5 Ways to Use Music Note Flash Cards in Piano Lessons

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Music note flash cards can give students a fun way to review note names, learn to spell chords & scales, and improve their speed and fluency at note recognition. I absolutely love using flash cards with my students, and they ask for them regularly! Here are 5 really fun games and activities you can play with your students to help them review treble and bass clef notes on the grand staff.

 Picture of music note flash cards on a desk


One Minute Club

Years ago, Jane Bastien (of the Bastien piano series) created the One Minute Club, which is a challenge for students to say and play the notes of the grand staff in one minute or less. You may have read about it on a piano teaching blog or in a Facebook group such as Piano Teacher Central.

This can be an individual incentive or a studio-wide challenge.

For students who are new to the staff, choosing 3-5 cards that they have learned might be a great starting place. The main objective is to have fun!

Materials needed:

  1. Music note flash cards
  2. A piano

How to play:

  1. Select the cards you want the student to say and play.
  2. Start your timer (a funny alarm sound such as a duck quacking when the minute is up always brings lots of giggles!)
  3. Show each card to your student.
  4. The student plays and says the name of the note on the card.
  5. If the student finishes the cards you have selected, celebrate!
  6. When the student is able to say and play the predetermined number of cards to join the One Minute Club, take the student’s picture and add to your One Minute Club bulletin board.

Drinking Fountain

This game is for a group of students.

Materials needed:

  1. Music note flash cards

How to play:

  1. Students line up behind one another in a straight line (the line is like a “drinking fountain” line, which is where the name of the game comes  from)
  2. The student at the front of the line, student 1, takes a step to the side
  3. The student behind student 1 steps up beside student 1
  4. These two students are shown a card from the deck
  5. The first one to say the name of the note stays in place, and the other student moves to the end of the line. If student 1 says the correct name first, student 2 goes to the end of the line.
  6. The student who is next in line, student 3, moves up to compete against student 1
  7. This continues until all students have had a turn, or until you are out of time.

Spelling Bee

Materials needed:

  1. Music note flash cards

How to play:

Tell the student a word, and have the student spell that word with the notes on the flash cards.

Here are a few words that are quick and easy to spell with flash cards during a piano lesson, plus a few challenge words:

  • Age, aced, added
  • Bee, bed, badge
  • Cab, cage, ceded
  • Dad, deaf, decaf
  • Egg, edge, egged
  • Fade, fee, faced
  • Gab, gag, gabbed

Scales, chords, & arpeggios

As my students are learning scales, I use flash cards to help them learn not only how to play scales, chords, & arpeggios, but also to spell them.

This helps them learn in a different way and uses more of their senses, which helps them learn more deeply.

Here’s my sweet 7-year-old student who has just started learning to play 5-note scales in her Scales Prep book (coming soon to the shop!).

I choose several flash cards, the notes of her new scale plus a few others, and ask her to choose the correct flash cards that “spell” the brand new D pentascale she just learned.

Then we move the flash cards to the piano and she plays the scale by reading her flash cards.

Learning how to “spell” her new scale helps her understand her new scale better, and it brings more attention and a greater level of understanding and appreciation to the F-sharp that is in the scale. A win-win!

Materials needed:

  1. Music note flash cards
  2. Superstar Scales Book, if students haven’t started learning scales yet

How to play:

  1. The teacher tells the student to spell out the chosen scale, chord, or arpeggio (A Major, for example).
  2. The student finds the cards with the notes of the A Major scale and puts them in order.
  3. Then the student plays the scale.
  4. This can be repeated for chords and arpeggios too.
  5. There are also variations of this activity:
    • “What comes next?” The teacher spells out most of the scale, leaving out the last few notes. The student completes the notes that come next.
    • “What’s missing?” The teacher spells out most of the scale, skipping a note here and there. The student fills in the notes that are missing.

Swat the Note

Great for private or group lessons. Terrific for helping students build note recognition skills. You’ll need a small fly swatter for each student.

Materials needed:

  1. Music note flash cards
  2. Fly swatter for each student (these are super fun!)

How to play:

  1. Spread the cards on the floor, note side up.
  2. Call the name of one of the notes.
  3. Students swat the correct note with their fly swatters.
  4. The student who swats first gets a point, or you can play just for fun and not for points.
  5. Be forewarned – this game can get really rowdy and loud!! 😁

Wrapping up

So there you go! Now you have a ton of fun ideas up your sleeve for when you need a quick review game or off-bench activity, and you want to use flash cards. What are your favorite ways to use flash cards in piano lessons? Leave a comment below!


For even more fun teaching ideas, read…

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Melody Payne

Melody Payne

Dr. Melody Payne is a pianist, teacher, and educational resource author who believes that all piano students deserve the best musical experiences possible, in every single lesson. Melody self-publishes pedagogical materials for piano students as well as piano teaching articles and professional development courses for piano teachers. She holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Music with emphases in music education and piano pedagogy and a Master of Music in Piano Pedagogy from Louisiana State University, and a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. She is a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music through the Music Teachers National Association. Melody and her husband Greg live in Marion, Virginia, a small town nestled in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, where she teaches children and adults of all ages and abilities in her online piano studio.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Marina Belkin

    Wonderful ideas! Through the game they can learn it even better!

    1. Melody Payne

      Absolutely! I love how well games help kids learn, plus, the games are fun for us too!

  2. William

    I like these ideas! I also made a game out of it with my son and daughter. Making them compete against each other really stepped up their game. The boy always hated losing to his little sister, so even though he is good at sight reading (playing almost intuitively), he started putting effort into remembering the actual notes.
    Now I have even more ideas to try! Thanks so much for sharing them with us!

    1. Melody Payne

      I really like the idea of sibling competition! It sounds like your kids are having a ton of fun! I hope they enjoy this variety of flash card games as well 🙂

Leave a Reply


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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