Strike-a-Chord



by Sally Long

Current job is a Special Projects Coordinator at Mayer-Johnson Co., a publishing firm for speech and special education products.

Instructional Objective The learners will be able to organize keyboard musical-note representations into appropriate chord formations and state the name of the chord sequence correctly.


Learners/Context The learners are music students currently enrolled at Wagner's Music School. The classes are grouped by age, 6-8 and 9-12. The card game is for boys and girls who have a minimum of one-year of musical-keyboard training. The game is an enrichment-remediation tool allowing practice of chord formation either in the classroom or at home. Students can play the game alone or in small groups.


Rationale Wagner's Music School begins instruction of chords after a student has completed one-year of music-keyboard training. Students learn chords sequences through hands-on manipulation, verbal drills, flash cards and worksheets. Mastery of a variety of chords is necessary to become a good musician. Chord memorization is tedious and frustrating for the students.

A card game would interject a little fun in this mundane topic. Through play, students would be able to reinforce memorization of basic chords and their conjugations. In addition, the game would speed the reaction time of chord identification, an important factor in advanced musicianship. The game could be used during class time or at home.


Process The students will be introduced to the playing cards slowly. As they are learning basic-chord formations, the instructor can have the children individually locate the appropriate cards in their playing deck. This will reinforce verbal instruction plus give hands-on practice of chord identification and formation. Once the instructor has taught a minimum of six chords, the students will be ready to play Strike-a-Chord in small groups.

Playing in groups will help increase the speed of chord recognition. Because it introduces a little competition to the topic, it can encourage extra practice by the students to become "good" at the game. The card game requires two steps. The first is the formation of a previously-instructed chord sequence. The second is stating the correct name of the chord. The teacher will explain the rules and demonstrate the game.

Strike-a-Chord increases in difficulty with time because the instructor is constantly adding new chords to the student's knowledge base. The playing cards include cards for seventeen basic-chord formations and their conjugations. For chord-formation verification, the game will include a card with an illustration of the basic chords.


Rules The game is played with 2-4 people in the following manner:

1. Select a dealer. The dealer shuffles the deck of cards and deals seven cards to each player. Place the remaining cards face down for drawing during play. Turn one card over to form the discard pile.

2. Moving clockwise, each player may choose a card from another player by draw a card from the deck, or select the top card in the discard pile.

3. If the player has three or four cards forming a chord, the chord sequence is placed on the table. The player must then tell the other players the name of the chord. If correct, this player's turn continues by selecting another card as in step 2. If the player is incorrect, another player may "steal" the chord by stating the chord name correctly. If a chord is "stolen" the player's turn is over and play moves to the next clockwise person.

4. If the player does not have a chord sequence, one card from hand is discarded face up on pile and play moves to next person.

5. Repeat steps 2-4 for each player.

6. The winner is the player with the most chord formations.

Optional Uses Remediation Game Style

Using a solitaire game style, the student deals out five cards (one face

up, four face down, etc.) and creates chord sequences from the visible

cards. As the chords are formed, place them above the playing cards

until as many different chord sequences as possible are formed.

Advanced Game Style

As students become more advanced, the teacher can assign point values

to the chords sequences giving higher points tothe more difficult

chords. Or, the game could coordinated with the lesson by giving a

higher point value to the most recently learned chord sequences. The

game would be won by the student with the highest score.


Card Design - 46 cards ( 4 each of A through G; 4 each of Eb and Bb; 2 each of F#, G#, Ab, # & D#).


Design Process The card game development is an attempt to make learning chords more fun for children and instructors as well. Children often have difficulty with this process creating a battleground for instructors at school and parents at home.

The original design included a picture of a note with the name of the note below. A prototype of this design was constructed for testing by several music students. The original deck had 44 cards of A-G plus four cards with Sharp Symbols and four cards with Flat Symbols. The rules were simple--draw from the deck and make chords of 3-4 cards. Things did not go as planned. Instead of making all seventeen chords, the children made only the simple, well-known chords. They did not use the sharp and flat symbols. The game was not challenging. In addition, the instructor pointed out that the children do not need to recognize the "note" I had carefully drawn on the card. They learn the chord by name and by placement on the keyboard.

The original game was reworked. The first change reduced the number of A-G cards. The next change added extra, specifically named, sharp and flat cards to force use of the advanced symbols. The third change added a keyboard to the card design with the targeted key colored red. The instructor wanted the children to be able to name the chords. This led to the fourth change; the children must correctly name the chords they create. For added fun and challenge, a twist was added--the "stealing" of misnamed chord sequences.

The changes were positive. The instructor is planning to make up several decks for use in her classes.