Use a beach ball and add rhythm patterns on the white parts. Toss it around and where ever the ball lands in front of you, clap out that rhythm.
Stairway to 7-11
This game is to reinforce the concept of skips and steps (2nd and 3rd intervals), but can be used for all intervals. I made a 1D staircase that sticks to the magnet board along with several different color mice. At the top of the staircase is a 7-11 sign and a slurpee. Each child draws a card that has an interval on the bass clef or treble clef and they have to move their mouse up the number of stairs that equals that interval. First one to the slurpee wins!
Find The Sticky Note
When building fluency with note names, I create a set of colored sticky notes with one note name on each, then pre-hide them around my studio before the student comes in. Favorite places include inside the bench, on the back side of the music rack, behind the coat stand, etc. Then, whenever it’s convenient in the lesson, we can take a couple of minutes for the student to search around the room. When s/he finds a sticky note, s/he plays all of that note on the piano, then returns to searching until they’re all found.
War… Piano Style
I have a card game that I created using scrapbook paper, a copy machine and note values based on the card game of War. Assuming that you know how to play WAR with regular cards, the rules are similar. The whole note is the note of highest value (4) . I made 4 whole notes, 4 dotted half notes, four half notes, four quarter notes, four (ti-ti’s), two eighth notes grouped together, four sixteenth notes four quarter rests. You can make whatever rhythmic symbols the student is studying as nothing is set in stone. The notes and rests are on one side of the card and the other side of the card has scrapbook paper or a copy of scrapbook paper so it looks cute. I declared that (set the rule) that note values beat its equal rest value. That made it easier for me. I also created a list for students to look at to check the values, like a cheat sheet.
Overall rules of WAR:
Pass out all of the cards evenly to the players face down so no one can see them. Place them in a pile in front of each player (face down).
Everyone flips over the top card and places them in the middle of the players. The card that is of the most value/longest duration wins all the cards. The winner is declared when one player has most or all of the cards.
If there is a tie, it is called “a war”. The tie is when the values are the same. Ex. two eighth notes and a quarter note or rest. When a war occurs, the involved players put two cards face down and then turn the third one up. The winner takes all the cards. Have fun with your students.
This is a simple game that I use at the very first piano lesson to help introduce students to music.
Materials: set of cards with simple music symbols on them. I do some number (for finger numbers) some letters (for the musical alphabet) and a few different notes- quarter, half, and whole. Make two cards with each symbol.
How to play: Lay the cards face-down in a square. You can turn two cards over at a time; then the student turns two over. When you get a match, ask the student how that particular symbol relates to the piano. Whoever gets the most matches wins!
I play a game with my students where I have a stack of cards with the letters of the music alphabet on them (A-G), and the student starts at one end of the keyboard and I start at the other. They draw a card, and find the note that matches the card that is nearest to where they are, and see who can make it to the other end first!
Bean Bag Toss
At my last group lesson, we had fun practicing note reading with a bean bag toss game!
I purchased 7 brightly colored sand buckets from the dollar store, and wrote on each a letter of the musical alphabet.
We set them up and the students drew a card that had either a note on staff to read, or a picture of the keyboard with an x on a certain key to identify.
The student had to identify the note or key, and then got three tries to toss a bean bag into the correct bucket. They had a blast!
In Australia we have these yummy little red lollies in the shape of a frog, you’ll need two for this game. Place one on the bottom key of the piano, name an interval and have the student place the second frog on the correct note. Continue naming intervals and jump the frogs over each other all the way up the piano. A nice game for the end of the lesson when attention span is dwindling and a sugar hit is needed!
Paper Plate Fun
Supplies: thick permanent marker, colored plates. I drew different note and rest values on plates. As I clap or play a rhythm, the student (or students in teams) make the rhythm by lining up the plates on the floor. Then I clap it again as they tap each of their plates and we check the answer together. Begin with just a 4 beat rhythm and then progress to two measures at a time.
One of the games I use the most when teaching note names (I use Do, Re, Mi because I am italian) is this: I play against my student, we both have a little character, we set them on the lowest key of the piano. We take turns fishing from an envelope full of little pieces of paper with note names, and we then move our little giraffe or whatever we have to play with along the keyboard. The first who gets to the highest note wins a sticker or a candy. They love it! Its easy, fun and they get to memorize note names very easily. I sometimes ask them to help move my character too, when I can’t reach mine, so they learn twice as fast 🙂
Give ‘Em A Hand!
To help spice up quick warm ups at the beginning of a lesson, I purchased foam hand shapes and wrote all the names of the major/minor five finger patterns on them (ex. CM, cm, AM, am). When my Book 1 kids step into their lesson, they grab a hand or two and play those five finger patterns for me using fire fingers, caramel fingers, and any other way they like. No more boring warm ups!
