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#2256000 - 04/02/14 03:33 PM Teaching Rhythm
AZNpiano Offline
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Registered: 08/07/07
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Loc: Orange County, CA
How do you teach rhythm to students who are "challenged" in that area? There are some categories:

1) students who can't divide beats into smaller units like 8th notes, triplets, and 16th notes; or can't do so evenly and/or consistently

2) students who don't understand dotted rhythm, swing rhythm, or syncopated rhythm

3) students who can't match beats with the metronome while playing level 2-3 pieces (like stuff in AMBN)

4) students who can't clap quarter notes with the metronome matching one beat at a time

Are there specific exercises you do with these students?
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#2256014 - 04/02/14 03:50 PM Re: Teaching Rhythm [Re: AZNpiano]
malkin Offline
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I sometimes work on this with my preschool special ed kids. We clap while singing simple songs, clap while walking or marching, and work on a knees(slap) - clap pattern.

If you have basically normal functioning grade school kids who can't do #4, I think they might just be flipped out and embarrassed at their lesson.
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#2256481 - 04/03/14 07:16 PM Re: Teaching Rhythm [Re: malkin]
Charles Cohen Offline
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Registered: 12/26/12
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Loc: Richmond, BC, Canada
#4 -- keeping time with a metronome -- is harder than it seems! It's a _learned skill_. And some people will take longer to learn it, than others.

We can (almost) all walk at a steady pace. Maybe that's a good place to start:

. . . Walk (or step in place) while clapping,
. . . and keep the walk steady.

I'd add a "metronome" -- perhaps this is a good use for a drum machine in the studio? Or a DP's "accompaniment" function?

Build up the complexity slowly -- clap on the beat, clap off the beat, clap in triplets. Learning rhythms "in the body" is an old technique for drummers.

Some people have more talent for this, than others. The guy who leads my chant group can keep a pretty steady 4-beat-to-the-bar rhythm on his drum. But add an extra note --

|: 1 2 3 4 & :|

and he finds it hard to get that "&" properly placed. I think that enough practice would let him get the groove steady.

I have seen people who seemed to be "rhythmically deaf", the way some are "tone deaf". A whole table-full of people were singing and hammering the table, and one guy was _watching_, and syncing his downbeat by eye (and of course, slightly delayed!), instead of by ear.

I think drum circles are a good training ground. If nothing else, the kid will get a sense of what "pulse" means (we hope!).

. Charles

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#2256557 - 04/03/14 10:29 PM Re: Teaching Rhythm [Re: AZNpiano]
Gary D. Offline
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You start off having people count, and you accept that often the counting will not be even. That develops.

Then every time you add a level of complexity you have to start students saying every subdivision.

You won't get 1 2 2 4 +, because you will get 5 beats. Or something worse.

You have to get the student to say everything:

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

It's maddening, and obviously people with more feel for rhythm don't have to work through everything this way.

The metronome is a hearing AND a coordination problem.

I have lots of people who can count fine with a metronome, but it takes a much longer time to play with one.

And a metronome teaches people NOT to hear if they are not with it. They start to tune it out, and after awhile it is no longer there, in their minds.

So it has to be eased into playing.

It's easy to stay with a beat in a group, if most of the beat gets it. The problem in piano is that the moment there is not a teacher or someone else who hears the beat, the students start practicing out of sync with the metronome, and that teaches them how not to hear beats.
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#2256633 - 04/04/14 03:17 AM Re: Teaching Rhythm [Re: AZNpiano]
Ben Crosland Offline
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Instead of counting, I use:

"Great Big Whole Note"
"Half Note, Half Note"
"Tun, tun, tun, tun"
"Ti-ti, ti-ti, ti-ti, ti-ti"

Etc.

