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Pitch - the mystery of lines and spaces and where to put the stems!

3 years ago

Karen Marshall

Karen Marshall is a private, peri and classroom music teacher from York.

ABRSM’s new Piano Star Theory book helps bridge the gap between student and teacher by providing solutions to common theory challenges.

A student once confessed to me that her previous teacher had talked about lines and spaces but she didn’t know what her teacher was talking about because in her mind, ‘there wasn’t any spaces anywhere on the music, just lines!’

To her, a space was a much larger blank page. Simply explaining that lines either run through the middle of the note, or sit at the bottom and top was the explanation she needed to gain some understanding. I wish I’d had Piano Star Theory to hand!

Lines and spaces are very clearly explained in Piano Star Theory so students can see the difference between the two. The space team and the line time provide useful activities from note drawing to identifying space and line notation. Additional quizzes can also help teachers to further consolidate.

It’s easy to forget that to many children it isn’t obvious where to put the stems on notes. Often they can be put the wrong way round and this concept needs much practice! Piano Star Theory has a catchy song to the tune of ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ as well as activities that encourage drawing stems and recognising when they have been presented correctly.

If you’re wondering how you can incorporate some of these techniques into your lesson you could try this activity: Support your student to make their own stave, a large A4 stave can be laminated and then used for your student to practice writing different pitches, note values and rests correctly. Do use the wonderful illustration in Piano Star Theory with everything labelled up for guidance.


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