One of the questions we are asked most frequently is how to make note reading easier for piano students. While you certainly want to approach note reading in a way that emphasizes in-context learning, piano students also just need lots of repetition and practice in naming notes. A great way to do this is with games.
Those of you who read our blog frequently know that I’m a big fan of keeping it simple; I’m not one to spend hours prepping games if it’s not necessary… and those of you who are “with me” in this regard will appreciate the absolute simplicity of these activities!
How to Play These 5 Simple Piano Games:
All 5 of these games require just… (are you ready?) a muffin tin, some paper muffin liners, a pen and some small cookies or candies as your “markers”; things you likely have on hand already. For set-up, simply draw the following on the inside of your paper muffin liners: Middle C, D, E, F, G and Bass C, D, E, F, G. Two liners should be labelled as “freebie” to equal 12 total liners.
Game #1: Drop It
Give your piano student a handful of cookies, crackers or candies. Now, play 3 keys on the piano. After each key is played, instruct your student to drop a marker into the corresponding muffin liner. They are allowed to watch you play. After the 3 markers have been dropped, check to see if they are in the correct liners. Your piano student can then eat each candy that “found its mark”.
Game #2: Step, Skip
Place a marker (candy) in a liner and asks your piano student to re-arrange the liners so that the one next to it is either a step or a skip higher. For example, if you place your marker on D and ask for a skip higher, your student would find the F and re-arrange the liners so that they are side-by-side. If your student arranges the liners correctly they can eat the candy… if not, it’s all yours. Repeat!
Game #3: Three in a Row Tic Tac Toe
Have your piano student name a note and place a marker in the corresponding muffin liner. You then name a note and place your marker in a liner and so on. The objective is for each player to get 3 of their own personal markers in a row (horizontal or vertical) for the “win”. Your student will need to work hard to name notes in order to “block” you from creating a line of three and to create a line of three of their own. Freebie liners are open to anyone and can “complete” your row of 3. After each row of 3 completed, the winner eats the markers.
Game #4: Switch-eroo
Place your marker in a muffin liner. Have you student play the corresponding key on the piano (you can make this harder by requesting a major or minor chord on that key or a specific interval with that key as its root). If the student is correct, they replace your marker with their own and put your marker into a freebie liner. If the student is incorrect then your marker remains. Play continues until there is a marker in every liner. Whoever has filled the most muffin liners with their markers wins. The freebie liner contents all go to the winner.
Game #5: Match’em (or “Clean Up”!)
This is a great one to play if you’re just finishing up with this theory prop. Time your student and see how quickly they can match up the C’s, the D’s etc. by stacking the liners on top of each other. Or, you can play where they start with C and then stack the remaining liners in order of the C pentascale (C, D, E, F, G are then all stacked in each clef). Freebie liners just chill out for this one 😉 Set a stacking time goal and if your student beats it, they get a treat.
Simple is Good. So are Muffins.
With a bit of ingenuity, the way you approach note reading and other theory concepts can make a big impact on your piano students… and can be far from boring. Simple games like these ones actually help your piano students to enjoy their lessons even more (they won’t even realize they’re learning! And hey… serve muffins after and you’ll likely make turn them into theory fanatics.
Our biggest goal when we set out to create “Pssst….Your Piano Teacher Thinks This is Theory” was taking the “snore” out of piano theory. There’s no reason that theory should be something that is dreaded or even boring! If approached in a fun and energetic way your piano kids can truly enjoy learning the theory concepts they need to be successful. If you agree, then you’ll love the simplicity of this resource. Simply print and enjoy!