Ear Training, Games, Group Classes, Rhythm

Swat-A-Rhythm Game (With Variations)

At last Saturday’s Piano Party with my students, we played a fun game that I call the Swat-A-Rhythm game.  I have seen many variations of this game on various forums and websites, so I am not sure who to credit with the original idea.  In any case, I will describe the way I played this game with my students.  :)  I also have some ideas for varying the game for concepts besides rhythm — such as notes, intervals, melodies, and terms.

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Swat-A-Rhythm Game (& Variations­)

Materials:

  • A fly swatter for each student.  My local Dollar Tree store is currently selling some colorful fly swatters for 2/$1.00.
  • 5-8 different cards with rhythm examples.  (If you don’t already have some, I have a pdf of rhythm cards available for purchase here in my shop.
  • Bug cards (optional), for keeping track of points.

Gameplay:

Spread the rhythm cards out on the floor, within reach of each player.  After the teacher finishes clapping the rhythm on one of the cards, the first student to swat the correct card earns a bug card.  The player with the most bugs at the end of the game is the winner.  (Note: You may wish to stress that anyone who swats before the teacher finishes clapping the rhythm cannot win the point.)

I’ve created a free pdf with the bug cards and game instructions.  You can download it on the Printables > Games page, by scrolling down to the S’s for Swat-A-Rhythm Game.

It is sometimes challenging to come up with good aural-based games, but I think this one is a winner!  My students had fun with the colorful fly swatters, and the game provided an incentive to listen closely to the rhythm.

Variations:

  • Swat-A-Note – The teacher calls out a letter of the musical alphabet, and students must swat the flashcard with the correct note on the staff.  Or, do it backwards: Hold up a staff note-naming flashcard, and students swat cards that say A, B, C, D, E, F, or G.  (If you need some alphabet cards, click here.)
  • Swat-A-Piano-Key – After the teacher calls out a letter, students swat the corresponding piano key flashcard.  Or, the teacher holds up a piano key flashcard and students swat cards that say A, B, C, D, E, F, or G.  (If you need some piano key cards, click here.)
  • Swat-An-Interval – After the teacher plays an interval on the piano, the students swat the interval card they heard.
  • Swat-A-Melody – Cut a short piece of sheet music into two-measure pieces.  The teacher plays random sections on the piano, and students must swat which two-measure section they heard.
  • Swat-A-Term — After the teacher reads a definition of a musical term, students must swat the card with the correct term.

I hope your students enjoy this fun, versatile game!

Ear Training, Early Childhood Music, Performances, Printables

Listening Sheet for Young Students

As I mentioned last week, during my recent Piano Party/recital rehearsal I gave a listening sheet to my young beginners to complete as they listened to their fellow students perform.  Here’s what it looked like:

I put each sheet in a plastic sheet protector and gave them a dry erase marker with a piece of felt so they could re-use the sheet for each piece they heard.  It worked pretty well — my students were very attentive and really liked telling me about what they circled between pieces!

This worksheet would also work well for private lessons or group classes with beginner students to use while listening to recordings — like Carnival of the Animals, or whatever.

I do wish the sheet protector cleaned off a little better.  The ones I used have kind of a matte surface…maybe I need to get some of the thicker, shiny ones?  Or try laminating?

Anyway, my students really enjoyed this listening sheet!  I found the clip art on some various public domain clip art sites.  You could easily design your own the same way.  Or if you’d like to download mine, visit the Printables > Worksheets page and scroll down to the L’s for “Listening Sheet for Young Students.”

P.S.:  As requested, I added a page to the Rhythm Value Cards pdf: three beamed eighth note cards for use in compound time signatures.  (Thanks for catching that, Bee!)

Ear Training, Games, Group Classes, Music Camps, Printables, Rhythm

Just Added: The Rhythm Magnet Game

Here’s a fun movement/rhythm game to play with a group of students which I learned from a Dalcroze Eurhythmics instructor.  I call it the “Rhythm Magnet Game.”

The great thing about this game is that it helps students learn to associate the sound/experience of each rhythm value with it’s corresponding notation.  In Dalcroze and other methodologies (such as Orff), it’s important to experience the concept first and then put the notation and term to it.  This is the “sound before sight” principle.

The Rhythm Magnet Game

Background: This game is best intended for young children (preschool to beginner piano students).  Older students, however, may also find this game beneficial as an rhythm ear training experience and a lesson in keeping an internal pulse.  For this activity to be a success, students must have experience with the idea of quarter notes, half notes, dotted half notes, and/or whole notes (but not necessarily with the terms or written notation for each).  This game is perfect activity for teaching little ones to associate each rhythm value to its corresponding notation for the first time.

  1. Prepare by placing the quarter note poster, the half note poster, and the whole note poster at a different corners of the room.  Make a show of it (without much talking) so students watch to see where you are putting each note value.
  2. Instruct students: “Move towards what you hear.”
  3. Help the students establish the beat by patting their hands against their thighs.  Improvise simple ditties/chords on the piano.  Students must listen to identify whether you are playing quarter notes, half notes, etc. to the beat you’ve established with them.
  4. Once the students have moved to the correct corner of the room, change to another note value (with younger children, you may also call “Change!” to help alert them).  When/if students get confused or begin guessing, encourage them to “Find the beat!” so they can figure out the note value.  Continue this process until students get the hang of it.  If students run or get rowdy while moving towards each note value, instruct them to “step the beat” as they move around the room.
  5. Make the game more difficult by adding gradually adding the other note value posters, and by making changes more frequently.  Also, to add a twist mid-way through the activity, try mixing up the posters to new corners/areas of the room.

