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#95 Music Magic: Strengthen note reading with these fun memory games

Updated: Aug 10, 2023

By Christy | the Practicing Pro

Remember playing the card game of “Memory” when you were a kid for hours? Trying so hard to remember where each card was between your turns? Well, let's use this popular card game with these note-naming cards (Free mini set provided in this blog) and get to some fun music learning and practice motivation.

There are different sets of cards (coming soon throughout the summer) that you can add to your starter pack (free PDF for you to print below), and the full package with "add ons" as you progress to the next level in your theory expertise over time available HERE from the Practicing Pro site.

For the first blog in a summer series all about having the easiest and most successful practicing summer ever, well let's GO! Let's start out by matching the space and line notes on the Treble clef staff!

Playing games that teach music notes, like the favorite Memory card game, can really help your child learn to play their instrument faster. What a better time than summer to play these games too! The card game of Memory promotes active engagement, memory recall, and reinforces the connection between notes on the staff and their corresponding letter names. As Dr. Sarah Thompson, a respected Music Educator and Researcher, emphasizes, "Having a strong foundation in music theory is essential for musicians of all levels." Well then, let's get started!

When you do activities with your child that combine learning with play, like this Memory card game, you are stimulating multiple areas of the brain at the same time! This cross-brain activation strengthens neural connections, promoting a deeper understanding of music notes and exercises their overall cognitive development. Dr. Emily Carter, a renowned Neurologist and Educator, explains, "Games like the Memory card game provide an interactive and enjoyable way for children to develop their note recognition skills."

Basic Instructions for the Memory Card Game:

1. Prepare the deck of memory cards by downloading and printing them. There are two versions for you to choose from:

a. The "CUT AND GLUE" version: Print on regular weight paper using your color or black and white printer. Cut out the cards and glue around the edges on the blank inside of what would be the inside of the card. Press together to create two-sided, thick cards that prevent seeing through them.

b. The "DOUBLE-SIDED" version: Print on cardstock using your color or black and white printer. For this game, you will need one of each staff note as well as each letter. Print them all once, cut out the cards, and double-check that each note card has a matching letter name card. You can also print the key to match the notes with the answers and keep it handy during the game.

2. Shuffle the deck and lay out the cards face-down in a grid formation.

3. Take turns flipping two cards at a time, aiming to find a matching pair of a note on the staff and its corresponding letter name answer. If you find a match, keep the cards. If not, flip them back over, keeping them in the same spots and try to remember their positions for your next turn.

4. Continue taking turns until all the cards have been matched. The player with the most matches at the end of the game wins.


Creative Variations of the Memory Card Game:

Let's learn a few new ways to play the Memory card game to keep it fun for even longer using the basic starter pack set of Practicing Pro theory cards.

1. Musical Scale Sequence:

- Lay out the cards in a grid again. This time, pick ONE card at a time. The goal is to lay out the cards in a specific order, representing a musical scale.

- This can start at the beginner level with young players. Have them first put the letters in ascending alphabetical order, learning that after G, we start again at A.

- Next, play in ascending order.

- Play again with the staff notes ascending and descending.

- Lastly, play matching the pairs and flipping over two at a time, but they need to be found in ascending then descending order. There are so many variations here and difficulties to explore. (TIP: Make sure you have two complete sets of alphabet cards to play this version in your deck)

2. Melodic Dictation Challenge:

- Choose a player to be the "Composer." They create a short melodic sequence using the notes on the cards and write it down without showing it to the other players.

- Other players take turns flipping cards, trying to match the Composer's melody with the correct note cards.

- The composer plays the short melody over and over until the melody is discovered, found, and written out with the cards, and the game is done.

- This variation enhances listening skills and melodic dictation abilities. You can play this with JUST the staff cards, and they turn over one at a time. You can have them make the match with both cards turning over two at a time. You can also make this more advanced by adding a second set of note cards for repeated notes in a melody. Give a limit in length, starting with three notes in a scale, then adding four notes with a step of a third, then five notes with a step of a third, and so on. This version is excellent for ear training preparation for RCM exams and developing skills for dictations or composing.

3. Music Composition and Storytelling:

- Shuffle the cards and lay them face-down.

- Players take turns flipping two cards at a time. Each time a match is made, the player must create a short musical story or compose a simple melody or phrase using the matched notes.

