The signs you pass on the street are in English, the books your teachers give you are in English; everything we do has some sort of English surrounding it. In music the same is true about the staves, every musical thing you do is related to the Treble or Bass Clefs. If we need to read English to walk down the right street the same should be true for needing to read the music staves to be able to play an instrument correctly. English is required in all American schools but reading the staves, even though they are essential elements, are not. If music teachers required musical literacy as strictly as English was by the English teachers our musicians would be greatly improved. Musical Literacy should be a goal that all music teachers have for their students.
Musical Literacy can come about in many ways the most usual is when a musician first begins they write the notes in on the staves and they slowly take the notes away as they learn where they are. This can become a problem when you begin to rely on the written in letters instead of the original notes, and eventually completely ignore the staff all together (Jacobi, 2012). The further along you get the more notes you are expected to know and your chart becomes too long to reasonably manage. It becomes a waste of time to sit down for thirty-minutes with a huge chart to name your notes when you could be sight-reading the piece and learning new skills (Saxon, 2009). Knowing where a note is on your instrument but not the staff means you are almost reading music but you need to make the last connection between the staff and instrument (Hansen, Bernstorf, 2002).
Playing a musical instrument should be more than just an auditory experience; the eyes should also be at work reading the sheet music (Iguchi, 2008). Playing by ear helps improve internal rhythm and learning to recognize pitches but is not recommended for complicated pieces (Salem, 2000). Being able to hear the changes in a songs key signature and rhythm is a good skill to have but should not be relied upon for learning the inner details needed to play a song on your own instrument. If your goal is for students to play from memory then remember that rote-learning is quickly forgotten and auditory inputs only enter the short-term memory as well, to enter the long-term memory you must play with both the music sheet and recording (Jacobi, 2012), (Simoens, Tervaniemi, 2013).
Most students want to learn music but do not want to put in the effort it takes to become a musician so you must show them Musical Literacy will make music easier and not be a chore (D'Agrosa, 2008). There are many games to help with learning to read the staff that will get students interested. Musical jumble is a game where you give them measures of a song cut out then have them put it in order, as their skill progresses you can break it down to half a measure or the individual notes (Waller, 2008). Online websites let you match as many notes to the staff as possible in...