Make piano practice time fun with these practice games!
Earn Your Age
- Choose 1 short section of a song to work on (usually about one line of music)
- Gather a pile of pennies (or small candies or any other small object)
- Child plays the section on the piano
- If every note was perfect without a single missed note, then you win a penny! (It is OK if the rhythm isn’t perfect—that will come in time. But be very strict about 100% accuracy with the notes)
- If the child misses a note, then he/she loses a penny (no penalty if none have been earned yet)
- When you collect as many pennies as your age, you win!
- Find a small animal figurine or action figure that can balance on one of the black keys of the piano (or you can always use a penny or a button and just use imagination)
- Tell the student, “This sheep [or soldier or princess] was captured by an evil king.” Place the figure on one of the black keys near the highest (or lowest) end of the piano
- Say, “Every time you play this measure [or line/section] with no missed notes you can move the sheep one black key closer to the edge of the piano keys. If you miss a note, the sheep will move backwards, deeper into jail. When the sheep makes it to the edge of the piano, it escapes! And you win!”
- Determine your initial placement of the figure based on how many repetitions you think the child can succeed at. Place the figure closer to the edge to make it easier.
- If the game proves too difficult, you can eliminate the rule about moving backwards, or create a “wall” that blocks any negative movement past a certain point.
- Remember that you want the child to feel challenged, but not overwhelmed. Keep the spirit of the game fun and lighthearted. Add humor and imagination as you feel inspired.
- This is a great game to use (especially with boys!) when you need help encouraging a student to solve a particular issue with their playing, whether it be a posture issue or a persistent wrong note.
- Place five pennies on the piano. Say, “These five coins are your soldiers. Your job is to save as many as you can from falling into the volcano. Every time you [choose only ONE issue: play a missed note OR drop your wrist OR play with fingers sticking up in the air, etc.], one soldier is going to fall into the lava! At the end, a helicopter will come and rescue any soldiers that haven’t fallen in. Let’s see how many soldiers you can save!”
- Student plays. Whenever a [missed note]/[dropped wrist]/[whatever] occurs, teacher takes a penny off the piano, and pretends that it falls into the volcano, complete with dramatic sound effects! (You know, the groaning-falling-into-a-deep-pit sound).
- After playing, pretend that the helicopter comes, and have the surviving soldiers say “thank you” to the student. Focus on the positive by saying something like, “These 2 soldiers say ‘thank you’ for saving them.”
- Ask the child if they would like to try to save more soldiers on their next round
- If falling into a volcano is too violent for a young or sensitive child, you could do something like frogs falling off a log into a swamp
Parrot Is Watching
- Use a finger puppet, or any kind of animal or human figurine
- Tell the student that [parrot] loves to watch kids play the piano, but he really only likes seeing wrists that are level [or whatever the issue is]. Say, “If you wrist drops down, then parrot is going to turn around the other way. But, as long as your wrist is level, parrot will be watching you.”
- Student plays and parrot responds by either watching or turning around
- Place five pennies on the piano. Say, “These five pennies are five fireworks. Every time you [miss a note OR whatever the issue is], one firework is going to go off early.” Demonstrate the firework exploding in the air with sound effects. Continue to explain, “When you finish, any fireworks that are left, you get to set off yourself.”
- Student plays. When the student [misses a note], the teacher sets off a firework. At the end, the student gets to set off all the fireworks that remain.