How to Create a Vertical Alphabet Chart

Most students I've ever taught have found the combination of these concepts challenging: 

  • up/down    
  • left-low/right-high     
  • forward/backward alphabet
  • musical alphabet uses only 7 letters
  • left hand/right hand

A few have caught on quickly.

Others have spent months and even years struggling with it. 

I often imagine the child is saying to herself:

Dora & the Cheat Chart JPG
  • I just learned the alphabet - all of it! I worked super hard to learn the song so I can go all the way from A-Z with no stops.
  • Wait a minute. You WANT me to stop at G. Every time? But I love that H-I-J-K-L-M-N-O-P part! That's the best part!

  • Hold on. Up isn't up? It's to the right? And the alphabet goes ABCDEFG and then starts over?

  • Down isn't down? It's to the left? And the alphabet goes backward? 
  • You've got to be kidding! The alphabet doesn't GO backward. 

  • OK, so below Middle C I have to remember to go backward, AND restart the alphabet with G.  GOING BACKWARD!

  • You want me to remember which is my left hand while I'm doing this?

One of the best ways I've found to solidify these concept is also the simplest.

Teacher: Draw 14 short lines on the side of a page of the student's music. Do this part for them - if they don't have a reasonably straight set of lines the chart will be too messy to be useful. Remember to make it big enough for the student's large handwriting. Use capital letters.


  1. Starting in the middle space, fill in the alphabet, one letter at a time, going up. (A, B, C, D, E, F, G
  2. Then fill in the letters from A down, writing the letters in reverse order. (A, G, F, E, D, C, B, A.
  3. Be sure to do more than one octave so the student can see the repeat and restart between G and A.

The chart serves two purposes. First, the exercise itself gives them practice writing letters on top of each other - the way they appear in the music. Second, the chart is there for their own reference. If a child is skipping down a 3rd from G to E, they can use their chart to see the "F" they're skipping over.

You can draw this chart more than once. Do it on every piece for a few weeks if it's helpful. Sometimes it takes doing it a few times before the concepts stick.

It helps the child save face to refer to the chart they made

Anyone you know who could benefit from a vertical alphabet chart? I'm sure I'll be making quite a few this fall!

Have you checked out my new Piano Teacher's Wish List? If there's anything you think I should add, please let me know. I've been adding things all week!