Thursday, 13 October 2011


Mary Had A Little Lamb

- ½ beat
- 1 beat
- 2 beats

Music – introductory level

The treble clefs have been beautifully drawn, but there is no hiding some fundamental errors on this blackboard.

Firstly, the time signature is written as both ‘4/4’ and ‘c’. This is tautologous as ‘c’ means common time (4/4), so just one of these will do. Also, there is no need to put the time signature on every line unless it has changed, and there are definitely no mixed meters in Mary Had a Little Lamb.

There is a good attempt at an explanation of the different lengths of notes, though there are actually no quavers in this particular piece, so the teacher might be introducing the concept too early. The dotted minim might not be necessary either, and it is unclear what the minim with a quaver flag is meant to be. The teacher should also draw a semibreve for the last note ('snow').

The biggest error, however, is that each stave has only four lines instead of five. This would make it very difficult for the students to know which notes to play. Reading from the bottom, the first notes would be B A G A | B B B, which sounds correct. But reading from the top, the notes would be D C B C | D D D, which sounds wrong as there is only a semitone between the second and third notes. Imagine if half the class were playing one version and the other half the other – it would sound terrible and the class’s confidence might be badly affected if they felt they couldn’t master even this simple melody. (To be honest, when teaching this level of music it inevitably sounds awful when played tutti, so the teacher really isn’t doing his ears any favours here.)

An experienced musician would see that the positioning of the treble clef tells us which line is G (hence its alternative name of the G-clef), but it is unlikely that students of this level would know that. After adding the missing line to the top of the stave, the tune itself is basically correct, though usually the last two notes of bar four go up (to D in this case). The fact that the last note is a G helps to indicate that this version is in the key of G so needs a # sign on the F line just after the treble clef.

A good mnemonic for remembering the notes on the treble clef is, reading from the bottom line, Every Good Boy Deserves Football. Or, perhaps in the case of this classroom, Flagellation.

5/10 A good effort, marred by a silly error.

(Many thanks to Lucy for sending this picture in.)


  1. blackboard aside, as porn this looks absolutely grim

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  2. Beautifully written piece. Loving these!

  3. The half note sporting a quaver flag and the 4/4 & C duplication are total bush league. I'm not sure how you can give this a 5/10. Frankly I find your scoring a little upsetting.

  4. I agree with the last comment; this is pretty dire. If this gets 5/10, what would it take to get a lower score?

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. The half note in the sixth measure should be two quarter notes.

  7. Wow...! This may be the most awesome blog in the entire blogosphere! I am rendered speechless.

  8. olemanneill and Jonathan Ichikawa - I am trying to be encouraging and am using the 'error carried forward' system of marking. Whilst missing the top line off the stave had catastrophic consequences, it was only one error. There are no claims that the minim with a quaver flag is meant to be a note of a particular length - the teacher might have drawn it to indicate that no such note exists. And they are beautifully-drawn treble clefs.

    Lazylaces - Well spotted (for the 'its' of course).

  9. I have a pirate fetish, and stumbled across this site looking for "Blackbeards in Porn". Luckily for you, the site is amusing enough to quell my disappointment, so I shan't unleash my wrath this time.

    However, please can we have more teachers with bushy black beards in future? Preferably with flaming matches stuck in 'em. Thanks.

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  10. The four line stave was standard up until around the 16th century so this could, actually, be a music history class discussing medieval notation. The teacher is demonstrating this using a familiar tune and has included the note lengths as part of a longer discussion on the evolution of Mensural notation symbols. 5/10 sounds a bit harsh to me.

  11. I like the way that woman looks completely bored, not terribly submissive, and doesn't even watch the blackboard.

  12. Awesome. As the author of the board, you are quite correct about the missing stave and duplicated 4/4 and C. I have no defence other than it was the 15th film we made in 2 days and my brain wasn't quite in gear. I hang my head in shame. As much as I like silentbod's reasoning, I cannot claim that as my excuse.

    The flagged mimim was drawn by a student as part of the class so wasn't meant to be the teacher, and she was duly chastised.

    Martin - I am the woman and I look bored and not submissive because I was the teacher of the class, the guy in the pic is the "Headmaster", who takes over my class when it gets rowdy. I'm watching the rest of the class and am thoroughly fed up with them by this point. If would make much more sense if you saw the (hot) girls on the other side of the classroom!

    I <3 this blog.

  13. Have you tried a Google Image search for "My first sex teacher"? You should find quite a number of blackboards there.

  14. Man, you'r a damn genius!
    This is one of the best ideas I've heard of since the Nyancat!

  15. It is worthwhile to analyse the type of lesson. Clearly an ensemble instrument is involved (had it been a piano, say, the lesson would be taking place at the keyboard itself). The key - whether it is C (no sharps or flats indicated) or, as you surmise, G (with an F# omitted in error) - is intriguing. It's obviously a very basic lesson, and you would normally use the key of E to teach guitar; C or G would preclude many wind instruments. It could be violin (if G) or - more interestingly - the banjo.

    However, as one who is currently involved in teaching music at a basic level, I surmise that actually no instrument is involved. For a lesson as early as this, you'd normally start by concentrating on EITHER notes or rhythm - not both. As the blackboard spells out those note lengths, I would guess that what's happening is that the teacher is demonstrating the 1-beat, 2-beat crotchet/minim by singing along to a familiar nursery rhyme pointing them out as he goes.

    What this means is that the pitch of the notes and the key itself is immaterial. And whilst the basic errors - especially the four-line stave - are very poor, they would not materially affect the object of the lesson. Therefore I would argue that a 6 or 7 would be a fairer mark, recognising the effort made in introducing the creative arts to what is a sphere that is near-dominated by mathematics.

  16. I haven't spent this much time on a single site site since--oh wait, never mind.
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  17. I suppose with four lines it could be Gregorian Chant, but that'd probably just complicate the matter even further.

  18. "Imagine if half the class were playing one version and the other half the other – it would sound terrible."

    Actually, this is not correct, as the resultant harmony would be parallel thirds and sound quite pleasing to the ear. It would also be helped by the fact that the version of the melody on the board is simplified by changing the last note of the fourth measure to a B - if it were the normal D, then the harmony would go to F natural, which would sound odd, as this version if nominally in G, albeit without a key signature, hence F natural rather than F sharp.

    Of course, if you play both parts at once, it might not necessarily be easily recognizable, to most listeners, as Mary Had a Little Lamb, since our ears tend to focus on the upper voice and perceive it as the melody. But it would still sound rather nice.

  19. Michael Cooper - I haven't unpacked my keyboard yet, but rest assured that I will be trying this out and reporting back.

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