One-Minute Club

Note-Naming Challenge

A few years ago I implemented the “One-Minute Club” in my studio. The idea, first made famous by Jane Bastien, has been continued and further developed by Susan Paradis. Susan has a wealth of free downloadable materials which she redesigns each year.

Read about it on her blog.

There are downloadable charts, flashcards, and full-size and business-card size certificates available. See more here.

The first year I did this, it was ongoing throughout the year. For me, this didn’t work, however, because I often forgot and wasn’t consistent. The following year I started doing monthly challenges with my students and decided to make this the challenge for April-May, approximately 6-7 weeks leading up to the Spring Recital. I love doing it this way as the whole studio is focused and I do it at every single lesson.


I put together a permanent portable board from an old cork board I had laying around.  I covered it in white cardboard, bought cute letters from Target, posted the levels, winners from each year, and guidelines (so I remember my rules from year to year(!). I keep plastic lanyards inside a plastic holder made by cutting off the bottom of a plastic sleeve cover (more on the lanyards below). Color-coded copies of each level of notes are available so students can practice while waiting before or after lessons or even during their lab time.

Using a larger chart (purchased from United Arts and Education) helps me see each student’s progress from year to year.


Levels and Steps

So all students (including beginners) can participate, I created six levels of achievement.

  1. Level 1 – (8) Landmarks Low C, Bass C, Bass F, Middle C (LH/RH), Treble G, Treble C, High C
  2. Level 2 – (12) Grand staff space notes
  3. Level 3 – (12) Grand staff line notes
  4. Level 4 – (24) All grand staff notes (levels 2 and 3 combined)
  5. Level 5 – (12) Ledger line notes (Two ledgers: Low CDE, Middle GAB and DEF, High ABC) P.S. Choice of ledgers is those that are available in the flashcards set I use. Low C is the lowest and High C is the highest.
  6. Level 6 – (36) Grand staff + ledger lines (levels 4 and 5 combined)

*Note: I did fudge the “One-Minute” a little bit. Since there are only 8 cards in level 1, they have to do it in 30 seconds and for level 6 they have 1:30. Although the winners are generally around 1:00 give or take 5-10 seconds. See more on winners below.


During the lesson, we run through their current level of cards three times.

Step 1 – Teacher names note, student plays.
Step 2 – Student names note without playing.
Step 3 – Student names and plays the note. (Timing)

Doing it in three steps helps get the student’s brain “juices” flowing and helps them focus on one aspect at a time before doing both at once.

I try to be conspicuous about the timing if at all possible because as soon as they know the timer is going all of a sudden, their brain goes blank.

The black marks around the boxes are the goal level I set for the student that year. All but one or two students usually hit the goal I’ve set for them. The dash just means that we didn’t do that level this year. I write in pencil so I can update it from timing to timing.




When a student “gets in” by hitting the time, they are given $20 Music Money (my ongoing incentive) and one of Susan Pardis’s business-card sized certificates. It includes a place to record how many years they have been in the one-minute club. The card is placed into a plastic lanyard, and I use a rubber band to attach it to the student’s piano bag. They get a new card each year they get in. (Susan designs new cards each year) Also, at the recital when I’m giving out awards, I name all the students who got into the one-minute club.

I’ve always awarded one overall winner. Students only enter the real competition when they hit level 6. They win a $20 gift card. This year, however, I decided to make an elementary (K-6) winner and a senior (7-12) winner, and each would win a $10 gift card. Once they win they “graduate” from the One-Minute Club.



I print off and cut out a set of Susan Paradis’s free downloadable flashcards for each student. Hopefully, they keep them in good shape from year to year so I’m not always printing a set for EVERY student.

I put a small binder clip on the ones they’re not using and then rubber band that clipped set and their assigned set together. This way they have a full set available, but they know exactly what to practice because when they take the rubber band off, the assigned notes “fall out.”


P.S. A Tip on Sticker Lettering


To make sure I had enough letters and to ensure a nice-looking and yet random pattern, I first cut out all the individual letters (they came in large sheets). Then I laid out my wording (I first tried to do “One Minute Club Challenge” but didn’t have enough letters for the word “challenge.” It’s worth the few extra minutes to not find yourself stuck without letters!


Does anyone else have any unique ideas they implement with the One-Minute Club?


  • This sounds great! I have a question: The flashcards you say have the answer on the back…I waas just at the website from the link you provided at Susan’s but I don’t find any flashcards with the answer to be printed on the back. Can you please tell me where those ones are? I’m set to print the flashcards and laminate them but want to find the ones with the front & back. Thank you! – Teresa

    • Hi Teresa! You’re right! I didn’t realize the backside was not included in the link. It took some checking and I was just about to email Susan when I found them on her site. You can download and print out the backs of the cards here: Just a tip to make sure you put them in the printer in the correct order and make sure you pay attention to whether it’s printing in reverse of forward order. 🙂 I’m going to update the post now thanks to you!

  • Thanks for sharing! I have thought about using Susan’s ideas, but I do something different for the entire year – love your suggestion to do it ‘pre-recital’!

  • Hi, Amy! Thanks for writing about the One Minute Cards I make each year. To clarify, I do not do the contest all year. We play note learning games of all kinds thought the school year. They also have to learn notes for the state theory test. Then in about March I allocate about 4-6 weeks to actually work on the One Minute Club with flash cards. By that time, students are ready for the rather intense drill!

    • Oh OK! Thanks for the clarification. I’m not sure what made me think that then. Maybe Jane Bastien did? You’re right, they’re definitely not ready for flash cards early on. I’m going to edit the post and delete the sentence that says you do it for the whole year. Thanks for letting me know and I hope you’re well!

  • I have tried this before and burnt out. I am going to begin doing this again just in the spring in my studio this year. Thanks ladies!

  • Thanks, Amy, for such a detailed, helpful post. I want to try this soon! I’m just wondering how you were able to color-code these cards since they aren’t arranged in “levels” on the PDF?

    • Hi, Emily, I print them on colored cardstock. It was a lot of work because in order to get the right cards for each level I had to print the entire set on each color even though some of them, like the C’s, only had 6 cards I actually needed in that color.

  • This is brilliant! I’ve used Susan’s 1 Minute Club with my students this past year and they’ve loved it, but I was looking for a way to extend it to be challenging for students year after year. Planning on implementing some of your ideas next year. Thanks=)

    • Great! I’m happy to hear this. It definitely helps for students of all levels to be involved year after year. Getting ready to gear up for our 2019 One Minute Club!

  • Hi Amy, can you please tell me what your wall chart is called or where you found it. I’m in Australia and I’ve searched for wall charts, wall planners, reward charts etc. and I can’t find any blank ones like yours. Thanks, Coo

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