Teaching Grouping

December 6th, 2015 by

21 The Coins of the Money Changers

I always found the rhythmic grouping of notes and rests very difficult to explain to students. How do you try and explain this concept to your theory and composition pupils?

Here’s an idea I stumbled on recently which seems to be helping: “money, money, money!”

• Before attempting to beam notes up into the correct groups, I first lay out a mixed selection of coins equivalent to four pounds sterling (I’m from England but the principle is the same whatever the coinage of your country. You can use real money or plastic play money).

• I then ask the pupil to organise the coins into four stacks equal to one pound, no more no less. The principle that this exercise demonstrates to them is that you can have simple piles of just two coins or more complex ones but that they all add up to the same combined value of a pound.

example money

• Taking that idea a step further, when presented with a seemingly random string of notes, starting carefully from the beginning of the bar (measure), the notes need to be added up to the value of a crotchet (quarter note), as was done with the money.


• Finally, for ease of music reading, the notes need to be beamed to show these groups (no more no less)

This logical analogy seems to be helping students make sense of what had previously been a difficult concept. How do you teach grouping? How could you develop this idea yourself?


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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music Theory, Professional Development, Teaching Tips

About the Author

Reuben Vincent
Reuben Vincent is a freelance musician working as a composer, producer and private music teacher, based from his purpose built recording studio in Bagillt, Flintshire, North Wales, UK. His main instrument is the piano although he is also known for a "mean" solo on the Kazoo!!!

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