Orange Julius Musical Recipe

This is an activity that I have done quite a few times with general music classes.  It would also be fun for a group piano lesson.  Students name notes to decode the Orange Julius Recipe.  After they have it figured out, we simply dump the ingredients into a blender, mix ’em up, and enjoy.  I sometimes review various tempi when turning the blender from lower to higher speeds.  Students love this activity, and I have to admit, I do, too!

Orange Julius

Piano is Fun

There are so many wonderful computer programs to use with music students, but this one is by far my favorite.  Piano is Fun is a program that teaches note reading, and it really is fun!  The program is only $29.95 and worth every penny, in my humble opinion.


There are 20 lessons in this game, and notes are gradually introduced.  Students first itentify the notes by letter name, then do so on the keyboard as in the picture above.  After the lessons have been finished, students then progress to the Bronze, Silver, and Gold medals.  In these challenges, the notes go by, and the screen flips randomly from the keyboard to letter names.  The Bronze and Silver medals are pretty easy to get, but the Gold medal is pretty hard.  I can do it, but I have to concentrate!  I am more than satisfied when my students earn the Silver medal.  If they do get the Gold, I give them a gift certificate to their favorite restraunt.

You can go to the Piano is Fun website to see a video of the game in action, and to download the game.

This is such an effective tool that I will have students take 5 minutes out of their lesson to complete a level.  I don’t do it all the time, but it is a regular part of my note reading arsenol of activities.  It also works well for siblings who are waiting for their turn.  I don’ t have a computer lab or anything like that yet.  Students simply play this one game on my laptop in the piano studio.

Landmark Lines Note Flashcards

I have a couple of students that are struggling a bit with quickly naming the notes.  To help them, I combined some ideas of Kevin Coan, Rebecca, and Cecilly from the Yahoo Piano Teacher’s list, and came up with these flashcards.  Each note’s nearest landmark line or space is highlighted so the student can quickly (I hope!) identify the name and play the note on the piano.  Once they can do that quickly, I will wean them to regular flashcards. 

These flashcards range from the F just below the bass staff to the G above the treble staff.  If there is interest, I will extend them to the notes above and below high and low C.  For now, though, I think these will work great for my students. 

Don’t worry if the lines of the staff don’t look quite straight on the computer screen.  They print out just fine, I promise!

Landmark Lines Note FlashcardsLandmark Lines Note Name Flashcards

Halloween Games

There has been some great discussion on the Yahoo Piano Teachers list about games for Halloween.  Well, thinking up games is much more fun than completing the homework for the class I need to renew my teaching certificate, so here you are! 

The first game is Trick or Treat.  Print off the Pumpkin Rhythm Cards, and place in a Halloween candy bucket.  If the student picks a rhythm, it is a “trick” and they must clap it correctly.  If they draw out a pumpkin that is says “treat” they get to pick a treat from the candy stash.  If you want to, you can print the reverse side on the back of the pumpkin cards, making for games that are a bit more commercial-looking.  That way, when you cut them out there will be an image on the front and back of each card.  There is also a blank pumpkin page so you can customize the game.

Pumpkin Rhythm Cards

Pumpkin Cards – Blank

Pumpkin Cards – Reverse Side

The next game is Candy Corn Note Match. Cut apart all of the sections, and have the students match up the note on the staff, note on the keyboard, and letter name. This can be done individually or in groups, and can be competitive or not in nature. Once again, there is a blank Candy Corn page if you’d like to make your own game. I think it would be great for terms – the abbreviation, Italian word, and definition.

Candy Corn Note Match

 Candy Corn Blanks

Now, I’m going to finish writing about the Flores Consent order and Lau vs. Nichols. Really. No more procrastinating…at least for today! 😉

Lets Have a Spelling Bee!

This is another of Sharon’s great ideas. I used Natalie’s list of words that can be spelled with the musical alphabet at to make these cards. One side is the word spelled on the staff, and the other side is the word written out. All words are spelled in both clefs. The lines of the staff don’t look perfect on my computer screen, but they print out beautifully.

Line students line up in 2 teams and have students try to say the word before the other team. Another variation is to show the word side of the card and have students write the word on staff paper or a white board. They could work individually, or race against each other. This would be a great game for a group lesson.  To use in an individual lesson, have students play the words that are spelled on the keyboard.  Maybe they could use a couple of their favorite words to begin their own composition.

Post any other ideas of how to use the cards in the comments below!

Word Flashcards

Word Flashcards





Great Games for Note Reading

This idea came from Natalie on the Yahoo Piano Teacher’s List, and I just had to post it here as well. These are some great ways to teach note reading that I can’t wait to try with my students. Read on for Natalie’s instructions:

“I just learned how to make note reading FUN! Kids forget it’s theory
and learn quickly through enjoying the game.

Are you dreading teaching identification of notes on the staff? How
would you make that fun?

Well, I just figured out a great way and thought I would pass it
along to the rest of the teachers in the world!

Materials Needed:

1. Construction paper for cutting out quarter notes and half notes

2. Either a plastic table cloth (plain) or anything that the permanent
marker can write on and is large enough to walk on.


Draw a staff on your plastic table cloth with the permanent marker
large enough to fit your foot in-between the spaces and large enough
to see your feet standing together on the line.

Draw a treble cleff to resemble learning notes on the staff in the
RIGHT hand.

On construction paper draw quarter notes and half notes. Quarter
notes are in Black, half notes are in white. Or you can make all
notes quarter notes and just use different colors. Make notes large
enough to put on the huge staff on the table cloth. Write letter
names of the musical scale on each note. Laminate so they last longer.

