Classical Music Games

Classical music is among the richest and most diverse areas of the arts, with a global history dating back hundreds of years. As well as being the subject of deep and serious academic study and intense artistic appreciation, it can form the basis of games for people of all ages and levels of knowledge.

Spot the Difference

This classic children’s game can be given an aural twist. In a classroom environment, the teacher can involve all of the students by inviting them to listen as he plays a piece of classical music, then plays it again with a slight variation. The aim is for players to identify and, more importantly, describe the difference, whether it is a change in the dynamic scheme or a subtle amendment to the melody. The players can write their answers down or submit answers by raising a hand.


Usually preserved for jazz musicians, improvisation is an activity that can be enjoyable and rewarding for classical musicians. In a group, a choir or orchestra or even just among a musical group of friends, choose a well-known piece with a repeating chord structure (Pachelbel’s Canon in D, for example) and begin by playing or singing the bass line together. Add harmonies one at a time. Once you’re into the swing of things, take turns improvising melodies over the top. Be as creative as you like. The game can be played any time, anywhere and with any combination of instruments. See if any other well-known tunes fit the chords.


“Checklist” can be played in a classroom by preparing a list of classical music terms (major, minor, staccato and diminuendo, for example) and a series of short musical examples on a CD. Hand a copy of the list to each member of the class, then play the examples. The players must write the number of the extract next to any term they hear in that extract. For example, if extract one is in a minor key, they should write a “1” next to “minor.” Then go back and discuss the answers. The highest score in the class wins a prize.

Guess the Composer

For knowledgeable classical music fans, “Guess the Composer” is a great way to while away a long car journey or to start discussions with similarly musical friends. Classical music has a vast catalogue amassed over five centuries of modern composition. Chances are, if you turn on a classical radio station, you’ll hear something you’ve never heard before. Try to correctly guess the composer by listening for stylistic, melodic and harmonic clues. Award yourself half a point for getting the correct time period or a contemporary composer. For example, saying Brahms when the correct answer is Schumann wins half a point, whereas saying Bach does not.

George Reece | August 11, 2010