Music Theory Match-Up Games

This game can be used as a review for:

  • Note Names
  • Rhythms
  • Musical Symbols
  • Mystery Songs (inner hearing)
  • Anything you can write on paper and have kids match

Length of game – 5-10 minutes once kids know how to play

Ahead of time – Make up sets of matching cards or manipulatives. (I used cheap valentines since it’s February.) This is an example of a rhythm match. One card has the notation – half note/quarter note/2 eighth notes – and one card has the way we count it – 1 (2) 3 4 +. Be sure you make sets that match! (This set is a little hard to read in the picture – it’s one of those scratch off valentines with shiny underneath. The kids loved the “bling.”) Make up enough cards for each kid to have one card.


How to Play

1. Be sure the students understand the rhythms (or notes/terms etc.) before you start. In other words, be sure they will be able to successfully find their match.
2. If it is a large class, do a demo with a group of 4-6 kids first.
3. Have kids stand in a circle in an area of the room away from their instruments
4. Have kids put their hands like this – one on top/one on bottom. Put their card inside and have them close their hands so they can’t peak.


5. Say “look” and give them about 30 seconds to figure out what their match would look like. (For example, would their match start with a half note or quarter note? Would their match start with a note on the 4th line or 3rd space. What does a repeat sign look like?) They are not allowed to look at anyone else’s card in these 30 seconds.

6. Say “Go” and they can then go around and look at each other’s cards to find their match.

Music Theory Match-up Game

7. As they match up, go around and check that they really found their right partner. If there are some that don’t match at the end, someone partnered up incorrectly.

8. Usually, 2-3 rounds is plenty for one day. They need to play their instruments! But it’s a great change of pace, especially if you have block scheduling or extended classes (finals week, standardized testing schedules etc.)

9. Contest – after they get the hang of it, you can add more sense of urgency by having them sit down when they find their partner. The first ones down win. It also it lets the kids that are still standing find each other more easily.

10. If you have an uneven number of kids you can play. If you have 20 cards and one class only has 16 kids, be sure you pull out matching sets so the kids playing will all have a partner.

To review:

Hand out cards to open hands.


Close hands.


“Look” for 30 seconds (“Imagine what your match will look like.”)


“Go” find match partner (and, optionally, sit down)

(It’s hard to see in this picture, but the match to the girl with the ring is written out as letters B-E-G-D)

Sample of musical symbols match:


Here is another version where students can get into groups of 4 instead of groups of 2:


No time to make your own sets?
Check out these ready to print versions that come with instructions and ideas for different ways to play:



I hope this helps gives you a fun way to review and a quick change of pace!

Related Reading:
Teaching Beginning Band With Games – Band Drop-Out
Practice & Motivation Posters – Free Download
4 Flute Hacks to Develop Good Habits
Start Talking to Your Band About Summer Band Camp Now

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