This was an idea I had recently while working with one of my newest students. She just turned 5 and loves doing off the bench activities, so I was trying to think of some more fun ways to teach her finger numbers. I then remembered how much I loved dressing up in crazy costumes and jewelry when I was that age, So I gathered up a bunch of colorful rings and made a Simon Says kind of game out of it by asking her to put rings on the different fingers I’d call out. It was adorable and she really seemed to enjoy it!
White Key Alphabet
I like to make a game of finding the white keys on the piano for beginners.
You need something to mark the keys (erasers, polished stones, something big enough to not fall between the keys) and Alphabet Cards A-G
I have the student find keys and mark them as I flip the cards over. The only trick is, you can’t mark the note right next to one that’s already been marked, so if you already marked C, you have to find a different D. This forces the students to find notes in all octaves of the piano. I generally go through the alphabet (not in order) about 3 times.
Chordcraft is for my minecraft-aholics that are learning about the root and inversions of chords. ‘Dirt’, ‘grass’, and ‘stone’ cards (with the letters of the musical alphabet on the back as well as a few sharps and flats) are set up as you would set up a ‘memory’ game. Students must mine letters and complete their set of chords (for example, c pos. would require 3 c, 3 e, and 3 g to craft the 3 inversions) and then play them.
One of the games that my students ask for over and over again is Go Fish. It seems silly because the card game has been around for ages, but the kids have gotten so good at it that they can beat me. (I really think we should rename this game, “Beat the Teacher”) It’s a set of sixteen cards. Two of each pattern. They have the quarter note, half note, whole note, dotted half note, quarter rest, half rest, whole rest and a set of eighth notes. I purchased mine through Fun Music Company, but anyone can make them.
Of course they have to be able to identify what they are holding so they know what to ask for. When they get two of a kind they lay it down. Because it’s only eight pairs, the game goes fairly quickly but reinforces identify notes and rests.
When I have young restless students we play a game where I call out a note name and they have to quickly play it on the piano, then run around the piano bench as I’m calling out the next note. This is a fun way to reinforce where the notes on the piano keys are and it breaks up the lesson with a quick fun game.
Using flash cards to name musical notes, each time a student names the note correctly, he may puff two times into an inflatable pumpkin. (I used a medium sized pumpkin). If the pumpkin is inflated totally by the end of the lesson, the student receives a small Baggie of candy. In this case, I used Halloween candy corn and pumpkins. I also rewarded other positive things the student did during the lesson. Kids love it!
Take a deck of go fish cards and make 2 pair of music symbols, note names, etc. then, student play as they would go fish matching pairs. Instead of saying , go fish, we call it Musical Catch!!! We have already worn out 2 decks of cards!!! They all love to play this!!!!
Egg Carton Shake-Up
This is very quick game I’ve been using the last 5 or 10 minutes of lessons to give the students a little break from working on new music.
You will need an egg carton (washed out really good of course).
I used little rectangles of paper and drew either a quarter note or half note on each one. I taped a note in each section. I put little candies like skittles (about 6 total) and closed the egg carton. The student would shake te egg carton and then open it up. I told them you can have any of the candies that landed in a quarter note. And I let them do it until they earned all the candy. I also did this with one little eraser- just in case parents don’t want them to have the candy.
Tag You’re It
This game is a little like tag and works well for a small-medium group. The teacher counts out 4 beats in a measure, accenting the first, and students try to tag each other by moving only on the first beat of the measure. Of course, it can be adapted to teach any new time signature!
I have a bouncy 11 year old boy who hates itting still for his lessons. So I occasionally take away the piano bench and have him play standing up, on a pilates ball (he bounces a few bars inbetween muic lines) Be careful as this is very stimlating though and should be kept as a reward at the end.
One ‘game’ that my younger students enjoy playing is to play music with their feet. I put out a keyboard mat on the floor, and they get to stand on the starting note and than step or skip up and down the mat based on the music notes. I am stumped on music games for the 11 and up students though and would really apreciate some suggestions.
For my younger pupils I do “Rebecca’s Rewards”. This involves stickers in homework notebooks and stars on a star chart displayed on th wall. Then I have a big poster saying what a certain number of stickers or stars gets. For me 5 stickers =bag of sweets, 5 stars=playing a music game instead of theory work and 10 /stars = lucky dip which is where I keep a bag of small gifts like colouring pencils, bouncy balls etc (cheap and cheerful) In order to gain a star, they are set a Star Chart Goal each week under the condition if they meet it they get a star. Good way to focus on pupils particular weak areas!
