When I made my first Keyboard Race game, I really had no idea that it was going to be the first in a series of games for every season. I’ve always used the snowflake version for this time of year, but my students wanted a Christmas version, so I drew one for them. The elves are students in my studio and each one is special to me! I hope you enjoy the diversity of elves from around the globe!
Notice I have cards for F# and Bb. That has proved to be a bonus for my average age beginners, because they learn the terms and how to use them early on. However, I remove those cards for my youngest students. I like to teach new concepts informally like this, rather than waiting for it in the method book. There is no reason students can’t learn something before they actually play it in their music.
To quickly identify piano keys.
To enjoy a seasonal game.
To identify middle C.
Optional: to identify B flat and F sharp.
Beginners of all ages enjoy the keyboard race games, but with your older beginners, I suggest the Snowflake Keyboard Race.
Piano or a music keyboard
Keyboard Race Cards
Two tokens (Inexpensive erasers will not damage your keyboard.)
The game is played with two players, usually the teacher and student.
The teacher sits on the right side and the students sits on the left side of the piano bench, at each end of the piano. The students chooses if he/she wants to play with the “Elves” or “Reindeer” cards.
Each player has one set of cards and one token, and places the cards on the piano book rack. The cards should be well shuffled.
The first player turns a card and moves his token to that piano key, the closest to his end of the piano. The second player does the same.
Play continues with each player drawing a card and moving his token toward the middle of the keyboard.
The game is over when one player passes the middle of the keyboard. I like to use middle C with my young students.
Note: The player on the right side (treble end) usually loses, so that’s where I sit. Games are more fun for students if they win.
Why I like this game
My students love it and want to play it over and over.
It is the fastest and most fun way to learn keyboard names.
I want to share with new teachers a way to make sure your young students never forget the names of the piano keys! Over the years I’ve collected a lot of tiny toys that fit on the keys. These little guys are erasers, but I have all kind of trinkets in my collection. First we learn C, then F, and over several lessons we gradually work up to all the keys. In this photo, my little student picked any item out of my collection that started with the same letter as the key. So that students won’t just count up from C, we let our little animals hop around to all the C’s, all the F’s, etc. I mix up the order, and the time it takes to learn all the keys depends on the age and ability of the student.
We also play the Keyboard Note Race games that I have posted with several different graphics on my website. This week we’re playing the one with the shamrocks. Click on the link below the photo to print it out. For older beginners I don’t use toys, but we play the keyboard race games. Older beginners are notorious about trying to play the piano before they learn the names of the keys, maybe because we move faster and they don’t have as much time for it to sink in. This game helps with that.
In this game you and your student sit on each end of the piano, draw cards, and try to be the first one who passes either Middle C or Middle E. The original blog post is here, and I even have a version for German teachers! I guarantee you students will quickly learn their keys with this game. I’ve made it with pumpkins, snowflakes, hearts, and I can’t even remember what else, to make it more fun for students. Colored pencil erasers make good tokens for older students.
I was driving in downtown a while back and when I stopped at a red light I saw a large music graphic painted on the side of a building. It had colorful notes that were giant circles, not ovals like I usually draw. I liked the way the circles made it look like the music was just rolling along.
When I got home, I was inspired by the round notes so I drew some circles using colors that would appeal to my older students. I made a digital scrapbook background with the brush tool (a hobby of mine) and before long I had another assignment binder cover that my students really like.
In addition to the cover, I have a 2011-2012 calendar using this same theme and I will post it in a few days when I get some spare time to polish it up. You can subscribe to my blog if you want to keep up when I post it.
Do you use binders or spiral assignment books? Spiral notebooks fit so well on the piano and parents like them better. But binders are so much more flexible and you can add theory sheets and music. Let’s take a poll. (It is completely anonymous and you will not be identified, so go ahead and make my day by voting!)
This worksheet is like the one I posted yesterday except the notes are not in order, making it more difficult. When I was young, I used to love pretty colors like this. Maybe I would have learned my notes sooner! Make it fun by letting the student choose which colors to identify.
You can discover a lot about a student by asking questions (assuming you’re using age and music level appropriate material.) When I show this to a student I’m going to ask if which color ornament they like best. If they won’t make eye contact, mumble something like “none” or “I don’t Know”, you know the student is not enthusiastic about piano lessons. Have you ever had a student say “whatever”?
Then there are those who seem to agonize over which one they like. As you sit waiting and waiting, you want to shout that it’s not a hard question. This could be a super sensitive or self critical student who is very hard on herself. She is so afraid of the wrong answer that she can’t make a choice. This kind of student can turn a 3 minute worksheet into a 30 minute lesson, so set a time limit. If she can only do 3 notes, that’s fine.
The opposite student may quickly pick out one and start to write the notes before you even give directions. This student may play with a lot of enthusiasm, but sometimes the details aren’t there. The Mom of this student will tell you that he can do all his practicing in 5 minutes and can you give him some more music to practice. Trying to keep that enthusiasm going as we make corrections is the hard part of teaching, IMO.
From the emails I received with so many creative ideas from all of you, I am awed at all the wonderful teachers out there who know how to instill the joy of music. I think the sharing of ideas has really benefited today’s piano student.