Knowledge can be developed independent of skill. In order to do anything one must have a basic knowledge of the activity. It is very helpful to also be given a 'roadmap' to help speed the journey to skill mastery. In fact, no one can develop skill beyond the knowledge they have about any activity.  Recent studies have shown that when students (any age) are given small challenges are are rewarded more for the effort and focus applied than the level of success, the students learn to enjoy the process of discovery and mastery. As the level of challenge increases, so does the pleasure of engaging in that process and raises the level of desire to take on ever more challenging activities.

     The systematic and incremental use of written challenges is a critical component of the Key Shapes process. In-class group demonstrations of new concepts are coupled with written student unit guides. Individual mastery is demonstrated through work sheets and quizzes. Many of these are in scantron format, making the gathering of and analysis of the data much easier for the teacher with no loss of validity of student learning.


The Knowledge Mastery sequence for Key Shapes is

Note Placement on the Keyboard and Fingerboard for all 7 'naturals' and the locations for all accidentals (the 'sharp', 'double sharp', 'flat', and 'double flat') of the 7 scale tones.

Major Scale Construction and Key Signatures for all keys. Activities include relative minors and arpeggio identification.

Tetrachord Introduction and Mastery - the 4 main tetrachord patterns, the tetrachord cycle, identification of random tetrachords, discovery of the "Key Shapes' (sets of tetrachords) across all 4 strings in positions 1, 2, & 3 for each of the 15 key signatures. Important work in this process is included through in-class warm up activities.

click on any of the line titles above for more information and a list and description of the related Key Shapes written materials.


Also available soon from this site are   (contact Mr. Chaffee if you would like materials or information before the materials are posted)



The combination of "Key Shapes", "Beyond Key Shapes", "Introduction to Tonal Composing and Arranging", and "Rhythm Workshop" formed a majority of the Level 1 (Freshmen/Sophomores)  and Level 2 (Juniors and Seniors) curricula for all orchestra and guitar classes at A.E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire IL since 2000. Much of the refinement of this work was a direct result of the successful collaboration between members of the music team in the Stevenson Professional Learning Community.