Counting numbers is very counterintuitive for some students, and ultimately unnecessary.
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#2256636 - 04/04/14 03:37 AM Re: Teaching Rhythm [Re: Ben Crosland]
AZNpiano Offline
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Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5487
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Ben Crosland
Instead of counting, I use:

"Great Big Whole Note"
"Half Note, Half Note"
"Tun, tun, tun, tun"
"Ti-ti, ti-ti, ti-ti, ti-ti"

I've done something similar (with different words/syllables). I have one kid who can't even SPEAK in rhythm.

Also, the system works for most kids when speaking, but the skills are not readily transferred to pressing down piano keys in a timely fashion. There's an obvious disconnect between two different parts of their brains.
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#2256637 - 04/04/14 03:39 AM Re: Teaching Rhythm [Re: Gary D.]
AZNpiano Offline
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Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5487
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
It's easy to stay with a beat in a group, if most of the beat gets it. The problem in piano is that the moment there is not a teacher or someone else who hears the beat, the students start practicing out of sync with the metronome, and that teaches them how not to hear beats.

Could you clarify this last section? I can't follow.
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#2256638 - 04/04/14 03:44 AM Re: Teaching Rhythm [Re: malkin]
AZNpiano Offline
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Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5487
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: malkin
If you have basically normal functioning grade school kids who can't do #4, I think they might just be flipped out and embarrassed at their lesson.

I'm starting to think there's something afoul with their brains.

Years ago I taught a young girl who couldn't keep a steady beat no matter what I did to help her. Then one day her parents sat in on the lesson, and Dad said Mom is like that, too. Mom can't even sing the hymns steadily with the congregation. I tested her, and then I realized that bad rhythm can be hereditary!
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#2256646 - 04/04/14 05:23 AM Re: Teaching Rhythm [Re: AZNpiano]
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
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Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
It's easy to stay with a beat in a group, if most of the beat gets it. The problem in piano is that the moment there is not a teacher or someone else who hears the beat, the students start practicing out of sync with the metronome, and that teaches them how not to hear beats.

Could you clarify this last section? I can't follow.

A student playing alone can say the correct counts, but not in rhythm. The student may have no idea that there is a problem.

But if a teacher AND a parent is counting along with the student, there is a "group reinforcement".

In the same way a student can be thinking " 1 2 3 4", but the number are not in sync with the metronome. So the student learns to keep the beat to internal beat, and it is not the same as the metronome.

The student then blocks out the sound of the metronome.

And that is the opposite of what we want...

This "not-hearing problem" can happen with number or syllables.

Students who play in an orchestra or band, or who sing in a chorus, must internalize a beat that is shared by other players.

Pianists can sync to an internal beat that is not shared, whether even or uneven, and that makes playing in any kind of ensemble impossible - and also stifles rhythmic development.
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#2256724 - 04/04/14 10:35 AM Re: Teaching Rhythm [Re: AZNpiano]
malkin Offline
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Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2554
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: malkin
If you have basically normal functioning grade school kids who can't do #4, I think they might just be flipped out and embarrassed at their lesson.

I'm starting to think there's something afoul with their brains.


This is certainly a possibility, and this is where I spend much of my professional life. The thing to remember as a teacher is that some of our work can help someone overcome whatever is afoul with his or her brain. Sometimes these things can't be overcome, but I never know the difference, so I just keep working on it.

I imagine that for a music teacher the expectation of progress and mastery is different than it is for special educators.

Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Years ago I taught a young girl who couldn't keep a steady beat no matter what I did to help her. Then one day her parents sat in on the lesson, and Dad said Mom is like that, too. Mom can't even sing the hymns steadily with the congregation. I tested her, and then I realized that bad rhythm can be hereditary!


I see lots of these little apples who have fallen close to their parental tree in all domains, language, cognitive, motor, etc. The best outcome is when the strategies that I use for kids end up helping the parent too, but of course there are also situations where intervention seems to produce only minimal improvement.

It's grand that you are looking for suggestions to teach these folks rather than just encouraging them to drop piano and pursue pottery or something.
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#2256728 - 04/04/14 10:53 AM Re: Teaching Rhythm [Re: Gary D.]
TimR Offline
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Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3201
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: Gary D.

