Saturday, September 27, 2014

The 'Handy, Hands-on' Hand Staff

I love using iconic notation and manipulatives in my music lessons. When exploring pitch patterns (solfege or note addresses), the hand staff    is a powerful and ultimately convenient tool. It is always 'at hand' and provides instant 'hands-on' learning experiences. (Pardon the puns; I can't resist!)

If the hand staff is a new concept/technique to you, you can adopt it easily and quickly. Simply have students hold their left hands in front of them, palm toward body, and treat their digits as the five lines on a staff. Have students touch on lines (fingers) or in spaces (between fingers). Identify a starting point, e.g. "G on the second line is so," and touch 'notes' as you sing simple pitch patterns. You might also find it useful to have students trace a clef of their palm to help them envision the staff and identify "G."

I like to use visuals to help students relate their hands to the staff. Here are a few examples of things I've done: 

I post a hand silhouette that corresponds to existing staff lines on my whiteboard. If you don't have a staff-lined whiteboard, create a poster by tracing your hand and drawing staff lines that extend from finger tips. (The above picture is a bit distorted. The one below is better.) 

BTW, I have a ready-to-go printable Hand Staff Poster and Note Heads kit in my TPT store. The Rhythm Building Blocks in the above picture are also available in my store. 

I helped music teachers who attended one of my workshops make these gloves and flying notes. The gloves are inexpensive, stretchy knit ($1 per pair) and fit children's to adult's hands. We drew the staff lines on with a permanent marker and made the notes out of wood pieces (flat circles and sticks) purchased at a craft store. We then painted the wood black with acrylic paint. It was a quick, easy and useful project. Kids love these!

Finally, here is my 'Scissorhands' version of the hand staff. Yes, it's one of those crazy projects I envisioned and created late at night! I used a heavier fabric glove, five dowel pieces, black paint, needle and black thread, and a touch of glue. My students get a kick out of this one, but it's not nearly as practical as the glove pictured above. Thought I'd share it anyway and give you a glimpse into my strange teacher mind.  : )


  1. LOVE this! Did you add velcro to the flying notes so that it would stick to the glove? Do you think that would work?

  2. Thank you, Lisa. The notes on the magnetic whiteboard have magnets on the back. The 'flying note' has a rather long stem, which I use as a handle to hold it as I move it up and down the hand staff. Hope this helps.

  3. Thanks Jeri, this shows a lot of dedication to your students and ingenuity in thinking about delivery of the music theory, I've found your post immensely helpful, as a teacher of the same content