NOW, there are three different games you can play with this:

GAME ONE: Jumping in spaces and on lines. Yell out a letter and both
of you jump on the right note. Say the corresponding word (ex.
E=Every B=Boy Etc.) Start at the bottom and go up, and then challenge
going backwords. If jumping becomes tiring you can just step. IF note
name is incorrectly given, you must start over from the beginning.
When student can get all the way through without your helf, a prize
will be given if wanted.

FACE rhymes with SPACE! Do the same thing as you would for the lines.

Make it challenging by mixing up lines and spaces.

GAME 2: Have student choose a note on the piano and then have them
find it on the huge staff. Have the pick up a quarter note or half
note out of the pile next to the staff (it has to have the right note
name) and place it on the staff. Then have them replay it. For young
children guide them to pick notes from middle C above. For older
students you can create a Bass staff as well as a treble staff and
they can choose notes from all over.

Winning Game 2: When all notes have been correctly placed a prize
will be given.

GAME 3: Make a song from the notes and then have student try and play it on
the piano. If all notes are placed correctly and student plays
correctly then they win!

These games are fun played in groups and children would love this
playing with their friends.

THIS WORKS!!! One of my young students already is extremely familiar
with the note names on the staff and ENJOYS this activity. You’ll
love watching the kids have fun and be excited they are learning it
so quickly.”

Thanks Natalie for these great ideas!

Cecilly’s Christmas Tree Landmark Game and Variations

OrnamentsThis GREAT game idea was posted by Cecilly on the Yahoo Piano Teacher’s List. I have made up some ornaments with landmarks, and several variations that you can use.



Ornaments with Landmarks

All Notes on the Staff

Key Signatures

Simple Intervals

Letter Names – including sharps and flats

Christmas Stockings with Letter Names – Just for something different!

Here are Cecilly’s directions:

Just a quick mention of another of my off the bench activities, this one to reinforce my Celebrate Piano student’s landmarks (Bass C, Bass F, Mid. C, Treble G, and Treble C).

It’s a “Swat the Landmark” game.

Materials needed:

1. Flashcards of each landmark note

2. Timer

3. Flyswatter (with a hole cut out of the center so you can see the card it’s slapped on)

To play: lay out all the cards face up randomly on the floor. Seat player on the floor in front of cards with flyswatter in hand. You control the timer. Set timer for 60 seconds (I use a 1 min. egg timer). At “go” you call out a landmark by name after which the student slaps at the corresponding flash card. If correct, a point is earned, if wrong a point is deducted. Immediately after a slap, call out “correct” or “error” then the name of another landmark. Names may be repeated. See how many points can be earned in 1 min. time. Slapping too hastily (and often incorrectly) will hurt the player’s total. Record their base score and then on subsequent playings, try to beat that score.

Just for fun during this holiday time, I’ve made a large simply
shaped Christmas tree cut out of green poster board. I’ve mounted it on my wall with poster putty, and then am going to mount the landmark cards randomly on the tree (like ornaments) also with poster putty. The student can then stand up to play the game. Fun fun.

Some other variations:

1. Play an interval at the piano and having the student “swat” the correct interval.

2. Show a flashcard of a note, chord, key signature, or whatever. Great for players of different levels.

Christmas Tree Folder Game

With it’s several variations, this is a great game for Christmas group lessons where students are of different levels. A Christmas tree is adorned with musical alphabet ornaments. “Decorate” the tree by matching either the note on the keyboard, bass clef note, treble clef note, or key signature to the tree. Can be played individually as well as in a group.

Christmas Tree Folder Game

Christmas Tree Folder Game





Color Coded Landmark Interval Cards

This idea came from Cecilly, one of the most creative, inspirational piano teachers out there. The flashcards have all of the landmark notes, followed by a 2nd’s and 3rd’s above and below.  They are color coded as well – the bass landmarks are green and the treble are blue.  The cards are rather large – 2 cards per page, so they work will with group classes as well.  I printed mine front and back on heavy card stock.

To print these 4 cards to a page, do the following:
1. Click on Print
2. Go to Page Scaling
3. Choose Print Multiple Pages Per Sheet
4. Put a 2 in the box for number of pages per sheet
5. You’ll get a nice preview of what it will look like
6. Push the print button, and you’re done!

Color Coded Landmark Interval CardsColor Coded Landmark Interval Cards




Tic -Tac-Toe Game and Variations

These are the first of the soon-to-be many tic-tac-toe variations. I love the idea of using tic-tac-toe instead of Bingo cards, since it is much faster to get through a game. Perfect for an off the bench activity during a lesson. There are 12 different cards in each set, making them ideal for group or individual lessons.

Directions for Tic-Tac-Toe (2 players)

  1. Print out the cards
  2. Print 2 copies of the last page (the answer cards,) each on a different color of paper. Green and blue, for example.
  3. Give each student a set of the colored answer cards. Two students play on the same “master board.”
  4. All of the answer cards are face up. Student #1 picks a green answer card and places it on the corresponding square. Student #2 picks a blue answer square and places it on the square. Continue in this manner until one of the students has three in a row of their color.


  1. Play the same way with the answer cards face down. If a student picked one that their opponent already had on the game board, they would just draw again. This would make it more random.
  2. Play like a traditional Bingo game, with each student having their own card and bingo chips. The teacher has the “answer” cards and calls out the notes. This is a good alternative to a bingo game with 25 squares, because it can be played much faster.

Thanks to Sharon for this great idea!

Tic-Tac-ToeLandmark Tic-Tac-Toe
Middle C Position Tic-Tac-Toe
Note Name Tic-Tac-Toe (Low C to High C)
Key Signature Tic-Tac-Toe