Fun with Rhythm Playing Cards

Are you a card player? I grew up in a family that loved playing cards. In fact, we have a family version of Gin Rummy that we call “Dummy Rummy” and we play it so often that my kids find it strange when they learn that their friends have no idea how to play!

A fun alternative to flashcard drills and theory worksheets in the music studio is playing various games with Rhythm Playing Cards. You can do so much with them! Here are a few ideas:

rhythm playing cards beginner piano game

Have students match cards of like value. Can they beat the teacher?

Have students arrange cards from lowest to highest value (or highest to lowest). Set a timer and see if they can beat their time!

Play Rhythm Playing Card Memory: Use two sets of cards and lay them on the floor face-down in a grid. One student turns over two cards; if they match, the student names the symbol and tells the value, and keeps the cards. If they don’t match, the student puts them back in the grid face-down and the next student (or the teacher) gets a turn. Whoever collects the most pairs wins!

  • Play Rhythm Playing Card War: The deck is divided evenly, with each player receiving half of the cards, dealt one at a time, face down. Each player places his stack of cards face down, in front of him. Each player turns up a card at the same time and the player with the higher note value card takes both cards and puts them, face down, on the bottom of his stack. If the cards are the same value, it is War. Each player puts two cards face down and one card face up. The player with the higher cards takes both piles (eight cards). If the turned-up cards are again the same value, each player places two more cards face down and turns another card face up. The player with the higher card takes all 14 cards, and so on. The game ends when one player has won all the cards. (A good rule of thumb is to use 40-50 cards per 2-3 players.)
  • Play Rhythm Playing Card I Spy: Lay out one of each rhythm symbol on the floor. Choose a card to describe to the other player without using the words “rest,” “beat,” “note,” or the name of the symbol.
  • Play Rhythm Playing Card Draw: Hold up one, two, or three rhythm symbols for three seconds, then put them face down. Challenge the student(s) to draw what they remember seeing.
  • Play Rhythm Playing Card Dictation: Choose four cards and clap the rhythm without showing the student(s). Can they correctly write down the rhythm you clapped? Now switch roles!
  • Decide on a time signature, and have students build four measures of rhythms. Challenge them to clap, stomp, hum, or chirp their rhythm!

Rhythm Playing Cards are incredibly versatile, and it is worth your time to print, laminate, and cut out a set to use in private and group lessons, summer camps, or even as a take-home activity for students to play with a sibling or parent! You can find a set in my shop that includes a printable PDF with quarter notes, quarter rests, half notes, half rests, eighth notes, eighth rests, whole notes, whole rests, dotted quarter notes, and dotted half notes. Print as many sets as you like for personal or studio use. (Click the picture for the link!) Please no distribution or resale.

Happy music-making!

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