Pacing & Momentum with Reading Rhythm & Reading Notes
Found in: Reading
Mark M., New York
I’ve heard a number of teachers in the past say how important it is to keep momentum going with Reading Rhythm. I definitely want to do that. At the same time, not only with various other streams going but also wanting to make sure there’s appropriate processing of the RR projects, I’m not quite sure just how quickly to plow through things.
At one extreme might be a separate week for clapping/voicing a new topic, then a week for FSS, week for writing, week for transcribing. Possibly multiple weeks on any of these steps if a topic were tricky.
At the other extreme might be going through all these steps in a single week for a given topic. Or possibly even faster if a teacher were to plow through more than one topic in a single week.
I’ve tended to be a bit on the conservative side but would be willing to push more per week if there was broad enough evidence that it could be effective. Where in this continuum would most teachers fall with most projects?
Robin Keehn, Washington
With regard to Reading Rhythm, my purpose is not to get through the projects at certain speed or in a certain time frame. However, once I start RR, I don’t ever take a week off from working on it. With younger children I could spend a few months in RR. Because I struggled so much with reading rhythm as a child, I want to be very sure that they completely understand it so I’ll take plenty of time on each element.
I just started a group in RR two weeks ago with a group of a couple of ten year olds–both very good in math. I plan to spend 5-10 minutes on RR each week. I don’t separate the projects into weeks. I cover multiple steps each week. We’ll clap and voice a page, each student will be the teacher and clap/vocalize a measure for other students to write down and their homework might be to clap the same page and generate their own measure of rhythm. I wouldn’t introduce more than one rhythm element in any given week but I do have students experiencing a bit of everything every week (clapping/vocalizing, writing, transcribing). It’s way more fun and has a feeling of progress.
For me, the critical thing has been the writing. I can be fooled into thinking that a student comprehends something because they can clap it but once I ask them to write what I’ve clapped, I know with certainty if they really get it. Dotted notes and ties are usually where we spend the most time processing. We get out other music with those elements and practice, practice, practice.
I think, on average, I spend about 12-14 weeks of instruction in RR and that requires them to spend 5 minutes a day at home working on it, too.
Mark M., New York
Thanks for all these thoughts. I certainly don’t want to impose a timeframe either. What I’m hoping for is to have a better sense of just how much more material I might reasonably cover in a given week with typical students. Up until now, with the very few students I’ve taken through the program so far, I’ve erred on the conservative side, because I haven’t been able to imagine students mastering all the steps of a given topic from concept introduction through transcription without incrementally covering each step, one at a time, from week to week.
When you mention doing a bit of everything each week, what would be ideal for me to see would be an example, literally as if I were to have sat in on one of your classes. I don’t mean video or anything like that, just a short list of exactly what RR activities you did and exactly what RR assignments you gave, but with specifics from a typical day “in the field” as opposed to generalized in any way. As if you were to have come out of a class and thought to yourself that what you did with that class on that day was fairly typical of how you deliver the program in general, so you’d summarize that very particular day as a case study.
It’s probably taken me longer to write this paragraph than what your answer would be, I just wanted to make sure I was being clear 🙂 Would you be able to do that?
Barbara M., New Jersey
I wonder if I am taking too long on initial stages. We do the walking and saying rhythm first week, sitting and tapping foot and saying rhythm second week. Then playing on laps with fingers 1-3-5-3-, then lap playing five steps, then finally five steps on the piano. Then it may be 12 weeks before we get to the writing part of the program, because we go over the whole first section just clapping and saying, then playing 5 steps and saying.
Then, finally, on to writing, same time as Neil introduces it in the TTM.
It sounds like you are collapsing all that into two weeks. Which of these initial steps that I have conflated over several months, are you skipping?
Thanks for bringing this pacing question up, Mark.
Robin Keehn, Washington
I do the walking and saying the rhythm as well as the tapping and saying the rhythm the first week for sure. The next week I do the lap playing and take it right to the piano (unless these are really young children). That same week I usually show them how to actually write singles, doubles and quads so they can practice that at home. As we process the Masters of the Rhythm, we write them. I have them play them on the piano in class but make that more of a homework assignment once they know what to do.
I make sure they are getting the feeling of the rhythms and do plenty of clapping and vocalizing but as sure as they seem confident, we start writing. That could be the third or fourth week. On a weekly basis, once we are on to the Masters of the Rhythm, it would be typical for students to clap and vocalize a page of RR, maybe play a speed game as a group (get faster as we go through each line) and then give everyone a chance to clap a measure and have the rest of the group clap it back and write it down. Homework may be to listen to a few tracks on the CD and write the rhythms down. It may be to clap a page (with familiar elements) each day of the week.
Usually, students can move pretty steadily all the way through Reading Rhythm until they get to Dotted notes and Ties. My experience is that these two components take much more time. I keep it as simple as possible. The simplest way to explain a Dotted Quarter Note is to say: It says One and Two. Why I was never told that in all my years of studying piano is beyond me. That simple explanation has changed my relationship to reading rhythm.
I hope that makes sense. Please ask me for more clarification if it doesn’t. I don’t skip anything but I’ve discovered that most students can move fairly quickly at the beginning and I want to engage them and keep their interest.
Sue C., Australia
Something that has helped me that I picked up casually from Jenny Savill at recent Melbourne conference.
I used to have the idea that getting through the first section of RR with all the clapping of singles, doubles and quads was such a big deal and difficult. This week I adopted Jenny’s idea that it is so easy.
1 clap for singles, 2 claps for doubles, 4 claps for quads.
I told my RR student this week how easy it was and we zipped through a page. Now I would like to see what a change my attitude has made in the student and how much quicker than usual we get through that part of RR.
