Whether it’s group piano lessons or private lessons, it’s always helpful to have some piano lesson game ideas to play. Piano lesson games are a great teaching tool for beginners because it keeps them engaged in the lesson while also teaching important concepts.
Here are 18 piano lesson game ideas for beginners.
- Note Going Up, Notes Going Down
- Rhythm Bowling Game
- Piano Pattern Frenzy
- Magic Piano For iPad
- Rhythm Creation Contest
- Scale Improvisation
- Rhythm Cup Game
- Playing Scales With Drum Sound Effects
- Musical Chairs
- Interval Matching
- Musical Alphabet Game
- Piano Darts
- Telling Stories Based On The Melody
- Flashcard Speed Timer
- Symbol Matching Game
- Finding The Relative Rhythms
- Ear Training – Melodic Dictation
- Note Wizard
The best part about all of these games is that they are fun to play. Each of them incorporates concepts that are crucial to the development of a good pianist. While many of these games are geared toward elementary level students, each can be adjusted for older kids. Let’s start off with the note coloring game.
1. Notes Going Up, Notes Going Down
I actually got this game idea from some of the piano lesson books I use with my beginners. This game is a simple and effective way to teach students how to see the direction notes are moving within a measure.
This game teaches the concepts of intervals and finger independence if used correctly. To play you’ll need two teams of students, each trying to be the first to correctly color the direction of the notes.
For this to be most effective, you should start off with a recognizable pitch in the grand staff. Try to keep each pitch within the staff as you draw the notes going up and down. It also helps to create music that utilizes five-finger positions as well.
Here’s how to play this game with a group of students
- Choose a starting pitch that your students will recognize within the grand staff.
- Using a whiteboard or paper, create 4 measures of notes going up and going down from the original starting pitch for each group of students.
- Next select two colors for the students to use. One color should be for the notes going up, and one color should be for the notes going down
- Start a countdown and have both teams begin at the same time.
- The first team to correctly color each of the notes wins the game.
- The last step is to have each student come to the piano and play what they colored in.
2. Rhythm Bowling Game
Rhythm bowling is a fun game that involves fast-paced thinking. To play this game all you need is a toy ball or basketball, and a set of bowling pins. I like to use empty orange juice containers as my bowling pins.
On each container, you should draw one note, rhythm, or rest. Draw it on a sheet of paper, and then glue it to the orange juice container so that it will stick.
The next step is to set up the containers on the floor much like you would at a bowling alley. Set your students up in teams and have each member bowl one at a time.
When a student bowls, the team should collect the pins that were knocked over. Their job now is to place those pins in any random order to form one long rhythm. After looking over their pins, have that group clap their rhythm.
If they clap the rhythm correctly they’ll be given two points. However, if they have mistakes, the other team will be awarded the opportunity to clap the same rhythm and potentially steal their two points!
Young pianists really love this game, and it does get quite competitive. This is a great way to teach some elements of rhythmic composition and sight reading quickly. By the way, if you’re interested in how to improve sight reading, check out this article.
3. Piano Pattern Frenzy
This is a great piano game that focuses on ear training. Students who play this game will develop stronger relative pitch recognition. You can play this game with an individual student, but it works best with group classes.
First draw at least 10 groups of note patterns on the board. To keep it simple for beginners, I like to keep them no longer than 6 notes each and try to stay away from sharps and flats.
Next, sit at the piano and choose a pattern to play from the board at random. Play the pattern twice and give your students a few moments to process what their hearing.
The student’s task is to figure out which pattern the teacher performed. If they select the correct pattern they get three points. If they select the wrong pattern they are given one more chance to figure it out and will get two points. If they still can’t figure it out, they’ll get no points!
4. Magic Piano For iPad
Technology and music really do work together in 2019. A game that I’ve found to be fun to play is the Magic Piano for iPad, you can check it out here.
While this game doesn’t involve any actual note reading, it does keep students very well engaged with music. The app is loaded with tons of popular songs from many Classical composers like Beethoven and Bach.
On top of that, there are popular songs available in the app. To play the game requires quite a bit of hand-eye coordination, and each piece has a learning curve to it.
5. Rhythm Creation Contest
Composing is a big part of playing the piano, and not enough teachers are incorporating it into their lessons. This is why I encourage you to play this game with your students that involve rhythm creation.
The student who has the most popular rhythm wins. To aid in the creation of their rhythms, the teacher needs to supply a pool of rhythms, rests, note durations and more to choose from.
I find it easiest to do this by just purchasing some rhythm flashcards like these, and then sticking them into a cup. Each student is asked to come up and pick out 5 of those flashcards, and then it’s their job to create an amazing rhythm from that.
