Learning new pieces can be a very frustration process for younger
students... and older students as well! These games are to help that
process of learning new pieces become more positive and even a little
fun as well! Most of these practice games work best is there is somebody
playing against the person practicing. Although those that can be
played against the clock can be timed by the person playing, it is far
more encouraging if somebody else is doing the timing and sharing in the
tension and success!
I like to play chess (and Cheating Chess is good alliteration) but you can adapt most two player games. Noughts and crosses (X-O) is probably the simplest game to use with young children, although you may have to get used to losing a lot of games!
The rules are simple.
This game is great for making sure students are playing with 100% correct notes right from the start when learning new pieces. It also gently gives them some early experience of playing under pressure. Each time they play correctly they are one step nearer to the bonus move so the pressure they are playing under is gradually, but subtly increased. As they progress through the week extra restrictions may be added such as 100% notes and correct timing at a certain metronome speeds, inclusion of dynamics etc.
One parent who has twins, told me they used to play this with each other. They were both at roughly the same level so often ended up trading move for move and when one managed to achieve an extra move it could really change the balance of the game. She even had to get up at 6 a.m. one morning and tell them to go back to bed because they were up at the piano with the chess board out! Not only did they learn new pieces very quickly - they both became excellent chess players as well!
Some parents have also asked me about playing the learning new pieces games
for money with the students. They earn money for each time they get it
100% correct. I'm not a great fan of using money to encourage practice,
because the money becomes the reason for practice, not the progress in
playing. Having said that, if you were to do this I would advise making
it count towards something musical such as an upgrade to their
instrument, new music, CDs, an iPod or similar. The student doesn't
actually get the money - it is put into the instrument upgrade
fund. Additionally, to preserve the gradually increasing pressure the
amount needs to go up slightly for each time the section is played
The aim of this game is very simple: to see how many times can you
play a section with 100% correct notes in a minute when learning new
pieces. This can be played with somebody timing you or on your own if
you have a countdown timer on your watch or mobile
are various options for winning this game. You or a teacher can set a
target score to achieve for each section, you can play against one or
more friends to see who gets the highest score or you can find which
section has the highest score and have a target of getting all sections
to that score.
For this game you need some pictures of animals printed. Eight should
usually be enough. Try to pick animals your child/student likes. Use
pictures - not just the word written on a piece of paper. One
enterprising parent said she played this with silhouettes and the
student got extra points for recognising the shapes! You could also play
this game with cards using a single suit or the picture cards. Anything
The aim of the game is to collect all the animals. The rules of the game are
Playing practice games when learning new pieces helps the time go quicker and makes practice a positive experience. Having early positive experiences when practicing is essential as students progress much further and faster if they have a positive attitude to practice.
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