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How to teach rythym, beat, counting... whatever you call it? (Read 2417 times)

Offline hannahsheats

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I'm using the Faber method with two young girls, (one is six, the other is seven) and they've learned quarter, half, dotted half, and whole notes so far. But they seem to have no sense of rhythm/counting at all! When they play they just "hit" the note on it's key and never hold it. And if I comment and ask them to hold it down for a full three beats/counts than they hold it down and count "1,2,3.." at about lightning speed. 

I don't think the older girl practices much at all, but the younger girl does, and she and I have spent lesson after lesson using rhythm flash-cards, playing her song entirely on middle c and just counting the notes, trying to match the metronome's beat... etc. But she doesn't get it! Every time I think she can finally count, but when she sits down to play any piece on her own it all goes right out the window! I've tried explaining the "steady, even, heartbeat of music" about a hundred different ways by now, but nothing seems to help her understand. And just this last lesson, I had her simply listen to the metronome for four counts and then try to match it at a slow speed. She couldn't even play on the metronome's beat... she kept getting way off and not even realizing it. 

Any help or suggestions would be so much appreciated! Especially games or something fun... She hates counting and never wants to hear anything about counting. And I've love anything to use for the older one too, she's having the same kind of problem but we've been having so much trouble with basic note-recognition that I haven't addressed the counting as much yet.

Offline anamnesis

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Re: How to teach rythym, beat, counting... whatever you call it?
«Reply #1 on: May 26, 2016, 04:00:13 PM »
I'm using the Faber method with two young girls, (one is six, the other is seven) and they've learned quarter, half, dotted half, and whole notes so far. But they seem to have no sense of rhythm/counting at all! When they play they just "hit" the note on it's key and never hold it. And if I comment and ask them to hold it down for a full three beats/counts than they hold it down and count "1,2,3.." at about lightning speed.  

I don't think the older girl practices much at all, but the younger girl does, and she and I have spent lesson after lesson using rhythm flash-cards, playing her song entirely on middle c and just counting the notes, trying to match the metronome's beat... etc. But she doesn't get it! Every time I think she can finally count, but when she sits down to play any piece on her own it all goes right out the window! I've tried explaining the "steady, even, heartbeat of music" about a hundred different ways by now, but nothing seems to help her understand. And just this last lesson, I had her simply listen to the metronome for four counts and then try to match it at a slow speed. She couldn't even play on the metronome's beat... she kept getting way off and not even realizing it.  

Any help or suggestions would be so much appreciated! Especially games or something fun... She hates counting and never wants to hear anything about counting. And I've love anything to use for the older one too, she's having the same kind of problem but we've been having so much trouble with basic note-recognition that I haven't addressed the counting as much yet.

Try using larger physical movements to familiar music like dance or even conducting.

Have her conduct the basic pulse to easy rhythmic piece (dance pieces tend to work best for this), or of music that your student is familiar with.  Then conduct the subdivisions of the beat, but never at the expense of the pulse. Go back and forth between the simpler task and the more complicated.  

Clapping only focuses on onset and not duration, and is therefore a poor rhythmic tool imo.

Conducting allows duration to also be physically felt as well and the connection between the too.  The lilt due to proper sensation of the down and upbeats can also be felt.  

Rhythm needs to be learned outside of notation first, and it needs to be felt as a subdivision of the pulse and not little durations all added up together.  

Early rhythm training is best transferred from the teacher or another person, and not the written score, which is merely a representation.  The written score has to be decoded into a rhythm, which is complicated with reading pitches. Early students simply do not have these rhythms learned or internalized yet, and yet are being asked to do all of this at once.  

When applying to music, you have to make the articulation of the notes (the vertical striking of the key) secondary to the rhythmic process.  Articulation should be a result of and captured inside a basic rhythm and NOT the other way around.  

What your students (and most traditional approaches tend to induce without good guidance or intuition by the student) are doing is the opposite: little articulations are being strung together in the hopes it will become a larger rhythmic form.  

In order to start applying this to music, you can use outlining:

=175



Abby Whitside  and Dalcroze are other good resources to look into for this issue.    

Again, at this point articulation and even (note-key accuracy) should be considered of secondary importance to rhythm when applying it to written (or really all) music that is performed.  

Other issues that tend to come up when reading notation are beaming and bar lines, which can induce mental and physical grouping of notes which interferes with the intended rhythmic form that needs to be expressed.  This is best fixed once the concept of down and upbeats are felt and learned in order to produce the correct "lilt" needed by the music. Even musicians who intellectually know better have this issue when practicing short sections if they always start at the beginning of a beaming-note group. It's better in most cases to never have practice sessions that start at those points. 

