Out of context, the title of this post may seem silly.  Why would we start the alphabet on any letter other than A?  But in piano pedagogy some older methods teach the music alphabet starting on C and I have encountered some transfer students who have learned the alphabet this way as well.  While it may seem like a small difference in preference that really doesn’t matter, I’ve thought through a few reasons why we should teach the music alphabet starting on A:

  1. It relates the music alphabet to information they already know – the standard alphabet.  I had a transfer student who learned the music alphabet starting on C and had never realized it was the same order of letters as the full alphabet.  He memorized it as a random series of letters, C D E F G A B.  Without being able to relate this to the alphabet, it was another separate chunk of information to process.Why not start with what a student already knows and build from there instead of starting from scratch?
  2. The piano starts on A.  Not much else to this point, it just makes sense to me to start where the piano starts.
  3. Starting on C sets students up to prefer the key of C over any other key.  We want our student to become well-rounded musicians who are comfortable playing in any key.  I don’t want them to think that C is the “right” key in which everything should be written.

Have you typically taught the alphabet beginning on A or C?  I’d love to hear other opinions on this if they’re out there!

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