Nine Keys Game

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.

Materials

  • 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

Directions

  • 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!

Objectives

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

Ages

  • 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.

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27 thoughts to “Nine Keys – a Key Signature Board Game

  • Michele Nicholas

    Thank you so much . I have been looking for some game to assist my grade 8 students identify key signatures quickly and confidently. This is a blessing.
    Thank you so much.

    • susanparadis

      Thanks, Michele. I have some other activities for learning keys. If only I had more time to get them posted!

  • Patti Bennett

    Hello Susan, thank you SO MUCH for continuing to share your wonderful games and ideas. I still have piano camps and musicianship classes with my intermediate and very advanced and teenage students. AND….they STILL love to play games. I always modify the game boards you have to fit more advanced levels. For instance I printed the same back on business cards and made other cards to go along with the board you have. I even found a key in the clip art to use. I did cards for minor keys of all the key signatures you have on the board. They have a picture of a key and say “KEY SIGNATURE FOR D MINOR”/etc for all other keys. I’m also going to do an assortment of cards that say “KEY WITH THE MEDIANT NOTE OF C#” /etc for all the names of the scale degrees. I’ll probably add “KEY WITH THE DOMINAT CHORD OF A MAJOR”/etc. Thanks again for your very creative work and for sharing it with all of us!

    • susanparadis

      Thanks for the ideas, Patti. I would post more advanced material, but I just don’t have time!

  • Jill

    I laminate a lot of the theory/games that I find on your site and others. I once bought a pack of 100 laminates and it has lasted me quite a long time (I bought a cheap laminator at WalMart a while ago). If you use dry erase markers then you can use them over and over. Sometimes I do two pages in one laminate, one on both sides.

    Thanks so much for the key signature game! I look forward to using it with a teen who needs the extra help.

    • susanparadis

      Jill,
      Lamination really makes things last a long time!

      • Jill

        An update – I used this the other day with the teen and she loved it!!! She feels more secure in her key signatures now! I will keep using it and other manipulatives/games/theory sheets, until it’s really ingrained. Thanks again for all of your materials Susan, I have SO many I use often!!

        • susanparadis

          Jill, I have another one that helps more with the process, not just memorizing. But I just have not had time to make photos and post it! Keep checking and one day I’ll get it up.

      • Jill

        I was interested in also using this to learn minor keys, and I know you haven’t added minor key cards. I am printing out the same cards but on a different coloured card stock, to use as minor keys! I will take out any we have not yet learned and keep in the others. I think the student will be tickled!! If you do add them as minor keys I would then print those out, as they would be noted correctly.

        • susanparadis

          Jill, that’s a great idea to use different colors for the minors. I just usually tell them before hand that they have to give the minor key. I like your idea better.

      • Jill

        Hi again – I have really appreciated this game Susan! I am wondering if you would think of adding to it, so we could also use it for minor keys? Perhaps a longer board or something? Many thanks!

  • Beth

    Hi Susan, I was wondering what I was going to do with my middle school students this week! Thanks for this new game, we do need to review the Circle of 5ths. I would love to have cards to include the relative minors up to 4 #/b (our examination system requires both M/m to up 4 #/b). Using games (yours & others), I find that it’s not too much of a stretch to expect 8-9 year-olds to write the first theory exam.

    • susanparadis

      Thanks for the suggestion, Beth!

  • Samantha Yoon

    Dear Susan,
    Thank you very much for this games, me and my students enjoy it very much. We are your followers!
    I have just a question for you, do you think of making it up to 7 #s and 7 bs and perhaps making the relative minor cards as well as in future? Me and my students are looking forward to hearing from you. Thanks again.

    Samantha Yoon

    • susanparadis

      You’re welcome for the game. I certainly can make a version up to 7 sharps and flats. Keep checking back!

  • Chris Simpson

    I had some of the games printed at Staples. They put it on copy paper. It ends up being less than a dollar. I’m pretty sure that is cheaper than using my printer.

    • susanparadis

      Chris, I think it costs less to print at home than to take it to a copy center. Plus, you have the cost for gas. The following comes from an article in PC World, May 2012. They were evaluating the cost of printing using a cheap printer or a more expensive one.

      Our sample cheap printer is the $70 Canon Pixma MG2120. Not surprisingly, its ink costs are high: 6.3 cents per page for plain text documents and 14 cents per page for color printouts.
      Our sample expensive printer is the $300 HP Officejet Pro 8600 Plus e-All-in-One Printer. Its ink cost for black pages is just 1.6 cents per page; and for four-color pages, 7.2 cents per page.

      The printer I use, Brother 6510, uses even less ink than the HP.

      Even at the more expensive cost of 14 cents for a game such as Nine Keys, I don’t think that is very much spread out among all your students. Plus, if you set your printer to Fast or Economy, you only use half as much ink.

  • Joanne

    Susan,
    Thank you for the Key Signature game. I am always looking for games for my older students. I will be using it tonight. I can’t wait to play. I think I like the games as much as my students do! Your new design is beautiful! Thank you.

    • susanparadis

      Joanne, I hope your students have as much fun as mine have!

  • Beverly Holt Guth

    P.S. Thanks for showing the procedure for printing.

  • Beverly Holt Guth

    Susan, your 9-key signature game is fabulous! I love the color, too. My “kids” and I thank you! Will you make a 14-key game (with enharmonics) for the older kids? You’re never too old to enjoy practicing in a fun way! Beverly Holt Guth

    • susanparadis

      Beverly, do you think older students would enjoy a game like this? I thought about it, but I was afraid they would think they were too old for it. I can certainly try, but with that many keys, it might have to be a 2 page game!
      And you’re welcome for your comment about the printing procedure. I don’t know why I never thought to do that before!

  • lorrainem9

    You are soooo imaginative, creative and generous! What a precious gift you share with all the music students that come in contact with your wonderful games!

    • susanparadis

      Thanks so much, Lorainne!

  • Kathy Gault

    My comment is more of a general question about all of your creations. I love all of your fun, colorful games and other theory activities for students. But although your use of color is inviting and fun, my mind reels at the cost of photocopying so many things with colored printer ink, which is super expensive! A transfer student came to me this fall from a teacher who obviously loved your website. She has a binder full of completed theory worksheets from it, but I’m wondering if I am missing some obvious way to print such things off in large quantities without going broke? I just bought a new printer and the ink cartridge cost is through the roof!

    • susanparadis

      Thanks so much!

    • susanparadis

      Kathy, I offer a lot of material, and most of it does not use as much ink as the one I posted today. Here is a suggestion many teachers use for printing costs. Decide how much you think you will spend on ink and paper for teaching material. Divide that between your students and add it to their fees at the beginning of the year. I have not heard of parents complaining about a printing fee. Sometimes I email parents theory sheets to print out. Also, print on the economy (or fast) mode and print worksheets in gray scale. Many times the cheapest printers use the most expensive ink. When you buy your next printer, try to find one that uses less expensive ink. If you have a Kindle or iPad, use that for some of the more colorful games. Don’t try to print out everything; only print what you really need. I don’t mind the expense of ink because I know that it is covered by fees. I hope this helps.

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