Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Product Review: Musical Suites Card Game

The more exposure a student has to a concept, and the more different contexts that exposure entails, the more likely he will remember it well. When that context is a fun card game, learning happens almost without the student realizing it!

As you make your studio plans for the fall, consider adding Musical Suites to your bag of tricks! How 'Bout It Games recently sent me a set of Musical Suites cards to review. They are a hit with my students, and they offer a fun way to reinforce students' understanding of musical terms and symbols.

The deck has 76 cards, arranged in suites of symbols. For instance, there are 3 quarter note cards in red, yellow, and purple; 3 quarter rest cards in red, yellow, and purple, etc. The deck includes note and rest values, dynamics, and tempo words. There are also reference cards which show how to arrange the other cards in ordinal value from least to greatest, a necessary skill for some of the games. The instructions offer several different games that can be played with the deck, including two solitaire games. The cards feel just like a regular deck of playing cards and come in a handy plastic case.

Recently, I invited a couple of my students to try out Musical Suites after their lesson. We played Una Carta which is similar to Uno. Because they were very familiar with Uno, they caught on quickly to the rules. It must have looked fun because when my daughter walked through, she asked to join us, and after the students went home, she said, "Can we play that card game again?"

I'm looking forward to introducing the two solitaire versions to my students. I have several pairs of siblings in my studio. While one sibling has a lesson, the other does theory on the computer, but never for the full 45 minutes. Musical Suites will offer another activity to engage the student while she waits.

Even within the lesson, Musical Suites cards provide opportunities for learning. A great tip at the HBI Games website suggests having students pull from the deck all of the dynamics that are used within a piece of music. The student can arrange them in order from quietest to loudest. Besides solidifying knowledge of the terms, this helps the student understand that they need to "leave room" for that pianissimo at the end. The student can practice executing those dynamic levels out of context, and then translate that into performance.

I'll be suggesting to my families that they consider purchasing a set of cards for family game nights at home.  Homeschoolers would also find these to be a great tool! If you'd like a set, you can purchase them at the HBI Games website. They'll also be available at the upcoming National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy (July 28-30) at the Music Educator's Marketplace booth. Hope you'll give them a try!

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