drum

Photo: babasteve

“Eric’s got no sense of rhythm”, sighs his mother, as she drops him off for his lesson one day. “I guess it runs in the family. I never could play in time, and I can’t dance at all.”

“Come on, Eric,” I say, encouragingly, looking down at the anxious nine year old, fiddling with his music case. “Let’s go have some fun.” Later, after we march around the room keeping time with the music and take turns to play rhythmic patterns on the drums, it seems far more likely to me that he’s just been disconnected from his natural sense of pulse and rhythm.

So how can we assist our students in getting back in touch with that natural connection?

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This is one of the really successful music camp activities  we’ve done this summer. During our   Let’s Get Creative Camp, the students all made music creativity journals.  For basic journals,  you can use school composition notebooks found at the local drug store or school/office supplies store. They have a solid cardboard cover that is easy to cover with varied pieces of scrap booking papers and decorations. I chose to use card stock for the covers, with various lined, blank and music manuscript papers for the insides. I have a binding machine, which makes it easy to put together booklets with whatever filler paper you desire. They can also be taken to a copy store and bound for a small fee. After the journals were completed, the students used them to write and illustrate on of each:

  • Poem
  • Silly Song (lyrics set to melody)
  • Simple Instrumental Composition (for piano, drum or other instruments using standard notation)
  • Lead Sheet (notated melody with chord symbols, like you find in a “fake” book, for a nursery song   or other simple song)
  • Lyric Song Chart (lyrics with chord symbol above to indicate chord changes)
  • and…last but not least…

“My Big Event”  Improvisation Game –

(Learning how to organize music while having fun improvising!)

Here’s  how it went:

1 ~ We started out by writing a title at the top of one of the blank unlined pages in their journal. This title was determined by answering this simple  question, “What favorite thing did you do this  summer?”  Some of my students’ titles were: “Sea World”, “At the Fair” and “The Big Swim Meet”.

2 ~ Next, the students were asked to draw three big circles on their page, and illustrate each, depicting three different scenes from their “Big Adventure”.   [···]

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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.  [···]

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