Christmas Fortunes (Intervals)

Here is another use of external resource. Today I am indebted to Teach Piano Today for the Christmas Fortune Teller.

I used it more or less as described on their website on the keyboard, but we then moved down to a giant staff on the floor and did it on the staff as well. It is good for students to see the connection between what they do on the piano and what they see on the page.

The only note I would like to make is that the chances or winning are entirely based on luck and there is not an easy way for the teacher to manipulate it to make sure the student wins, which I always like to do. On the plus side, it’s so short, it’s possible to play multiple games in a lesson, so that they have a chance to win even if they lose at first.

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Sailing the Seas (Intervals)

I developed this game for Thanksgiving, but I have very deliberately kept anything purely seasonal out of it, so it can really be used at any time of year.

What You Need:

  • These cards, cut up and possibly laminated.
    • Note that the two cards with ships should not be cut along the dotted line, so you can fold there and then stand them up.
  • A die
  • A game piece, coin, or other manipulative
  • A grand staff (optional)
    • This can be on blank staff paper, on a whiteboard, on poster board, whatever you’ve got.

Setup:

  • Shuffle the interval, storm at sea, and tailwind cards together. Lay them out face down on the floor in a line or squiggle. Place the Old World at one end and the New World at the other (face up).
  • Add the icebergs on top of any three random interval cards. (I let the student do this.)
  • Place the ships on the Old World.
  • If you are drilling intervals on the keyboard, place a game piece (or coin) on Middle C. If you are drilling intervals on the staff and you have the right manipulatives, place a whole note on Middle C. If you’re using staff paper or a whiteboard, draw a whole note on middle C.

How to Play:

  • The first player rolls the dice. Move that player’s ship forward that many spaces. Move the note marker on the staff or keyboard by the interval specified on the card.
  • If the teacher strikes an iceberg, she goes all the way back to Start. If the student strikes an iceberg, he must answer an extra challenge of the teacher’s choice to see if he can navigate around it successfully.
  • The first person to reach the New World wins.

Variations:

  • To make it easier, use only the smaller interval cards.
  • To make it harder, use only the larger interval cards.
  • To make it shorter, don’t use all the cards, even if you choose them at random.

 

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The Flower Game (Note Review)

I made this game up years ago when I had a small studio and all the students were girls. If I were doing it again, I’d probably go with a more gender-neutral theme, but the idea works well.

What You Need:

  • A game board (see the picture below). I made mine out of tile samples, so I don’t have a downloadable, but you could easily print a blank board game like these and create this in a couple of minutes. The main features are:
    • Each tile labeled with one of the note names (A through G in order)
    • An occasional tile that has a special color (in my picture, they’re pink)
  • Game pieces
  • Note flash cards
  • Special flash cards which are not note names. You could use rhythms, dynamics, symbols, whatever.

Setup:

  • Place two game pieces on Start.
  • Shuffle both decks of cards.

How to Play:

  • The first player draws a note flash card. After naming the note, he can move his game piece up to that letter on the game board.
  • If the game piece lands on a tile that has a special color, he can draw from the pile of special flash cards. If he can correctly identify or explain whatever is on that card, he can move up two extra tiles.
  • The second player takes the same turn. The first person to reach the end wins.
  • As teacher, I play under several disadvantages. I always go second. I sometimes make a “mistake” in naming my note. If the student catches me, I don’t get to move up. If I land on a special color, the student is still the one who gets the special flash card and the two extra spaces. Also, my special flash cards include a few cards that say “Teacher loses a turn.”

Variations:

  • To make it easier, identify notes on the keyboard instead of using flashcards with staff notes, or limit the flashcards to those notes the student knows how to read.
  • To make it harder, require intervals. For example, the student should move to the tile that is a third above whichever flashcard he draws.