The interesting twist I add to this game is a rhythm exchange. Students are given a chance to exchange some or all of their flashcards with another student to create something truly unique. After 10 minutes or so everyone will clap each other’s rhythms and then vote at the end for their favorite rhythm.
6. Scale Improvisation
Depending on what stage a beginner pianist is at, they should be learning the fundamentals of scales early on. At the same time, there should be some emphasis on the performance aspects of scales, not just the technical part.
This is where scale improvisation comes in handy. I recommend doing this in private lessons. Start the student off with a simple C major scale. Now ask them to play the scale backward.
After that have them choose 4 notes from the scale and play them in any random order. Next, encourage the student to mix up the rhythms. Maybe some of them can be half notes, while the others are quarter notes. While they play it’s a good idea to accompany them on I IV V I harmonies.
This exercise is great for getting a student’s eyes off the page and into the keys. It will help them understand how they can maneuver within the tones of the scale, and create some pretty awesome music!
7. Rhythm Cup Game
This is a popular game for many musicians, not just pianists. To get started you’ll need a set of plastic cups for each student. On a sheet of paper draw out four lines worth of rhythms, and make sure each line is at least eight measures long. This will total out to 32 measures.
Every two measures, the students should rotate cups with one another without breaking the flow of the rhythm.
For beginners the need to tap the bottom of the cup for quarter notes.nFor half notes, they drop the cup on the table and hold it for the duration of two beats. For rests, students simply hold the cup up without tapping or dropping it down.
When it’s time to switch students will do so on the last beat of each second measure. For example, if the piece were in 4/4 then they would pass just after tapping beat for.
Check out this video for an example of how this game can work for your piano students.
8. Playing Scales With Drum Sound Effects
Playing scales on a normal piano can get a little boring for some students. A great way to test their ears though is to change the sound effects they play with. Many keyboards like this one by Alesis will be perfect for the job. It’s a keyboard that has plenty of sound effects to choose from, including a drum library which you can use for this activity.
Whichever keyboard you use, make sure that it uses hammer action or weighted keys to better simulate what an acoustic piano can do. There is a difference between weighted and hammer action which I go into detail about here.
Students might struggle initially trying to play scales while hearing toms, cymbals, snares, and other sounds instead of pitches.
Over time though, they’ll get used to recognizing which specific drum tones and sounds produce certain results. This activity is a great way to test a beginner pianists knowledge of the basic scale finger patterns as well!
9. Musical Chairs
What seems like just another ordinary childhood game is actually quite beneficial for beginner piano players. Musical chairs are pretty straightforward. You set chairs up in a large space with all of the backs lined up against one another in a circle.
Turn on the music (in this case, play the piano) and the students should begin walking around the chairs. Pick a random place in the music to stop playing and it’s up to the students to find an open seat.
Whoever doesn’t find themselves a seat is out, and the game continues until only one chair remains.
This is just a fun game to mix up group lessons, but it’s also an opportunity to expose your students to new repertoire. When I play this game, I’ll sometimes play Beethoven Sonatas or even some of the music my beginner students are playing.
A neat way to incorporate theory into this game is to tell the students you’ll be stopping on every half cadence and perfect authentic cadence. This will teach them to how to anticipate which harmonies are coming up and is a great ear training tool.
10. Interval Matching
Recognizing intervals is a basic skill that all beginner piano students should be able to do. In order to become faster at the skill, you can turn it into an interval matching game.
To turn this into a game simply involves some custom interval cards that you can make on your own. One set of cards will have the intervals written as musical notation. The other cards will have the interval and direction; for example, it’ll read “up a second” or “down a third”
Have the student close their eyes so they can’t see the keys you are playing. Next play a random selection of intervals. Start off simple with seconds and thirds and see how many they can correctly identify and match up with their cards.
For beginners, it’s a better idea to play the intervals broken in the first round and have them match those first. Later in the exercise, you can play the blocked intervals and have them match those up.
11. Musical Alphabet Game
The musical alphabet is one of the first things a beginner will learn about the piano. This game revolves around the 7 letters of the piano; A,B,C,D,E,F, and G.
The version of the game I play involves using dice, but I find that a large cardboard box works better. Simply tape up the box and label each side of the box with a letter from the musical alphabet.
The thing I love about this game is that you can teach many different concepts out of it.
The first option is to roll the dice and then have the students read through a sheet of music finding all the different instances where that musical note is located. That’s a good training exercise for sight reading and quick note recognition.
Depending on how many notes are in the piece, you’ll want to put them on a timer of 30 seconds or less just to keep the game moving along.
