Monday, October 19, 2015


"What is my ______ doing?"

Remember cousin Susie's wedding reception when everyone was up on the dance floor doing the "Y.M.C.A." You look back at Great Aunt Matilda sitting at the table watching everyone's purse and her FOOT is TAPPING up & down.

Remember cruzin' down Main Street with your best friend, blaring "Bohemian Rhapsody" on the radio and you found yourself HEAD BANGING up & down! You know the part ;)

How about the time on the beach with the band playing "Three Little Birds" and you found yourself SWAYING your head forward and backward like a chicken head?

What was causing the FOOT TAPPING, HEAD BANGING and SWAYING?


Isn't "the BEAT" the same as "the RHYTHM"?

  • No
  • To put it simply, the "BEAT'S" length of sound is even, STEADY, constant. Like the ticking of an old fashioned grandfather clock. 
  • The "RHYTHM'S" length of sound varies. It changes with the Notation Symbol.
  • The Musical Term that is more of a match with "beat" is TEMPO, which deals with how "fast/slow" the "beat" is moving in time.
  • Rhythms are "patterns" of "long and short" sounds and silences.

For example: Sing the first 6 words to The Beatle's song, "A Hard Days Night".
It's Melodic Rhythm Pattern is:
  1. Short 
  2. Short
  3. Short 
  4. Long 
  5. Long 
  6. Long

Playing Techniques

2 Classroom Percussion Instruments

There are other playing techniques for these instruments. I am sharing with you the playing techniques my students found successful.


The Mouth of the Cowbell is the wide, open end.
The Heel of the Cowbell is the narrow, closed end.

  • Place the Cowbell in your non-dominant hand (the hand you do not use to write with), Mouth facing AWAY from you.
  • For a Muted Sound, keep the Cowbell touching the palm of your hand.
  • For a Fuller, Louder Sound, hold the Cowbell away from your palm using your fingertips.
  • Strike the Cowbell with a Rhythm/Lummi or Drum Stick.

This is a great instrument to use to keep the group/ensemble on the STEADY BEAT because its sound can be heard over all the other instruments.


  • Pretend you are holding a Hot Dog Bun in your non-dominant hand.
  • Place 1 Clave in your Hot Dog Bun along side your thumb (see picture above)
  • To create the Resonating Chamber, tell your students to leave room under the Hot Dog (Clave) for the chili, peppers and onions. Holding the Clave with your THUMB and FINGERTIPS.
  • Strike the Clave in the MIDDLE with the other Clave.



Looking at the global phrase, "if you can SAY IT, you can PLAY IT!"; here is a 3 Step RHYTHM TEACHING Formula I have found extremely successful with my wee little Preschoolers to my veteran Adults.



  • CHANTING, SPEAKING the words, syllables or phrases is an immediate, natural response to rhythm
  • Depending on the ages of your students, this can be taught by Rote (Echo), Picture Icons, Actual Word Reading

Adds a Motor Skill Element

  • CLAPPING is the simplest and the most familiar action response to begin to FEEL the Rhythm
  • SNAPPING, PATSCHEN (patting on thighs) and STAMPING are natural Body Movement extensions of Clapping

Combines the Motor Skill Element with the Manipulation of a Physical Object

Gives the Students the experience, the feeling of:
  1. Rhythmic Stability
  2. Contrasting Rhythm Patterns and Tone Colors
  3. Independent Performing
  4. Ensemble Performing


  • On the Board or from Memory, have a List of Vocabulary Words, Math Problems, Days of the Week, Months of the Year, Composer Names, Musical Instrument Names, Music Vocabulary Words, etc... the possibilities are endless!
  • Have various Classroom Rhythm Instruments arranged on the floor creating a Large Circle.
  • When your students arrive, tell them to sit behind an Instrument. Do not touch the Instrument until instructed to do so.
  • Assign the STEADY BEAT Instrument. Do Not use this Instrument in your circle of instruments.
  • Going around the Circle, each Individual Student performs a different word/phrase pulse/s from the list.

Example List: Months of the Year
  • Student 1: January
  • Student 2: February...
  • Student 12: December
  • Student 13: January
  • Student 14: February...etc
until all have had a chance to perform or as many times around the circle you would like to go.

Circle Performing Options

  1. CHANT Word Pulses ONLY (with Steady Beat Instrument)
  2. CLAP Word Pulses ONLY (with Steady Beat Instrument)
  3. BODY PERCUSSION and CHANT Word Pulses (with Steady Beat Instrument)
  4. BODY PERCUSSION Word Pulses ONLY (with Steady Beat Instrument)
  5. INSTRUMENT and CHANT Word Pulses (with Steady Beat Instrument)
  6. INSTRUMENT Word Pulses ONLY (with Steady Beat Instrument)

for all you do!

Have a Great Day and remember to take time for yourself EVERYDAY!

Donna Marie & Mary

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