Years ago I began to  notice a problem with some of my students:  Some of them would only retain the last one or two songs we were working on in the music lessons.

No matter how many times I tried to explain that it was important to retain a “repertoire” of pieces they could play at any time, (say when Grandma came for a surprise visit, or an audition, or even just a family concert) nothing seemed to work.  As soon as we moved on to a new piece, the old ones went right out the window.  This was hardly a good thing when someone says, “So I hear you’ve been taking piano lessons for 2 years now, can you play me something?”  And then, they only play half the piece that they’re currently working on and can’t remember anything else.  Not good for student self-esteem or proof of your teaching skills!  After all, your students are the shining example of your teaching services.  

Good students beget more students.

I started to think how could I “game-ify” a solution to this problem.  How could I make going back and playing these old songs fun?

Here’s two games that really are variations on the same idea and for some reason are considered so much fun by my students, they don’t want to stop!

The Hat Game

To play this:

  1. Write a number on the top corner of each piece of music you want them to review in a repertoire
  2. Write corresponding numbers on slips of paper
  3. Put the slips in a hat (or box or other container)
  4. Have them close their eyes and pick out a slip
  5. Whatever number is drawn, they have to play it now from memory.
  6. If they can’t remember, you can take the time now to review it

Variation:  you can have a family member like parent or sibling or grandparent do the drawing of the numbers.

How to keep your music students practicing a repertoire of pieces

The Dice Game

To play this:

  1. Number all the pieces you want them to review in their repertoire
  2. Choose either a single die (1 to 6) or two dice (2 to 12) to roll.  Younger kids should use one die to start.
  3. Let the student roll the die or dice.
  4. Whatever number comes up on top they have to play.
  5. Review the piece if necessary.

Again, involving family or friends is a great way to keep this fresh.

This game can reinvigorate practicing the repertoire for a while.  It won’t last forever, but for a while, you will get them interested because it’s a game.

I’ll cover more practice tricks and tips in future articles.

Hope this helps.  Let me know if you have any favorite tricks or questions about these games in the comments below.  And feel free to forward or share with your music teacher friends and colleagues.



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  • Similar game was offered by Andrea Dow (TeachPianoToday), and I’ve been using it for a while. We make a list of 6 favorite pieces AAA (anywhere, anytime, for anybody),and throw the die in the beginning of each lesson. Whatever number comes out, they play it for me. Eventually, the top numbers are substituted by more complicated pieces as the student progresses, but they always have 6 in their repertoire.

    1. Ah, great minds think alike! Thanks Milla, I didn’t know that. I do love and use their Fearless Fortissimo music for certain boys in my studio.

  • Thank you Andrew. I can’t wait to try it out on my students.

    My main thing at the moment is The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. I have a picture of the caterpillar above the piano to practise like the 4 S words (slowly, softly, smoothly and in slices). There is a you tube video dance of this book and it is great to use as a warm up exercise (for their arms and fingers) before they play at the piano.