Students who play in an orchestra or band, or who sing in a chorus, must internalize a beat that is shared by other players.

Pianists can sync to an internal beat that is not shared, whether even or uneven, and that makes playing in any kind of ensemble impossible - and also stifles rhythmic development.


I think ensemble playing serves to keep the internalized beat calibrated.

Solo players can have the internal pulse fade with age if they don't do this. I've seen a number of older church musicians who seem to have lost the ability to keep a steady beat, especially organists. I don't think it happens as much to older band or orchestral musicians who get more frequent reinforcement.

Probably as we age we should all schedule some regular quality time with a metronome.

I think organ is worse than piano because of the time lag between pressing a key and having sound fill a space; at least with piano you hear your results faster.
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#2256775 - 04/04/14 01:20 PM Re: Teaching Rhythm [Re: AZNpiano]
Ben Crosland Offline
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Loc: Worcester, UK
Regarding the verbalisation I suggested:

I have pretty much never encountered someone who couldn't get at least close to a decent rhythm with this method - *however*, I first encountered it when teaching the Junior Music Program for the Technics Music Academy, back when there was such a thing. (The course still exists, but it has been rebranded as the "Tritone Music Academy" and is published by Hal Leonard).

The course was aimed at 4-7 year olds, and the way we approached the rhythms was to actually introduce the notes as the sound we used to count them. In other words: we didn't even mention "quarter note", or "crotchet" - they were simply called "Tun".

I wonder if the difficulty experienced by some students is to do with all the different, and sometimes conflicting information they are expected to absorb and process? Also, do lots of separate rhythm drills, but use single notes on the keyboard instead of clapping. I'm really not sure whether clapping offers much value to the piano student.

Oh, and one more thing - metronomes are of the devil. Try using a drum rhythm from a keyboard instead - the sense of pulse and structure to each measure is way more instinctive than a relentless tick, tick, tick, tick....





Edited by Ben Crosland (04/04/14 01:27 PM)
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#2256792 - 04/04/14 02:42 PM Re: Teaching Rhythm [Re: Ben Crosland]
AZNpiano Offline
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Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5487
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Ben Crosland
I wonder if the difficulty experienced by some students is to do with all the different, and sometimes conflicting information they are expected to absorb and process?

You might be onto something here. Teachers who are more concerned with the coverage of materials in lieu of the mastery of materials will have students with gaps in their piano learning.

I don't like how counting numbers might confuse kids with fingering numbers, the same reason I don't deal with fixed do and movable do.
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#2256838 - 04/04/14 05:08 PM Re: Teaching Rhythm [Re: AZNpiano]
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4802
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano

I don't like how counting numbers might confuse kids with fingering numbers, the same reason I don't deal with fixed do and movable do.

There is no magic bullet. You will find something that will work for many students, then you get a few that won't respond to that idea. So you search for something new.

The thing I don't like about syllables is that some people will keep a great beat with one exception: they will be in 4/4 and suddenly throw in a 3/4 or 5/4 bar. When they count numerically, that doesn't seem to happen much.

But what I see happen is that the people who get the feel just don't have problem once they are there, and then they will drop almost anything except some kind of syllable thing.

I think that's where scat comes in, where jazz musicians just grab onto any set of syllables that seems appropriate. I internalize everything. I don't make a sound when I play, and I never have. But you have to feel it in some way.

IF I have to mumble a rhythm, it will be more like Ben's thing, but even less structured. As a brass player I also tend to think in "tah", just because of the concept of tonguing notes.

For my students being able to switch from saying finger numbers to saying counting numbers gives them a kind of vocal flexibility. I NEED them to say finger numbers at the beginning because otherwise they do not associate fingering on a page with the correct fingering. To me that is necessary, so once they can do that, shifting to numbers is not hard when they are on the page.
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#2256912 - 04/04/14 08:01 PM Re: Teaching Rhythm [Re: Gary D.]
TimR Offline
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Registered: 08/17/04
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Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: Gary D.

