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2 minutes reading time (357 words)

Rhythm Boxes, Part 1

When asked to teach a music course to undergraduate dance majors, I soon realized that decoding written rhythms does not come easily to non-musicians. For these students, writing Xs in "rhythm boxes" was easier to understand than learning to read music notation. Later, I transferred the idea to my books and lessons, providing music students an additional way to think about rhythm. To enhance rhythmic training in your studio, start by using blank tables like those below. To create the tables, you can use a word processor or just draw them by hand using a pencil and paper. Then, try these activities. 

Rhythm Box Activities

1. Begin by demonstrating how Xs can be handwritten in the boxes to represent the first two measures of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. 

2. Then ask students to move just one X to convert the Twinkle rhythm to London Bridge is Falling Down with or without showing them the written music. 

Notice how moving the X from beat 2 to the right by one box emphasizes its location on an offbeat. One reason this approach works so well is because it enables students to visualize individual notes as being simply on or off the beat.

3. Next, ask students to rearrange and add Xs to represent the first two measures of Go Tell Aunt Rhody

4. Then invite them to convert Go Tell Aunt Rhody to the infamous Shave and Haircut, Two Bits rhythm by removing Xs from the second measure. 

Some students will be inclined to put an X on beat 1 of measure 2, offering a good opportunity to discuss feeling rests.

5. Finally, remove two more Xs to convert Shave and Haircut to the 3-2 forward clave rhythm that is so prevalent in Latin styles. 

You probably already have other ideas about teaching with rhythm boxes. Next time, I'll share more of my own.

Until then, enjoy your creative music-making journey. 

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November/December 2016
Winds of Change
 

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