The next game you can play with the dice is to roll it twice and then have the students identify what the interval is between the two notes they ended up on. If the student rolls the same letter twice, then they simply will call it an octave.
Another option is to roll the dice and have your students play major and minor triads or major and minor scales from the note they land on.
If you’re looking for a versatile piano game for beginners, this is one that I highly recommend.
12. Piano Darts
A great way to test a beginner pianists knowledge is by having them perform random musical tasks. To do this in a fun and competitive way, I use a game called piano darts.
All you need to play this game is a dart board; I recommend using this soft tip one. On the dartboard, you’ll attach a few index cards, each with a musical concept for the student to identify.
This can be a set of notes, the musical alphabet, dynamics, and even passages from their own repertoire if you’re trying to test out their memory.
To make this competitive, set up a points system and split your group students into teams. My favorite thing about this game is that it’s quick to set up, and it gets the students moving around the room and not just sitting in front of the keyboard the entire lesson.
13. Telling Stories Based On The Melody
A big part of artistry in music revolves around a creative mindset. When you hear a professional pianist play a Beethoven Sonata, and then hear another pianist play it, you may notice just how different their interpretations are.
This is why I encourage my students to be creative and apply stories and different moods to the repertoire their playing. If the music is full of minor chords, then I’ll ask them to describe how it makes them feel.
Often times they’ll respond by saying it sounds dark, or sad. From there I ask them to basically create a script. We grab a piece of paper, pencil, and start adding different scenes depending on what the music is doing at the time.
It’s a good idea to do this in a group setting because not all beginner pianists will have the same interpretations of the music. Start off with something rather short; maybe 16 measures long.
Try to use a piece of music that has very clear contrasting sections and cadences. The best kind of music to use would probably be from the standard repertoire, but it’s okay to play pieces from piano method books too.
When playing for the students, it’s a good idea to break the piece into sections. Play the first couple of measures and then have them write, and then after that play a few more measures.
At the end of the exercise let them read their stories to the class while you play. This is a cool exercise because it comes across as a narrated musical play!
14. Flashcard Speed Timer
This is an activity I start off each lesson with. The object of the game is simple; correctly identify the musical notes on each flashcard.
I set up a timer and give the student as many chances as they need to get the answer correct. Each week add their time to the top of their assignment sheet or their notebook and keep track.
The goal of the activity is to get faster and beat their previous weeks time.
15. Symbol Matching Game
All matching games follow a similar format. You can apply much of the same ideas from the interval matching game, although I find this game to be much easier to start with and it’s more engaging.
Make up a set of 16 index cards, all labeled with musical symbols beginners should know. Include everything from sharps, flats, rests, dynamics, and even tempo markings into this game.
Next, use a whiteboard and create two columns with 8 rows each. Write down the name of the symbols on the board and make sure they match up with the cards your piano student has.
Next, give the student some tape and put them on a timer of at least 5 minutes. See how quickly they can stick the correct index card to match up with the terms you’ve written on the board.
16. Finding The Relative Rhythms
Relative rhythm recognition is an important skill that pianists should have from the start.
For example, students should be thinking much deeper about half notes being made up of two-quarter notes, or a whole note being worth 8 eighth notes. Like many of the other games here, this can be done with points, colors, flashcards, or even on the whiteboard.
17. Ear Training – Melodic Dictation
A great ear training game I play with my students focuses on melodic dictation. We call it the Sticker Quest game. Here’s how it works.
The piano student will be given four lines worth of measures. Each one is already prepared with one note in the first measure for each line. The student will listen for the piano teacher to play the first note, and then the very next note.
It’s up to the student to figure out which note teacher is playing. Once all of the notes are played, simply check their work. The student wins a sticker for each correct note that they dictated using only their ears!
To make this game run smoothly, I recommend only using intervals of a second or third until they become more advanced listeners.
18. Note Wizard
Want to add a little magical flavor to your piano lessons? If so then Note Wizard is the game to play.
The goal of the game is to help the note wizard travel from one end of the piano to the next. You can use a wizard action figure like this one, or even use an eraser to play this game.
The Note Wizard will start on a random note of the teachers choice, it doesn’t have to be the end of the keyboard.
Next, the students will need to correctly identify which interval given to them by the piano teacher. For example, if the Note Wizard started on middle C and the instruction is to move down a fourth, then they would need to move him down to G.
As the teacher calls out the intervals the wizard will need to eventually find his way to the top of the keyboard.
If the student places the Note Wizard on the wrong note, then they automatically must move downward an interval of a fifth. If the student runs out of keys then the game is over!