Baseball Piano Game

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The baseball piano game is an easy way for kids to understand chord progressions, which are groups of chords moving from one to another.

C Am F and G. That’s a chord progression. (C, A minor, F and G.)

All kids understand baseball, and additionally grasp the idea of “home base” from many games.

Baseball is the only game I know of where the object is to end up where you started (home base) and this just happens to be the objective of classical harmony and chord progressions.

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In music, we start and end on a C chord (in the simplest beginner’s explanation) just as we start and end on home base in baseball.

The similarities of music to baseball are very curious:

  • C chord is home base.
  • Am chord is first base.
  • F chord is second base.
  • G chord is third base.

In baseball you run through the sequence of bases, but must follow the order, Home, first, second, third.

You don’t skip bases in baseball unless you want to make the umpire really mad.

In music, it is exactly the same, you run through the sequence of chords. C Am F and G. In this case, four chords.

But music is infinitely more flexible than baseball: you are allowed to skip bases (chords) and can even omit bases (chords) if you want.

Take, for example, the song Mary Had A Litttle Lamb:

Numbered Keyboard
Numbered Keyboard

Here’s the melody:

3 2 1 2    3 3 3    2 2 2    3 3 3    3 2 1 2    3 3 3 3   2 2 3 2   1

But guess what the chords are:

C            C         G           C         C            C           G          C

Notice, the song uses only two chords, C and G. Countless songs are constructed with two or three chords, making the child’s job much easier.

There are many ways to make this into a piano game:

GO AROUND THE BASES

Teach the child four chords, C Am F and G. They are all white keys and the child can use two fingers to play the lower two members of the chords.

Now have them play the chords in order. After a while, ask that they spend exactly four beats on each chord. This requires more skill.

I usually play HEART AND SOUL while they play these chords.

BOUNCING CHORDS

I get the child to just play two chords, say, C and G.

Now I have them play them in pairs, like this:

  • C G C (pause)
  • C G C (pause) Repeat several times.

Then try other combinations:

  • C F C (pause)
  • F G F (pause)

Repeat each one a few times so they start to build the visual habit of anticipating the next chord.

Kids love the baseball game, and I increase the speed as time goes on.

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The Chord Contest

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Here’s a very crazy chord game that kids love, and reinforces their knowledge of the six basic chords.

First you have to teach the kids the C F G and D E A chords. For younger kids, C F and G will do.

I should point out that I allow the kids to use two note chords (the bottom two notes of the three note chord) with their strongest fingers, the 2nd (index) and third (middle.)

I adopt the manner of a pompous, stentorian orator who appears and challenges them to a race.

I call myself Gortok or Chordomatic (make up some space name that sounds funny) and boastingly declare that I am unbeatable in my ability to find chords quickly. I laugh and beat my chest with pride at my inevitable victory. Poor child, up against an unbeatable machine.

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Eventually, The Chord Machine Always Loses

Gortok wins the first round and deeply gloats in his victory.

But suddenly, in the second round, Gortok loses and is greatly disturbed by his loss (yes, I let the kid win.) But the child is delighted to win and wants more. So choose another chord.

Variations are when Gortok gives the kid a head start by starting further away, across the room. You have no idea how happy it makes kids to see Gortok lose in his mock gloom.

I don’t restrict the fingering, or whether it is a two or three note chord. All that matters is speed, and that the child wins.

As a footnote, I usually have kids finger three note chords with their first three fingers, rather than the standard 1-3-5, because 1-2-3 are their strongest fingers.

But the vast majority of kids are only comfortable with two notes.

More Variations

I generally make a dive-bombing sound, which the kids love, but it always must be followed by Gortok’s complete surprise and disappointment in losing.

The child will have no problem with C F and G chords, but as soon as you introduce D E and A you have black notes, and kids are much less secure with these. So Gortok may have to give a little hint or advice until the child gains facility with chords that include a black note.

Once you have played this a while, try making the chords into pairs, and race them with that.

I play C G C, and then demand they do the same.

Then C F C, and finally F G F.

Show fast you can do it, and challenge them to do the same.

Don’t forget that chords are the basis of all musical construction, and that a command of chords will give a child command of the piano.

Copyright 2008 Walden Pond Press

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