Over the last couple of years, the legendary toy store FAO Schwarz has been undergoing a renaissance in the United States and Europe. The iconic location on Fifth Avenue was replaced with a new store at the Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, and additional locations are being planned for Europe. One thing that the new management company of FAO Schwarz made sure was included at the new locations is the large piano pad so famously featured in the 1988 film “Big” starring Tom Hanks. That giant walk-on piano, which you can dance on while playing “Chopsticks,” introduced a generation of young film viewers to the wonders of keyboard instruments, often considered to be excellent introductions to musical theory for young learners.
“Chopsticks” is a waltz composed by a British woman in the 19th century; over the years, it has become a staple of piano lessons for young students; it is relatively easy to learn and very fun to play, particularly when the tempo is increased as a challenge. The playful nature of this piece makes it ideal for homeschooling students and their teachers to liven up lessons, and it is one of various games recommended for piano learners. Here are more piano games ideas for your children to practice along with their lessons:
Prodigies Desk Bells App
We are in full Piano mode with the release of Piano Prodigies coming this August! Kids can still have fun and warm up to future piano lessons with our Desk Bell app. This is the digital version of our Deskbells, and it can be installed on either iOS or Android devices. The colorful animations and faithful tone of these bells make this app ideal for early homeschooling students who will one day transition to piano lessons. While this app can be installed on smartphones, it is better suited for tablets because of their larger touchscreens. As with the physical Deskbells, the goal is to let children experiment with the sounds on their own before introducing them to simple lullabies such as “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” which most kids will master in no time; from here on, you can increase the tempo for a challenge.
This is another game geared towards the youngest learners, those who are starting to discover keyboards, and it can help in terms of making children become familiar with the heptatonic scale. To prepare for this game, you will need to search for friendly images of animals that correspond to the following notes:
On the keyboard, you will have to locate an octave beginning with the C note and let your student know why the animal corresponds to the key. Once you review the notes according to the animals, the game can turn into a flashcard challenge.
This whimsical video game was released in 2013 as a mobile app that eventually expanded with versions for a couple of portable gaming devices. Deemo is all about moving a fairy tale story forward by means of playing piano. The interesting plot involves a little girl who lives in heaven but falls down through a hole in the sky; while she does not really fall down to Earth, she meets a mysterious character who resolved to help her get back home through various melodies. The story becomes more complex as it advances, and there is a bit of heartbreak after the protagonist learns about her mysterious helper and how they are related. In essence, Deemo is played by waiting for notes to come down from the top of the screen, but this has to be done in time with the music. As of 2020, the game is available for the following platforms:
* Nintendo Switch
* PlayStation Vita
* PlayStation 4 with Virtual Reality
The success of Deemo and the beauty of its soundtrack has inspired production of an animated film that was on track to be released in late 2020.
Match the Music to the Mood
This is a rather simple game that can go a long way in terms of getting children to develop ways to interpret feelings through music. Cartoons often do this; for example, when a tragic situation is depicted in old Warner Brothers cartoons, you would invariably hear a variation of Chopin’s Funeral March or some gloomy piano piece by the likes of Bela Bartok. Once your child starts reacting to cheerful, mysterious, goofy, sad, or tedious situations, you can ask him or her to think of music that corresponds to the mood. The idea is to come up with a melody, and you can stimulate the creative process by humming an example. If your child either repeats or creates a new melody to hum, acknowledge it by repeating it before sitting at the piano. From this point on, your child can simply start exploring keys, but it is up to you to guide them in the direction of playing the melody they came up with.
I Play, You Repeat
Some piano teachers base entire lessons and even curricula on variations of this game, which at the most advanced levels of instruction can become a dueling pianos situation. Parents who do not play piano at all will have to do a little homework in order to prepare for this game; the goal is to play either a song, a melody, or even a small pattern and let your child repeat it on the keys. If you can play at higher tempos for the purpose of challenging your child, the result will be even better. Naturally, you will be expected to be the teacher and correct or instruct as necessary. The “Chopsticks” waltz mentioned at the beginning of this article is one example of playing this game.
This playful app has been around for about seven years, and it has been installed more than a million times on iOS and Android mobile devices. In essence, Magic Piano plays familiar piano songs and melodies while beaming notes that guide players’ fingertips towards the right keys to press; the experience is highly rhythmic and very enjoyable. The song catalog has expanded to include classics such as Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” to popular songs that children can identify with such as “Let It Go” from the soundtrack to Disney’s “Frozen.” Even hits such as John Legend’s “All of Me” to “Bubbly” by Colbie Caillat can be played on Magic Piano, an app that lets you configure the tempo. While this app will wok on smartphones, a better experience is provided on iPads and Android tablets.
Memory Match for Piano
Here’s another simple musical exercise derived from a classic game, and it can be very effective for children learning musical notation and symbols. You will have to make a set of cards with the symbols you want your student to learn; some examples may include the note alphabet and finger numbers that match keys. Each symbol should be drawn on two cards. Shuffle the deck and place the cards face down on a grid. Demonstrate the game by flipping two cards over until you get a match; make sure your child understands the concept of memory so that he or she gets the full benefit of the game. Once a match is obtained, it must be played on the keys.
Piano Floor Pads
You can relive the FAO Schwarz scene from the Tom Hanks film “Big” right in your homeschooling space. For the most part, piano play mats are affordable; unless you choose a 24-key model that doubles as a synthesizer, you should be able to find floor pads priced at well under $100. Modern touch-sensitive piano mats run on batteries and tend to be very durable. To get the most out of this wonderful toy, make sure your student learns how to play melodies on the keys first before moving onto playing on the mat.
The White Keys
The object of this game is to make students familiar with the keys and have fun finding them. You will need small objects to mark the white keys as well as a set of cards marked with the letters A through G. Shuffle the deck of cards and show one to your student; the goal is to find and play the correct key before placing the small object on top. The challenge is to go through the deck of cards until all octaves are identified, but your student will not be able to play a white key that already has an object on top.