Offline quantum

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Re: How to teach rythym, beat, counting... whatever you call it?
«Reply #2 on: May 26, 2016, 07:38:44 PM »
Good advice above.

There is also another recent thread on counting you may wish to read through:
http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=61609.0

I would suggest using walking or marching as a framework for rhythm.  Step away from the piano, put the music notation aside and march alongside your student teaching by rote.  Use the whole body and make the march deliberate in its actions.  While marching clap or conduct rhythm, as well as sing the count.  That is right sing - counting needs to be integral to the fabric of the music, not just a series of numbers we say along side playing. 

Most people have an even pulse when walking and it would take effort to break out of that pulse.  Thus it is a good to use as a framework for rhythmic illustration. 
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Offline falala

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Re: How to teach rythym, beat, counting... whatever you call it?
«Reply #3 on: May 26, 2016, 09:06:23 PM »
Since I've been teaching Kodaly musicianship, and more recently using it as a basis for early piano teaching, I've come to the conclusion that the way most tutor books approach rhythm is fundamentally wrong. It's a classic case of the conflict between subject logic and actual child development.

The problem is in teaching different rhythm durations by adding beats, right at the beginning. This is contrary to the early development of the rhythmic sense because it requires internalising the sense of beat. That internalisation is of course hugely important, but it has to come later, AFTER the student has a steady, easy, dependable sense of an actual played beat. The OP's story of the two girls is a classic example of what can happen when you leave out that important step. What's even more tragic is that some people never recover from it, going on to learn their instrument for years, pass grade 8 etc and still never really be able to play properly in time.

The proper way to introduce rhythm relationships to young kids is not via quarters and halves (1-beat and 2-beat notes), it's by quarters and eighths (beats with one note in, and beats with two notes in - or what Kodaly calls "ta" and "titi"). That way there is always an overt, stated beat. Nearly ALL kids can get the hang of that after a certain amount of whole-body movement work and general percussion playing, and most can then transition to playing them in time on the piano.

After that, the next most important element is the quarter note (1-beat) rest. And this must, crucially, be taught in terms of active, rhythmic movement. Whatever movement you're making to play the beats (clapping, hitting a drum, whatever) you make the same movement with the same rhythm, but just in such a way that it doesn't make any noise. In drumming, I call it the "air drum". I have a drum with a skin which I use to play ta beats, and then an (imaginary) air drum next to it which I use to play rests. The important thing is that the sense of rhythmic purpose with which I play the air drum is exactly the same as on the real drum. I just hit the air instead of the skin, so it makes no sound.

Once you've got these three elements in place, you can sing and play a huge amount of folk-based material from childrens' songs etc, and you need to consolidate them for as long as necessary, until playing in time is taken for granted. It should become something the student never even has to think about any more (and with these elements, for 5-7 year old kids, it can).

THEN you can move on to playing notes more than one beat long. The easiest way to do that is through what they have already done with rests. Do the same thing of making a physical but silent movement, but this time instead of stopping the sound before and making that movement in silence, you keep the sound going. Sing it. Play it, moving the hand to make the second beat while keeping the finger on the previous note. Play 2-beat notes in one hand with 1-beat notes in the other, then when it's solid, drop out the 1-beat notes but keep them in the mind.

There are other things to do for developing longer note values. But I really think the key thing is not that. The key thing is that the proper first steps (above) have been missed out. Piano tutor books work according to increasing complexity of subject logic, and multiplying 1 x 2 to make 2 is generally considered easier maths than dividing 1 by 2 to make two halves, so 2-beat notes come before half-beat notes. The problem is though, that's not how kids feel it.

Offline timothy42b

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Re: How to teach rythym, beat, counting... whatever you call it?
«Reply #4 on: May 27, 2016, 06:05:28 PM »
It is actually not necessary to count nor to know how to specify a dotted quarter eighth (One, two AND).

It is necessary to have a consistent internal pulse.

But any individual rhythm can simply be memorized.  There aren't that many of them.  You make flash cards of the ones they need to know:  four quarters, two halve, dotted quarter eighth, eighth quarter eighth, etc.  A dozen will get them through their first 3 years of piano. 

Then you teach them by rote, singing to them and having them sing back. 

Later on they'll learn to count them, after they've learned to play them. 
Tim

Offline lostinidlewonder

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