Students playing this game will soon discover that without checking with the pulse, they cannot determine which note value they are hearing.  This game is a great movement game to get students up and moving during a group lesson!  Have fun!!

To download the rhythm value posters you’ll need for this game, visit the the Printables > Games page and scroll down to the R’s for “Rhythm Magnet Game.”  Enjoy!

Ear Training, Practice, Reading Notation, repertoire / methods, Teaching Piano

Introducing Students to New Pieces

The first look at a new piece is crucial.  As accomplished pianists/teachers, we automatically know to scan the piece to check the time signature, key signature, texture, composer, title, etc. before playing through a piece.  Of course, we were trained to go through those steps before sightreading through a piece.

Before having students sightread, what do you say/do with them to introduce a new piece?  I’d love to hear your ideas.

Here’s some things I’ve tried: Continue reading “Introducing Students to New Pieces”

Ear Training, Games, Group Classes, Music Camps, Printables

Just Added: “Listen & Sign” Game Printable

Just added to the Printables page: “The Listen & Sign Game.”

This printable corresponds to the game originally described in this post – a game I used in a Piano Mini-Camp held about a month ago.  Continue reading “Just Added: “Listen & Sign” Game Printable”

Ear Training, Games, Group Classes, Music Camps, Music Theory, Printables, Rhythm

Music Theory at our Piano Mini-Camp (3/3)

In continuation of a description of the music theory activities at our Piano Mini-Camp a few weeks ago, here are more details concerning the activities we used:

Rhythm Dictation Game

This rhythm dictation game by Natalie was a real hit with the students!  I printed off two sets of cards and put the students into groups of two so that they could work together.  Here’s how the game works:

  • Instruct the students to sort/spread out the cards on the floor so they can see the different rhythmic value options.
  • Clap a rhythm for the students.  Instruct them to listen and be able to clap it back to you before beginning to dictate the rhythm using the cards.  This may take a few listens before they can clap it back accurately.
  • Tell students to work together within their team to dictate the rhythm using the cards.

I tried to clap rhythms according to the approximate level of the groups of students I was teaching, and increased the difficulty of each rhythm as they became accustomed to the process.  I also tried to vary the time signatures between 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4.  I kept the rhythms to just 2 measures long, unless we were in 2/4 time or unless the students were more advanced.

I think it’s important to have the students be able to clap the rhythm back in its entirety before beginning to dictate it using the cards, because it helps increase their musical memory.  Otherwise, they will dictate only 1 or 2 beats at a time, and constantly be asking you to “do it again!”  If they can remember it themselves, they can then re-clap it to themselves as needed as they work on dictating it. Continue reading “Music Theory at our Piano Mini-Camp (3/3)”

Composition, Ear Training, improving as a teacher, Resources, Teaching Piano

Value of Teaching to Play By Ear

A couple weeks ago, I posted a list of melodies that work well assign piano students to take home and learn to play by ear.  Over at ComposeCreate.com, Wendy Stevens talks about the value of teaching students to play by ear during a lecture she gave, Composition for Kids: Time-Saving Ways to Teach Composition in your Studio. (If you haven’t already, you really should check out the entire series of videos she has posted — they contain some very practical ways to encourage and teach composition in the piano lesson.)

Wendy also created a great handout that you can give to your students, to assign them tunes to play by ear, harmonize it, transpose it, and do something creative with it.  This handout is available on this post (the link to the actual handout is located just underneath the video).  Be sure to check it out!

Ear Training, improving as a teacher, Resources

Playing-By-Ear Activities

Learning to play by ear is one of the most natural ways to develop the ear – and one of the most fun!  Below are some lists of familiar tunes you can assign at the lesson for the student to learn to play by ear.  I found this valuable information about playing-by-ear activities to assign students in the book, Professional Piano Teaching, by Jeanne Jacobson.   I hope you find this information as useful as I did. 

What to tell the student:

  1. Where to begin.  Example: “Start with finger 3 on Middle C.”
  2. The first interval.  Example: “The first interval is a fourth.”
  3. Which keys they will use to play the song.  Example: “You will be using the notes A, B, and C.” Continue reading “Playing-By-Ear Activities”
Ear Training, Music Theory

Link: www.musictheory.net

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Here’s a link for you……www.musictheory.net  

This interactive site offers music theory tutorials, ear trainers, and other misc resources in a clear, helpful manner.  I found this site extremely helpful when I was taking 4 semesters of Aural Comprehension during my Freshman and Sophomore years.  I’d recommend it to anyone wishing to increase their ear training skills.  I still visit it every now and then to brush up on my skills.   

This is a great site for students of all ages, because many of the trainers are adjustable.  For example, there is a trainer for practicing key signatures.  If you go into “Settings,” you can choose exactly which key signatures you wish to be quizzed on, and leave the others unselected.  

What a great resource for music teachers and students!