Teaching High and Low

I recently came up with a little game to teach the concept of high notes and low notes…it has been a success! Not only has it been great for teaching high vs. low on the keyboard, but has become a great tool for exploration and improvisation at the piano. I have used this with preschool-aged children (and even with my son who is not yet three). It would probably also be great for other beginners who are school-aged.

It is really very simple. You can play it at the piano or away from the piano (I have a little keyboard printed on the sheet to use if you are not at a piano). I put the sheet and a small envelope inside of a file folder for easy organization. Here’s a photo:

The child gets to reach in the envelope and pull out a little picture. It could be a picture of a fish, a star, a butterfly, a rocket, etc. We then talk about if the object is high or low – a fish would be LOW because it swims deep down in the ocean. An airplane would be HIGH because it flies high in the sky.

Then we play some notes to represent the picture! My son likes to put the picture on the left side of the piano if it is low, and on the right if it is high.

The fun of this game is the improvisation that naturally happens when you start to play what things “sound” like. For example, when a child pulls out a picture of raindrops, you can start up high (where the clouds are) and play short rain drop notes going all the way to the bottom of the piano! A rocket ship can start low, and then when it “blasts off” you can play a fast glissando all the way to the top! A swing goes up, then down, then up, then down. The possibilities are really endless.

I love this because it gets the child playing and exploring on the piano! My son and I love playing “train music.” One of us plays short, low “chugga chugga” notes and the other plays high, long “train whistle” notes.

High or Low Game

What ways do you teach the concept of high and low notes to young beginners?

Jennifer Boster

11 Responses to “Teaching High and Low

  • This is fabulous, Jenny! What a creative way to introduce the piano to little pianists!

  • Hi again Jenny,

    Just wondering if you had intended to share the flashcards for this game too, if you had intended for us to make our own? Either way, thanks so much for sharing the idea for this game!

  • Joy,
    Sorry, should have mentioned that! I didn't feel comfortable sharing the flashcards because I just used random clipart that I found on the internet. I drew all the images for the sheet itself, so that is why I just shared that! But yeah, any clipart will work – some pictures I used include: star, bumblebee, airplane, swing, sun, snowflake, raindrops, bird, flowers, cat, kangaroo, fish, helicopter, stairs, train, slide, rocket, worm, clouds, etc.

  • I always LOVE fun game ideas! Keep 'em coming! Thanks!!!

  • Great idea! Will definitely use your sheet!

  • Just wanted to comment again with a tip…..I found lots of great clipart to use on the Microsoft Office website, for anyone looking for good clipart for making flashcards. Once you download the clipart, it automatically goes right into the Clipart Gallery in Microsoft Word, which makes it pretty easy to use.

    Thanks again for the fabulous idea, Jenny! The game looks and works great. Even my 2-year-old nephew knew what to do! =)

  • Thanks for the tip, Joy!! I will definitely need to look into that. That is awesome that it worked with your 2-year-old nephew!

  • I LOVE this post! Besides the great game idea, it brings back great memories of when my son was that age – I have photos of him standing on the bench, arranging cards, writing in music, etc. It's so precious!
    He's now 19 and a very good trumpet player. It's all so very rewarding.

  • This sounds super cute and super fun! I'll be sure to try it with some of my younger students. Thanks for sharing!

  • Also, it's great for people who can't differentiate between high or low by ear; I love how you hold the little coloured cards in an envelope! 🙂

  • What a fantastic idea for a game to teach high and low. Your son is so cute!