– 7 plastic balls (like ping pong balls, or the kind from a ball pit)
– 1 black permanent marker
– 1 bag or other container
Take the marker and write each letter of the musical alphabet on a ball. Then place all the balls in the bag. Ask the students to join you on the other side of the room and reach into the bag to grab a magic ball. Next we call out the letter name and run to the piano to see who can find that key first.
Pumpkin Keyboard Race
There is a great game called “Pumpkin Keyboard Race” by Susan Paradis! It’s a cool game for students who are learning how to identify the letters on the keyboard! You have to download the document to print off the Pumpkin letters and you will need to make 2 copies in order to make 2 stacks of cards. Here are the directions below!
“The teacher and student sit on the bench at each end of the piano. Each player has one set of cards and one token. The first player draws a card and moves his token to that piano key, the closest to the end of the piano. The second player does the same. Play continues with each player drawing a card and moving his token toward the middle of the keyboard. The game is over when one player passes the middle of the keyboard.” My younger students LOVED this game!
You can play this game with almost any age or level student. Musical chairs- turn on any music you have….pause the music…and whoever is out has to answer your questions relating to whatever concept you choose- key signatures, musical terms, intervals, etc.. My teens especially ask for this game over and over in group theory class.
In a Tent With Mozart
At a “piano party” we went back in time to Mozart’s era by sitting inside a small tent I had set up. Christmas lights were hung inside the tent and Mozart’s music was playing. We then read a short story about Mozart and played quick little music games. Because the tent was small,I did several parties, with about 7 students at each party. They remembered this party with the tent!
The Candy Game – Smarties Game
I have a bag of smarties sitting on my desk and my students frequently ask if they can play the candy game when we are spot practicing a difficult section in one of their pieces. The student just decides how many smarties they’d like to use (between 2-7). All the smarties they select are placed on the left side of the piano music rack. If they play the difficult spot perfectly, they get to move a smartie to the other side. If they mess up, all the smarties on the right have to be moved back to the left. The goal is to get all of the smarties moved over to the right side. If they are successful, I let them keep/eat the smarties. You wouldn’t believe how excited some of them get about taking home/eating 7 smarties!
It’s a fun way to get the concept across!
No “H” In Snake!
“There’s No H in Snake”
Music alphabet activity. Students learn order and concepts of “before” and “after”
Make ABC cards out of colored index cards. 6 sets.
Students put the cards in ABC order on the floor like a snake. Teacher guides them to “hook together” their individual snakes to make one big long snake. They often like to make the snake curvy! Have student point to each letter card as they begin to sing the “Music Alphabet”. Simply use the familiar tune. The catch is, they will want to sing the letter “H”, but there is no H in the snake! Oh no! I have to remember NOT to sing H, but to start over with A!
It’s a fun way to get the concept across!
I use huge jewel rings from the dollar store to teach finger numbers. We also sing “This Old Man,” tapping the finger number in each verse.
We love the flash card flyswatter game! The student chooses 10 challenging flash cards and lays them out in front of him or her. I (or the parent) call them out randomly and the student swats the correct card with a flyswatter.
Heart Beat Boards
My students all love learning rhythm using Jennifer Fink’s Heart Beat Boards on her Pianimation website. We use silly putty to allow the kids to understand through a different medium the relationship between note values and time signatures. I build them a rhythm with the note value cards and they use the silly putty on the hearts to visualize it. Great fun for all!
Beg For Bowling
My students love to play a simple bowling game. I have many more complicated games that we play, but the one they beg for is where I write instructions on separate papers and attach each paper to a pin on a $5 plastic kids’ bowling set. I set up the pins on the other side of the room and they roll the ball and follow the instructions on the pin they knock over. The instructions are simple: “Play one song you’re working on.” “Start learning a new song.” “Work on scales.” “Play one of your favorite songs.” “Pick a treat.” This isn’t any great, new, inventive game, but the kids love it!
Race of the Keys
A real hit at my studio is a super simple, but fun keyboard game called “race of the keys”. The student and I both place a token on middle C, and I plant a finish line flag in front of the top octave of the keyboard (made from a toothpick and cardstock!). The student and I alternately pick a game card and follow instructions such as “move to the closest group of three black keys and sit on the bottom white note”, and then I ask the student to name the note he/she lands on. The first person to pass the finish line wins. This is a great game for new students. My students pride themselves in beating me every time 🙂
For pre-schoolers and kindergarten I use a game board that (boys) has four cars and 4 yield signs. The cars has either a quarter note, half note, dotted half note, or a whole note on the side of the car and the yield signs has 1 or a 2, or a 3 or a 4. The students has to put the car of the correct street. For the girls I have a board that has dogs in a park.
Theory In the Cards
Several theory assignments seem to have 6-8 parts. I have a deck of cards with multiples of cards 1-8 and a few wilds. The student draws a card and does whatever is assigned to that number. Can be used with a variety of activities.