Sheri R., California
I believe the RR program teaches us to clap only on the beat while voicing the singles, doubles, and quads. My experience has been the clapping on the beat helps students get the ties, dots, etc. more easily. Taking my students through the singles, doubles, and quads with the even beat of clapping rather than clapping each note (as I’ve also tried) seems to lay a better understanding of the nature of reading rhythm as it’s establishing the idea of one, two, or four notes in a given chunk of time (that the clapping keeps track of) for the foundation. I’m wondering if people who have tried it both ways in their studios, found that one way works better than another.
Granted I may not be following the RR program to the tee but I continue having students clapping beat whether voicing singles, doubles, quads, ties, dotted notes, or rests. For ties, the voice holds the note longer, across the beat, same idea for dotted notes, and rests they clap but don’t voice. Essentially the voice mimics the notes played, the clapping mimics the even beat. Haven’t run into insurmountable problems with it, seems any challenges some may have with RR they might have with any approach and they always easily get ironed out. It seems that some are using this approach and others are going the route of clapping each note. Perhaps more discussion and teasing out of this will iron out inconsistencies and lay groundwork for a uniform approach for all, whatever way that may be.
As far as reading intervals, I do encourage students, once they have intervals comfortably processed and are in TFMM, to go back to reading notes interval streams saying up a second E, down a third C, up a fifth G, etc. as, while one can read anything only knowing where the C location points are, it’s a good thing to also eventually know the note names.
Darla H., Kansas
My understanding of the TTP was that we should always clap and voice the singles, doubles & quads and that the beat should be internal, that Neil just did it differently on the CD as a way to make the audio easy to understand. So, that’s the way I’ve been teaching. As I’ve read about others of you clapping the beat while voicing the written rhythms, I’m wondering what you do when the students play on the keyboard? Do they still keep the beat in some way?
Those of you that have students clapping the beat at the beginning, do you find that this helps them develop the internal beat or does it train them to need the external beat for longer? How do you transition from keeping the beat externally, to keeping it internally?
Sheri R., California
My experience Darla is that it seems to naturally get internalized. I find that students either naturally use their head or body or just feel it. Because the voicing doesn’t change while clapping or playing on piano the consistency is in what the eyes see on the page–it has worked fine in my studio. It could be that both ways work equally well.
Georgia H., Australia
I always have my students use their feet LRLR. Especially in the beginning.
They process the rhythms both ways.
- Clapping the BEAT and voicing the rhythm. (as on the CD)
- Clapping and voicing the rhythm. (as on video) This helps for ties, dotted and rests
Once they have it both ways they can go between the two depending on what we are processing.
Fiona H., Australia
Start Reading Rhythm doing both clap rhythm/beat as to what student responds to and can get immediate win with for confidence- then move them over to clap rhythm/feet do beat while away piano. Transition to piano – continue feet only for short time as they would have felt beat in body by now. Feet naturally drop out as they have more confidence as beat has been in body for while now. Use voice still. Show students if they need to ‘workshop’ hard rhythm sections to put feet back in to get the feel. This won’t interrupt pedaling as I’m talking about the note crunching phase and temporary.
Supplement ties/dotted with more combos than in Reading Rhythm SHM. Have students write like crazy to truly get it. Develop folder of examples for all to practice with. Download games for kids to reinforce all RR concepts.
Start and do Reading Notes as per normal with streams. When get to Location points then start casually adding in note names going at student pace but more imp keep focus on intervals.
Supplement key signature with games n resources from Internet – mould more note names into language but keep Intervallic language as the foundation- -Reading Notes is finished at this stage – and use intervals/note names in TTFM.
Somewhere in the above hand back student’s music books- can be whenever suits the student’s understanding.
As ongoing thing way down track where parents request it and only after doing all of the above, continue students reinforcement by them doing regular small amts homework from a theory method book.
Patti P., Hawaii
Please keep in mind that this is coming from a long time teacher but a relatively new SM teacher. I think maybe this habit came from playing in band.
I’ve always put the beat in the feet. In band it was tapping the front of the foot. One of my great teachers taught me that it’s easier to keep steady if you tap the heel instead, and I’ve found this to be true. This motion refines down to invisibility over time, so that observers don’t see the beat, but it is felt internally.
I’m finding it easy (only having recently start the RR program with a few groups) to go from walking the beat to putting the beat in the heel. When they can do LR in their heels, I ask them to just do the left (since the right foot is often busy with the pedal when they play). This seems to be a pretty easy step. We then clap & voice the rhythm.
At this point, the MOR with voicing/clapping is very steady for all my students doing it. I consider heel tapping at the keyboard unnecessary as long as the student is voicing and playing with a steady beat.
Barbara M., New Jersey
So far, it has worked for me to just do intervallic reading of streams without identifying the note names.
When the students learn the 6 regions and the C location points, they play the notes as written. The great thing about this method is they are not locked into reading specific notes. Because they read streams with not specific location first, they can freely transpose.
The important thing is for them to know the location C’s very well. Then it is just a matter of identifying how the starting note of a song (or any note) relates to C. When I first started the program, I was forgetting this crucial step. Here is what I mean. When you are working with the streams given after each location point, the first thing to do is look at each note individually, not as a stream, but how does it relate to the C? For example: third above high C; 4th below bass C. It all happens a lot more naturally than I could have imagined.
By the end of Reading Notes, I am finding that students benefit from and enjoy doing some flash card practice (easily available on the internet) for note names.
Rebecca S., Australia
I made some Simply Music friendly flash cards. I have the note on the front and the interval relating to the closest C on the back. So if it was a note on the top of the treble clef staff, I would have a 5th above Treble C or a 4th below High C. I lend them to my students for the week and I hope they use them.