Memory aids or mnemonics! How do you feel about them? I use them all the time with my students

I tell them little stories or draw a simple picture to explain and also to help them remember what they have learnt.

If their fingers are not completely covering the holes of their recorder and out comes an unpleasant squeak I can ask, “Are you sure that all your pig snouts are in the holes?”. They should then know what I mean and be able to correct the problem. 

The pig snouts memory aid
The pig snouts

“Pigsnouts?” you might be wondering. Well, once you have watched the very first beginner recorder lesson in the link below, you will know about one of my most recent memory aids or mnemonics for my beginner recorder students.

Click here for Lesson 1.

This term actually originates from this lesson and was not used by me before. Crazy! I have been teaching for so many years and both the idea of the “pig snouts” and using a finger rhyme (see video) another memory aid to help them remember not to use the left “pinky”, or little finger, was born with this lesson. 

This Little Piggy memory aid for left hand fingering
This Little Piggy

Do you also sometimes have new ideas for old concepts you may have been teaching for some or, in my case, many years? If so, and you are willing to share them with us, please tell us about them in the comments section below.

Not all ideas and memory aids are my own. If I come across brilliant ideas when watching and listening to other teachers I will be sure to implement them in my music lessons. Thanks to the internet there are so many great ideas out there. In the second recorder lesson I use such a memory aid to help the young students remember which hand is their left hand; the hand that is used to close the top holes of the recorder. 

Thinking of gently blowing bubbles when blowing into the recorder comes out of an old recorder instruction book. It is a memory aid probably used by most recorder teachers.

Miss Piggy floating away during a lesson
Miss Piggy floating away during a lesson

Stories, pictures and comparisons with other everyday activities make great teaching aids

This last week I was pleased to see that these memory aids were working. A group of 7 young beginners had received the sheet music for “Jingle bells” (see LESSON 9) at the end of a lesson just before a two-week break. When we played it together in the lesson after the holiday they managed the jumps from B to D (the new note) to G to A to B all together as a group. One of them did ask first how to play the new note D again, and DD (or DeeDee) the Dove came to the rescue (see LESSON 8).

Memory aid for playing the high D
DD showing us how to play the D

Here is a list of the memory aids or mnemonics in the lessons that are already available:

LESSON 1: click here

Little finger on the left hand (top) is not used to close a hole.

• “Pig snouts” (“Cushions”) on fingers must fill the holes.

Blowing gently into the recorder.

LESSON 2: click here

• Words and pictures to help remember the duration of quarter notes, half notes and whole notes.

LESSON 3: click here

• Words and pictures to help remember the duration of the eighth notes.

LESSON 4: click here

• A family of tortoises help us revise and remember the different note values.

LESSON 6: click here

• How to remember where the high C is played on the recorder.

• Learning the official names of the different note values with a cake.

LESSON 7: click here

• How to find and remember where the notes B, A and G are on the recorder.

LESSON 8: click here

• How to remember where the high D is played on the recorder

• How to remember the quarter rest.

LESSON 9: click here 

• A simple animation to remember what to do at a repeat sign.

LESSON 12: click here

and 13: click here

• Stories to help us understand and remember the function of the staff with its five lines and spaces, and the clefs and their names.

I hope that you will find some of them useful. Let us know if you do in the comments section below! Also feel free to share your most effective memory aids and mnemonics with us. We would love to hear from you!

PS. If you have missed the first post you can find it here.

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