One of the best practices in education, specifically in music education, is to learn by “doing.” uTheory’s immediate visual and aural feedback in exercises can help with that. But getting students actively engaged and “doing” in theory lessons can be a challenge, especially when teaching remotely. Read on for an easy tool that will help students understand, remember and actively participate during your class. Bonus – it’s also a quick visual assessment tool that can be used even when teaching via Zoom.

The moment students reach for pencil and paper, how do you or they know whether they've gotten the right answer?  When you’re teaching a concept, consider using the “hand staff” to get a quick assessment of how the entire class is doing.

What is it?

Each line of your hand represents a line on the staff. You can point to notes as a question for the class ("say the name of the note I point to"). Or, you can have the whole class point to notes to answer questions, so you can see immediately how well they’ve grasped a concept ("everyone point to B").

How to Use It

First, teach your students what to do: have them hold a hand in front of them, palm facing in with fingers slightly spread apart. Explain that their fingers are the fives lines of a staff, and between the fingers are the spaces. Have your students touch the correct “line” and “space” as you call out note names or solfège.

Favorite Hand Staff Games

  1. Note name/clef drills: In pairs, one student points to a note on their hand staff and the other names the note, or one calls out a note and the other points to it. (Or, teacher calls out a note, everyone points to it.)
  2. Solfege within Keys: “E major. Point to Sol. Mi. Re. Fa.” “Sing what I point to.”
  3. Generic Intervals: “Treble clef. Point to the note a 4th above G. Point to the note a 3rd below B. Bass clef. 7th above E”
  4. Key Signatures: “Treble clef hands. Point and say the order of flats. Ready, go! Bb Eb Ab Db Gb Cb Fb. Bass clef! Bb Eb Ab Db Gb Cb Fb. Treble clef. Point and say Eb Major. Bb Eb Ab.” Or, “Point to the last sharp in D major.”
  5. Triads: Point to an E triad, first inversion! (Requires the use of three fingers from the other hand.)

Use the hand staff as often as you can – for any concept. The hand staff provides students with a visual representation and kinesthetic reinforcement that can, ultimately, lead to a fundamental understanding of and fluency in reading music. There’s no time wasted handing out and collecting papers. And, it lets you know immediately which topics to review and when you can move on.

How does uTheory use the hand staff?

uTheory Pitch & Harmony lessons use the hand staff in lessons on treble clef, bass clef, lines and spaces and key signatures. Once your students are familiar with the hand staff, it becomes a consistent and kinesthetic way to understand the music staff, regardless of their instrument or voice.

But, more than that, uTheory gives students immediate practice and visual and aural feedback on every topic we teach. And, as a teacher, you get detailed information on every student's progress with every skill they're learning.

Interesting. How do I find out more?

To see how we break it down and make theory engaging, check out the uTheory lessons by creating a free teacher account today.

We’ve heard it, and we know you have too – something along the lines of “Music theory is hard,” and “Why do I have to learn this?” uTheory’s goal is simple: to make music theory learning easy.