The thing I don't like about syllables is that some people will keep a great beat with one exception: they will be in 4/4 and suddenly throw in a 3/4 or 5/4 bar. When they count numerically, that doesn't seem to happen much.


I played in a polka band where the leader had that problem.

I had to stay alert and be ready to jump at any time.

Sometimes the dancers would stumble.

But his business and social skills were better than his rhythm, we always had plenty of gigs.
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#2256992 - 04/05/14 01:51 AM Re: Teaching Rhythm [Re: TimR]
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4802
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: TimR
Originally Posted By: Gary D.

The thing I don't like about syllables is that some people will keep a great beat with one exception: they will be in 4/4 and suddenly throw in a 3/4 or 5/4 bar. When they count numerically, that doesn't seem to happen much.


I played in a polka band where the leader had that problem.

I had to stay alert and be ready to jump at any time.

Sometimes the dancers would stumble.

But his business and social skills were
better than his rhythm, we always had plenty of gigs.

Some people seem born with a feel for how long a measure is. They sense meter. So they will play notes on the wrong beat sometimes, but they always end up back on "one". Other people just never get that feel.

I don't know why.
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#2256993 - 04/05/14 01:58 AM Re: Teaching Rhythm [Re: malkin]
Jonathan Baker Offline
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Posts: 343
Loc: New York City!
Originally Posted By: malkin
I sometimes work on this with my preschool special ed kids. We clap while singing simple songs, clap while walking or marching, and work on a knees(slap) - clap pattern.


We work the same way, I see. Often I lower the keyboard lid and we tap on it (or the table-top just two steps away) and tap out the rhythm. Sometimes this helps a great deal (sometimes less so...) and of course I have marched around the room with kids. LOL. It is humorous, but it gets the point across.

I notice that students with rhythm problems try to think their way through the rhythm. That guarantees failure for them (as it does for me!). I try to bring it back to the physical, the visceral. Rhythm originates in the body - the heart, lungs, and to be blunt, the guts of our body. All music is organic, of our bodies and the earth. Students sometimes try to intellectualize the physical, and that misses the point.

The average heart beat is 60 beats per minute. Is it any coincidence that there are 60 seconds to the minute? The clock and metronome are an extension of our bodies, not the reverse. All phrases originate in the lungs and limbs. What is interesting is how quickly students respond when these physical conditions are parlayed directly to the keyboard.

Of course I have used a metronome to correct my own irregularities, and those working with me, but ultimately I try to develop intimate contact with the metronome inside of us. I think it is very curious how much work many of us (starting with me) have to go through just to get in contact with the bodies that give us life.
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#2256995 - 04/05/14 02:20 AM Re: Teaching Rhythm [Re: Gary D.]
Jonathan Baker Offline
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Registered: 06/09/09
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Loc: New York City!
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
I don't make a sound when I play, and I never have. But you have to feel it in some way.


Good for you. I catch myself singing all the time. This goes back to the age of five, and I don't seem to be able to play the piano without quietly singing/humming. I don't really feel too guilty about this peculiar eccentricity because it is all about love - love of the melody and desire for unity with it. But I have to laugh at myself about this, as I was the same at age five as I am now. Some people never progress. LOL.

About three months ago I attended a recital by Pollini at Carnegie Hall. I got a last-minute ticket which put me in the back row of the top gallery. From way, way up there in the stratosphere, I could hear Pollini humming his way throughout the recital, sometimes competing in volume with the piano itself. Again I smiled, not at his expense, but in amused sympathy for this harmless absurdity.

By the way, Carnegie Hall is uninhabitable for normal humans for the most part. The seats are so very very cramped that there is almost no comfortable seat in the entire house. I have almost given up going there. People were much shorter back in 1890 - a full foot shorter. At 6'4" I must select my seats with clinical precision, or I end up leaning against the back wall of the auditorium...
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#2257002 - 04/05/14 02:38 AM Re: Teaching Rhythm [Re: Jonathan Baker]
Ben Crosland Offline
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Registered: 03/11/10
Posts: 420
Loc: Worcester, UK
Originally Posted By: Jonathan Baker


The average heart beat is 60 beats per minute.


