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  [···]

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This month, my blog is a simple one (like me!). I’ve stumbled on a cheap idea for teaching anything involving sequencing and I’m loving it (and my students too)!

Enter the mighty…(drum roll)…cup!

Yes, some easy to come by disposable cups can quickly be transformed into some really fun teaching aids. Why not lay out the cups in a random fashion and challenge your pupil to stack them into the correct order.

Think about how you could use this technique in your lessons. Here are some ideas for organising musical concepts:

• Dynamics (from quietest to loudest)

• Rhythm notes and rest (from shortest to slowest)

• Periods of history

• Technical names of the scale

• Key signature sharps or flats [···]

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Drum Sticks“I got rhythm…Who could ask for anything more?” – Ira Gershwin

Teaching rhythm to students is a real challenge. Some just “pick it up” naturally and others need, in the words of Ian Dury and the Blockheads, “hitting with the rhythm stick!”

So if you have a theory student preparing for an ABRSM exam (or similar), what can be done to inspire them to write a good rhythm worthy of a full 10 marks?


Tip 1: “Follow my leader!”

I like to switch my metronome on at around 80 BPM or better still, I’m now using “Drum Beats+” on my iPad. This really easy to use app generates drum loops. A favourite preset of mine is “Phat N Hairy 90,” probably because it describes me quite well! The age I mean!!!

Firstly, I clap or beat out on a percussion instrument a  [···]

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