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.

Setup:

  • 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.

Variations:

  • 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.

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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.┬áThe 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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The Slap Game (Note Review)

This is a great game to play when you’ve just got a few minutes left in the lesson. It takes no prep, can last anywhere from 30 seconds to 15 minutes, and is loved by kids.

What You Need:

  • Notes on the staff flashcards
  • Cards with the letters A-G (optional)

Setup:

  • None

How to Play:

  • The student draws a letter card. This determines which note to look for. (If you’re not using the letter cards, just decide on a note.)
  • The teacher holds the deck of note flashcards and flips them over one at a time into a pile within easy reach of both people. When the student sees the note, she slaps the pile of cards. If she slaps it before the teacher gets the next card down, she gets a point. If she doesn’t, then the teacher gets a point.
  • Continue playing until all the notes with that name have been found. Then choose a new note, shuffle the note flashcards, and play again until you run out of time.

Variations:

  • To make it easier, limit the cards in the deck. For example, only C position notes, or only treble clef notes, etc.
  • To make it harder, flip over the cards faster. Or play with interval flashcards instead, looking for all the thirds or fourths, etc.

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Catch My Mistake Sight Reading Game

Catch My Mistake Sight Reading Game

Some of my students were dismayed to learn that sight reading never ends. I still practice it regularly. Here’s one easy way to make it more fun for some students.

What You Need:

  • Sight reading measure cards OR plenty of sight reading material at various levels
  • Chips, tokens, marbles, coins, buttons, or whatever small thing you have a lot of and can be used as game tokens
    • I used the flat glass marbles that are used for filling vases. They look sort of like gems, and a lot of my students enjoyed pretending they were rubies, sapphires, emeralds and diamonds. But anything will work.

Setup:

  • Give five marbles to the student and five to yourself. (We kept ours on our own side of the piano keyboard.)

How to Play:

  • Display the first card in the deck (or select the first sight reading measure or phrase, if you are using a book for sight reading). Make sure it’s easy and short enough that the student should be able to do it perfectly.
  • The student’s job is to take a close look and then play it perfectly. If he succeeds, the teacher owes him a token. If the teacher catches him in a mistake, he owes her a token.
  • Display the next card in the deck.
  • The teacher’s job is to play it with a deliberate mistake. If the student can pinpoint where the mistake occurred, the teacher owes him a token. If after two repetitions, the student cannot find the mistake, he owes the teacher a token.
  • Repeat until someone runs out of tokens. Or if lesson time is up,┬ácount the tokens to see who has the most.

Variations:

  • To make it easier, use only the first set of cards in the deck (treble clef notes in C position with seconds as the only intervals). Or you could give them more than one chance to get it right.
  • To make it harder, use the whole deck, so any interval is possible. Or flip two cards each time to make a two measure phrase. Or use harder sight reading material from a book. Or give the student only one chance to identify the mistake.
  • To make it longer, rob the bank when someone runs out of tokens instead of ending the game.

Interval Ice Cream

Interval Ice Cream

This is a good example of the kind of activity I don’t like. It requires lots of cutting, gluing, and laminating, and then it only appeals to kids of a certain age. But I created it years ago before I realized what a pain that kind of thing is, so I occasionally still trot it out.

What You Need:

  • It’s easiest to just look at the picture below, but you need to create:
    • 8 ice cream cones, labeled unison, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and octave
    • ice cream scoops in a variety of colors with an example of intervals glued on

Setup:

  • Lay out the ice cream cones, face up
  • Make a heap of the scoops nearby, face down

How to Play:

  • The student chooses their favorite flavor of ice cream and adds the scoop to the ice cream cone with the correct interval written on it.
  • Repeat.
  • When all the scoops are on, we see which cone is the tallest or which one has the most appealing flavor combination.

Variations:

  • To make it easier, don’t use all the possible intervals. Limit it to just seconds and thirds or whatever intervals the student has covered.
  • To make it harder, give the student a time limit, or require him to name whether each interval is major, minor, perfect, etc.

 

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