One of the hardest paradigm shifts my students face is learning that rhythm is more important than note accuracy. In fact, the first thing they bring up when I ask them, “How do you think you did?” is “wrong notes”.
“Rhythm,” I tell them, “is harder to fix than notes.” Like many of my students, I am a multi-modal kinesthetic learner, so I use analogy to help drive my point. home: “Ppppp….lease….ppp..aaaass...mmmmeeee a Kleee..ex.”
Our brain tends to fill in the blanks and correct things like typos on a page, so we can read and listen to misspelled or even misused words and generally, suss out the meaning. However, in the case of the Kleenex question above, it’s a bit more difficult to figure out what the speaker is trying to say. This was illustrated beautifully at a Pattern Play workshop I attended in 2010 with Forrest Kinney.
When They Can’t Count the Beats in Music
We try hard to teach and encourage our students to count the beats: “1 & 2 &...” For the younger ones, we often use “ta’s” and “ti-ti’s”. Once in a while, however, I’ve had a student who has a mind block to either.
One year, I taught two boys who were huge Pokémon fans. To subdivide the beats, we used variations on Pikachu’s name: “Pi - Pi - Pi-ka-chu.” You can read about it here. For some students, we use food: “blue-ber-ry, huck-le-ber-ry, a-pple, pie”. It tends to make us extremely hungry during lessons, though.
This week, one of my beginners, a sweet introspective lad, was struggling with the timing on “Starry, Starry Night” from the Faber & Faber Piano Adventures series. His family is doing some travelling this summer and, he’s a bit of a history and geography buff, so we used country names to “count” the beats. We even invited the Grade 12 student after him to contribute, a process they both enjoyed.
Here’s our handiwork:
When I asked him to clap a small passage and later play it, my student performed marvelously.
Further Reading on Other Ways to Teach Counting the Beats in Music