No, it isn't. 60bpm is actually right at the bottom end of what is considered normal (60-100) for resting heart-rate. The average is therefore likely to be somewhere midway between the two, i.e. a considerably faster 80bpm.

Interestingly, this is the tempo I always set the drum machine to when I introduce "tun" in their first lesson.


Edited by Ben Crosland (04/05/14 02:39 AM)
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#2257069 - 04/05/14 08:15 AM Re: Teaching Rhythm [Re: AZNpiano]
Nikolas Offline
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The average rhythm for me is either 120 or 60, because of the secs (it's easy to calculate). Other than that, I've not read the rest of the thread to have an opinion... :P
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#2257406 - 04/05/14 10:43 PM Re: Teaching Rhythm [Re: Jonathan Baker]
TimR Offline
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Registered: 08/17/04
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Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: Jonathan Baker

Of course I have used a metronome to correct my own irregularities, and those working with me, but ultimately I try to develop intimate contact with the metronome inside of us. I think it is very curious how much work many of us (starting with me) have to go through just to get in contact with the bodies that give us life.


I think that the internal metronome may need to be recalibrated periodically especially as we age.

Golf requires precise timing, even small errors in timing result in large errors in alignment. Older golfers lose performance not because of strength or flexibility but timing.

Here's a study about an attempt to improve it:
http://www.jssm.org/vol8/n4/22/v8n4-22text.php
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#2259891 - 04/10/14 05:34 PM Re: Teaching Rhythm [Re: AZNpiano]
AZNpiano Offline
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Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5487
Loc: Orange County, CA
In recent weeks I've found that some of my students who cannot play with the metronome at 100, but if I slow the metronome down to 60, then they can match.

It might be a problem with their brains' ability to deal with multiple pieces of information. A slow "process time," so to speak.
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#2259916 - 04/10/14 06:23 PM Re: Teaching Rhythm [Re: AZNpiano]
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4802
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
In recent weeks I've found that some of my students who cannot play with the metronome at 100, but if I slow the metronome down to 60, then they can match.

It might be a problem with their brains' ability to deal with multiple pieces of information. A slow "process time," so to speak.

Do you mean play or count or clap or something else?

For my students it has to do with the complexity of the music most of the time.

I hate pieces that are supposed to build that have some kind of problem isolated in only ONE measure.

For instance, I'm sure you know a piece of music by Hadyn called Allegretto. It's in a whole bunch of method books, and probably anthologies of "classical" music.

But there is only one triplet, on beat one of the second to last measure, so every student I have taught has disliked this piece.

One blasted triplet.

So if I want to teach that concept I will NEVER teach that piece. I'll pick something alternates between duple and triple meter continually.

So it is the mixing of meters and rhythms that causes all the problems.

Each little rhythmic unit is like a set of rhyming words. You have to get a feel for the rhythm, and I don't know any other way for people to eventually master many rhythms.
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#2259992 - 04/10/14 09:53 PM Re: Teaching Rhythm [Re: Gary D.]
malkin Offline
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Registered: 04/18/09
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Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
Originally Posted By: Gary D.

Each little rhythmic unit is like a set of rhyming words. You have to get a feel for the rhythm, and I don't know any other way for people to eventually master many rhythms.


Recognizing rhyming words is a core preschool skill. Some kids seem like they can do it as soon as they can talk, as if they are born knowing it.

Other kids can't identify rhyming words after a YEAR of practice using a wide variety of activities several times each week.

Between the two are kids who sort of get the idea with a little instruction, think it's funny to make nonsense words that rhyme with their name, repeat and rehearse rhyming word pairs, have favorite songs and rhyming stories, etc.

