A Very Irish Improvisation Game for Paddy’s Day

Looking for a way to celebrate Paddy’s day in your music studio? This improvisation game is the perfect activity.

A Very Irish Improvisation Game for Paddy's Day2

A Very Irish Improvisation Game for Paddy's Day4

At the risk of sounding gushy, I do love that people all over the world celebrate my little country’s national holiday.

Last year for Paddy’s day, I shared a super fun game for beginners to practice note names and music symbols (and learn a little about Dublin) called Journey to Phoenix Park.

It was great to see photos of teachers and students playing this game and I hope to see a few more this year! Make sure to tag me on Instagram @colourfulkeys if you’re breaking that one out or trying this new one.

For this year, I wanted to get students creating at the piano with an Irish-y twist. I based this improvisation game on the Irish folk tale The Harp of Dagda. 

The activity will be infinitely more fun if you first briefly explain the story of Dagda and his magic harp that would cast spells on people. Only Dagda could play the magic harp and in the legend, he used it in battles to defeat his enemies by making them laugh hysterically, cry uncontrollably or fall asleep.

I’ve made use of this in Dagda’s Harp to get your students listening more actively during this improvisation. I hope you have fun with it. 🙂

How to Play Dagda’s Harp

  • Choose a primo, secondo and magic pattern card at random.
  • The primo card decides the scale the person playing primo will use to improvise.
  • The secondo card decides the bass pattern. The person playing secondo will play this pattern over and over in the same key as the primo. They can play single root notes, chords or accompaniment patterns, depending on their level.
  • Before you start to improvise, the primo must decide what the spell will be. This should be an action that lasts 4 beats, for example:
    • Freeze for 4 beats
    • Tap the fallboard 4 times
    • Clap the pattern crotchet quaver quaver crotchet crotchet (quarter eighth eighth quarter quarter)
  • Both players will do this any time the primo plays the magic pattern. The secondo needs to listen carefully for the magic pattern while they play.
  • The secondo decides when the piece ends and plays a low do to signal the ending.

How to Assemble Dagda’s Harp

To assemble this game:

  • Print out the game cards (pages 3-14) double-sided.
  • Cut apart and laminate if desired.

Learning Objective for Dagda’s Harp

Through this improvisation game students are learning about scales, chords and Roman numerals as well as developing their aural skills by listening for a certain pattern.

See this Improvisation Game in Action

Below you can see a short excerpt of my student and I playing this game. Vibrant Music Teaching members can find 2 longer clips of the game here and here.

Download the Improvisation Game

You can download a sample of this super fun game totally free by entering your details below.

Vibrant Music Teaching members can download the full version of the game here. If you’re not a member yet you can find out more about the membership and how to sign up here.

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Are you going to try this improvisation game?

Let me know if you’ve any questions about how it works and make sure to share your experience once you try it out.

1 thought on “A Very Irish Improvisation Game for Paddy’s Day”

  1. This looks like a great game, Nicola! I love how structured you’ve made it so that it’s easier for multiple levels and people (like me!) that have never really improvised. 🙂


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