Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Games people play (in lessons)

I teach many younger students and decided to find some fun games to play in lessons to teach various music skills. (older students might enjoy these as well.) I set out on a search for games that you can make and games that you can play online. Here are a few of my finds. If you have one that you play in lessons send it to me in the comments section along with the instructions for making/playing the game.

Repeat the Melody– This is a sort of simon says for piano. The computer plays a short melody. You repeat it. Each time you correctly play back the melody it plays another one.

Name the note- I play a note on the piano and the student has to name it. A favorite variation of this game is Stump the Teacher. They sit at the piano and I turn my back and try to guess the note name that they are playing. I don’t have perfect pitch so I am only right some of the time, but they get a kick out of it. They still have to know the note name to tell me if I am right or not.

Hangman with music- You or the student spells a word with music notes. If you need help thinking of words here is a list of words I found using You can add letters and vowels that aren’t musical notes by writing them in between the blanks for the notes you have written. Ex. __ __ __ M

I found this lesson plan on (As a side note, there were a lot of musical lesson plans on this site that could be useful to private lesson teachers.) This is for sight reading and basic composition. Basically the student writes a simple melody and rhythm using sticks and M & Ms. (or any other small round candy. If they can sing what they have written they get to eat (or keep) the candy. To read the entire lesson plan click here.

Another game I found on is called Rhythm Face Off. One person writes and one person sings. (You can do this game with 2 or more people.) The person who writes has 15-20 seconds to write a rhythm. The person who sings has the same amount of time that the writer took to sing the rhythm. If the singer gets it wrong, the writer has a chance to sing it and get the point. If they can’t sing what they wrote, they loose a point. View the lesson plan here.

This next one looks like it would be a lot of fun if you had a large group to play it. It is called rhythm baseball. Set up 4 chairs (or bases) and clap or use sticks to play rhythms for each “batter”. If they get it right, they get a hit and go to first base, if they get it wrong, they get an out. After 3 outs the next team gets a turn. Check out the lesson plan here.

If you have a couple of students (great for one students bring a friend to lessons) you can get out a dry erase board and play this game. The teacher sings a pitch pattern. The students then have to write dashes to illustrate the pattern. Ex. If the teacher sings one low one middle and one high it would look like this ___
You can increase the number of notes sung or played to increase the level of difficulty.
A recent game I came up with was major minor triad. I play a triad on the piano and the student has to answer by singing La Ti Do for Minor Triad or Do Re Mi for Major Triad. I thought this would be tricky, the first person I tried it out on caught on pretty quickly.

I also spotted a subscription service by Fun Music Company of musical games that you can download and print. They have many to choose from. The service is $69.00 per year.

There are tons of games out there. I spotted these in just a few minutes time. I am really excited to go out and play them with my students. If you have one that is your favorite, I hope you will share it with the rest of us.

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  1. Allie

    I learned this game from the piano teacher who owns the school where I work, and young kids love it. You just need a decent amount of floor space and some hula hoops. I start out with 3 hoops lined up on the floor and tell the kids that they’re C, D, and E; or A, B, and C; or Do, Re, and Mi; they can be whatever you want, really! I play something on the piano using only those 3 notes, and they have to jump into the right hoop. At first they’re allowed to look at my hands, and later they can’t – good ear training! You can also add hoops up to an octave.

  2. Andrea

    Thanks so much for these suggestions – I’m on the hunt for games to play in lessons! Much appreciated.

  3. Brandon Pearce (Support)

    Don’t forget about as well. They have lots of on-line games your students can play. It doesn’t look like they’re games you play with your students, but rather that they would play on their own. But it still may be worth a look.

  4. Rochelle

    This one is for younger students. I have little cards with a note/fingering in C position or rest on each. (for example, on one card is a quarter note with the letter “C” and the fingering “1”. You can make them using 3×5 cards.) I give the student a stack of them and let them put them in any order up on the piano rack. Then they play the song. When I tell them they are real “composer”, they get elated! I have a keyboard with background beats so I will have that playing so they feel like a band is helping them out. It helps them count, learn notes, and be creative. For older kids, encourage them to make their own cards with lined 3×5 cards and they can do it at home.

  5. Amy Gould

    Thanks everyone for adding more games. I just found a bunch of card games using musical symbols instead of numerical cards. Here is the information from the website.

    Crazy 8ths creatively combines music education with popular card games – played by reading notes rather than numbers. Beginners can easily master “Go Fish” and “Old Maid”, while more advanced players will love the fast and furious fun of “PIG” and “Crazy 8ths”. Anyone can join in by using the cheat sheet card. The deck contains 56 musical notation cards covering a two-octave range from bass C to treble C, with rests, triplets, and repeats thrown in. A 28-page book provides rules for 10 popular card games. The teacher’s kit contains four extra decks of cards, allowing up to 45 students to play at once. Crazy 8ths cards are ideal for musicians of any age! There are several games listed on this page.

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