Category Archives: Texas State Theory Test

Triad Trios – Identify Triads Inversions with Roman Numerals

Triad Trios

Triad Trios

Every time my intermediate students learn how to identify triads with Roman numerals, I remind myself that I need to make a fast activity that will make this easier and more fun. With the help of my students who tested it and made suggestions, I finally came up with this one which we named Triad Trios, because it only takes 3 cards in a column to win. It is a fast game for student and teacher.

Since this is an introductory activity, the key signature is C Major. I successfully used this with students who had no experience with the concept and they learned it much faster than when I simply explained it to a student with a worksheet.

I am a little hesitant about posting it here, however. Triad Trios is an easy game to explain in person, but I found it difficult to write the instructions. I’ve made some graphics that I hope will help. I suggest you print the instructions and save the with the cards.

I found this game to be fantastic in teaching a very hard concept and making it easy to learn. Teachers who prepare students for exams such as your state theory exam or ABRSM, as well as the AP music exam will find Triad Trios very helpful.


  • On the grand staff in the key of C major, identify I, IV, and V triads with the correct Roman numeral.
  • Use the correct Arabic numeral for inverted triads, using the bass note as the identifier.


  • Triad Trios uses only 9 cards per player, and is printed on front and back. You will make two sets, one for each player, using a different color for each set.
  • The file has 2 pages, but the second page is for the back of the cards.
  • Print only one page, then print on the back however your printer does that.
  • Alternately, instead of printing the second page on the back, which can be tricky, you can hand write the Roman numerals  on the back.
  • The purpose of the colored card stock is to quickly separate the decks. If you only have white card stock, mark them in some way.


  • This activity is for two players: student and teacher, or two students.
  • Each player has a deck of one color of cards. The “front” of the card show a triad on the staff. The back has the Roman numeral answer.
  • Each player has his deck on a table in front of him with the front of the cards (the grand staff side) facing up.
  • Before starting, explain that all the cards are in the key of C Major. Review the I, IV, and V chords in C.
  • Without turning the card over to see the back, the first player identifies the top card in his stack, saying, for example, I6 (one six). The player turns the card over to see the answer. Then he places it on the table with the answer (the back of the card) facing up.
  • The second player repeats this, and puts his card on the table also.
  • The play continues in this fashion. Every time a card is drawn it is placed on the table. The cards should be arranged in columns, so that all the Roman numeral I cards are in the first column, all the Roman IV cards are in the second column, and all the Roman numeral V cards are in the third column.
  • The first player who has all three inversions (I, I6, and I6/4 or IV, IV6, and IV6/4 OR V, V6 and V6/4) in a column is the winner.
  • Since I use this game as a teaching tool, there is no penalty if they get the answer wrong. I simply help them figure it out.






Filed under Intermediate Students, Texas State Theory Test, Theory

Triad Tic Tac Toe

Triad Tic Tac Toe

Triad Tic Tac Toe

Triad Tic Tac Toe is a set of four cards to review chords and chord inversions. This is a very fast, 2-person tic tac toe game for late elementary and intermediate students. Only one card is used in the game, so you can play at different levels for each student. It can be used for review, or as a teaching tool to explain as you play.

This game is like a worksheet, but a lot more fun.

There are four cards in this set. The first and second cards include inverted triads, and the third and fourth cards are in root position.

Have you ever noticed that some students can play inversions without any trouble, but they just sit and stare when you ask them to name the chord. There is no doubt that learning to quickly identify inversions is a great help in not only memorizing, but in learning theory, improvising, or playing lead sheets.

In this game there is a very simple way to name an inverted triad. All you have to do is find the interval of a 4th and the top note of this interval is the name of the chord.


There are several things the student can identify with this game. Students can:

  1. Identify the root of the triad.
  2. Identify the inversion in cards one and two (first, second, root position).
  3. Name the chord using cards three and four.
  4. Identify the triad with Roman numerals. (Use the first card in C major because students need to know the key for this skill.)
  5. Identify the slash chord name, such as C/E. (Use the first and second cards.)
  6. Identify the triads as major or minor (if they know their key signatures).


  • Bingo tokens, 2 different colors.  [Pencil erasers, pieces of colored paper, bingo chips.]
  • Two players use the same game board.

Directions for 2 players:

  • Print one game board on card stock. The first and second cards are more difficult, so it depends on the skill you are working on.
  • Give each player about 5 tokens of the same color.
  • The student goes first and identifies a triad of his choice. If he/she is correct, he puts a token on it.
  • This is repeated by the second player, with a different colored token.
  • Play continues in this manner until a player has a token on 3 squares in a row in any direction, including diagonally, as in a Tic Tac Toe game.



Filed under Games, Texas State Theory Test, Theory, Uncategorized

Rhythm Blocks

Rhythm Blocks

Rhythm Blocks

Using these rhythm cut-outs is a great hands-on way to teach rhythm. If students are confused about rhythm values, it could be that verbal explanations didn’t work. How many times have we thought students understood a concept only to discover later that they were really confused but didn’t want to tell you? I remember when I was a young piano student just nodding my head in agreement when I really had no idea what my teacher was talking about. I started parroting back her definition of time signatures because I was a good at memorizing. But I didn’t understand what I was saying and I didn’t want to admit I didn’t get it. I liked her and I wanted to make her happy!

One of the first and most important rhythm concepts students have understand is that a note with a dot is equal to three of the of the next shorter note. That is the key to understanding dotted half notes and dotted quarters.  Theses rhythm shapes are great for that because they are proportional in size; so two eighths are the same size as one quarter.

Print this page on card stock and glue it to a sheet of thin craft foam before you cut them out. If you are crafty, even better is to glue the page to foam board (also called tag board), which will make them easier for students to move around but a lot hard to cut out!

I made this printable years ago, but today’s post is updated to make the notes easier to read. Plus, I fixed a note that was orientated wrong. So if you have the old file, you can replace it with this one.

Another way to explain fractions is to use my Rhythm Pizza printable. It is a very helpful first step to teaching rhythm values. Then to teach counting dotted notes, use this helpful visual, Rhythm in the Grid.

I know you can come up with many ideas for students to learn with these!


Filed under Rhythm, Teaching Aids, Texas State Theory Test, Theory

Rhythm Review 1-6 Revised

Rhythm Review Levels 1-3

Rhythm Review 1-3

Rhythm Review Levels 4-6

Rhythm Review Levels 4-6

I’ve mentioned before that a lot of the theory worksheets I post are for the Texas MTA theory exams. These exams are in twelve levels, one for each grade. The early grades are not hard and they are a great way for teachers to discover if their students are really remembering all the theory we teach in lessons. If you are in an area that offers theory exams, consider them!

Last year, after several years of hard work, the TMTA theory tests were revised. In my studio, that means I need to revise all my theory worksheets. It is a daunting challenge, but I’ve been slowly trying.

Today’s post contains rhythm questions for grades one through six and up to about level 4 in most method books. In the top left corner of each page, I numbered the tests with the TMTA level to keep them straight, but teachers can certainly use these sheets to reinforce rhythm concepts at any grade. You all know I love silly cartoons, but I tried really hard to make these pages friendly looking, and not cartoony. They use less ink than the originals, and they can be used with any age.

See any mistakes? Let me know!


Filed under Intermediate Students, Rhythm, Texas State Theory Test, Theory, Worksheets