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)


  • 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.


Staff Games for More Advanced Students

I generally try to drill notes on the staff for at least one week each month. This week we did Giant Staff—Twister (Music Twist)Giant Staff—Hopscotch, and Giant Staff—Bean Bag Toss.

However, some of my students have advanced beyond mere note drills. Some of them are old enough not to need an activity in the lesson at all, but several have not, and there’s nothing I dislike more than having to come up with more than one activity for the week. So this week, I’ve dreamed up a few ways to make note drills more useful for advanced students. These will work with pretty much any note name game.

  1. Set a key signature and then play the game as usual. For example, if the key is G major, all the notes would be normal, except any F would have to be named as F-sharp.
  2. Set an interval. The student must name both the note and the note that interval above (or below). For example, if the answer is C and the interval is a 3rd, the student must say C and E to get credit.
  3. Set a key signature. Then use solfege or the scale degrees instead of note names in the game.

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.


  • 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.



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.



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.


  • 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.


  • 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.