One of my most popular pages on the blog is the page of free rhythm drills and worksheets. I’m thrilled that those have been and continue to be used by teachers year after year. But I need to warn you about the danger in using them and the many random rhythm generator apps and websites that are popping up all over.
How free, random rhythm drills are killing your efforts to teach rhythm
What’s wrong with random rhythms?
1. Rhythm is rarely random in music.
- When was the last time you put a piece of music in front of your student that was random?[Probably never. You know better.]
- When was the last time you put a piece of music that was random that your student enjoyed?[Again never. You know they would hate it.]
- When was the last time you gave your student a piece of music that was random, that they hated, but that they practiced at home?[No comment.]
So you see, all these rhythm drills and random rhythm generators that are all over the internet and on iPads are not teaching our students to enjoy rhythm! And if they are not enjoying it, they are NOT going to practice it with any regularity.
2. Random is not fun.
When your students don’t see any kind of pattern or don’t feel any kind of rhythmic groove in a rhythm, it’s not going to be fun to practice. We as teachers know that rhythm can be tons of fun! Why settle for random rhythms that are not fun?
3. Random inhibits mastery.
We know that repetition ensures mastery. We all know that when a student plays a music measure and then plays the same thing again in the next measure or the next line, it’s going to be easier and better the second time! This gives the student confidence and the more confidence they have, the more they are going to enjoy the piece and practice it.
Random rhythms inhibit mastery of rhythms and internalization of rhythms because they student is not really improving as they go, they cannot see any patterns, and their brain has to process something new in every measure. This lack of repetition kills their enjoyment of the process and their desire to master it.
What’s RIGHT about random rhythms?
1. Random rhythms are good for testing.
That’s it. They are great to use to test to see if a student really understands the relationship of the time value of notes to each other.
But who likes to take a test every day? No one. So, no one is going to like practicing something that feels like a test every day. There has to be some enjoyment of the process of learning in order for the student to practice consistently.
What should I do?
1. Get a program that is pedagogically sound, includes repetitions of rhythmic motives, has a groove in the rhythms, etc.
This post isn’t really about getting you to buy Rhythm Menagerie and Manipulations, but it really is the best answer to these issues. I’ve spent the last 7 years making this be a program based on these principles, that is fun and encourages students to really internalize rhythm. So, I’m only going to say a little about it here and they you can go over to the Rhythm Menagerie page and the Rhythm Manipulations page and see more if you want. There are other books out there that try to make rhythm mastery more repetitious (like Sight Reading and Rhythm Every Day), but I really can’t recommend any because they lack the fun factor and they combine it with other skills which takes away the effectiveness of isolating it.
Here is a sample of what I’m talking about from a random rhythm:
And here is a sample from Rhythm Menagerie:
I didn’t really even mention anything about the “Fun with Sounds Pages,” but chest beating and making monkey sounds to eighth notes is amazingly fun for kids!
2. Start using the random rhythms only occasionally to “test” your students on their mastery.
So here is the page with all the FREE rhythm drills! This page includes 10 levels of rhythm drills so that you can ensure that your students are moving ahead in their rhythm acquisition. But ONLY use these occasionally please.
Watch this short 1 minute video that summarizes Rhythm Menagerie:
As always, you can do whatever you want in your teaching and I’ll still be friends with anyone who disagrees! BUT, if you do keep using the random rhythm generators and free rhythm drills, at least acknowledge that your students are probably not enjoying their rhythm practice or not practicing their rhythms as much as you think they are. 😉
And in case you want this right away, here’s how you can order (but visit the store and scroll to the bottom if you need the international version OR you want $5 off the RM1 and RM2 bundle]:
Please note that Rhythm Cup Explorations is just a fun supplement to the core rhythm books: Rhythm Menagerie and Manipulations. It’s great guaranteed fun, but the best way to develop consistent rhythmic accuracy it to use Menagerie and Manipulations.
- Rhythm Counting: Ta, Ta, 1, 1, Walk, Walk, What?! – Why I changed my method of counting