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5 Tips for Teaching Rhythm

Published on 09/10/2012

  • 5 Tips for Teaching Rhythm

When teaching your students to read music your focus can quite often become stuck on getting the notes right – to the point you suddenly realise they aren’t really grasping the concept of rhythm and are making half of it up! Here are some tips to help kids really get the hang of it.

Use Words
Language has a natural rhythm, so using words to replace rhythmic gestures is a very intuitive way for students to learn. Simply assign words to common rhythmic patterns – for example, four semiquavers could be ‘watermelon’ (wa-ter-me-lon), a triplet might become ‘pineapple’ and two quavers could be ‘apple’. Students clap the rhythm and then say it before trying it on their instrument.

Focus on sound
Be more concerned with how the rhythms sound, rather than their names and values. Once students know what they sound like, show them what they look like written. This approach will allow them to recognise them and perform them straight away, rather than stopping to ‘count it out’.

Record the Rhythms
Many students can play the rhythm correctly in the lesson, with their teacher there singing or clapping along but may struggle to remember the rhythm when they are at home. Perhaps you could try recording passages on your student’s phones, for them to listen to at home? Remember to record the passage at a speed that is appropriate for the student to play.

Slower Tempo for Accuracy
Reduce the tempo of the piece to a speed that allows fluency and rhythmic accuracy. Rhythm is all about proportions (whole notes, half notes, quarter notes), so any time the student takes off in tempo, theses notes will all be cut short, leading to rhythmic confusion and inaccuracy.

Like any element of teaching, persistence is the key. Rhythm needs constant attention and repetition to be well ingrained in a student.