the treble clef and it is a line note so the right mnemonic would be Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit. I know this because I know that the line notes in the treble are EGBDF but there is no way to remember which is which.
  2. Now that you’ve got the right mnemonic, go through the words until you’ve landed on the right one (Every Good Boy – Boy).
  3. And finally, take the first letter of the word (Boy) to get the letter B.

 

Phew! That’s a lot of steps for just one note, isn’t it? Imagine having to go through these steps for every single note, every time you’re reading music!

 

Surely there’s a quicker way?

 

In fact, there is.

 

The easier and quicker way of remembering piano notes

A more effective way of recalling the notes is to learn the landmark notes. These notes are used as landmarks, as a point of reference, with which you can then read the other notes.

 

The landmark notes include C’s and F’s in the bass clef and C’s and G’s in the treble. Notice how the notes are a mirror image of each other.

 

landmark notes

 

landmark notes of the piano

Recognising landmark notes is immediate and doesn’t require you to translate the notes into anything other than what they represent. So, upon seeing a treble G, for example, you would immediately recognise it as a G. This means you avoid all the extra steps that you need to go through with the mnemonics and go straight to the letter.

 

Using intervals

To read the notes in between the landmark notes, you would use interval recognition.

 

LEARN MORE >> How to Identify Intervals on the Staff Quickly

 

Because the landmark notes are either a fourth (C to F) or a fifth apart (C to G), you only need to recognise seconds and thirds (or steps and skips).

 

Let’s take a few examples.

Let’s say we want to figure out the second note in this example:

skip from middle C

 

We know that the first note is middle C, as it is one of the landmark notes. The following note is a third, or a skip, above middle C, so it must be E.

 

Let’s do one more.

step below bass F

We know that the first note is F, as it is one of the landmark notes. The following note is a second, or a step, below F, so it must be E.

 

Practice time

To put into practice what you’ve learned in this article, have a go at the following drills:

 

 

 

For more note-reading practice using the landmark notes, check out the Note Quest app which I reviewed in this article.

 

Over to you

What is your experience with reading music? Do you use mnemonics or the landmark notes? Let me know in the comments.

 

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  • Charles Abate says:

    In my opinion, learning to read music is the greatest obstacle to learning to play the piano. As a ninety-year-old beginner, finding E-Z Play Today sheet music has given me hope that I can learn to play to my satisfaction in my lifetime. If you want to read books in Latin, you first have to learn to translate Latin. If you want to read conventional sheet music, you’ll have to learn to translate it first. Why are we stuck in this rut? There are so many other fascinating and necessary things to learn in the process of playing this beautiful instrument.

    • I must admit that I had to Google “E-Z Play Today” as I had never heard of it. Now I know what you call that type of notation.
      Yes, reading music is difficult to begin with but once learned, it opens so many doors, not just to piano music but to any music. Sheet music remains the best way to capture the essence and all the fine details of a piece of music.

  • Emmanuelle Fonsny

    Emmanuelle Fonsny

    Emmanuelle Fonsny, or Manu, is a piano and violin teacher, composer and accompanist based in Sydney, Australia. She is passionate about sharing her love of music and her sight-reading and practice tips to help other pianists become more confident sight-readers.

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