Tag Archives: key signatures

Nine Keys – a Key Signature Board Game

Nine Keys

If your students take a standardized theory test like mine do, you know how hard it is for some students to learn key signatures. My fifth grade students need to know nine key signatures for the TMTA theory test, so I created a fun board game that they enjoy.

I find that if I make something colorful and kind of silly, they all want to play. And as they play, they learn, even if I have to help them at first. Like we all do, I teach students how to figure out key signatures by themselves using the circle of 5ths. But  it is a good idea to learn to identify them quickly, because it gives students confidence. As time goes by, they realize the benefits of knowing key signatures quickly, just as knowing multiplication tables quickly gives them confidence in math.

How To Print

Read this section before you print all 4 pages. To download, click the link under the image above. This printable PDF includes 4 pages.The first page is the game board. The next two pages are the calling cards. I made the calling cards to fit on business card templates that are perforated for easy separation so that I don’t have to cut them. If you don’t have business card templates, there are some hash marks for you to draw a few lines to help you cut out the cards. The last page is the optional back to the cards.

Under the Pages to Print instructions in the pop-up box, select “Pages”, and then type 1-3.  In order to print on the back, insert pages 2 and 3 into your printer and type 4  in the Pages selection box. You will need to know which side of the paper your printer prints on, so test that out before you waste paper.


  • Nine Keys, the free printable game board from my website
  • The cards, cut or separated, and (optional) printed on the back
  • Two game tokens, such as old car keys or key charms from a craft store


  • Students should have a basic understand of key signatures in order to play. They might need help with the answers at first, and that is how they will learn.
  • Student and teacher take turns drawing a calling card and moving to the correct key signature or following the directions on the card. The player who lands on the last key wins. My students really love the card that says, “If you know the definition of Key Signature, move up 8 spaces. If you are the teacher, lose a turn.” Every time I draw that card I moan and groan, saying, “Who made the rules to this game, anyway?” and my students love it!


  • To learn to quickly identify the major key signatures of C, G, D, A, E, F, B flat, E flat, and A flat.


  • Elementary to early middle school

Why I like this activity

  • I used business card templates for the cards, so there is nothing to cut out!
  • It is colorful and students like color.
  • Students had fun when they played the game. They love it when I lose and I make sure I lose a lot!

Please let me know if you can use more key signature games or worksheets.


Filed under Games, Texas State Theory Test, Theory

Colorful Key Signature Chart

Major and Minor Key Signature Chart

I’ve been too busy to post lately. I’m working on a lot of things for my students, but none are ready for the internet. I did manage to finish this keyboard chart that I started a long time ago. I have made several others, but I wanted something with colors my older students would like to see as a poster in my studio.

This was a very time-consuming and tedious poster that I made in Photoshop. I wish I knew a fast and easy way to make these kinds of things, but I don’t. Even the back ground was a piece of crumpled paper from my desk, believe it or not!

Click the link under the picture to go to my website where you can get your own copy of this free printable, without the watermark at the top. The watermark is for Pinterest, which I have been gradually adding things. You can get a lot of great music teaching ideas there.

For those of you who would like a black and white version that students can color themselves, leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to email it to you as soon as possible.

I have started some other printables using this same theme. If you want to subscribe to my website so you can know when I post them, click on the subscription on the top right. You will remain anonymous and it is very easy to unsubscribe if you wish. Thank you to all my supporters from around the globe. You are very much appreciated!


Filed under Teaching Aids, Theory

Fishy Scales Revised with a Very Sad Minor Fish!

Minor                                 Major

Fishy Scales

If you’re not using Fishy Scales to motivate your students to practice 5-finger scales, cross-overs, or octave scales, you might want to try this out for the new teaching year with your elementary age students.  They are recently revised after a suggestion from one of my students to draw the minor fish “sad-looking.” I’m sharing the new design with you. (The major fish is the same.)

