top of page

Reading Notes the ABA Way

Can you read this note? If you know this is a D and where it is located on the piano you probably have a piano teacher to thank!

While there are many ways to introduce the skill of reading musical notation, the following method has been created using the basic concepts of Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA. It makes use of a concept called Errorless Teaching and is meant to start right away when your student first interacts with the piano (regardless of age or developmental level).

Since reading musical notation can be a little intimidating to some learners, this errorless method will take away some the challenges associated with learning this new musical language. If you haven't read the introduction to The Treble Clef Board article click here to become more familiar with the layout. Also, we will briefly discuss data collection here but for a detailed explanation and specialized data-sheets for these materials, be sure to download eBook 1.

Baseline Measurements

Regardless of what you know about your student (or what you are told about their ability level) take a few moments and do a baseline measurement. Taking a baseline will more clearly show where the student's skill level is before you begin teaching. In the image below of a baseline setup you can see that there are no prompts included. For more information on these measurements and data-sheets for these materials be sure to download eBook 1 here.

Prompts Away!

In ABA we call both the act of assisting someone and a physical item that is used to help someone achieve a desired result a prompt. Every letter and word on the board is a prompt that must be gradually removed by the instructor over time. The actual board is a prompt as well. Eventually, when your student masters this board, you have the option to move on to the flashcards included with later book series in The Young Method. Finally, the flashcards can be removed with the expectation that the learner will be able to read typical size musical notation without any prompts. How quickly this is accomplished depends on the student's performance data. Before we can remove these prompts though, we have to introduce them!

I would suggest adding one letter (or word) prompt at a time to help your student fully understand the desired response before adding any other options. In this example we are teaching to the low E on the Treble Clef.

When it comes to errorless teaching you must keep in mind that there is, typically a lot less verbal explaining at this point. Since you are, in effect giving the learner the answer, it is the following action that they take in completing the task that you are seeking to motivate. Your main focus is on allowing the material to help prompt the student to complete the task and then reinforce (or reward) them for that prompted response. This does not mean that you can't speak or explain concepts along the way. Instead, be sure to allow the prompts to create a pattern of action that the student can dependably accomplish and then increase the difficulty by adding more variables. Finally, you will further increase the difficulty (and reinforcement levels) by removing each prompt gradually until the student is reading the note independent of any prompts.

Be sure to include both sets of prompts (the two E's above or an Every word prompt on the line and a matching E prompt) since you will eventually fade away the line prompt leaving only the matching prompt below. In this way, once all of the letters are added to the bottom section, the student will have to choose from these matching prompts to correctly identify the note that you create.


bottom of page