What will happen when I take the colours away later?

Any experienced teacher will certainly by now be asking the following question: “OK, so the colours will provide help in the early stages – but will the pupil become dependent on them, and not be able to do without them afterwards?”

Hand on heart – most pupils who have worked through the first book of Rainbow Guitar (or Rainbow Ukulele) will find that they can make the switch to playing tunes with the same notes, printed black in the normal way, within a very short space of time and with very few problems.  If you have had lots of practice in playing tunes which look like this:

then it is not really such a great leap to playing a tune which looks like this:

The fact that pupils can make this transition fairly quickly, and with few problems, is the real proof that this system works. The colours have been helping in the early stages, but they have not been doing all the work! The pupil has still had to learn a good deal about how the stave works, and to focus constantly on its shapes, lines and spaces.

The colour-note system definitely enjoys an advantage over tablature in this respect. Tablature will help you learn your way around the guitar or ukulele quickly, but it will not in any way ease you towards reading the stave. Have a look at the same little bit of melody printed with tablature below it (this format is very common in guitar books):

What would happen if a teacher started a pupil off on a book using tablature as above, and then later suddenly removed the tablature and expected the pupil to read the stave unsupported? The pupil (whose eyes would have been fixed completely on the tablature up to that point) would be lost without it. It would be a terrible teaching strategy, and send the pupil right back to square one.

Here is another strategy which, like tablature, will help you to learn a tune but will not help you to learn the stave. Some beginner pupils, when confronted with a tune written in ordinary black notes, find it very difficult and find they have to label every note like this:

or this:

It solves the problem in the short term, and the tune gets learned. But again, it does not ease the pupil towards the next stage. The moment the labels are removed, the pupil is stuck – because the labels have drawn the pupil’s gaze away from the note-heads themselves. And again, the coloured-note method works better because it keeps the pupil’s gaze in one place.

OK, back to the Rainbow books! The transition to reading black notes does need some skilful management from the teacher, and above all some good resources. You can find good practice material in any number of good beginner guitar tutor books. But there are some good free resources on this site too:

 Black and White Tunebooks

Welcome to the Rainbow Guitar Black and White Tunebook, (also check out #2), and the Rainbow Ukulele Black and White Tunebook, (also check out #2). Each Black and White Tunebook runs in parallel with the main book, introducing the same notes, in the same order (but of course featuring different pieces and printed with black notes rather than coloured).

This means that the Black and White Tunebooks can be used for general revision, and as a source of extra repertoire, as well as for their main purpose of teaching the pupil to read ordinary black notes confidently.

And needless to say they are also excellent free sightreading practice for any guitar or ukulele pupil, regardless of which tutor book they are learning from!