Goldilocks and the 3 Bears
Well, this isn’t exactly a game, but just today a young student and I decided that forte = Papa Bear, mezzo-forte = Mama Bear, piano = Baby Bear. Mezzo piano? Who’s left…ah, Goldilocks! What a great time we had with dynamics, and I’ll use this idea with other students this week.
Jellyfish and Jugglers
I have a set of flashcards that the students choose from facedown. Written on the other side of each card are topics ranging from: jellyfish, juggler, a king and a queen dancing, 2 kids playing tag, a deer, a cat, etc etc etc. I give the students an accompaniment and they improvise on the chosen topic! I be sure to tell them to make sure to use a quarter rest or…some eighth notes or…the C major scale-whatever the newest concept is that we are studying.
This Diamond Ring
The little beginners – especially the girls – love a finger number review game we play with two dice and a bag of dollar store plastic rings. They roll the dice (one is marked LH and RH, the other is a regular die) and then choose a ring to put on the corresponding finger. If they roll a 6 they get to choose the finger number. It seems like one particular finger always gets loaded up with rings, so it can get a little silly trying to get one more one there!
This is a group activity, but could be done with one child and a stopwatch as well. I call it Rythm Relay. I use two project boards and put a line of velcro across the middle. I cut out 2-3 each of every note (whole, half, quarter, etc). I use a metronome, and clap out a rhythm…one person from each team will then try to put the rhythm that I clapped on the project board. As they finish, the next person comes to me for a new rhythm. The firs team who finishes a sequence of rhythms without error is the winner!
Improvising Spectacular! – I create a stack of cards, each with a note name on them. A student will draw a card and have to improvise a short tune using that note as the “home note” or tonic. (For young students I just ask that they include it in the tune). The student cannot hesitate once they start playing on the piano. If the student successfully completes the improvisation then they get a tally mark. The person with the most tally marks wins. This game can be altered for the age or level of students playing. (Musical terms can also be substituted in place of improvising e.g. tremolo, trill, forte, piano, etc.)
At the end of one lesson and the starting of the next I have the 2 students do a flash card competition. I lay out 4 flash cards and when I say a note the first one to slap the card holds onto it. The one with the most cards at the end wins a small prize. Kids really enjoy this one!
Musical Bowling — My students constantly ask for Musical Bowling, which I tailor based on each student’s level and needs. I bought a miniature bowling ball set at the dollar store, used letter stickers to label seven pins with one letter each of the musical alphabet, and put question mark stickers (two blue and one red) on the remaining pins. After each time the student bowls, I ask him or her to put the knocked-down pins on the appropriate piano keys, play an interval up or down from each indicated note, play the scale indicated, . . . there are many possibilities! Each blue question mark indicates Teacher’s Choice (I choose the piano key, the note to use in the interval, etc.), and the red question mark indicates Student’s Choice. Have fun creating your own variations on this game!
Swat the Quarter Note
The game my students request over and over (even after lessons for a couple of years!) is “Swat the Quarter Note” (thanks to Cecilly). Small flashcards (to coordinate with colour I use for RH or LH) are folded in the middle. On the outside would be a picture of quarter, half, dotted-half, and whole notes, and number of counts on the inside. For the first time playing, I would hide notes around my studio in plain sight, then in subsequent weeks, they would be under a cushion or chair, stuck in a picture frame, under a rhythm instrument, in a potted plant, etc. Students use a fly swatter with the hole cut out of the center to “swat” the rhythm note. They would find all the quarter notes, then half notes, etc. This allowed drill of note recognition, note name, and which hand played the note (stem up or down coordinated with LH or RH colour), etc.
Remembering Note Names
When I have a student who has problems remembering note names, I pull out cards and we play “Go Fish”. You can do 4 cards make a match, but I have found the game moves more quickly if you only do 2. I can choose cards with just C position or Middle C position or whatever I need. Several places online offer free flashcards and it is easy to make more than 1 set so you can play.
The Mystery Word
One simple way I use to get the kids engaged in the lesson right away is to give them a Mystery Word. I have a small whiteboard on which I draw a grand staff. The Mystery Word is any word that the student is currently learning about (music terminology, time period, composer, instrument, etc.). I draw the letters I can as notes on the grand staff, the rest I write underneath the staff. (For example: for “crescendo”, I’d write: __ r __ s __ __ n __ o. The C’s, E’s, and D would all be drawn as grand staff notes). The kids love this short game to start off the lesson, it gives me a minute to gather my materials for the next student, and it gives me a chance to assess what they remember, provided they can tell me the definition! Prizes are awarded after successfully defining the word!