• Brent Mead

Rhythm Exercises

Because of online learning, I found some new ways to work on rhythm with students. I find often that young students struggle to conceptualize the idea of rhythm and it's relationship with a beat. In lessons, my students tap, clap, and speak rhythms with a steady beat. I found that students struggled to tap and clap basic rhythms which made me think, why then does that not show up in their playing? And also, what would change should we work on this skill in lessons?

There's a metaphor out there that compares learning to driving to a location. Information is knowing one way to get from your house to work. A higher form of learning is knowing how to adjust your route a few blocks but eventually return to the normal route. The highest wisdom is understanding how to get to work from several different locations. If a simple obstacle can destroy your understanding, how well do you understand that topic?

I found myself realizing that I was assessing their understanding of rhythm by their completion of specific exercises. When asked to slow down, speed up, or change the rhythm, students demonstrated they had no ability to do so. Referring to the previously mentioned driving analogy, students couldn't alter their course if they encountered a closed road.

I decided to work on rhythm by asking my students to tap and clap rhythms. First, I began with tapping different beats. Once they can demonstrate this steady beat at different tempi, the next layer is to add the rhythm over that beat. I start with quarter notes, whole notes, and half notes. I emphasize the relationship between the beats and rhythm by changing the tempo. I found this to be the most 'aha moment' producing amongst my students. After, the next task is to work with subdivisions. If students can tap a steady beat and clap 2, 3, and 4 subdivisions, most rhythms will be easy to learn going forward.

I also have my students use this clap and tap method with the music they are studying. While none of this is revolutionary, I'm curious what you have done with your music students to develop a more secure inner sense of rhythm.


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