The Grand Staff Magnetic Board has quickly become my favorite tool in piano teaching. It is versatile, interactive, colorful, and fun, giving the students a new way to master theory concepts, ear training, composition, and so much more!
Here are twenty-four ways you can use the Grand Staff Magnetic Board in your piano studio every day—from beginning piano students to intermediate or advanced. Today we’re taking an in-depth look at just twelve ways to use the Grand Staff Magnetic Board, so come back for Part 2 next week (now posted here)!
Use the Grand Staff Magnetic Board to teach the keyboard and staff
1) Teach & review piano keys
For your very beginning students, use either the letter magnets or color dot magnets on the keys to help them visualize and learn the names of each key
Idea 1: Have students find the 3 black note groups with one color dot magnet and the 2 black note groups with another color dot magnet.
Idea 2: Start with all the letters on the magnetic keyboard and ask the student to name all the keys. Then, replace one letter name with a color dot magnet and ask them to name the keys again–including the color dot magnet. Keep replacing the letters with color dot magnets until the student has reviewed all key names.
Idea 3: Mix up the letter magnets and time the student to see how quickly they can place the letters on the keys they’ve learned. This is a great game whether the student knows 1, 2, or all of their key names.
Idea 4: When the student is more confident with their piano keys, quiz their knowledge by placing a color dot magnet on a key instead of the letter name. The student either names the key or replaces the color dot magnet with a letter magnet.
2) Teach & review notes on the staff
Use either the letter magnets or color dot magnets to teach your students new notes on the staff.
Idea 1: Drill your student with finding all of one note on the staff. For example, with “find all Cs,” they need to place color dot magnets on every C on the staff–low, middle, high, and even ledger lines.
Idea 2: Review just the space or line names. You can mix using letter magnets and color dot magnets to quiz their knowledge of the notes.
Idea 3: Place 6 color dot magnets on the new note on the staff and have the student name them. Have student turn around while you move 2 color dot magnets out of place. The student now needs to find which dots are not the correct notes.
3) Connect keys and staff
Use your students’ knowledge of the piano keys to correlate notes on the staff.
Idea 1: Put a color dot magnet on Middle C on the keyboard then another color dot magnet on the staff. For students who need a more hands’-on experience, have them draw a line from the Middle C on the keyboard to the Middle C dot.
Idea 2: Put a letter magnet on the keyboard then have the student place color dot magnets on the same note on the staff (if you place “F” on the keyboard, they have to find that exact F on the staff and place all six color dot magnets in place).
4) Teach keyboard geography
Some students struggle knowing which notes go where on the keyboard.
Idea 1: If you are not using the color coded system, you can use a separate color for “low, middle, high.” For example, C3 might be red, middle C (C4) might be blue, and C5 might be yellow. Alternate the Cs and have students find the correct notes on the piano.
Idea 2: If you are using the color coded system, place all the notes then have the student write on the board whether they are low, middle, high, etc.
Idea 3: Create sight reading exercises with the color dot magnets to help students master their keyboard geography.
5) Teach “high and low”
We often teach “high and low” on the keyboard, but you can connect this concept to the staff.
Idea 1: Place a color dot magnet on the staff and move it up or down the staff. If the student struggles to identify the direction, draw up and down arrows on the board to further aid the visualization. The student can also follow your directions to “move it up” or “move it down.”
Idea 2: Further help your student connect the “up/down” movement with the keyboard. Start with a color dot magnet on Middle C in the staff. Help your student find Middle C on the piano. Then, move the color dot up one and ask the student to play the next key up (to the right) on the piano. If you move the color dot magnet down the staff, they have to go down on the keyboard.
6) Spell words
Challenge your students’ note reading and vocabulary on the staff. These ideas can be used from early beginners to intermediate students–you can make the rules easier or harder by allowing only certain notes on the staff to be used (e.g. for an intermediate student, use at least two ledger lines).
Idea 1: Put color dot magnets on the staff (like “BADGE”) then have the student use letter magnets to solve the word underneath.
Idea 2: Flip the game and use the letter magnets to spell a word. The student must put color dot magnets on the staff to create the correct notes to spell the word.
