Free note identification game for all platforms and devices
With its Star Wars-style space theme, Staff Wars has long been a favourite note identification game of music teachers around the world. Even though I’ve been using it in workshops and conference presentations – since 2009 I think (!!) – there are still teachers who are still discovering the game. It works equally well for classroom teachers, studio instrumental teachers and ensemble leaders and can be played by individual students or by a group (see below for suggested ways of playing).
Versions of Staff Wars
There are two versions of the program:
StaffWars (original version)
As a note comes flying across the stave, students need to identify it by pressing a letter name on the computer keyboard, by clicking the note name on the screen or by tapping on the surface of the interactive whiteboard or iPad screen. If identified correctly, a space ship will shoot the note. If the answer is incorrect, or the note reaches the clef before an answer is given, you will lose a life.
There is a choice of three clefs: treble, bass and alto. If you haven’t updated your version of Staff Wars 1 for a while, go and do it now because there is also a choice of note range in the current updated version. As you progress through the levels, the speed that the notes appear increases.
This version of StaffWars is available for Mac or Windows, or iPad and Android devices. The desktop version (Mac or Windows) is free, while the app versions will cost you a dollar or two (well worth it!).
Staff Wars Live
Staff Wars Live works in the same way as version 1, but instead of selecting the note on the screen, you can play the note on your instrument. Staff Wars “listens” to your note and if it’s correct, the space ship will shoot the note. If it’s incorrect, or the note reaches the clef, you’ll lose a life.
This version of Staff Wars is available for iPads only here. In the past, there was a desktop version for Mac and Windows but it is no longer being developed.
The Basics – Staff Wars Version 1
1. Launch the game
2. Click on Range – each time you click it will cycle through preset note-range options (full range, reduced range, lines only, spaces only)
3. Click on your choice of clef – game will launch
4. Choose whether to Hide or Show answers (the answer only appears when you guess the note name incorrectly)
5. Click Start. A note appears on the stave – identify it by using the buttons on the screen (if you’re at a desktop computer, press the letter on the computer keyboard). You will lose a life if a note is identified incorrectly, or if the note reaches the clef before being identified. After 10 notes are answered correctly, the game will “level up” and the speed the notes appear increases.
How to play so EVERY student in your class gets involved – even with just ONE computer/iPad
Game #1 Whole-class game with one computer or iPad
You can play a class game using Staff Wars on just one computer or iPad which is connected to a data projector so that the whole class can see. Students take turns to come up to the front and identify the notes. The rest of the class can help by calling out the answers. Switch students after an agreed number of notes (5 or 10 works well). Don’t forget that the speed will increase after every 10 correct notes. If you want your students to stay on the slowest levels – 1 and 2 – you’ll have to “kill off” the game on purpose and then start again.
Game #2 Dual team game with one computer or iPad
Divide the class into two teams and have each team choose a representative. The first team rep comes up to the board and that team plays the game (with team members calling out note names to the team rep) until they lose their three lives. Make a note of the level and number of correct notes. The second team plays and tries to beat the first team score.
Game #3: Individual student game with one computer or iPad
- The teacher sits at the computer (or tablet) and operates the game.
- The students watch screen and write their answers down on a score card (see download link below for a printable score card). They can enter a cross if they don’t know the answer.
- The teacher correctly identifies each note while playing the game (but secretly – without the students knowing!) just before it reaches the clef AND writes down the answer on their own score card (again, secretly) so there is a record of the notes for correction purposes
- When finished, the students swap score cards and correct each other’s answers by comparing the results to the teacher’s list. Students can keep their score card and aim to improve their score each week.
Game #4: Individual student game with multiple computers or iPads
If you have access to multiple devices, students can play individually. The app does not save scores each individual student, but you can take a screenshot of the iPad/tablet screen or the computer screen or simply record the results on the printable score card I’ve provided in the downloads section.
The Basics – StaffWars Live
The great thing about Staff Wars version 2 is that you can play your instrument to identify the note! The other main benefits are that you have more control over the range of notes. You can select a range of just 2 or three notes if that’s all your students have learnt. You also have control over the speed. You can set the speed to anything from incredibly slow, to super-fast! StaffWars Live is currently only available for iPads (you can still download the desktop version, but it is no longer being developed and does not work on all platforms).
1. Launch the game. Two windows will open – the game and a small Test MIDI window
2. Choose your instrument from the drop-down menu
3. Select the range of notes to be tested
4. Select the number of notes
5. Select the speed. Speed 1 is VERY slow and speed 20 is VERY fast! You might like to try a few speeds to find which one will suit your students
6. Play your instrument to test the sound. The sound is picked up through the microphone of the computer or tablet you’re using, so make sure you’re standing close enough for your instrument to be “heard”. Make adjustments to the input level if necessary
7. Press Start
StaffWars Live Games: using just one computer, or multiple devices
You can use Staff Wars 2 for the games listed above, but this time you or the students will play the note on your instrument instead of selecting the note name on the computer keyboard or screen.
Free download: student score cards
I’ve created three score cards for students:
1. A shorter game version (20 notes per game) – for game-play involving a single computer/tablet and many students
2. A longer game version (40 notes per game) – for game-play involving a single computer/tablet and many students
3. An individual score sheet – for students playing by themselves on a computer/tablet
Click the download button below, fill in your details and we’ll send the score cards straight to your inbox. You will also receive weekly music tech tips and news. You can unsubscribe at any time.