Now it is easier to identify minor sounds because students can relate it to the fish. Younger students are always asking me why some of the fish are a different color, and this is a good opportunity to let them hear the difference in major and minor chords.

After I started using Fishy Scales my students practice their scales with more enthusiasm. I make a fish for each student, and as they learn a scale they are very excited to write the name in the “scale” on their fish. When they complete a scale set, I give them their fish to keep and we post a new one for the next set.

I keep them on my wall with  reusable lightweight mounting strips, which come in all sizes. They are very easy to remove when I don’t want “fish” on my piano room wall, and easy to replace.

Print them out on card stock for best results, and cut each page on the lines. There is no need to cut out each fish individually. My students also write on the card what they are working on, such as Octave Scales or 5-Finger Scales.

Thanks to Arlene Steffen for the idea for Fishy Scales. It really is a lot of fun, good motivation, and is very easy for a teacher to implement.


Filed under Preschool Music Resources, Teaching Aids, Texas State Theory Test

Simple Sharps and Fearless Flats Revised

Simple Sharps and Fearless Flats, the worksheets that I made several years ago, are great to help students who are having trouble writing key signatures. Sometimes students are confused or have trouble putting the accidentals on the correct line or space.  Last year I changed some of the graphics in my old versions  for a cleaner, more updated look, and I am just now posting them.

I laminate these and use them as helpful posters when I am showing how to write key signatures.  They can also be printed and put in the  student’s binder for reference. The blank staff at the bottom can be used for practice. If you print multiple copies, try using the “fast” or “economy” setting to save ink. I do that and they look fine, just not as vibrant.

The large staves and spaced apart sharps and flats really do make writing key signatures simple and fearless, especially if I use them with 2 other helpful posters on a giant staff, Down a Fourth and Up a Fourth. Many students have told me they didn’t understand how to write key signatures until we used Simple Sharps and Fearless Flats. With fall testing coming around, I hope they will be useful.


Filed under Texas State Theory Test, Theory

Key Signature Cards with colorful backs

Reverse Side of Key Signature Flash Cards with Key Names

Today I am posting some handy key signature cards that can be used both as flash cards and playing card games. You can even print them both ways!

Above is  the reverse side, which has the major and minor keys printed on the cards.  I worked on these over the summer when I had some spare time.  I wanted a design that would appeal to older students and also be appropriate for  card games.  This is what I finally came up with.

When you get ready to print and the PDF print box pops up, check the setting for “page scaling.” It should be set to “none.” If not, your front and back might not line up properly.

Reverse Side of Key Signature Cards without the printed answers

I also wanted a reverse side that I could use for a rummy type card game. Obviously, the answers could not be on the back of the cards, so I drew a colorful piano graphic. For card games, you will need to print out several sets of cards.

Posted below are the key signature cards. There are 2 pages, one for flats and one for sharps.  I put in two C Major cards because of a Circle of 5ths activity we do.  These are black and white, so if you don’t want or can’t print the colorful backs, print only the following PDF. You can always use a pen and label the backs yourself or ask students to color the backs.

Key Signature Flash Cards

I have decided I do not like to laminate card games because they are too stiff and  don’t shuffle well.  Instead  I have been spraying my cards with clear acrylic matte coating. A can of spray costs about $5.00,  lasts a long time and really works. If I use this spray, the ink from my ink jet printer will not run when it gets wet. If you use an ink jet printer  and want students to handle these cards, you should put some sort of clear coating on the cards, either by laminating,  spraying, or a clear self-adhesive book cover material. Otherwise when you play in warm weather you will have a smeary mess. 

If you print on both sides, I suggest you test out one page first using plain paper and an economy setting. I don’t want you to waste your good paper and ink. If you print on both sides, use the colorful side to cut out the cards, cutting on the thin yellow line in the middle. That way the back of your cards will have an even border.  This was a big project for me, requiring a lot of drawing and placing by hand.  I hope that you will find it helpful.


Filed under Teaching Aids, Texas State Theory Test, Theory