>>> Get free, printable word cards to use for this activity (this will also give you access to updates and any other limited free printables we offer)
Use the Grand Staff Magnetic Board for sight-reading
7) Strengthen students’ note-reading for a piece they’re struggling with
If your student is confused with note reading in written music, bring it to the Grand Staff Magnetic Board.
Have the student copy the notes from the sheet music onto the Grand Staff with color dot magnets. Ask the student to read the notes from there. If they need extra review, change colors each time so it’s a more interactive, interesting approach (“You did it in red—can you do it in blue too?”)
8) Create short sight-reading activities with the color dot magnets
This is one of my favorite activities! Create random sight-reading segments with the color dot magnets. These ideas can be adapted to melody writing and dictation activities too!
Idea 1: Have your student pick the color dot magnets they want you to create a melody with.
Idea 2: Intentionally encourage intervallic reading by starting with basic steps and skips then progressing to larger intervals in your melodic segments.
Use the Grand Staff Magnetic Board to teach basic theory
9) Compose music
Shake up note reading review by giving the students the color dot magnets to create their own melody. In addition to composing, they can play it while naming notes as a bonus.
Idea 1: Challenge your student to compose a melody with specific notes. This challenge can vary depending on the level of your student: primer students can use easier notes while intermediate students must use ledger lines.
Idea 2: Throw sharps or flats into the mix and challenge your student. Or, help a student change their composition from major to minor by adding the appropriate sharp or flat magnets.
Idea 3: Inspire your student to think creatively by asking them to compose a melody that fits the colors they are using ("Is red an angry color? Blue a cool color? Yellow a happy color?").
10) Review note stems
Note stems can be confusing even for more advanced students. Reviewing them is a good idea for any level.
Idea 1: Teach note stems by lining up notes from bottom to top and having student draw the correct stems in order.
Idea 2: Play copycat with your youngest students. Place a color dot magnet on the staff and draw the correct stem. Place another color dot magnet on the same place on the staff and this time, have your student draw the stem to create a note.
Idea 3: Review note stems at random by placing several different color dot magnets across the staff and the student has to determine whether the stems go up or down.
11) Teach lines & spaces
Use the letter magnets, color dot magnets, and number magnets to help your student nail their lines and spaces.
Idea 1: Teach basic lines and spaces by asking the student to place color dot magnets on all the spaces then all the lines.
Idea 2: Have students number the lines and spaces from bottom-up by using the number magnets.
Idea 3: Teach students the names of the lines and spaces by using the letter magnets. If they need extra review, make it a game where you replace one of the letters with a color dot magnet and they still have to say all the lines or spaces. Keep replacing the letter magnets with color dot magnets until the student is identifying all of the lines or spaces without aids.
12) Teach steps and skips
Visualize steps and skips on both the keyboard and the staff for your students.
Idea 1: Place one color dot magnet on a key and ask your student to place another color dot magnet a step or skip above or below it. You can make a game of it where the color dot magnet “skips” over a note to land.
Idea 2: Create steps or skips on the staff and ask the student to identify them.
Idea 3: Give the student two color dot magnetics and ask them to create a skip or step.
Which idea will work for your students?
We have twelve more fun ideas for the Grand Staff Magnetic Board to strengthen students’ knowledge and understanding of music. Be sure to come back next week to read Part 2 or sign up for our newsletter so you’ll get it directly in your email.
Need more magnets?
If you bought an earlier version of the Grand Staff Magnetic Board (or if your students have adopted or misplaced some of your magnets), you can get the magnets only.
The new magnets now come in 9 colors and match the Boomwhackers® and handbell colors. Additionally, number and solfege magnets provide even more activity options than before!
To get the magnets, go to the Grand Staff Magnetic Board product and select the "Magnets only" option (above the "add to cart" button)
Read Part 2 with 12+ more in-depth ways to use the Grand Staff Magnetic Board in lessons!
The ideas are endless! Read Part 2 here.
How would you use this in your studio? Or, if you already use it in your studio, what is your favorite idea? Comment and share!