How to Improve Rhythm Skills in Musicians
I consider myself very lucky. As a child, my parents were willing to pay for music lessons, even though they could barely afford them. My first instrument was the guitar, and I was lucky to have a very talented teacher who gave me a really solid grounding in technique from the very beginning. I remember getting my first full size classical guitar when I was 8, and I still have it! Now this was a big deal, in terms of the money it cost and the fact that I had very little hands. Even as an adult I am only 5 foot tall!!!! So, imagine how little I was at the age of 8!
I clearly remember my guitar teacher trying to teach me about rhythm and note values. I understood at age seven, reading the notes on the stave, but the concept of timing was another thing 😦 I just didn’t get it. He tried to teach me, and I still have my old music books that have his scribble and counts on the score. But, no matter what he did, I just did not get it.
Fast forward a few years and my parents had moved us interstate from New South Wales to Queensland. We had moved to a little spec on the map, literally. The town had a few streets, one general store, a pub and a school with only two teachers. But again, I was lucky, my parents still managed to find me a music teacher. Now this lady was an amazing musician. She taught me in such a way where music just started to make sense. I finally started to “get it”. I vividly remember her teaching me music theory – and I enjoyed it!
Now let’s fast forward a couple of decades. Now that makes me feel old, but in 2018, I would have been playing an instrument of one kind or another, for 40 years. I look back and do consider myself very lucky, I have always, with the exception of one Singing Teacher, had brilliant musical mentors. Their support and guidance has always given me the confidence musically to now do what I do, on a daily basis. Now for the BUT. Today, even though technology has been a wonderful way for young musicians to access any music that they want to play, they just do not have the musical and theoretical knowledge to go with their skills. This has both it’s positives and negatives. Musically, I do think my students today have an advantage because they are not afraid to have a go at a piece of music. Today, it seems they have a better “ear” for music and can pick things up quite quickly. BUT, with the exception of a few who can read and play music, they just do not have the musical and theoretical knowledge that they should have.
I am not one to shy away from a challenge, and that is why I have created these resources. My goal and aim is to improve the ability of my students to be able to “read” and perform rhythms by sight-reading. And, as a result, they should be able to develop their “ear” enough to be able to notate rhythms in a more accurate way.
This brings me to my new set of Rhythm Patterns for Musicians. There are currently four sets available to purchase. Each set, except for Set A, has 10 levels with 15 different rhythms in each level. Set A, only has 5 levels, but still with 15 different rhythms in each level – there is only so much you can do with a quarter note, eighth notes and a quarter note rest!!! The rhythm pattern in the sets/levels are full page and look great displayed on the IWB for all to see.
Each set builds on new rhythms from the previous set, and the rhythms become slightly more difficult as they progress through the levels. I have deliberately not included “ta-te” and “tika tika” etc… underneath the rhythms, because I want my students to be able to read it, say it and then play it.
In my own classroom, I have found it really helpful to start with explicitly teaching the skills they need to know in the beginning. How to read the note values, what they mean, what they are called and how the arrangement of the notes can make interesting patterns. After I have established these concepts and ideas we start to play the rhythms together. I will do a “think aloud” by demonstrating and discussing my thought process as I read the music. I talk about the number of notes/rests in the rhythm, I say it using ta/sa/ta-te (for the first Set) and then I say it and clap it, then clap it without saying it. As a class, we do this together until they get the “hang of it”.
After about the first two levels, my classes have “got it” and we do it in a much quicker way as a warm up at the beginning of the lesson. At this stage I start to use the online metronome, and we might make the day’s warm up slow/fast/somewhere in between – depending on our mood for the day. This might seem like a “fun” step for the students, but we know that changing the tempo is a very important skill to acquire as well – being a little sneaky there!
I teach years 7-12, and I have been doing these rhythms with all my classes, no exceptions. They all need the help. In my Year 12 class, I only have one student who can actually read music, the rest can’t – they use TAB or video to learn their music. Over the two-week cycle that we have at my school, it takes four weeks for a class to get through a complete Set. At this rate, I will run out of the rhythms that I have created so far, in the beginning of Term 3. By then I will have added some more Sets to the series with other time signatures such as three/four and six/eight.
If you want to save yourself some of your hard-earned cash, purchase the Bundle. This way you will save yourself $7, which is nearly the price of one whole Set!
In the near future, I am hoping to add an audio recording demonstrating how I teach these rhythms to my classes. It will be available over on my Facebook page.
Until next time
Julia from Jooya