Race to the Top (Note Review)

Yet another way to drill note names, with the added bonus that it drills intervals too.

What You Need:

  • A large grand staff
    • Mine is on a whiteboard, but a paper version would work just as well.
  • Writing Utensil
  • One Die
    • I made up a special die with the numbers 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, and *, but you could make it work with a regular die.


  • None

How to Play:

  • Each player should draw a whole note F hanging below the bass clef staff. That is the initial starting point for the race.
  • Let the student roll the die. That number specifies her interval. She needs to draw in a whole note which is that interval directly above her starting F. For example, if she rolls a 2, she should draw in the G, which is a second above the F. If she rolls a 5, she should draw in the C, which is a fifth above the F. She should name the note as well as draw it in.
  • The asterisk side of the die means different things depending on the age and ability of the student. It could mean roll again, teacher chooses the interval, student chooses the interval, or teacher loses a turn.
    • If you are using a regular die, use the number one for this, since no one wants to draw in a unison anyway.
  • Teacher takes a turn and draws the correct note above her own F.
  • Repeat the process, taking turns until someone reaches the G just above the treble clef staff. First one to the top wins.


  • For pre-readers, use a picture of a keyboard instead of a staff.
  • To make it harder, require the student to say whether a given interval is major, minor, perfect, etc.
  • To make it more likely the student will win, the asterisk can mean different things depending on whether the teacher or student rolls it. Also, I’ve found I can usually be careful where I roll the die and prevent the student from seeing what it says. Then I can make my intervals small enough to ensure I lose.




Compose Your Own Rhythm Duets

I’ve got some kids who just aren’t feeling the rhythm. This is what I came up with for them.

What You Need:

  • A die
  • A blank sheet for rhythm duets.
    • I printed it only once and put it in sheet protectors.
  • Pencil (or whiteboard marker if you’re using the sheet protectors)
  • Special 6 Cards


  • Shuffle the Special 6 cards
  • Write out what note values you want to go with each number on the die. For example, 1 = quarter note, 2 = half note, etc. Depending on the ability level of the student, some might be two eighth notes or a dotted quarter note. Reserve 5 for wild and 6 for the Special 6 card.

How to Play:

  • Student rolls the die. They need to create a measure in 4/4 time that includes at least one of whatever note value they rolled. Write their rhythm in one of the measures on their line (it does not have to be the first measure).
    • For most students, I had them count and clap the measure first and then write it because I want them to feel the beat more than I want them to be able to add up to four beats. But if they struggle with that, you could do it the other way around.
    • Most students also wrote their own rhythm down. I only did it for the youngest ones.
    • If you roll a 5 (wild), there are no restrictions. Any note values are fine.
    • If you roll a 6 on the first turn, just roll again. If you roll a 6 on subsequent turns, draw a special 6 card, follow the instructions, and roll again.
  • Teacher takes a turn and creates a measure on her own line.
  • Once you both have a measure, count and clap your lines as a duet.
    • If a measure has nothing in it yet, treat it as a whole rest.
    • For every measure done correctly, award one point. (Don’t count the rest measures.)
  • Repeat the process, except count and clap the duet and award points after each person has a turn. This ensures the student always has a chance to remain a point ahead. Continue until you fill all the measures or you run out of lesson time.


Suspend (How to Drill Anything)

This balancing game is one of the kids’ favorites. I like it too, since it’s infinitely customizable to each student. It does require owning a specific game, but you can do a similar thing with blocks or plastic cups, if that’s easier to get.

What You Need:

  • Suspend (a Melissa and Doug Family Game)
  • Flashcards of anything (optional)


  • Set up the basic stand for the game.
  • The game comes with a die that has six colors on it. Assign a different type of flashcard or challenge for each color. For example, note names, rhythms, chords, key signatures, improv duets, play by ear challenges, sight reading, review songs, hard spots in their current song, etc. You can even leave one color to be a freebie.

How to Play:

  • Ignore the rule book entirely.
  • The student rolls the die and completes the challenge for that color. Then she can place a metal stick of that color on the stand.
  • Repeat.
  • If anything falls off the stand, just add it back into the pile at the bottom.




July 2018 Plans

I’m a bit behind schedule, but here’s what we did in July. There were only three weeks of lessons because of vacation.

Week 1: We played the Slap Game, which is one of my favorite ways to review note names because it is quick, easy, requires no prep, and kids of all ages love it.

Week 2: We practiced ear training with Sharks and Dolphins to hear the difference between a half step and a whole step.

Week 3: We practiced notes again with the Flower Game.