teaching rhythm

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    I find teaching rhythm to be so different with each student. Some students get it immediately just by reading, some need to say it out loud, others tap with hands, feet or clap and still others just spend time studying the music away from the harp to drill it into their head.

    For some reason, teaching rhythm seems completely from teaching to read music, or teaching technique or theory. Has anyone else had this experience?

    What is it about rhythm that lends itself to this varied approach?


    Many students confuse tempo with duration. Describing notes as being shorter-longer and not faster-slower can help get across the idea that notes with flags are shorter so that more fit into each beat, but that the tempo can be faster or slower so that as the beat changes, the size of the note changes accordingly. Describing a whole note as so many beats long emphasizes the fact that there is a certain amount of space that each note has.

    The Kodaly method addresses this issue in a succinct and amazingly simple way. I’ve had second and third graders reading varied rhythm patterns with notes from whole notes to dotted halfs to eight notes.

    Many (not all) music teachers don’t know how to teach rhythm reading, so students sometimes get very little experience with rhythm reading in typical general music programs.


    I think it’s because rhythm is taught as a form of math, and not as a physical feeling. Get them up and dancing, walking, and feeling a beat. Then relate it to the fingers doing the same. It should help. I guess it’s like eurhythmics.


    That’s precisely what Kodaly employs for rhythm instruction Saul.


    Sometimes harp teachers could look into how rhythm may be taught to other instrumentalists. Sally O’Reilly’s String Rhythms (published by Neil A. Kjos Music Co., in San Diego CA has a very flavorful way of doing this; with pies! Apple pie is eighth-eighth-quarter. Banana is sixteenth-eighth -sixteenth. Peppermint pie is dotted eighth-sixteenth-eighth-dotted quarter, and so on toward the end of the book where the mixed pies are found such as March from “The Nutcracker”, Promenade by Moussorgsky, etc.


    Loretta, these workbooks are some of the best I’ve tried:

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