Chimes, bells, a xylophone, or some other pitched instrument
Preferably, each note should be on a different bell or chime, rather than part of a fixed keyboard.
How to Play:
The student picks a bell. He draws a card and plays that rhythm on the bell counting aloud.
He draws two more cards and counts and lays them with the first to make a rhythm that is three measures long.
When he is confident with the rhythm, the teacher can choose a different bell and play along. (Choose a bell in the same chord.)
The student can then draw three cards for the teacher. Then they play a duet where the two rhythms are different. Many students have trouble holding onto their rhythm, so this is good for independence.
Finally, give the student three bells that form a triad. The student should then play the rhythm again, but move between the three bells in any order they choose. Because all the notes are in a chord, it will make a pretty melody.
If you are using a xylophone that cannot have the bells removed, you can still point out the right notes, but there is a much higher likelihood that the student will miss.
The problem with most music board games is that they are so specific to one concept that at any given time, they aren’t appropriate for most of my students. Here’s a generic one that is practically free, takes about 10 minutes to make, and can be tailored on the fly for any student.
To Create the Board:
Paint chips with three obviously different colors. I did yellow, green, and blue.
Card stock in a contrasting color
Cut out the paint chips so you have stacks of squares or rectangles in each of your three colors. Mine range from pastels to brights, but as long as each stack is identifiably one of your three colors, it’s fine. Glue your squares onto the cardstock in alternating colors. The layout should make a wavy line (see the picture below). With the Sharpie, label the first one as Start and the last one as Finish. To add interest, draw a few arrows from certain squares to shortcut either forward or backward. In a couple of squares, write things like “Teacher loses a turn,” or “Go Again” or “Bonus Question (move forward two more spaces if you get it right).” When you’re done, I suggest laminating the cardstock to make it more durable, but you could also just slip it in a sheet protector.
What You Need to Play:
Your game board
Two game pieces (you can use coins, erasers, paper clips, whatever)
Three sets of flashcards, separated by subject
For example, treble clef notes, bass clef notes, intervals, key signatures, or rhythms.
Decide which set of flashcards corresponds with which color on your board.
Place two game pieces on Start.
How to Play:
The student rolls the dice and moves forward that many squares. She then draws a flashcard from the stack that corresponds with the color she has landed on and answers the question. (If she gets it wrong, I just give her enough hints so that she eventually gets it right.)
I take a turn. The only difference is that if I get it wrong and the student catches me, I have to move my game piece back to where I was before.
This encourages the student to pay attention during my turn and also ensures that they always win. If my dice throws happen to be luckier than the students, I just start getting a lot of questions wrong.
First person to get to the Finish line wins.
The difficulty of this game is entirely controlled by which flashcards you choose. To make it harder, just use progressively harder concepts, even if you don’t have exact flashcards for it. For example:
Draw a note flashcard and play the major (or minor or diminished or augmented) chord with that note as the root.
Draw a note flashcard and name the note that is a perfect fifth above it (or any other interval).
Draw a key signature flashcard and improv a melody in that key.
Often when a student is struggling with a phrase or measure, I’ll suggest that we play it slower. My students nod and say okay. Then they play it again at exactly the same speed. They often really don’t seem capable of changing whatever their default speed is. So this week we are working on tempo changes.
Stand up in front of the piano. Have the student pick four of the body percussion cards and lay them out in any order on the music stand. I put a ruler afterwards to represent a repeat sign.
Each card gets one beat, so we now have a measure of quarter notes in 4/4 time with a repeat sign. For example, the layout might be: Clap, Stamp, Stamp, Cluck. Practice the rhythm a few times.
The metronome app on my phone allows me to tap a beat and have it give me the metronome marking, so I tell the kids we are going to find out what their default preferred tempo is. They count, I tap, and the metronome gives us our start speed.
Working together, try to do the body percussion measures at that speed.
Draw a random tempo strip. Try it at that speed. Is it faster or slower than the student’s default speed? (If they get Presto and can’t manage it, that’s okay. It can be a good lesson in how important it is to learn things at a slower tempo before we try to take it fast.)
Continue drawing tempo strips until all are done. Which tempos are easiest? Which are hardest? How does it feel to switch between them?
If there is still time, try different tempos or working your way back up to presto. Many times a student who can’t do presto when they first draw that strip, will be able to do it if you work your way up slowly.
To make it easier, don’t use the rest cards. Also, you can require each card to come in a group of two identical cards, so that you end up with something like: Clap, Clap, Stomp, Stomp. It is easier than having four separate actions in the measure.
To make it harder, create two different measures. Also, gradually increase the speed beyond presto.