Writing Spoken Rhythm
Un Mani, Australia
Hi I’ve got a question about students who find it difficult to clap words taking note of where the syllables fall. It came up from assigning a footy chant to a sport lover (e.g. ‘ see the bombers fly up” – from Aussie Rules footy). I wanted him to write out in rhythmic notation practicing his generative skills. He will do one clap for ‘bomb – ers’ for example. I would like to understand this difficulty better and also any ways to help other than go slow. My hubby who is mensa intelligence level, finds it very difficult too. Can anyone help please?
Nancy N., Massachusetts
I ran across this problem yesterday with 2 students. For the 10 year old, the issue was: we had been practicing rhythm by speaking syllables and clapping the beat. He took a minute to switch to speaking AND clapping the rhythm instead of the beat. For him, I could tell it was just a physical coordination thing that will get better with more practice. He did fine when I did it with him. The other was a 73 yr old woman in level 3. She played one note instead of two for “Humpty” in Pipes. I explained to her that “Humpty” had two sounds, which she could represent on the piano by playing the note twice. I learned in my trainings as a school music teacher that clapping the beat is easier and should come first; clapping rhythm takes more coordination and should come second. I think it’s more a physical than intellectual issue. Switching hand movements between fast and slow is tricky for people at first.
Ian B., California
I don’t disagree that it CAN be a physical coordination issue for some, but Un Mani’s description sounds more like an ear/listening issue. I’ve had many students that have had trouble with Alma Mater Blues simply because they weren’t aware that “humpty dumpty” was four syllables. Younger kids require some coaching because their ear isn’t distinguishing the separate notes and because their understanding of how words can be separated into parts may not have been established yet. Once that is addressed, it does then become a physical coordination issue as they struggle to “match their mouth” with their hands tapping the rhythm as shown in the SHM.
For older adults I’ve seen a different issue occur when English was not their primary language (even though they spoke quite well). In any case, it still came down to distinguishing the syllables with their ear first by slowing way down. Then the physical coordination came second.
Un Mani I’d be interested to HEAR how you and your student actually pronounce “bomber”😀 because that’s one where the “ER” can be very de-emphasized forget adding to the problem.
Mark M., New York
I don’t know if this would help your student, but in Tune Toolkit Vol. 1’s TTM, there is an audio chapter called Help Processing Rhythm, and since it specifically responds to / builds on the verbal-sentence-based work that is done in Tune Toolkit, it may be relevant in giving some support to this particular issue your student is having.
Kerry V., Australia
I would have them slow down, even just do only part of the ‘syllbol’ until they feel comfortable with that.
Maybe take away a sense such as clap. So have them voice it first, then layer it with the clap and only just one clap. Then build it up.
Ian M., Indiana
In a way, one clap for “bomb-ers” sounds like it could be as simple as WORDS making sense to him, but he’s not breaking it down to the level of syllables yet, at least smoothly, in his head. I bet using certain nursery rhymes as examples could help with that, eg “Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater” – just that line, in fact. Also try using long words to introduce the idea of multiple claps for multiple syllables – “multiple syllables” isn’t 2 claps, it’s 6, see? Do it with me – ”
Ruth P., North Carolina
As a former elem music teacher, I learned that children process beat best by tapping their legs (lap) and rhythm by clapping. For that reason, I don’t have students clap the beat. Often I have them tap the beat on their left leg and SPEAK the rhythm. Another step could be clapping AND speaking the rhythm and even greater challenge, tap the beat on their left leg while tapping the rhythm on their right leg (and speaking the rhythm). I think it’s important to almost always speak the rhythm out loud. Another way I’ve taught it is by using 4 squares (“beat boxes”) Touching each once for the steady beat, I say the rhythm (or the words). The question I ask is “How many sounds do you hear on this beat?” [ex see the= 2 ] Now, how many sounds do you hear on this beat? [ex. bomb-ers = 2] Multiple ways of experience beat and rhythm help them grasp the concept. Good luck!
Original discussion started October 27, 2021