When our family was in Copenhagen 5 years ago we stumbled upon the LEGO store. LEGO is a Danish invention, so it’s a very celebrated toy in this country. We have LEGO in stores at home… but not in the same fantastic way.
This was the candy store equivalent of LEGO. Walls and walls and walls of bins just begged little fingers to pick and choose treasures they would then pester their parents to purchase. We visited twice (here are photos of Lexi preparing to drain our wallets each time). There’s just something about LEGO that kids love.
A little while back we wrote a very popular post about using Play Dough to teach piano and so we figured it was time to write a lego equivalent! Today we’re sharing 15 ways you can use LEGO to bring some off-the-bench theory fun into your lessons. After reading this you will definitely want to hop on over to your local toy store (or book a flight to Copenhagen for the true LEGO experience) and give it a try!
15 Ways To Use LEGO To Teach Piano
You can use LEGO to teach a myriad of piano theory concepts. You’ll need some LEGO blocks (for really little fingers, Duplo works best) and a marker. I use an erasable marker when I’m pinched for prep time, but if you want your blocks to withstand a lot of use, a sharpie (or if you want to be able to re-use the blocks down the road, a mailing label and a sharpie) will do the trick.
Lego Note Reading
1. Learn enharmonic equivalents by labelling your blocks with a variety of sharps and flats. Have your students stack the sharp/flat combinations that represent the same key (for example, C# and Db).
2. Using any measure of melody, and a variety of blocks labelled A through G, have your students build a stack of blocks that represents the notes in the selected measure. See example below:
3. Have your students create a 4-block stack using their choice of an assortment of blocks labelled A through G. Then, using blank staff paper in either the Treble or Bass Clef, have your students then draw the notes they have stacked onto the staff.
4. Play three notes on the piano while your student watches. Then, have your students name the notes that were played and then find the corresponding labelled blocks and stack them in the correct order.
LEGO Ear Training:
5. Start the ear-training process with your littlest ones by having your students listen to you play a set of quarter notes. Then, have them stack blocks together to correspond with the number of sounds they heard.
6. Play two notes and have your students place blocks on the lines on this page to show whether the two notes are stepping, skipping or repeating. Stepping notes move from a line to a space, skipping notes move from a line to a line, or a space to a space, and repeating notes stay on the same line or space.
7. Give your students an assortment of blank blocks that are in two colors only. Play an interval (within the key of C) and have your students first name and then “build” the interval: one color represents the interval (the root and the given note), one color represents the “missed notes” within that interval. For example, a Perfect 4th would look like this:
LEGO Scales and Triads:
8. Label each LEGO piece with a scale degree (tonic, supertonic, mediant, subdominant, dominant, submediant and leading tone). See how quickly your students can stack them into the correct order in a LEGO tower.
9. Using blocks labelled with note names, have your students build stacks based on scale degrees that you call out. For example, in the Key of C you could call out “Mediant, Dominant, Tonic”. Your student would then stack the matching notes in the same order (E, G, C) and then play the corresponding keys on the piano.
10. Give your students three blocks labeled with notes found within a key or your choice. Ask them to create root, first and second inversions triads by placing them in a stack. For example, a first inversion C major Triad would be a EGC stack. Have your student play the inversions as they create them to double-up on the visual learning.
11. Label your blocks with F#, C#, G# and D#, A#, E# and B# (or use flats instead). Call out major or minor keys that use these accidentals and have your students build “key signature stacks” ensuring a) the correct sharps are used and b) they are stacked in the correct order of sharps.
LEGO Italian Terms
12. Label your blocks with dynamic markings and have your students arrange them in the order of softest to loudest or vice versa.
13. Label your blocks with articulation markings (accent, staccato, tenuto, fermata). Label other blocks with quarter notes. Have your students build a 2-block stacks of quarter note + articulation marking and then play their stacks on the piano… using the right articulation for each set of blocks.
14. Label your blocks with a variety of rhythms (quarter, two eighths, half, four eighths, dotted quarter and an eighth, dotted half etc. etc.) Ask your students to build stacks that work within a given time signature using this page.
15. Build stacks of rhythms within a given time signature using the labeled blocks and the same printable from above. This time, include some blocks that are “blank”. Your students then must name (or draw) the missing rest value that would complete the measure. See example below (arrows indicate where the rest value would be drawn by the student or named):
Kinetic Kids Learn Best By Being Hands-On!
Game-based play is a fabulous way to really make concepts “stick”… and is much more than a simple brain break. In my studio, piano games are a necessary component of any lesson, and a necessary tool that results in better understanding and increased motivation.
If you want your piano students to benefit from regular game-based learning subscribe to PianoGameClub and receive 4 awesome piano games every single month!