Make music theory stick with Quizlet and Heads Up and why theory is important


Every student should earn an A+ on a theory test. That won't happen unless they are equipped to make things stick. To make this happen, it takes organization AND some cool apps like Quizlet and Heads Up


One of my favorite ways to review music terms and historical facts is with an app called Quizlet. Since my students prepare for the National Federation of Music theory tests, I created flashcards within the app that cover the material for each level.

  • Students access the cards on the iPad.

  • Students review the cards in Quizlet usually in the LEARN mode and then the MATCHING mode during Off Bench time.

  • This past week was group lesson week, so I asked students to review terms with Quizlet while they listened to others perform.

  • Since every level is based on concepts built on the previous levels, students review their current level and the one below it.

Heads Up

All group lessons ended with a rousing (and rowdy!) game of Heads Up. Ellen DeGeneres introduced Heads Up for her show years ago. The app comes with a variety of game “decks” unrelated to music but, it also includes a customizable deck that you can edit for use in your music studio. Additional customizable decks are available for purchase within the app.

The steps for using Heads Up:

  • Create a deck with music terms prior to a group lesson.

  • Assign one student to hold the iPad above her head so she can’t see it OR you, the teacher, can hold the iPad and guess the terms as I did in the video below.

  • Students read the word and give verbal clues or act out the term that appears on the iPad screen.

  • Teacher guesses the term on the basis of their clues. If teacher guesses correctly, tip the iPad forward and a new word appears.

  • Students can choose to pass and teacher must flip the iPad back.

  • The game is timed and afterwards, students can watch a video of their antics as the app records a video of every game. That's why you see the video below.

Here's a collection of snippets from the various group lessons last week. It was a hit with ALL age levels.

The details

How to use Quizlet

Once you download the app on your mobile device or laptop, you can load my cards or anyone else's into your account or create your own. Quizlet is free with options to upgrade. I purchased a Teacher Premium Upgrade for $34.99/year. This package allows you to

  • Upload your own images

  • Recording custom audio with Voice Recording

  • Create diagram sets with as many points as you want

  • Study over time with Long-Term Learning

  • Create unlimited classes

  • Study ad-free on the Quizlet website and mobile apps

  • Choose from a variety of flashcard themes on our iOS app.

My students view the flashcards on the iPad. You are welcome to use my flashcards leveled 1-7. They can be found in one folder at the Quizlet site here.

Watch this video to learn more about Quizlet.

Watch this video to learn how to make flashcards on your computer in Quizlet.

How to use Heads Up

Along with the pre-made decks in Heads Up, there is also one customizable deck. If you want to create a deck for different theory levels, you can purchase more customizable decks within the app. This is REALLY nice if you have a line up of group lessons and don't have time to create a new deck before the next group arrives.

Why emphasize theory?

An A+ is nice but a grade doesn't matter if all the info is stuck in the head. Putting theory into action at the keys and creating with the concepts will make theory stick in the hands for good and more importantly, open up musical imaginations.

When students improvise and compose they are exploring how things "work." Students like to create pieces that sound good so the more they know, the better their pieces will sound.

Get expert advice on how to help your students put theory into action and to ignite their creativity by registering for our next 88 Creative Keys Online Clinic. I look forward to sharing how I guide students to put theory into action, create a piece as well as design cover art, make a video and a professional looking copy that is a keepsake for years to come.

Below is a video of a student holding original cover art for his fully notated composition called "Red Moon."

Our special guest Wynn-Anne Rossi (!) along with Bradley Sowash and I will addresses those "how" questions you've been wondering about. Remember, if you can't join our 88 Creative Keys Online Clinic on Monday, March 5th at 11:00am EST, you can still watch the replay for a full year!

Register here.