Mnemonic Devices – United States of America

Treble Clef

Space notes: F A C E (spells “FACE”)

Lined notes: E G B D F (Every Good Boy Does Fine)

(Elvis’s Guitar Broke Down Friday)

Bass Clef

Space notes: A C E G (All Cows Eat Grass)

(All Cars Eat Gas)

Lined notes: G B D F A (Good Boys Do Fine Always)

(Good Boys Deserve Fudge Always)

(Good Boats Do Float Always)

My mother first learned these as a young piano student in the 1960s from her piano teacher. Now as a piano teacher, she teaches these phrases to her students in order to help them become more skilled at sigh-treading. She also encourages her students “to make up their own phrase to help them remember note placement on the staves.”

When I was young, my mom taught me these acronyms as I became more comfortable with the keys—she began teaching me how to play the piano around age 5. Later in middle school, I started playing the violin, and my violin teacher reintroduced the treble clef mnemonic devices to me. Like my mother, she encouraged her students to come up with their own phrases to help them remember the notes.

Generally, these memory tricks are not introduced to the student during the first lesson. Gradually, as the student becomes a bit more comfortable with his/her instrument (in my personal experience, the piano and violin), the teacher will present these phrases to the student. To me, this seems a good measure for avoiding overwhelming a student. Also, once a student has been playing a few things other than scales or two-note songs, the student can see for him/herself that the phrases do work. Seeing the connections on their own, based on their own (though limited) experience probably helps to instill sight-reading skills in the student. Additionally, encouraging students to come up with their own phrases lends some creativity and further thought to the notes on a given staff. With students thinking of their own phrases, the variety of ways to remember the treble or bass clef blossoms, especially when students share their made-up memory devices with their peers who they know are taking music lessons as well.

Houston, Scott. Play Piano in a Flash! New York: Hyperion, 2004.

Page 15, only includes “FACE” and “Every Good Boy Does Fine” for the treble clef.