Jeffrey is learning scales. Translation: Jeffrey is learning key signatures.

In order to learn scales, one must first learn key signatures. Around here, that begins with creating mnemonic devices for remembering the sharps and flats. I am a big fan of mnemonic devices. I learned to spell Massachusetts in 4th grade with this clever device:

Matt Adams Sucked Suckers At Church Helping Uncle Sam Eat Tootsie Tots Sunday.

My Matt finds this charming, but he does frequently ask me what “tootsie tots” might be. And who, he must wonder, is Matt Adams? As a kid learning the sharps, I was taught the politically incorrect Fat Country Girls Dance At Every Ball, which did its job, but did from time to time make me curious as to why, with all that dancing, were the country girls still fat?

My young students write their own mnemonic devices, avoiding the fat country girls entirely. We call them “codes,” thereby giving the whole process a certain air of mystery and intrigue. The codes students come up with are either random or brilliant depending on the child:

Five Chickens Get Deli After Every Ballet
Freddy Can Get Donuts At Every Birthday
Big Elephants Attack Dumb Guys Called Fred
Big Elephants Are Digging Ground Carefully, Fortunately

(Have to love that added-on adverb on the end of that last one. This child’s mother is a poet, you can tell.)

But my all time favorite sharp code came from Jamie, a student I taught some 20 years ago (gasp! How is that possible?). She is now a lawyer in Texas.

Friendly Country Gorillas Drool At Every Banana

I like this one so much in fact, that it is my default sharp code when I am teaching older or adult students. One day, I was working with a teenager and I asked Corrine, “How many sharps are there in the key of E major?” She looked at me impatiently and said, “It’s that monkey slobber thing, isn’t it?”

Yep.