 

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Lucky Penny Game (Note Review)

Every St Patrick’s Day, I play the Lucky Penny game with my students. This is not my original idea, and you can find the original brief instructions at Sing a New Song.  It is a very simple game to review notes on the staff. I particularly like it because it isn’t just a drill of finding the note name. They also have to connect it through to the correct note on the piano. I always have some students who are great at naming the note, but still have no clue which octave they ought to be playing it in. This game helps.

What You Need:

  • Flashcards with the notes you want to review
  • As many pennies as you have flashcards. One (or more) should be marked on one side in some way as the lucky one.
    • I use Euro pennies. My American students are always delighted by how small they are and the fact that they really are Irish pennies. Of course, if you don’t have a source for Euro pennies, any other small coin works just fine.
    • My lucky penny has a sticker of a four leaf clover.

How to Play:

  • Since I am not the originator of the game, I will just direct you to Sing a New Song to get the instructions on how to play.
  • My modifications are as follows:
    • I only have one lucky penny, not 2-5. If they have to go through two full octaves to find the penny, I don’t consider that a bad thing. It’s just more practice.
    • I don’t give out candy, since I try to keep that at an absolute minimum. If they aren’t expecting candy, students are still interested in seeing how lucky they are (i.e., how quickly they find the lucky penny).

Variations:

  • To make it easier or shorter, limit the number of notes you ask.
  • To make it harder, don’t have them remove the penny on the note on the staff. Instead pick an interval and require them to remove the penny a third above or a fourth below the note on the staff. You can then ask them to name whether that interval is major, minor, diminished, etc.

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Winter Intervals

I have yet to have a student who can remember the definition of an interval (the distance between two notes). They sputter a bit, and I sigh and say, “Okay, play me a fourth.” That they can do.

Understanding intervals is not just great music theory, it also is enormously helpful in reading music. Your brain doesn’t have to process all the note names if it knows the relationships between the notes.

For this activity, I am indebted to Teach Piano Today for a great little free printable called Wintervals. It’s a lovely idea for private lessons in January, and their instructions are fun. I played it differently, in several different ways, as you can see below.

What you need:

  • The sheet Wintervals, printed from Teach Piano Today
  • One game piece to represent a snowman
    • I drew one up on cardstock in about 30 seconds. Teach Piano Today recommends a mini-marshmallow. Anything would work.
  • One die
    • I used a ten-sided one, but you could use a regular one.
  • Staff paper/pencil or giant staff/manipulatives (optional)

Setup:

  • Place the game piece above the first square (“A”).

How to Play on the Keyboard:

  • Roll the dice. That number specifies what interval you need to play. The bottom note should be the letter on the square your game piece is on (A for the first turn). For example, if the die says 3, play A and C because that makes a third.
    • My 10-sided die included a 0. If they rolled that it meant teacher gets to pick the interval.
  • If the student plays the interval wrong, the game piece moves up one space. If correct, the student can choose between moving up one or two spaces. That choice is pretty important because if the game piece lands on a hot spot, she melts and goes back to the beginning.
  • Repeat until the game piece makes it to the finish line.
  • Talking points along the way, depending on the level of the student:
    • Which intervals sound pretty?
    • Which intervals sound harsh?
    • Which intervals are so important they have a special name? (1=unison; 8=octave)
    • Which intervals sound harsh but could be resolved into something pretty? (7th to 8th, 2nd to 3rd, etc.)
    • How many half steps are contained within the interval?
    • Is the interval major or minor?

How to Play on the Staff:

  • Follow the same instructions as above, but instead of playing the notes, draw them on staff paper or place manipulatives on a giant staff.
  • Talking points along the way, depending on the level of the student:
    • Odd numbered intervals always go from line to line or space to space.
    • Even numbered intervals have a line and a space.
    • Knowing intervals allows you to correctly place notes on ledger lines, even if you don’t know what the name of the note is.

How to Play Backwards on Either Keyboard or Staff:

  • Alternatively, you could also skip the number die entirely. Instead, have the student draw letters A-G out of a bag. Then they play or write the start note from the Wintervals sheet, play or write the note from the bag, and name the interval the two notes make.

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