Joe's Blog

Introducing the Beginner to the Keyboard: Black and White.

March 16, 2018

The physical keyboard is a good place to start a first lesson.  Knowledge can often come quickly and with a concomitant sense of mastery and progress by the student.

For some the visual impressions of the keyboard seems at first an undifferentiated pattern of alternating black and white keys.

Attention sometimes has to be called to the fact that two, not just one white note, can be situated in between adjacent black notes.  We should not think it was a failure of any sort that the student didn’t see this at first.  He probably gave an accurate statement of what he truly “saw” (perceived).  Generally we first notice similarity, and then internal differences.   Noting E and F, and B and C, requires this first level of advancing differentiation.  To help the student “see” this we can take one of his fingers and trace the path between, for example, D# and F#, traversing on the way the surface of both E and F.

For a thoughtful intellect we could ask what would happen if there was just a simple alternation between white and black.  How would he then describe the location of just one particular white note (middle C for example).

Once the student is aware that while the white keys are evenly spaced the black keys are not, we can go on to show that the black keys tend to coagulate into loose groups.  Two closer together, then a wider gap, then three closer together, which then repeats.

The student at first is apt to treat any two nearby black notes as forming a  group of two.  All permutations must be considered,  especially those that are based on a different interpretation of what the teacher means by the word ‘clump’.    We want the student not to consider the following as forming a clump of two black notes: D# and F#, A# and C#, F# and G#, or G# and A#.  The mind has many ways of dividing up a field of information into parts.

At this point we can go on to giving names to the keys.


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