Sunday, July 28, 2013

4 Games I learned in Musicianship/ Solfegge

Dr. Arpad Toth teaching :)
Bit of advice before I start this post.  If you ever come to Hungary and feel you were placed into the wrong solfegge class- SWITCH! I chose not to switch and the class was way too easy for me.  The test was based entirely on dictation which is not my strength, but the class moved pretty slowly for me. With that being said- I loved my teacher, Arpad Toth, the whole time.  He had a great personality and always told us Kodaly was crying in the Heavens when we couldn't get something (and then that he was smiling when we did get it). He was very good at differentiation and would make separate worksheets for those who needed more help on dictation, intervals, etc.  I got a lot of new Renaissance music I can use with my students AND the last 2 days of class we played games that worked on our gained skills and I had a lot of fun with them.  Some could be adapted for Elementary school- some are more suited for middle and high school, but I thought I would list my favorites here.

1.  Evolution
         This game is a variant on Rock- Paper- Scissors where everyone starts out as a plankton and has to work their way up to Human.  To do this, each "animal" has a melody.  You have to find someone on the same stage of life as you (singing the same melody) and play them in Rock-Paper-Scissors.  If you win, you evolve- if you lose, you stay the same.  At the end there should be one left of each of the 4 animals preceding Human because they won't have been able to evolve past this stage.  
The animals and 4 beat melodies are:         
        Plankton (d_-s,_)                          
        Fish (ss-mm-ss-mm)
        Chicken (s-sss-s-s s-sss-s-s)
        Monkey (s-s- d'_)
        Human (s-m-d_) 
To make it more fun (and easier to find someone in the same stage of evolution as you) you can add motions to each of the animals as well.   (Swimming for Fish, wings for chicken, etc.) 

This game encourages kids to sing "alone"- knowing their melody, and singing it loud enough to find a friend.  But really- it is everyone singing at once- just all different motives.  

2. Scale Snake
           In this game, you stand in a circle and sing scales up and down.  In my class I would probably limit to major and minor (la based).  Students each sing one note of the scale and sit down if they were the one to sing the 2nd half of a minor 2nd (t-d going up, but d-t going down, and the same for m-f).  Last person standing "wins".  This game is just to practice knowing where minor seconds fall in a scale and the winner is determined purely by luck.  It also practices inner-hearing, because students have to be able to find the next successive scale pitch without singing all of the notes. 

3.  Interval Dash
           Students are seated in a circle with one person in the middle.  The child in the middle is the leader and sings an solfa note (from a given scale) to someone in the circle.  The person sung to then has to sing a perfect 4th above the given note. If they are right- the person in the middle moves on to someone else.  If they are wrong 2 things can happen:  If the sung interval is totally wrong, everyone makes a mad dash for another chair, last in the middle is new leader.   If the sung interval is a perfect 5th rather than a 4th, just the 2 students on either side of the singer change places.  The person in the middle can try to dash for a chair ANYTIME one becomes free.  In this game it is important to tell students they MUST TRY to sing the correct P4 interval.  Even in my class of adults, we had students singing things like d-t, on purpose so everyone would get up and switch chairs.  

4.  Zip-Zap-Chords 
            Students are standing in a circle.  Prior to this game, the blues progression will be common knowledge.  To play the class collectively sings the blues progression (or just part of it, like the final 4 chords V, IV, I, I).   Here's how it works.  One student sings the root of the chord while pointing to a second (hands together above head, brought down as he/she sings).  The student pointed to (student B) sings the 3rd and puts his hands above his head (hands together).  The students on either side of student B then sing the 5th while "chopping" in towards student B.  Student B then sings the root of the next chord in the progression and points to another.  The game goes on in this fashion.  I hope to make a video of this game when I get back to school, because it is slightly confusing to just read.  The motions are not truly necessary, but give the game a ninja feel which the students have been pretty into lately.  They also help keep of track of who sings what- feel free to make up your own motions that work for you. 

Stay tuned for singing games posts- there will be a few because Lucinda taught us so much! 


  1. Emily this is awesome! I am an elementary music teacher in Kansas. I have been following your blog updates about Hungary and I am very interested in the program and hearing more about it. Would it be alright if you could email me once you get back and things settle down?? I would love to get to talk to you :) --Mia

  2. Sounds Great! I will arrive home on Aug. 10th (I have a week in Vienna, Salzburg, and Prague before I head home). I will try to remember to email you but if I forget feel free to comment again or just email at :)

  3. Thanks emily! I'm so excited :)

  4. The Evolution game sounds like fun. Did your group have a hard time staying in the same key? I'm wondering if all of my students would be able to stay in the correct key as they played.

  5. Hi Emily! I'm creating a whole range of such games, including for class instrumental songs and would be happy to share if you like?