My First Musical Mnemonic

I was reflecting on my post from last week about how to remember stuff when you are learning a musical instrument when I suddenly remembered one of the oldest mnemonics I have encountered.

I can recall as a 6 year old having piano lessons in this old house that seemed millions of miles away from where I lived.

In reality it was only a short drive away from home but at that age the bottom of the garden seemed a long way away, especially when my mum was nagging at me to go and pick up my toys.

My piano teacher was a lovely old lady who used to wind a knob on the side of the piano stool to make it go higher so I could reach the keys.

She taught me lots of things about how to press the white notes in a particular order to make something remotely musical that had the words “Ducks” and “Rain” in the title.

It wasn’t Rock and Roll but even Jerry Lee Lewis had to start somewhere.

Then one day she introduced me to this funny sheet of paper with lots of black spots and with sticks coming out of them.

All of a sudden music seemed to get very difficult and not much fun at all (at least that is what my 6 year old brain thought anyway!).

I was now learning to read music.

Fortunately my teacher was an expert at helping youngsters like me deal with challenges like this and she introduced me to my first ever mnemonic – a clever way to remember the names of the notes.

If you look at the treble clef in a piece of music (the top set of lines) there are notes that sit in the spaces between the lines and there are notes that sit on the lines themselves.

Each has a name conveniently named after letters of the alphabet (which was very useful for a 6 year old who loved to read) but the trouble is very little music is written A B C D E F G – they muck the letters (notes) around a bit.

So a way of remembering what notes are where was needed and my teacher had the easiest way to remember.

The notes in the spaces are the easiest because from the bottom space up they are named F A C E.

The notes on the lines are a little harder as they are (again from the bottom up) E G B D F.

Unfortunately they don’t conveniently spell out an easy to remember word but if you say:

“Every Good Boy Deserves Food”

..and give a 6 year old boy a chocolate biscuit when he gets them right, you have a sure fire way of remembering the names of the notes.

This mnemonic is as old as the hills and if you started to learn a musical instrument at a young age then you probably know this one or have your own version of it.

Let me know in the comments section below if you have a different sentence using the letters E G B D F and we will see how many different variations we can gather.