There are many ways to start your child learning how to read rhythms, probably as many ways as there are teachers. Through many years of teaching I have found that this is the best way to introduce rhythm to young students. It takes time. Make sure each step is understood and mastered before going on to the next.
- Sing and clap rhythm of the words. Find songs that you and your child enjoys (Often children’s songs are best because they don’t have complicated rhythms in them.) and, first, clap with the beat. (ex. 1 2 3 4-clap, clap, clap, clap) Then do the same song and clap with the rhythm of the words. (ex. row, row, row your boat-clap, clap, clap-clap, clap). This helps children to hear the difference between rhythm in a song and the beat of a song. Do this in the car, at home, any where you sing with your child. It will set the foundation of being able to feel a steady beat and how the rhythms in the song relate to that.
- Relate rhythm of words to one and two sounds per beat. I use the names of fruits to make this transition. Pear for one sound per beat and apple for two sounds per beat. (ex. row, row, row your boat-pear, pear, ap-ple , pear. or Mary had a little lamb-ap-ple, ap-ple, ap-ple, pear.) We are still using words to introduce the concept of the rhythms in the song, but we are now assigning pear for one sound per beat and ap-ple for two sounds per beat. Now, sing their favorite songs with pear and apple instead of the words to the song. Again, sing in the car, at home or anywhere you like to sing. It becomes a game.
- The last step is to relate pear and apple with quarter and eighth notes. A quarter note is a note that gets one beat per note and is equivalent with the pear from the step above. They are now counted with numbers. If you have groups of four, quarter notes go 1-2-3-4, groups of three go 1-2-3. Apples add an “and” to the number. With groups of 4, they would be like this 1 and-2 and-3 and-4 and. See how each beat gets two sounds per beat just like ap-ple gave us two sounds per beat. Our examples from above would now go row, row, row your boat-1,2,3 and, 4 or Mary had a little lamb-1 and, 2 and, 3 and 4. Make sure that when you sing the numbers that you are still singing the song. You just replace the number with the words. Just like in step one and two, sing everywhere with your child alternating the words with the fruit with the numbers. It will help them practice rhythms and set them on the right path to being able to read music easily.
What I described here is just a small part of the Amarant Music System, a system of music education videos and exercises that will make your child literate in the language of music by the 6th level. We have finished the research and development and have filmed a pilot video and are now trying to film the rest of level 1. If you are interested in learning more about this system and helping us to film the rest of level 1 you can go to our kick starter page.