Lauren Hodson | March 2018

Arts Integration: Art Musical Chairs

“Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul.”

– Wassily Kandinsky

Music and Art have influenced each other for centuries. These two artistic disciplines rely on one another for inspiration, motivation, and collaboration. In the classroom, music and art can easily be aligned in dynamic arts integration lessons.

One of the most excited ways that music and art can spark collaborative creativity is through Art Musical Chairs. The rules of traditional musical chairs are easy. While music is playing, participants circle a group of chairs (1 less than the number playing) and when the music stops, players rush to find a seat. The person without a seat is eliminated from the game.

Art Musical Chairs is different in that no one gets eliminated and everyone is painting to the beats, harmonies, and emotions of the music. The thing you win is a wonderful group of collaboratively painted art pieces inspired by music.


  • Paper (either one large for each student or a roll that fits the length of a table)
  • Cups of Watercolor Paint
  • Paintbrush (1 per student and paint cup)
  • Aprons
  • Table to move around
  • Music Samples Playlist and ability to play them



Before the painting begins, it is important to link this work with some background information and practice. You can introduce this in many ways. One way is to conduct a See, Think, Wonder exercise using a painting. Find out more about that process!

Select a painting that has movement and rhythm, such as Marc Chagall’s, “Composition VII.”

You can also display a collection of artwork and play samples of different types of music such as jazz, classical, pop, rock, or country. Have students link a piece of music with a piece of artwork and explain their reasoning.

A dance off might be in order as well. Have students move to the beat of music. Focusing on the hands can create a link between their moves while dancing and their movements while painting.

Explain and Create:

Explain to the students that they will be creating a collaborative work of art. No piece of art will belong to just one person. It will be a collection and each addition by a fellow student will add to the artwork’s originality.

Armed with a paint cup and a brush, students listen to samples of music while painting to the beat using patterns, lines, and shapes that come to their minds. When the music stops, they stop and move to the next piece of paper. The music will begin again, or the song will change, and the students paint on the next piece of paper.


Switch!: Every once in a while have a sound cue prompt students to pass their color to the next person.

Restrict and Experiment: After students are in a groove, throw them a restriction or a curveball.

  • Examples
    • Paint behind your back
    • With one eye closed
    • With both eyes closed
    • Opposite what the music suggests
    • Move the hands of the person next to you
    • Blow the paint with a straw
    • Sprinkle salt on the paint to create an effect

Extend and Be Thoughtful:

Students can use this technique to create a work of art of their own. The music can be selected by the student and the painting can be about whatever inspires them. This painting does not have to be abstract, it could illustrate lyrics to a song. This is a way for students to reflect on their experience and use it to produce an independent work of art.

Display Suggestions

  • Display the paintings in the hallway along with photographs of the experience.
  • If Art Musical Chairs is a warm-up for a more in-depth lesson, use the paintings as a background for the more thoughtful works of art.
  • Create a video documenting the experience to share.

Classical Music Suggestions

Suggestions taken from Let’s Play Music: “Classical Music to Teach Emotions” 

  • Handel’s Arrival of The Queen Of Sheba: Joy
  • Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries: dramatic
  • The Trisch-Tratsch Polka by Johann Strauss: fun and whimsical
  • Adagio in G Minor by Albinoni: sadness
  • Pachabel’s Canon in D: calmness

Artist Connections

Other Resources

The relationship between music and art has always been strong. The Arts Integration activity of Art Musical Chairs is a wonderful way to introduce that bond.

How do you use music and art together? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author

Lauren Hodson is a middle school visual and computer art educator in Plymouth, Massachusetts. As a mentor teacher and professional development presenter, Lauren is passionate about creativity and making art accessible for everyone. Her passions in STEAM and Arts Integration are at the root of her goal to collaborate with classroom teachers everywhere.