Orchestra games are used in instructional settings to help musicians learn musical concepts, maintain a positive atmosphere, and motivate participants to complete non-musical tasks efficiently so that more time can be devoted to rehearsal. They are commonly used with children ages three to 18. Games can use orchestral instruments or focus on reading notation and music theory.
Games may or may not be competitive. In some cases, orchestra games are simply a fun way for students to learn. In others, the group is broken into teams or the contest is students against instructor.
Age range is a factor in choosing orchestra games. For young children, non-competitive or student-teacher games are the best choice. For instance, the instructor may use a game to help the students develop bow holding skills. The students grasp their bows properly and lay them against the string. Then, following the teacher, they creep the bow up and down to a popular children's song like "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" or "The Grand Old Duke of York." Both songs involve characters which are climbing up and down.
Student-against-instructor orchestra games are often used to improve routines in all age groups of students. For example, the instructor creates a routine for students to be completed at the beginning of each class. It may include getting music, setting up chairs and stands, and taking out instruments. The instructor times the students, and if they complete the routine quickly for a certain period of time, perhaps a week or a month, they receive a reward. The reward can be anything that the students and teacher both agree is appropriate and motivating.
Sometimes orchestra games are used to practice music. The instructor may have the students compete with one another individually or in teams to see who can play the passage the most times through without a mistake. For younger students, the instructor may have individuals or groups compete to see who can make the most different sounds on their instruments, allowing the students to experiment with their instrument and its sound quality.
One type of notation game uses two staves on a white board. Students are divided into two teams, which line up single file in front of the board. The instructor calls out a fingering or a music note, and the student directly in front of the board places a round magnet at the correct area.
Music theory and notation orchestra games can be combined with instrument games to help students develop sight reading skills and technique. Alternatively, the instructor can have all students seated, holding their instruments, and call out notes or display flash cards to improve sight reading. For a more advanced group, the instructor could display passages of music for sight reading. A variation on this game is chord identification, in which the instructor shows the teams a chord and they identify it. As long as the notation and theory is appropriate for the students' skill level, almost any concept can be adapted into a game.