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practice games for better practice


The following games are from a variety of resources. Some games provide adaptations and modifications for a range of abilities and ages, but you may want to adapt or modify them to better meet the needs of your student. 

Many older children enjoy playing games. Just be sure to modify the game so it isn't too "babyish." 

 Make practice games a special activity or a goal to work towards. Games played too often become boring.


Games are a practice tool that provide benefits.

  The student:

  • Is engaged 

  • Experiences practice in a positive way

  • Progresses more quickly by achieving meaningful goals

  • Learns strategies to practice effectively independently

  • Is motivated to practice, especially when combined with gains in proficiency.

  • Learns the notes to a new piece correctly

  • Begins to learn how to “play under pressure,” a skill needed for performances.



With a little ingenuity, almost any game/activity can be adapted for practice. 

  • Tic Tac Toe

  • Hangman

  • Sorry

  • Checkers

  • Chess

  • Dots

  • Go Fish

  • Crazy Eights

  • Jenga

  • Candyland


  • Blowing bubbles

  • Putting a piece in a puzzle (Older students can put a large puzzle together over time.)

  • Earn a block or Lego to build a structure

  • Color/draw a portion of a picture

  • Jump rope

  • practice free throws

  • Dance

  • Do a cartwheel

  • Take a turn in Hopscotch

  • Run

  • Skip

  • Bozo Buckets

  • Take a turn to pin the tail on the donkey

  • Simon Says​

how to play

  • Set small practice goals or a goal.  (Consider allowing the student to set/help set the practice goals or goal. This will make practice more  meaningful and is a good way to learn about effective, independent practicing. S/he may need guidance at the beginning.)

  • It's ok to allow him/her to set an inappropriate goal at first and adjust it accordingly, especially when s/he insists. 

  • The student makes his/her first move.

  • S/he gets a second move when she achieves the goal. (Adjust goals as needed, especially if they are too difficult.)

  • Continue until the game is finished or goals are met if playing for activities.


games for learning a new piece or practicing difficult parts


just a minute game 

The object of the game is to see how many times the student can play all the notes correctly in a section in a minute. Older students can play independently with a timer. Use points, tokens, coins or even a game board to score. 

Options for Winning

  • Set a target score to achieve for each section

  • Play against one or more friends to see who gets the highest score

  • Find which section has the highest score and have a target of getting all sections to that score.


collect the (animals) game

Use eight pictures or  toy animals, for example.  Choose categories that are motivating to the student, especially younger students and some students with disabilities.The aim of the game is to collect all the cards.

  • Give each section to be learned an animal name. Set up the rules. (How many times must the section be played correctly? Are mistakes allowed? Is it ok to stop to fix notes? Is it ok to stop working on one animal and go to another without earning the card?)

  • The student chooses which animal/section to play. 

  • Play the section accurately for example, five times in a row, to win the animal card.

  • Maintain skills by reviewing the parts on subsequent days. Set a goal-three times in a row, three out of five times or until s/he plays it three times correctly. Keep the animal if successful, put it back in the pile if unsuccessful.

  • Optional: Some students may be motivated to practice if they know they will lose an animal for every day they miss a scheduled practice.

  • To win all the cards quickly, the website suggests giving a prize or treat when all the cards are earned by the end of the week or other designated time-period.


practice games for performing

  • The opportunity to perform is one of the benefits of music education. These experiences teach the student how to prepare, practice and feel confident in front of a group of people. The student will be much more confident and is likely to play well if the performance piece is familiar, one s/he likes and has mastered.

  • The best way to improve performance is to practice performing. Take every opportunity to perform for others whether the audience is big or small. Essentially, the more you perform the better you get at coping with the additional stress you are under when playing for an audience.


moving pencil practice game

The rules are simple, but the game is "tough" when the game is used to measure readiness for a performance. 

Use this game to evaluate student readiness to play a performance piece and/or readiness to move to the next section in a new piece because it gives a quick and visual reference to how often mistakes are made. It also gives a clear target to achieve and an evaluation of how near the piece is to performance standard.

  • Place a pencil on the left-hand side of the music stand, piano, desk, etc.

  • There are four possible positions for the pencil-left hand side, middle, right-hand side and off. Win the game when the pencil is moved off the desk.

  • Choose a section or even the whole piece. Set the goal, for example, the piece or section must be played correctly four times in a row to get the pencil off the stand. 

  • Play through. The pencil stays where it is if a mistake is made. If the section or piece is played correctly, the pencil moves to the middle.

  • Play the part again. If the section or piece is played correctly, the pencil moves to the right. If it is played incorrectly, it moves to the left.

  • Keep going until the pencil is moved off the stand.



  • Is this piece appropriate for a performance? Choose a piece two or more below the piece s/he is learning. 

  • If the pencil keeps moving between the first and second positions, use some other practice method and then play this game, more successfully, again. (Or consider choosing an easier piece.)

  • If the pencil keeps moving between the second and third positions, it could be a question of maintaining focus on playing instead of “winning.”  Change the goal to focus on dynamics or timing rather than the notes. 

  • If the pencil is moving smoothly 1 - 2 - 3 – off, the piece is ready. It means the student is comfortable with the piece and will be able to play it "automatically" even if s/he is nervous performing. 


  • Use coins, pieces of candy, small toys instead of a pencil. Play the game for an undisclosed amount of time. (Set the timer.) The student keeps the items that are not on the music stand when the timer goes off or practice is finished. 


climb the ladder (to practice for a performance)

  • This is another game to evaluate a piece or section for performance readiness. 

  • Choose a performance piece or a section of a performance to practice.

  • Draw a ladder with seven rungs and put a small piece of BluTak on the bottom rung. Play through the piece or section.

  • If it is played 100% correctly, move up a rung. If not, move down one rung (or do not move at all).

  • Keep playing through the section, moving up one rung for 100% correct and down one or remaining in place if there is a mistake. 

  • Reach the top rung to win the game.

  • ​Pause the game so the student can fix problems.

  • The game can be played over a few days or a week.​


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