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)


  • 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.


Pluck the Turkey (Note Review)

What You Need:

  • A turkey body, plus a lot of feathers
    • I cut mine out of scrapbooking paper so they were already in cute patterns.
    • If you want to be able to reuse it for multiple purposes, laminate everything. Otherwise, don’t bother.
  • Flashcards with the notes of the staff.
  • Some kind of timer (only needed for version 2)


  • Write on the back of the feathers. (Use a whiteboard marker if you laminated.)
    • About three should say “Teacher Loses a Turn”
    • About three should say “Freebie”
    • Half of the rest should say “N” for name the note.
    • All of the rest should say “P” for play the note.
  • Lay out your turkey on the floor.


How to Play (Version 1, the competitive way):

  • The first player plucks a feather from the turkey and draws a note flashcard.
    • If the feather says “N,” the player should name the note on the flashcard.
    • If it says “P,” the player should play the note on the piano.
    • If it says “Freebie,” they get the feather for free.
  • Take turns until the turkey is completely plucked. Count the feathers to see who has the most.
    • The teacher loses a turn cards guarantee that the student will always have more. None of my kids picked up on this.

How to Play (Version 2, the timed way):

  • With input from the student, determine how long the student will need to completely pluck the turkey. (The amount of time varied from 1 to 5 minutes, depending on the level of the student and the number of feathers on the turkey.)
  • When the timer starts, the student plucks one feather at a time and plays or names the note. In this version, the teacher loses a turn feathers are just like a freebie feather.
    • (Occasionally, I surreptitiously stop the timer while they aren’t looking to make sure they finish in time.)


Monster Eyeballs (Note Review)

Here is a Halloween-themed way to review the notes while creating a decoration for your studio.  It’s sure to thrill kids. Except for my own daughter, who said it was creepy and she didn’t want to touch the eyeballs. Other than her, everyone loved it.

What You Need:

  • A set of monster eyeballs. These are available at dollar stores around Halloween.
  • A bag big enough to hold your monster eyeballs.
  • A clear vase, bowl, or other container.
  • Flashcards or a sheet of piano music.


  • Before the lesson, use a permanent marker to write note names on each of the eyeballs.
  • Put all the eyeballs in the bag.
  • If you’re using flashcards, lay them out face up, but not in order.

How to Play:

  • The student reaches in the bag and draws out an eyeball.
  • The student then looks through the flashcards or sheet music and finds a note that matches the letter on the eyeball.
  • If they correctly find the match, the student can add the eyeball to the vase to add to your Halloween decorations.


  • For pre-readers, have them play the note on the piano instead of looking for it on the staff.
  • For readers who haven’t yet learned all the notes, limit the flashcards to the ones they have learned. You may also want to use treble clef notes separately from bass clef notes.
  • For more advanced readers, use flashcards or music with lots of ledger lines, or you can require them to find not the note on the eyeball, but a note that is a third above that note (or a fifth or whatever).


Colorful Intervals

This week I played a game to practice the concept of intervals:

What you need:

  • A set of cards with intervals
  • Two keyboard sheets* printed out and laminated or put in a sheet protector
  • Whiteboard markers, preferably in a variety of colors


  • Shuffle the cards.
  • Each player should label Middle C with a whiteboard marker.

How to Play:

  • The first player draws a card and names the interval. Once you have named it, color in the entire interval (meaning the top note, the bottom note, and all notes in between) on your keyboard. This ends the turn.
  • The second player follows the same process.
  • If you have already colored in some or all of the notes contained in the interval on the card, you can color in an equivalent interval anywhere else on the keyboard. For example, if you draw a fourth from middle C to F, but you’ve already colored those notes, you can draw a fourth from G to B above it.
  • If your keyboard is so full you cannot find an equivalent interval, color in the largest interval you can find and name it.
  • The first person to completely fill their keyboard wins.


*My keyboard sheets are from Kristin’s site at I highly recommend her Piano Magic improv course.



Musical Alphabet

These cards print up the musical alphabet 15 times, in various colors and fonts. They include sharp and flat signs. Here are just a few ideas for using them that have worked well for me:

  • Student draws a card out of the bag and plays that note on the piano.
  • Use sticky tack and hide them around the room. When they find one, they play that note.
    • ​If I’m on the ball, I have them hidden before the student arrives. If I’m not, no worries. I have them play their song for the week while I hide them. They’re too busy to see exactly where I’m putting them.
    • If it’s taking too long, we play Hot and Cold to find them.
    • It’s also possible to have them hide a few for me. Then I find them and play them, but they have to watch to make sure I don’t make any mistakes. 
  • Student draws several cards out of the bag and lays them out. Then they play the sequence of notes they have drawn.
  • Very young students can practice putting the cards in order on the floor. 
    • ​We practice it both forwards and backwards.
    • We also try building a tower that is longer than they are. (If you do this, make sure that A is on the bottom of the tower and build up, just like the notes on t he staff work.) Periodically, they lie down on the flower next to their tower to see if they need to build it any higher.
  • More advanced students can play a major or minor scale starting on the letter than they draw.

Naturally, there’s no limit to the different ways you could use these, which is the only reason I was willing to go to the effort of creating them.