Group class: mindful scales, note reading

At M’s group class, the teacher led the students through two mindfulness-enhancing scale exercises plus a note-reading exercise. All three help build key mental skills.

Exercise 1: G-scale with knocks

The G-scale with knocks is hard even for adults.  It’s kind of like the B-I-N-G-O song, but in reverse: you repeat the G scale, saying the note names as you play, but dropping one more note from the end each time and knocking on the back of the guitar neck instead. The final repetition is all knocks, and then you shout “Hey!” in time, on the beat that follows the last imaginary note. So it goes like this:

  • G-A-B-C-D-E-F#-G (played and spoken or sung)
  • G-A-B-C-D-E-F#-knock (each played note spoken or sung, silent on knock)
  • G-A-B-C-D-E-knock-knock
  • G-A-B-C-D-knock-knock-knock
  • G-A-B-C-knockknock-knock-knock
  • G-A-B-knock-knockknock-knock-knock
  • G-A-knock-knock-knockknock-knock-knock
  • G-knock-knockknock-knockknock-knock-knock
  • knock-knock-knockknock-knockknock-knock-knock-HEY!

To be successful, you have to hear in your head the notes you’re not playing, which helps kids strengthen their imaging skills. You also have to remember what you just played (“Did I just play G-A-B, or was it G-A-B-C?”) so you know when to start knocking, which helps kids (and adults!) build concentration.

Exercise 2: D scale, “prepare in the air”

This second exercise gives kids practice at explicitly preparing themselves to play what comes next — i.e., at “imaging ahead.” They played a D scale, but they played each note 4 times (if I recall correctly). As they played, the teacher told them to “prepare in the air” for what comes next. So while the student is playing a D, he is “preparing in the air” to fret the upcoming E, and the multiple repetitions of the D give the student the time she needs to think ahead.

This exercise also helps kids learn to focus on good left-hand shape — fingers curled in evenly toward the fingerboard, rather than splayed out wildly. (The teacher demonstrated this shape in a way I hadn’t seen before. He placed a pen on the left thumb, then curled the fingers in to meet the pen, forming the optimal shape.)

I’m luck that M already has good left-hand shape, because I made it a priority early on — I would sit in front of her and hold my hand flat in front of hers, gently adjusting her fingers if they started poking out.

Exercise 3: Note reading

The teacher handed out the page below and discussed two uses for it (other than the obvious one of asking your kid to read the notes).

First, he picked an arbitrary note — say, A — and asked a student to start with the first one and race his finger along the line until he came to the next one, saying the number under each one he encountered. The goal here is to move as quickly as possible, thus developing the ability to track along the staff.

Second, he suggested we practice with a metronome, and ask our kid to stay with the metronome, skipping any unknown notes and maintaining forward progress. In effect, he suggested that we teach our kids to “read through their mistakes” in the same way we usually teach them to play through their mistakes.
See-Say note page – treble clef

2 thoughts on “Group class: mindful scales, note reading”

    1. I believe that the group-class teacher, Alan Johnston, prepared it. He’s a teacher at the MacPhail Center for Music.

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