Race Across the Keyboard

Depending on the level of the student, you can use this quick game to drill notes on the keyboard, notes on the staff, or intervals.

What You Need:

  • Two Game Pieces
  • Flashcards with the note names (if you are drilling notes on the keyboard)
  • Flashcards with notes on the staff (if you are drilling notes on the staff)
  • A book of sheet music (if you are drilling intervals)
  • A die (if you are drilling intervals)

Setup:

  • None

How to Play:

  • Place your two game pieces on the lowest key on the keyboard.
  • If you are drilling notes on the keyboard:
    • Take turns drawing the note name flashcards. Each time, move your game piece up to the next instance of the note on your card.
  • If you are drilling notes on the staff:
    • Take turns drawing the notes on the staff flashcards. Each time, name the note on your card and move up to the next instance of that note name on the keyboard.
  • If you drilling intervals:
    • Find a piece of sheet music, preferably one that uses lots of different intervals.
    • Take turns rolling the die. Count that many measures into the music.
    • Find the largest interval in that measure. Move your game piece up by the same interval.
  • First one to the top of the keyboard wins.

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Roll-A-Drawing (How to Drill Anything)

Here’s a simple way to make things more fun during the lesson. I’ve provided a link to the three printables, I used, but the Internet is full of such drawing dice games, and you could use any of them.

What You Need:

  • Blank paper
  • Pencils
  • Die
  • A printable guide for a dice drawing game, such as Roll-a-Snowman or Roll-a-Face or Roll-a-Monster.
  • A list of what musical challenges go with each number on the die. You can put anything you want to drill here. For example, my list said:
    • 1 = Note name challenge
    • 2 = Rhythm challenge
    • 3 = Improv duet
    • 4 = Sight reading challenge
    • 5 = Review song
    • 6 = Freebie

Setup:

  • None

How to Play:

  • The student rolls the die. They must complete the challenge for that number first. Afterwards, they can draw the corresponding snowman, face, monster, or whatever.
  • The teach plays too, so you can see more than one result of the drawing game, but the teacher doesn’t need to complete challenges. (It takes too long that way.)

 

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Spin the Bottle on Lead Sheets

Everybody loves Christmas music, but some of the students just aren’t ready for reading them. Here’s a fun way to incorporate a lot of Christmas music into a lesson, regardless of the student’s level. Naturally, you could do this at any time of year with other lead sheets.

What You Need:

  • Christmas lead sheets, such as:
    • Angels We Have Heard on High in CG, DF
    • Deck the Halls in CG, D, and F
    • Jingle Bells in CGD, or F
    • Oh, Come All Ye Faithful in C, GD, and F
    • Silent Night in C, GD, F
    • We Wish You a Merry Christmas in CG, D, and F
  • A bottle

Setup:

  • Lay the lead sheets out on the floor in a circle, with the bottle in the middle.
    • I put out a stack for each song, with all key signatures in the stack, but that’s optional.

How to Play:

  • Have the student spin the bottle. Whichever page it points to is your lead sheet for the round.
  • Depending on the level, you can do one of the following:
    • Student plays root note only. Teacher plays the melody.
      • Teacher may need to point to each measure to keep the student on track.
    • Student plays root chord only. Teacher plays the melody.
    • Student plays a basic pattern, such as oom-pa-pa or Alberti bass. Teacher plays the melody.
    • Student makes up their own accompaniment pattern. Teacher plays the melody.
    • Student sight reads the melody. Teacher plays an accompaniment.
    • Student plays the melody with root chords below.
    • Student plays the melody with an accompaniment pattern below.
  • When you’ve gone through the song, spin again for another one.

Variations:

  • Most of the variation comes in what part you have the student play, but you can also make it harder or easier by controlling the key signature. My beginners played only in C major. My more advanced started in C major, but if they spun the same song twice, the second time I changed the key.

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Trim the Tree (Note Review)

I’m using an outside resource this week. It involves more cutting and laminating than I usually like, but all these little circles with notes on them could be reused in other games, which is why I was willing to do it.

The resource is Trim the Tree from Pianimation. Since I teach private lessons only, I had to adapt the rules slightly.

For my version, I first gave the students 1 minute and 30 seconds to see how many ornaments they could correctly get on the tree. That establishes a baseline. Then they try again to see if they can beat their own score.

Variations:

  • To make it easier, sort out the notes the student should know and use only them. Or separate out treble from bass clef.
  • To make it harder, don’t have them match the note itself. Specify an interval (such as a 3rd) and have them match the ornament to a spot that is a 3rd above the note.
  • To cheat and make sure the student does actually improve their score, sneakily pause the timer while they are working to give them extra time.

 

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Paint Chip Board Game (How to Drill Anything)

Paint Chip Board Game

 

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
  • Sharpie Marker

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)
  • One die
  • Three sets of flashcards, separated by subject
    • For example, treble clef notes, bass clef notes, intervals, key signatures, or rhythms.

Setup:

  • 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.

Variations

  • 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.

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