Matrix Ed. Blog

Games, activities, ideas and more for teaching strings and the music theory connection!

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Flip-Flop Fingerboard

Students practice fingerboard geography and string alphabet sequencing in this fun memory game!

Goal:  Match the music alphabet letters to the correct place in the fingerboard string cards. The first player to get their strings "flipped" wins the game.

Prior Knowledge

* Students understand the muisc alhpabet in as it moves in seconds

* Students have awareness of finger numbers on the left hand

* Students can identify the name and location of the open strings 


* 2 decks of Music Alphabet Cards for up to 4 players (6 sets, each with 7 cards, make up a deck in the MMG materials or you can make your own)

* popsicle stick, pencil or blue jello puzzle stem (MMG), something to represent the nut

* multiple dice (optional)


* Choose a single string or scale pattern of two strings to make up the board (Ex: A and E string as in the video linked belo)

* Each player sets up their fingerboard with the string alphabet cards face up (Fingergoard Fine)

* Place the nut (popsicle stick, pencil, blue jello puzzle stem from MMG) under the open string letters to represent the nut.

* Make sure the open strings are furtherst from the student, as it is from the player's perspective.

EX: A   E


      B   F

      C  G

      D  A

Play By Play

* Shuffle a deck of music alphabet cards and place it face down between players.

* Ask students to "take a mental picture" of their string alphabet letters and store it in the music photo album in their minds.

* Students turn all fingerboard/string letter cards face down so they are hiding.

* The first player draws the top card from the shuffled deck. If the letter matches one of the face down fingerboard cards the player "flips" that card over so it is face up. If it is indeed a match it stays face up! If it is not a match the student "flops" it face down again. The drawn card is discarded. 

* Continue play until someone has "flipped" all fingerboard cards correctly face up. You may choose to continue play until everyone has successfully flipped their cards face up. The student who is finished first can flop them back over and start again while the other students finish flipping OR instead they can continue to draw a card and pluck that note on their instrument!


* Play this game the same way only without any string alphabet cards preset. Instead, students draw cards and place them where they believe they go on the fingerboard. This is tricker but they can still use the knowledge of the alphabet to find the correct placement of the letters. You may choose to allow them to preset their open strings above the nut. 

Sound Connection

* Once a student has "flipped" all their fingerboard letters they may continue to draw cards and pluck the matching note on their instrument. They can continue to play this way until all students fingerboards are flipped. This is a great opportunit to transfer the information onto the instrument!

* After the game have students point to the letters with their right hand hold up their left hand to finger along each letter on each string while the teacher plays or plucks those notes. Then have studnets get their instruments and practice fingering-plucking-playing these notes. But the most important is the identification of the right letter with the right finger so the bow is not needed.


Flip Flop Fingerboard

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Roll Away

Staff-Fingers Variation

Students practice identifing notes on the staff and relate them to the correct fingering on the instrument in first position.

Goal:  Students match the fingering of staff notes to the number rolled on the dice which represents the fingering. The  first person to "roll away" all of their cards wins the game!

Prior Knowledge

* Students have knowledge of the notes on the staff and their relationship to each string on the instrument.

* Students know that in first position all lines are 1st and 3rd fingers and all spaces are open, 2nd or 4th fingers.

* Students are able to identify first, second, third and fourth fingers on their left hand.


* 1 set of Treble Cleff Staff Notation Cards (MMG Grand Staff Cards treble clef sets or flashcards such as the ones found here these actually have the fingering on the back so it's less like a test and students can check their work)

* Dice


* Shuffle 1 set of staff notecards.

* Deal all cards out to two players. 

* Each player places three cards face up (staff notation up) in front of them and the rest remain in a pile they hold in one hand. 

Play By Play

* The first player rolls the dice. If they have a staff note card face up that matches that fingering they may discard it in the center. They replace that card from their pile so that they continue to have 3 cards face up until they "roll away" all of their cards.