- This variation sparks creativity and storytelling skills while reinforcing note recognition. It's best to start with 2-3 notes to use, so I suggest starting with one note. After the next match, that person has two notes to compose a simple phrase, and then three notes for the next player to start theirs with. After three notes, you can add a note and then take the first note away for their composition. Two or three notes are great for a start. More notes start getting too hard.

4. Musical Interval Puzzle:

- Mix up the cards and lay them face-down in a grid formation.

- Players take turns flipping two cards at a time. Instead of matching identical cards, players must find pairs that, when combined, create an interval. Start with finding skips or thirds, so two line notes side by side or two space notes side by side.

- This variation promotes critical thinking and creativity. You can print more sets of cards for more variations, and you can also work up to fourths and fifths. Another variation is to roll a dice, and if you get a 4, then you must match a fourth. If you get a 3, you must match a third. This one is getting advanced! I suggest printing a few sets of basic cards and only using the staff cards.

5. Musical Note War:

- Divide the deck equally between two players.

- Players simultaneously flip their top card and must correctly name the note on the staff to win both cards. The higher note on the staff wins, and you get to keep BOTH cards.

- If it's the same note, it's a tie, and each player puts three more cards face down on the top BUT flips the third one at the same time. The highest card wins all eight cards!!!

- The goal is to collect all the cards. You can use the staff cards for this game or mix them both

. You can do this two ways: the highest card wins (G being the highest letter) and that person gets the match OR you can add the element of quick thinking, and the person who names out loud the highest card wins both cards (this one needs a good referee appointed ahead of time), adding a competitive element and encouraging quick thinking and note recognition.

6. Sight-Reading Practice:

- Arrange the staff cards in a specific order to represent a short musical phrase.

- Players flip one card at a time, matching the names to the notes on the staff with the corresponding letter name answers.

- This variation provides sight-reading practice and improves reading fluency.

A variation is to turn it into a speed game with a timer, or race against another p[layer with two decks.

My favorite way to use these games is for Summer Practice. Do six upgrade/review pieces that you perfected in the last year or two. Put them on a big chart and play six a day, even better than the day before. Take your list to your teacher on your last few lessons and ask them to suggest things for you to work on for each song in general or specific aspects such as rounding your fingers, working on your tone in a specific way, having beautiful arms, nice phrases, dynamics, or anything you can work on to uplevel that piece that you already know.

Playing pieces "better" that you already know, performance-ready, brings students the most joy and helps them improve the fastest. Summer is the time to enjoy music and uplevel your playing. Determine how long it takes to play your six pieces and do any other homework from your teacher. Add another 10 minutes or so to that time. That's your summer practice time! Get your timer, set it, and check off your summer chart. Always use a chart so your player has direction and can feel the sense of being "done" when each task has been accomplished. When everything is checked off, you should have that extra 10 minutes or so left. Play a memory game from the list above in that remaining time. As a parent, turn off your phone and all distractions and be present for your child during their after-practicing theory card game. They will love this time with you so much and will not resist their summer practice. Remember to pick the time and place where you will practice. In the summer, being consistent is hard, BUT each night before going to bed, decide the next day when it will be for the most success with the changing summer schedule. I also suggest first thing in the day to make sure it gets done. Why not in your PJs extra early?

By incorporating these theory games into your child's practice, you are introducing creativity and enjoyment into their practice. As you try all of these variations of the game, your children will develop stronger music theory skills, leading to improved instrument playing and a deeper connection to the music they create.

Remember to set a timer for practice sessions and reward your child's efforts with a nice amount of game time. For younger ones, it can be an equal time, and you play the theory game on the timer as long as they practice first. That's a fun way!

Let the music games be fun, and you can be fun too. Be a child again and enjoy these games, just like when you were young. Experience special bonding time with your child while you learn together.

As Dr. Mark Davis, a respected Musicologist and Educator, highlights, "The Memory note card game is a delightful way to reinforce note recognition skills and foster expressive playing." And Dr. Sarah Thompson reminds us, "Having a strong foundation in music theory is essential for musicians of all levels."

So, print your cards, set the stage for some musical magic, and let the Memory card game improve your music notation skills. Enjoy the process of joyful learning!

We've got this!

Check out my Free PDF download Checklist for a Successful Music Practice for teachers and practicing parents.

Your easy checklist for successful home music practices from Christy, the practicing pro. Whether you are a new or seasoned practice parent or music teacher, this checklist will help you organize before, during, and after practices for effective and fun practices.

INVITATION from Christy Hodder:

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