Rhyme and rhythm are perhaps very closely related.
Neuro imaging studies could yield some cool results.
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#2260069 - 04/11/14 02:24 AM Re: Teaching Rhythm [Re: Gary D.]
AZNpiano Offline
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Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5487
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
Do you mean play or count or clap or something else?

Playing an early intermediate piece with the metronome.

I think I was a little premature in judging these students as being unable to match the metronome. Sometimes if I slow the tempo way, way down, they can match.
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#2260071 - 04/11/14 02:27 AM Re: Teaching Rhythm [Re: malkin]
AZNpiano Offline
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Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5487
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: malkin
Recognizing rhyming words is a core preschool skill. Some kids seem like they can do it as soon as they can talk, as if they are born knowing it.

On the topic of rhyming:

Baking

Soaking

Tucking

Striking

Do those words rhyme?
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#2260079 - 04/11/14 03:43 AM Re: Teaching Rhythm [Re: AZNpiano]
Opus_Maximus Offline
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In additional to the quite excellent ideas already presented here, I'll just throw in the additional concept of how important it is to FEEL rhythm throughout the entire body. In this respect, music is equal to dance in that they both require certain impulses at exacting times (In dance to move larger parts of the body and twirl around at exacting moments, and in music to press the fingers and hands down at exacting moments).
This idea of having the whole body feeling rhythm is the idea behind Dalcroze eurhythmics, which I've never personally tried but hear wonderful things about. (Although playing devil's advocate to my own argument, I have many students who do take dance and don't have good rhythm...).

I also agree with the idea that counting beats can be confusing, especially with finger numbers thrown into the mix. I like Faber's idea of saying walk walk, run-ing, run-ing for Quarter/Eights.

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#2260111 - 04/11/14 07:09 AM Re: Teaching Rhythm [Re: AZNpiano]
Ben Crosland Offline
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I agree, Opus_Maximus - I often say to my students about pulse: "If you think it, you shrink it - if you feel, it's real."
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#2260140 - 04/11/14 08:44 AM Re: Teaching Rhythm [Re: AZNpiano]
malkin Offline
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Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: malkin
Recognizing rhyming words is a core preschool skill. Some kids seem like they can do it as soon as they can talk, as if they are born knowing it.

On the topic of rhyming:

Baking
Soaking
Tucking
Striking

Do those words rhyme?


Not in my world. We use this definition sometimes called 'full rhyme': rhyme in which the stressed vowels and all following consonants and vowels are identical, but the consonants preceding the rhyming vowels are different, as in chain, brain; soul, pole.

For kids who don't have the hang of it yet, it is important to make it as obvious as possible, so I wouldn't try to use ring/baking as a pair. I would use ring/sing and baking/making/taking etc.

There are definitions of rhyme where the words on your list would qualify, as would pairs like here/there which look the same, but don't even have the same vowel sound. Fortunately for me, this is not yet required of 4-year-olds.
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#2260146 - 04/11/14 09:01 AM Re: Teaching Rhythm [Re: malkin]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11688
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: malkin

If you have basically normal functioning grade school kids who can't do #4, I think they might just be flipped out and embarrassed at their lesson.

Clapping "with" the metronome is not that straightforward. If you try to follow the metronome, you will be somewhat behind because you have to hear it first, and then clap. If you try to anticipate the metronome, then you will be somewhat in front of it. And between following and anticipating you may be constantly trying to adjust.

To be "with" a metronome (or drum, or whatever), you actually need to listen to it for long enough so that you internalize it, and its beat becomes your beat. It's almost a meditative state where you block out everything around you, and you take time. But when a student is told to clap with the metronome, what are the chances that he will take his sweet time while he feels the teacher waiting, and also blocks out the teacher in order to get in sync with the metronome?

Actually what I learned was to listen to the metronome, catch the beat, and then turn it off. Some years ago I worked with the metronome on. It had its beat and I had mine. crazy I only work with the metronome running, to work out some kinds of music sometimes.

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