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String Project - California State University, Sacramento

Rhythm:  First Steps

As described in the Strings Magazine article by Judy Weigert Bossuat.

Presented by: California State University, Sacramento String Project Student Teachers, members of the Student Chapter of the American String Teachers Association at the American String Teachers Association Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico March 2008.

 

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Rhythm as Concept

  • Grade-school children can assign numeric values to symbols.

 

A box with one gold star and the number 1 A box with two gold stars and the number 2 A box with three gold stars and the number 3

 

  • These symbols can include music notation.

 

One quarter note and the number 1 One half note  and the number 2 A dotted half note and the number 3

 

  • Understanding the concept of rhythm does not guarantee that a child will know what to do physically with his or her instrument

 

Rhythm as Action, Rhythm in Action

Goals:

  • Introduce and cultivate a steady sense of rhythmic pulse.

  • Introduce rhythmic values for written notes and rests.

  • Do all of the above with many children as quickly as possible with maximum success rates.

 

Step 1: Make rhythm a physical action

  • Children march in time

  • Add left hand

View Children March in Time Movie

Strong beats are clearly marked!

 

Step 2: Right hand “reads” rhythm

“Notes” are played by the right hand tapping the right leg. Rests are played by tapping the chest.

 

The boy has his feet moving to the beat and his left hand tapping his left leg at the same time. His right hand begins tapping the rhythm on his right leg. He holds his hand on his leg for the complete duration of the note. The little girl has her feet moving to the beat and her left hand tapping her left leg at the same time. His right hand begins tapping the rests on her chest. She holds her hand on her chest for the complete duration of the rest.

 

The right hand stays on the right leg for the duration of the note or on the chest for the duration of the rest. This helps students learn that they must count through rests as well as the notes.

 

A half note equals a half rest A quarter note equals a quarter rest An eighth note equals an eighth rest

 

 These are the first steps to introducing beat subdivision as a physical practice, not just a concept.

 

 

Step 3:  Start with large note values and progress gradually to smaller values

Four four time: whole note; whole rest;  whole note; whole rest;  whole note; whole rest; double bar

Four four time: half note, half rest; half note, half rest; half note, half note; whole rest; half note, half rest; half note, half rest; double bar.

Four four time: quarter, quarter, half rest; quarter, quarter, quarter rest, quarter rest; quarter, quarter, quarter, quarter; half rest, quarter, quarter; quarter rest, quarter rest, quarter, quarter; double bar.

 

 

Step 4:  Use exercises that mix up the note values that the student has learned

Whole notes + Half notes

Four four time: half, half; whole; half rest, half; half, half rest; half, half rest; half rest, half; double bar.

Half notes + Quarter notes

Four four time: half rest, quarter, quarter; half rest, half; quarter rest, quarter, quarter rest, quarter; quarter rest, quarter, half; half rest, quarter, quarter; double bar.

 

 

Example: Simple Rhythm with quarter notes and rests
Quarter, quarter, quarter, quarter; quarter rest, quarter rest, quarter rest, quarter rest.

View Quarter Notes and Rests movie

In the movie we see Chinaly’s first day doing these exercises.

 

As the students progress to smaller and smaller note denominations, rhythms get more and more complicated

Four four time: quarter, quarter, half rest; quarter, quarter, quarter rest, quarter rest; quarter, quarter, quarter, quarter; half rest, quarter, quarter; quarter rest, quarter rest, quarter, quarter; double bar.

Two four time: two eighths, quarter rest; two eighths, quarter rest; quarter, quarter; two eighths, quarter rest; two eighths, two eighths; two eighths quarter rest; double bar.

Two four time: eighth, eighth rest, eighth rest eighth; eighth, eighth rest, eighth rest eighth; quarter, two eighths; eighth rest, eighth, eighth rest, eighth; eighth, eighth rest, eighth, eighth rest; quarter rest, eighth rest, eighth; double bar.

Concert Rhythm, Performed December 17, 2007

Try it!

Four four time: whole; whole rest; half, half; half, half rest; quarter, quarter, quarter, quarter; quarter, quarter rest, quarter, quarter rest; two eighths, two eighths, two eighths, two eighths; two eighths, quarter rest, two eighths, quarter rest; four sixteenths, four sixteenths, quarter rest, four sixteenths; half, eighth rest, eighth, eighth rest, eighth; four sixteenths, quarter, four sixteenths, two eighths, eighth, eighth rest, eighth, eighth rest, four sixteenths, two eighths; two eighths, eighth rest, two sixteenths, two eighths, eighth rest, two sixteenths; eighth rest, eighth, eighth rest, eighth, four sixteenths, quarter; sixteenth, sixteenth rest, sixteenth, sixteenth rest, sixteenth, sixteenth rest,

Concert Rhythm, By: Mr. Stanley and Austin

View Concert Rhythm video performed by Mr. Stanley and Austin

 

At this point, you can easily introduce time signatures!

  • Students have an externalized sense of beat which will lead soon to an internalized pulse.

  • Students can recognize note values in terms of beats.

  • Students are ready to organize beats into measures.

Step 5:  Apply rhythm exercise to actual music!


Excerpt from an orchestral score with three different parts, each with different rhythms. Chosen from actual orchestral literature the students were working on in class.

  • Introduction to actual music reading.

  • Clarify that the lines and spaces do not change the rhythmic value of a note.

  • Now the student is ready to learn to read pitches…

 

Rhythm: First Steps Review

  • Directs students to concepts including beat subdivision, rest value and note value equality, ensemble counting as well as playing and rhythmic “body awareness”.
  • Acts as an easy and effective transition to reading printed music.
  • Significantly reduces rushing in students of any ability.
  • Aids reading comprehension by breaking music-reading down into two parts; rhythm and pitch.
  • Should be used by any level student experiencing rhythmic reading problems or an advanced player who isn't’t rhythmically consistent.
  • Especially for beginners and young children, it provides a break from holding their instrument.

 

“Playing a string instrument is physical, and we want our kids to feel the rhythm in their gut!”

(Judy Weigert Bossuat)

Brentt Rhythm

These easy steps can become more and more complicated helping the student to be able to decipher complicated rhythms.

Music Piece from: Rhythmic Training by Robert Starer, published by Hal Leonard

A 16 measure, very complicated piece in two four time which includes double dotted quarter notes, and difficult combinations of sixteenth and eighth note rests interspersed in the rhythm.

View Brentt Rhythm Movie

 

Rhythm: First Steps was Presented by:

California State University, Sacramento String Project Student Teachers, members of the Student Chapter of the American String Teachers Association at the American String Teachers Association Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico March 2008.

View a PowerPoint version of "Rhythm: First Steps"

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