Measure Mix-Up – Teaching Beginning Band with Games

This Measure Mix-Up game will involve moving around and working as a team.  I suggest that students do not have their instruments for it.  You can move to another part of the room or have them play the game before they get their instruments out of their cases at the beginning of class.

This game is more fun with manipulatives like plastic Easter eggs. Warn the kiddos that there’s no candy in them. 🙂 If you don’t have eggs, maybe you can think of something else fun to put the pieces in. If not, just let hand out the pieces instead.

Pick a song the students know well.  A line from the method book is great or you can use this download of Simple Gifts written for many different instruments. (Music Mix-up Simple Gifts) If you choose to use the sample, be sure they have played it numerous times on different days before playing the game. Also, regardless of which line you use, when you cut up the measures it may be a little hard to tell which way is up.  Giving the students the range of the notes on the board should help with that.

Decide how many teams you want. This depends on class size.  You’ll want 4-8 people in a team and the more people in a team the more challenging it is.

For this post I’m going to assume 4 teams of 4 and you are using the download of Simple Gifts and that you have plastic easter eggs.

Music Mix-up Band Game

Follow these directions:

  • Copy the song onto 4 different colored sheets of paper.
  • Cut each sheet into 1 measure pieces.
  • Put 2 sheets of paper  (2 random measures) into each egg.
  • Put all the eggs in a basket and let the students each draw one.
  • When you say “Go” They open up their egg and get in a team with the people that have their same color paper.
  • They have to assemble the music into a song.
  • After the game is over,give them a copy of the song and play it as a class.

(If you want to be really nice, you could give them a piece of candy at the end of class to make up for the fact that the eggs didn’t have candy.)

Now, these directions are for the first time you play this game.  If it goes well, you could try it again another day with a song like Happy Birthday.  Something that they haven’t played before, but everyone would know the song.  DON’T tell them which song it is. Repeat the same process but they have to figure out the song without knowing what it is.  They have to get the right answer and tell you what song it is. This show you how well they are really able to hear it in their head as opposed to just recalling prior knowledge.

If they get stuck, you could give them clues, like “measure 4 is all quarter notes” or “measure 6 starts on a G.”

Why is Measure Mix-up worth the class time?

  • It makes them use their brains in a different way and is a higher level thinking game.
  • It’s a type of dictation – writing out music. Even if it’s preprinted, they are still writing in blocks.
  • It’s a fun way to review theory. Key/time signatures are in measure 1, ends with a final bar line, etc.
  • Good chance (depending on the song you pick) to talk about form (abac) etc.
  • You could mention that they end on the tonic. Try playing the last phrase for them without the last note/notes (tonic notes) and show them how it sounds unfinished.
  • It can help them understand music is written with certain rules in mind. (like form/tonic)
  • It gives students that may not be the best players have a chance to demonstrate leadership.
  • They will understand the song better, and hopefully enjoy playing it more.
  • It’s fun!  And shouldn’t take too long.

Assessment Option
If you make one full song for each child and give each child an egg with all 8 measures cut up, they can individually assemble it for an assessment.

Elementary Age Option (This exercise fits perfectly with Kodály teaching)
Play a recording of the song a couple times, teach the words and/or sing with solfége. Then play the game as written above.

One more time – here’s the free download. (Music Mix-up Simple Gifts)

Let us know how the Measure Mix-up game works for you!


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