* KEY: 1 = first finger, 2=second finger, 3 = third finger, 4 = fourth finger, 5 = open string, and 6 = note out of first position 

* Extention Option Violins -  4 can also be for fourth finger extention and be a match for high C on the E string

* More Advanced Option Instead of discarding in the center, each student creates a pile for each finger and out of first position notes. At the end they turn over the piles to check their work. See below for sound connection.

Sound Connection

* Students turn over their single piles of cards for each finger. Students read/play/finger the notes of each finger. Ex: F#-B-E-A for first finger. The teacher can also play the notes out of first position (anything above B on the E string)


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 Violin Key to Key Signatures!

If you teach any string orchestral instrument I hope you share this cool fact with your students! My students think it's pretty cool :) 

There are patterns in the strings and finger patterns on the Violin that equal the order of Major sharp scales, order of sharps and even the order of Major Flat Scales.

Sharp Keys

The Major sharp keys match the violin strings from low to high: 
How many C strings do we have?  Zero! Tha'ts right. There are 0 #'s in C Major. 

The first string is G so G Major has 1#.

The second string is D so, you guessed it 2 #'s. The same goes for the 3rd string A and the 4th string E.

C strings=0#'s, 1st string G=1#, 2nd string D=2#'s, 3rd string A=3#'s, 4th string E=4#'s
Order of sharps? Move down the strings high to low as you climb up the fingers starting with high 1 on the E string, high 2nd on A, high 3rd on D, and high 4th on G

Order of Sharps

Start on the E string and put your first finger down on F#. You're first finger on the E string is the first # added in any sharp key signature.

Now move down one string to A and use your high second finger, C#. That is our second # in any sharp key signature. 
Next comes the D string high 3rd finger for G# and the G string high 4th finger D#.

So starting on your highest string play your high 1 then 2 then 3 then 4, moving to the next lowest string each time. 

E1=F#, A2=C#, D3=G#, G4=D#

Flat Keys

We can find the Flat Key by hopping a low first finger across the strings from high to low.

(E string) F -1b,

(A string) Bb-2b's,

(D string) Eb=3b's,

(G string) Ab=4 flats


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Interval Snake Escape 

Goal: To identify intervals and understand how they move through the musical alphabet.

Prior Knowledge

* Students know the musical alphabet in seconds forwards and backwards

* Students can identify steps and skips 

* Students can define interval as the distance between two pitches. 


* Music Alphabet Cards 

* Dice

  Traditional dice work well but large foam dice are also a lot of fun, as shown in the video. 

  These can be found at the store "5 Below" or on

* Game players (small toys, boardgame pieces, small leggo's,)


* Set up a music alphabet snake in 2nds (ABCDEFGABCDEFG....) with one card face down at the end. This card is the goal. 

* Explain to students that in music where you are is always "1".  Deomostrate to students rolling different intervals and count where you are as one. 

* After students understand the above concept and have played the game successfully, you can introduce shorter ways to count different intervals:

  2nd=step, 3rd = skip

  All intervals are combinations of steps and skips

 4th=skip+step, 5th=two skips, 6th=two skips+step, 7th=3 skips, 8va=3 skips+step

 All even intervals have a step, all odd numbers are even numbers of skips

Play By Play

* All players start on the first letter

* A palyer rolls the die and moves that interval up the alphabet snake. Students should narrate as they move "2nd 1-2 BC"

* If a player rolls a 1 they remain in the same spot. 

* If a player lands on another students spot, they must skip back a 3rd. 

* To win and escape the snake a player MUST roll the exact interval to land on the last card. If they cannot go the full interval they move backwards.

* Once a player escapes the snake, the game can end or everyone can keep playing until they all escape. 

Sound Connection

* Students notate the intervals they roll on staff paper, white board, or staff slates with magic notes. Each player notates the letters they land on througout the game. After the game is over students can play through their pitches, add rhythms and arrange it into a composition. 


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