5 Off-Bench Activities for Piano Lessons

It’s a well-known truth that children learn best through play, and we can take advantage of that bit of knowledge and use a variety of activities during piano lessons to keep things fresh, engaging, and most of all, fun!

Little girl composing a song during her piano lesson

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These activities can be used both in-person, and online with a few modifications, so they’re ideal for a variety of teaching situations. They’re also great for groups!

Music Note Memory Match

Music note memory match is a favorite game of many of my students! They love showing me how well they can remember where the matching cards are, and they enjoy the challenge of discovering a card with a new symbol or term.

Materials Needed

  • Empty floor space or a whiteboard
  • Small magnets if you use the whiteboard
  • Music note memory match cards. These can be as simple as index cards with notes on the staff written on half of the cards, and the corresponding letters written on the other half.
  • Tip: Print these flash cards single-sided to use as memory match cards.

Getting Started

  • Shuffle the cards and lay them face down on the floor or attach them to your whiteboard with small magnets.

How to Play

  • Your student chooses 2 cards to see if they are a match (Is the letter a match to the note on the staff?, for example).
  • If there’s a match, the student goes again. If not, it’s the teacher’s turn.
  • The teacher chooses 2 cards, and if they match, go again. If not, it’s the student’s turn.
  • Continue playing until all the cards have been matched.

Alternate Rules

  • Your student plays alone and you don’t take any turns.
  • See how many matches a student can find in a specific length of time.
  • This is a fun challenge, and a great way to truly see how well they know the notes on the staff!

 

Young piano student playing music note memory match

 

Piano Key Twister

My students love playing Twister on my giant vinyl floor keyboard during piano lessons. Even though they don’t have a giant floor keyboard at home, they can still play a smaller version of this game with a few modifications, including using the student’s piano and their fingers instead of a floor staff and their hands and feet.

Materials Needed

  • The student’s piano keys or a printed version of a piano keyboard.
  • The DecideNow app for iPad, preset with “Twister” type instructions. For example, RH 1 on G, LH 3 on F, etc. If the student is learning enharmonics, this is an excellent review game!

Getting Started

How to Play

  • Spin the DecideNow app spinner. You can screen share the app with your online students if you like, so they can see what the spinner options are. This makes it even more fun!
  • Whatever the spinner lands on is what your student will do. “RH 1 on G” means your student will place right hand finger 1 on any G and leave it there while continuing the game.
  • Continue spinning and playing until your student runs out of fingers or misses an answer.

Alternate Rules

  • When playing online, you can take turns instead of having your student play alone. Both versions of this game work well!
  • If you have a giant floor keyboard, you can have multiple students play at the same time, like the brother and sister you see below.

 

Young piano students playing piano key twister

 

Composing on the Giant Floor Staff

My students love composing with our silicone or printable notes and rests on my giant floor staff, then performing their composition on Boomwhackers.

This is an easy activity that can be adapted for online piano lessons, even if the student doesn’t have a giant floor staff or Boomwhackers in their home.

Materials Needed

  • NoteFlight.com online music notation website (there’s a free version if you want to try it for free), OR blank staff paper, OR digital staff paper that you have imported to your iPad.
  • DecideNow App for iPad preset with the letters A through G and the notes values of your choice: Whole note, half note, quarter note, etc.
  • OR two paper spinners, one with notes and one with note values that you’ve created and sent to your student. The student can use a pencil and paperclip as the spinner. Here are some pre-made sets that are customizable.
  • Ability to share your screen with your student through your online teaching platform, whether Zoom, ROLL, or something else.

Getting Started

  • Get your preferred staff paper and spinners ready.
  • In NoteFlight, you can select “Note”, then “Note Name” from the menu to put letters in the note heads for beginners.
  • You could also select “Color” to change the colors of the note heads to make them match Boomwhacker colors, for example.

How to Play

  • Ask your student to spin the spinners for a letter and a note value (for example, Middle C, half note) or your student could simply tell you a letter and a note value from the options you have given. If you don’t have spinners, music dice work well too.
  • Notate the choices onto the staff.
  • Continue spinning and notating until your student has completed a set number of measures, or until the composition is complete.
  • Have your student perform the composition during the online lesson.

Alternate Rules

 

Young piano student composing with the giant floor staff

 

Dress Up the Teacher

This activity works very well for young students! I read about it in a piano teacher Facebook group, and it has been a huge hit among my littles.

Materials Needed

  • Any type of costume-wear: wig, hat, glasses, rings, bowtie, sunglasses, scarf, feather boa, whatever you have available. I also use photo props attached to wooden skewer sticks.
  • One of my little boys had me wearing 3 mustaches, 2 hats, and a crown. He thought it was such a hoot!
  • Below you’ll see a photo of the game in progress. You can see in his expression how much fun he’s having choosing the next piece of my costume!

Getting Started

  • Explain the rules to your student: “We’re going to review XYZ. For every correct answer, you get to choose something silly for me to wear!”

How to Play

  • Begin to review or work on any topic with your student.
  • For every item the student answers correctly, they get to choose part of the costume for you to wear.

Alternate Rules

  • You could remove an item for each incorrect answer.
  • This is a fantastic activity for in-person lessons as well as online lessons, as you can see below!

 

Young online piano student playing dress up the teacher

 

Beethoven Says…

This activity works very well for young students! I’ve been playing this game in lessons for years, and it’s always been a huge hit with my littles. It’s a musical adaptation of Simon Says, so it’s very familiar to young students.

Materials Needed

Getting Started

  • Explain the rules to your student: “This game is like Simon Says, but in this game, you’ll do whatever Beethoven Bear Says. If Beethoven Bear says play all the G’s, that’s what you’ll do. If Mozart Mouse says spin around 3 times, that’s what you’ll do.”

How to Play

  • Give a short and easy directive to your student. If the student does it successfully, give another directive.
  • I like to mix up musical elements with physical elements, and throw in some very silly elements too:
    • Beethoven Bear says play all the B’s with right hand finger 2.
    • Mozart Mouse says touch your nose 7 times with left hand finger 5.
    • Beethoven Bear says make an elephant sound.
    • Mozart Mouse says do your flash cards upside down! (That’s what happened when I snapped this quick photo!)

Alternate Rules

  • You could take turns and have your student give YOU directives.
  • This can escalate into a hilarious game really quickly!
  • Works great for in-person lessons as well as online lessons.

 

Young online piano student playing Beethoven Says

 

Looking for more fun games?

Check out this free webinar sponsored by The National Piano Foundation, Music Teachers National Association, and The National Association of Music Merchants, in which several teachers each share one of our favorite quick and easy educational games that you can play with your students.

In my brief session, I’m sharing how we use the giant floor staff for composition activities in my studio.

If you’re short on time, my session begins at 30:46, but please watch the entire webinar because it’s loaded with fabulous games!

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Welcome!

Hi! I’m Melody Payne, a pianist and piano teacher, educational resource author, a fun-loving wife to the most wonderful and talented hubby I could ask for, and a lifelong learner who loves to share. I want to make your life as a music teacher easier by writing and sharing helpful and relevant music teaching articles, and by creating educational resources with your very own students in mind. If you are a parent who wants to enroll your child in piano lessons, I’d love for us to get started building those skills that can give your child a lifetime of musical enjoyment!

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