Learning & Teaching: Create & Motivate
Rhythm boxes, Part II
by Bradley Sowash
The last column introduced placing Xs in "rhythm boxes" to represent well-known tunes. Here are more ideas to enhance rhythmic understanding by teaching with this versatile tool.
Rhythm box activities Start by making and printing blank tables like those below. Then, try these activities with your students.
• Speak nonsensical sentences rhythmically over a steady beat. Then ask students to convert your words to rhythm boxes.
• Prompt students to invent their own words, then convert these to rhythm boxes. Tell them it can be anything at all: what they had for lunch, something that happened that day, a favorite saying, motto, product slogan…
• Convert challenging rhythms in the student's current repertory to rhythm boxes.
• Transcribe rhythms and melody to rhythm boxes by correlating colored markers to particular pitches.
• Ask students to mark boxes randomly without prior thought, then improvise on the resulting rhythm by choosing notes from the current scale/ key they are learning.
• When introducing a new piece, work with your student to identify a characteristic rhythmic motif. Then locate and/or count additional places where that rhythm occurs on the page.
• Practice two-handed piano rhythms by designating the top row of the rhythm boxes as the right hand/treble clef and the bottom row as the left hand/bass clef.
• Turn a previously marked rhythm box from an earlier activity upside down and ask students to play the resulting rhythm. Next time, we'll look at how to use rhythm boxes to teach advanced rhythmic concepts. Until then, enjoy your creative music-making journey!
Bradley Sowash is a composer, performer, and educator known for his best-selling jazz piano method, That's Jazz, published by Kjos Music, and as the co-founder with Leila Viss of 88 Creative Keys improvisation camps for piano students and teachers.