Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Got Rhythm?

Here are some fun ideas to use as ice breakers or to brush up on rhythm skills in group lessons and workshops. I’ve even used them to kick off my teacher workshops, and they inspired very enthusiastic participation from all!

The Rhythm Ring

1)  Prior to class, set out a group of rhythm instruments in the middle of a circle of chairs or rug area where the students will be sitting. As they enter, explain that you will be passing the instruments out to those who are waiting patiently when class begins. (This will help with chaos control!)

2)  Ask the students to think of a rhythmic pattern in 4/4 time, and to be prepared to play it repeatedly, once they have been asked to join in the rhythm ring. For those not ready to create their own rhythm, you may want to make a set of rhythm cards. You can find a great set of colorful, laminated rhythmic patterns, Clap and Count at: Making Music Fun by Jane Calder:

Also, interesting rhythmic patterns with varied meters are offered in Flip for Improvisation Senior: Scales, Modes & Rhythm, available at:

Another fun and easy variation on this idea is to have the students create a rhythm using the syllables in their name (first, middle, last or complete). Example: An-na-belle-Stra-vin-sky could be all eighth notes, or four eighths followed by two quarter notes, or any of an endless list of rhythmic variations!

3)  Designate a “starter” and determine which way around the circle (or down the row) you will proceed.

4)  Count off, or use a metronome, in 4/4 time. Everyone must join in the counting!

5)  Point to each student as it is his turn to enter in with his unique rhythm, two or three measures after the previous student has joined in, each entering in on “beat one”

6)  Each player continues playing his own rhythm repeatedly until all have entered in and the full ensemble has played together for several measures.

BONUS: You may also use this exercise for
  • Teaching Conducting Patterns ~ Have students take turns conducting the group.
  • Dynamics ~ Once all students have entered in the ensemble, suggest, or conduct dynamic changes.
  • Notation ~ Ask students to write down the various rhythms after the game.
  • Improvisation ~ Invite one student to the piano to improvise along with the rhythm ring.
  • Composition Starter ~ ask each student to create a melody for his new rhythm, and see where it may lead?

Rhythm Telephone

1)  Prepare as for the previous game, steps 1 and 2.

2)  Choose one person to be the leader. He will play his rhythm two times when asked to begin.

3)  Get the whole group clapping with one hand on their thigh and counting aloud together in the meter of the leader’s rhythm.

4)  When the group has gotten their counting and clapping going strong, the leader then plays his rhythm against the quarter note rhythm being clapped by the group.

5)  Everyone continues to clap and count, and the person to the left of the leader plays the leader’s rhythm on beat one of the next measure, as he heard it played before him.

6)  Now each person around the circle  plays  the rhythm, as they last heard it played by the person next to them, until the rhythm it is finally played by the person to the right of the leader.

7)  The leader now plays his rhythm in its original form, and the group determines if they succeeded in playing the rhythm correctly around the circle, or not!

I hope you and your students will enjoy some rhythmic inspiration! Please offer your comments, and share a favorite rhythm activity from your studio!

P.S.  In case you’d like my comp/improv blog articles in hard copy…I’ve published them in a 23 page book form: Music Creativity in Bloom ~ Dozens of Inspiring Ideas to help you teach Composition and Improvisation. You may find this and more music creativity teaching tools at

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  1. Dan the Music Master

    Some interesting rhythmic games here. Any fun method of learning rhythmic patterns is well worth mentioning!

  2. Frank medici

    Good morning,
    Im frank medici, inventer of the rhythm ring.
    I think it would be great for what your doing, its non toxic, trademarked and patented.
    great for kids. call me with any questions. thanks. 760 331 8466

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