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Beginners: natural confusion between the horizontal plane of the keyboard and the vertical plane of the musical staff.

March 17, 2018

There are things which we take for granted which may be confusing to the student and lead to conflations.

We are aware that in the horizontal plane of the keyboard the following are true:

left              = ‘low’ in pitch,

leftwards = ‘lower’ in pitch,

‘downwards’ on the keyboard,

going ‘backwards’ in the musical alphabet.

right              = ‘high’ in pitch

rightwards = ‘higher’ in pitch

‘upwards’ on the keyboard

going ‘forwards’ in the music alphabet

If we switch to the vertical plane of the staff we know that:

down                                  = low in pitch

downwards on a staff = lower in pitch

going backwards in the musical                                                        alphabet

up                                  = high in pitch

upwards on a staff = ‘higher’ in pitch

going forwards in the musical                                                            alphabet

That on the keyboard, leftwards and rightwards have to do with change in pitch, but that on the staff leftwards and rightwards have to do with order in time.

It is often confusing for the student to keep track of the changing meaning ‘up’ and ‘down’ depending on whether the context is the keyboard or the music staff.

He is liable to make the wrong ‘pairing’ between the two planes, horizontal and vertical  For example:

1) notes that move upwards on the staff but to which the student responds by going leftwards and not rightwards on the keyboard.

2) the student playing C and then D on the keyboard, but then says that the notes he played are C and B.

In both cases the ‘rotation’ of the plane by ninety degrees, between horizontal and vertical is the source of the confusion.  It is a spatial difficulty that can be more pronounced in one individual than another, regardless of talent.

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