5 Tips For Teaching Rhythm

Updated: Jul 25, 2019

Many students come to me with a wide variety of rhythmic abilities. In my time as an educator, I have discovered a variety of ways to improve my students rhythmic ability. So, listed below are my top 5 tips for helping students counteract rhythmic problems:

1. Use Natural Rhythm

Language has a natural rhythm, so using words to replace rhythmic gestures is a very intuitive way for students to learn. There are many variations to this approach, but a common way of thinking about this approach is to assign words to common rhythmic gestures.

For example, four sixteenth-notes could be ‘watermelon’ (wa-ter-me-lon), a triplet might be come ‘pineapple’ and two eighth-notes could be ‘apple’. Students clap the pulse and say the rhythm prior to performing it on their instrument.

2. Focus On How Rhythms Sound

Express to students that the 'sound' of the rhythm is important. Once students know what a rhythm sounds like, show them the notation. This approach will allow students to recognize rhythms and perform them straight away, rather than stopping to ‘count it out’. In addition, this allows for students to comprehend organizing sound into rhythmic notation while learning to actively listen.

3. Use Audio Recordings

Many students can play the rhythm correctly in the lesson, but may struggle to remember the rhythm when they are at home without a teacher. I often record short passages on my students’ phones for them to listen to at home. Remember to record the passage at a speed that is appropriate for the student to play. In addition, creating practice tracks for advanced passages can help students understand difficult rhythms.

4.Fluency is Key

Encourage fluency from the first read through. Obviously there will always be musical passages that need more attention before they are able to be played fluently, so reduce the tempo of the whole piece to a speed that allows fluency and rhythmic accuracy. Rhythm is all about organizing proportions (whole notes, half notes, quarter notes), so any time that fluency is lacking, the proportions don’t align, leading to rhythmic confusion. Once students are able to perform fluently, allow them to slowly raise the tempo.

5. Patience

Like any element of teaching, patience is the key. Rhythm needs constant attention and repetition to be well ingrained in a student.

About The Author


Musician / Music Educator

M 608-576-2455 E sam.pavel.music@gmail.com W www.sampavelmusic.com

If you, or someone you know, is interested in drum set or percussion lessons in the Madison area. Please head on over to the Lessons page for more information on lessons with Sam! Online lessons are also available!

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