Musical Games to Play In Lessons

by | Sep 10, 2020 | Teacher Blog

Musical Games to Play In Lessons

Playing musical games is the best way to keep students engaged and excited about their music lessons! Think creatively, as these games can be adapted to be played over ZOOM lessons, and to suit intermediate & advanced students.

Children find these games even more fun when they’re played on a whiteboard! Especially if the reward or incentive is for the child to draw on it themselves. We recommend all of our teachers take a mini portable whiteboard to their lessons.

Some examples of affordable mini-whiteboards can be found at Kmart for $5.00 or Officeworks for $4.65.

Do you have a great game you’d like to share with the other teachers of Music Lessons Australia? We would love to hear it! This is a constantly evolving page, so be sure to check it often for new game ideas.

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These games are ideal for beginner students, but you can always use more complicated rhythms and concepts for intermediate and advanced students!

Rhythm is a concept that can be easily internalized with enough practice. Keep practicing simple, common rhythmic patterns with your beginner students until they are entirely comfortable clapping and playing the rhythm in their songs. Only then you should move onto more challenging rhythmic patterns.

Clapping Game

The easiest way to introduce students to the concept of beat & rhythm. Draw one bar rhythms, with hearts to mark where each beat lands. Start with 4 crotchets and ask students to clap on the beat with the metronome. Then, start introducing minims, semibreves, and eventually quavers and rests. Clap each one bar rhythm four or five times before moving onto a new rhythm.


Shopping Game

In a 4/4 song, students can spend $4 per bar. Give each note value a dollar value (i.e. quavers = 50c, minims = $2), and let your student draw in each note they bought so they can learn to add notes under the right beat. Once your student has ‘spent all their money’, ask them to clap the rhythm they bought.


Fix This!

Students love playing teacher. Draw three separate rhythm only songs, but with errors. The errors could be too many/little notes in a bar, the wrong time signature, no bar-lines etc… Ask your student to correct the errors in your songs.


How Fast Can You Go?

After introducing some of my beginner students to the metronome, they’ve been really excited by it and have been playing around with it on the faster settings! The app ProMetronome goes up to 500bpm (like you’d ever need it), but my students always ask me to clap a song to it!!! So I decided to challenge them, how fast can they clap? Start with a simple rhythm at 75bpm, then push it up 10bpm after they’ve mastered the original tempo. While you’re clapping along, introduce to them the Italian terms for tempo.


Guess This Christmas Song

A great beat vs rhythm game for beginner students. Ask your student to write down 5-10 of their favourite Christmas songs. Without the instrument, take turns in clapping or tapping the rhythm of one of the listed songs and see if the other person can guess which song it is. Once identified, have one person clap the rhythm while the other person claps the beat!



Spelling Bee

On a whiteboard, or piece of manuscript, spell a word using notes. A list of notes you can spell on the staff can be found here.  This game can be played in multiple ways:

1. The teacher writes the word in notes, students must identify the note names to spell the word.

2. The teacher spells the word below the staff, the student must write the word in notes.

3. Students can think of their own words to spell & write on the staff using the musical alphabet.


Interval Matching

I introduce seconds and thirds to all my beginner students, because I believe it really improves their sightreading confidence from the get go. It’s as simple as pointing out seconds move from line to space or vice versa, and thirds move from space to space or line to line. This game is a fun way to practice these skills.

After introducing your students to a few intervals, your student can learn to play them on their instrument! Ask your student not to look at their hands (if on a piano, cover their view of their hand with a piece of paper or book), and give them either written or verbal direction on where they should move. For example, tell your student to move “up a second” or “down a third”. 

To make it more challenging, draw on your whiteboard / manuscript the interval so your student has to read the interval, not just hear it. 


Draw What You Hear

On a whiteboard, or piece of paper, ask your student to draw the melodic contour of the song you will play for them. We recommend starting with a popular song the student knows well (one with a vocalist), then go onto classical styles or songs they are currently practicing. This enables students to visualise the music, and recognise the shape of a melodic line that matches what they hear. 

We encourage all teachers to have their students practice visually tracking notes by following along with the sheet music while listening to a new song.


Major or Minor / Bigger or Smaller

A physical game, that can be adapted into multiple different mini-games. Play Major or Minor chords, and tell your student to crouch if they hear a Minor chord, and jump if they hear a Major chord. Play these chords as broken chords to challenge your student if it becomes too easy.

Then, play two phrases, ask the student to crouch if the second phrase is “smaller” than the first, or jump if the second phrase is “bigger” than the first. By smaller or bigger, we mean if the interval is larger or smaller. Keep one key note as an anchor for the student to listen for. For example, play a third (C to E) then a second (C to D), or a fifth (G to D) then an octave (G to G).


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