What are you favorite Music Theory Games?

Eleanor Blake said: Jul 16, 2012
Eleanor Blake
Suzuki Association Member
Milford, MA
1 posts

Dear Teachers,

I am wondering what types of music theory “games” you have found have worked the best for your groups. Specifically I am working with a music theory group of beginners that are a mix of violin, viola and cello students. (One pretwinkler and the rest of the students are not yet at the 1/2 way point of book one).

Are there any in particular that you have found the kids really get excited about playing-or any that you feel are very effective? I”m open to any type of music theory-rhythm, note reading, music theory (keys intervals etc) musical markings etc etc.

Thank you for any suggestions you might have!


Amy said: Jul 17, 2012
Suzuki Association Member
50 posts

I. Felt sticks to felt. This was the principle behind a game I call ‘Note Well.’ I took 2 large sheets of stiff felt, and drew a staff on each using a permanent marker. (The lines were an inch apart. Depending on the size of your classes and how far away from the board the students are, you may prefer the lines to be further apart.) Then, I cut out appropriately sized noteheads in contrasting colors and wrote letters of the musical alphabet on one side of the noteheads. After using this set-up to teach note names on the staff, I divide the kids into two teams and we will have a relay race. The students run to the front, pick a notehead, and place it on the staff according to the letter on the notehead. At the end of the race (usually after a certain period of time), I quickly and quietly remove all of the incorrectly place noteheads and we count the number of noteheads correctly placed on the staff. The team with the most wins.

Because the noteheads have letters on only one side, the other side can be used if as a class we are composing a melody, discussing steps vs. skips, or anything else for which the lettered ones are cumbersome.

II. I cut out of posterboard quarter notes, quarter rests, and eighth-note couplets. The kids take turns arranging these (usually there’s a limit of eight beats) in any order of their choosing. We’ll usually clap it together. Sometimes I’ll clap it and include a mistake somewhere; the kids love pointing out what I did wrong. If we’re doing this on the floor, we’ll also flip sides, so when we’re reading the rhythm forwards, it comes out the reverse of the original rhythm. Once the kids have a solid sense of rhythm, we’ll divide into two groups, one on each side, and clap the rhythm in 2 parts.

III. With a review piece in group class, have one student be the conductor, showing everyone what dynamics to use. You may want to let the pretwinkler be the conductor. Alternately, so that everyone can participate, do the dynamics exercise singing a familiar song. Be silly with this.

IV. Personally, I like using Minuet I to learn about tonicizing the dominant in the B section, Minuet II to learn about tonicizing the relative minor, and Minuet III to learn about hypermeter. This can only work if the students already have a basic understanding of form, key signatures, meter and rhythm, and if they have been hearing me talk theory for quite some time. Try ear-training major vs. minor using movement. Discuss how music in major keys moves differently from music in minor keys. Then let them experience this difference by actually moving to the music. Teaching one octave scales in the early stages can also be helpful in understanding keys and key signatures. Young children can understand the difference between a small step (aka, half step) and large step (whole step). Teach the pattern of Whole/half steps in the Major scale and see if anyone can figure out how to play a D Major scale.

V. Beanbags are great for creating patterns that move on the beat. Passing to someone else also develops neuromuscular coordination for abductive motion, which your violinists and violists will need to develop eventually for shifting purposes.

Hope these ideas are useful!

Barb said: Jul 17, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
678 posts

Thanks, Amy, and thanks Eleanor for asking—I’m always looking for new ideas.

One of my adult students sent this to me this morning:

I haven’t looked through the blog yet, but the one on this page looks like fun for learning note/rest values!

Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Merietta Oviatt said: Jul 17, 2012
Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Cello, Viola
Stevens Point, WI
104 posts

Three words: Music Mind Games. Go to www.musicmindgames.com. It will explain all about it, give you activities to do, you can order supplies, etc… I just did training with Michiko this summer and it was amazing! I have seen it in practice in large groups, small groups, one on one, while observing other teachers. It was so great I had to get in on it myself. You don’t have to do the training to use it, but the training is SO much fun! The kids can’t wait to do their Music Mind Games!!

Dr. Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Specialist
Viola/Violin Instructor
Aber Suzuki Center, University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point
[javascript protected email address]

Carmen said: Jul 17, 2012
 13 posts

I am a Suzuki parent and have been using Music Mind Games at home even before we started Suzuki (actually found it easier to teach a little keyboard theory before starting any classes.  My now 8 year old still enjoys learning by hearing but note reading came pretty easy.).   Even my then 2 yr old could do Blue Jello.  The magic notes are fun too.  The websites have tons of info and game ideas.


From: SAA Discussion

Laura said: Jul 19, 2012
Laura Mozena
Suzuki Association Member
Palm City, FL
105 posts

I love MUSIC MIND GAMES you can get the book at YourMusicSupply.com

There are literally tones of games!! my students love magic notes.

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