Friday, April 10, 2009

Girls Bury Diana Friday Afternoon

Back in my piano lesson days, I was told to remember the order of notes on the treble staff with the mnemonic device “Every Good Boy Does Fine.”The sentence’s initial letters correspond to the notes that appear on the lines: E-G-B-D-F. Clearly, this device worked. It’s been a good twelve years since I studied piano and I can still bat it off as if it were my name and birthday.

While I’m pretty sure everyone learned this, the devices used to remember the bass clef notes — that is, the bottom staff, beginning below Middle C and moving down — seem to be less famous. In spite of the fact that it’s a sucky derivative of “Every Good Boy Does Fine,” the most widespread appears to be “Good Boys Do Fine Always.” I can’t imagine why both would be taught side-by-side, since a kid learning something as abstract as written music could easily confuse these two sound-alikes. Granted, you’re working with a limited range of options in that the scale has only seven notes named for seven letters, but “Good Boys Do Fine Always” nonetheless smacks of a lack of creativity.

Not that the one taught to me was much better. Mine, “Girls Buy Dolls From America,” might even out the gender ratio by giving boys and girls each a mnemonic device, but it’s also pretty sexist: Boys get the implication of being and doing good, while girls get stuck buying dolls. In any case, it doesn’t seem to be one with which too many people are familiar, at least according to Google.

Lame mnemonic devices seem to abound in music however. In Googling all this, I came across another one for remembering the order of sharps: “Father Charles Goes Down And Ends Battle.” (If a key only has one sharp, then that will be F-sharp. If it has two, it will be F- and C-sharp, etc.) The one offered for flats? “Battle Ends And Down Goes Charles’s Father.” Boo.

Music previously pondered:

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