As a follow-up to our recent lesson on Rhythm Counting in the EEi Music Studio we felt it important to back up a step and talk about Rhythm Writing - writing counts below or above rhythms. When performing music, rhythms must be performed accurately, especially if we are playing in a small or large ensemble.
If a student does not understand the rhythm, their performance will suffer or their success might be luck rather than skill. Once they understand the rhythm, they must be able to perform it precisely, in time with a metronome. Understanding and precision are the foundation for rhythmic accuracy.
Of course once they begin performing on the instrument, fundamentals and technique become a part of rhythmic precision as well. We may address that in a later post.
Counting exercises can focus on precision, but we need to be certain that students understand the rhythms. Writing the counts under the rhythms is a more concrete and visual way to help students understand how rhythms work together. There are many written exercises that can help with a student’s rhythmic understanding.
Having a well-defined rhythm writing system is an important first step.
RHYTHM WRITING SYSTEM
In order for students to correctly write the counts with rhythms, you will need to make some decisions and define a few things. This step can actually go a long way to clearing up many rhythmic misunderstandings.
For this to be effective, you need two things:
1) RHYTHM COUNTING SYSTEM
There are a few counting systems out there, but the two used most often in instrumental music are:
“1 & 2 &” Method
“1 te 2 te” Method (the Eastman Method)
There is no right answer as each method is used by successful musicians. The key is to clearly define the counting for your students. It needs to be logical and consistent. It can also be helpful that this system be the same from their beginner years through high school.
2) GUIDELINES FOR WRITING COUNTS
Once you have settled on your counting system, it is important to set clear guidelines on how to write the counts for the rhythms.
There are only a few areas you need to address. It will be important your students understand how to mark:
Defined/Consistent numbers and syllables for each time signature
Notation (line, dash, etc.) that designates a held note
Marking to distinguish counts of silence
You may also decide to write counts or subdivision under the music for certain rhythms. For example, many teachers have students write in the subdivision for dotted quarter notes so students know where the next rhythm occurs after the dotted quarter.
RHYTHM WRITING TIP: Be Neat!
It is good for students to understand that rhythmic accuracy is all about precision. The same should be true of writing rhythms. All numbers and syllables should be clearly written, lined up under the correct note or rest, and spaced properly with regard to the music and time signature.
EEi RHYTHM WRITING GUIDES
We have provided three options for a Rhythm Writing Guide in Essential Elements Interactive.
“1 & 2 &” Method
“1 te 2 te” Method
Blank chart for you to create your specific system
Choose the method you prefer or create your own method specific for your school. This guide is an example for your students to know specifically how to write the counts in each rhythmic situation.
Each guide has all of the rhythm writing possibilities for Essential Elements Book 1. Once you clarify how to write each of these rhythms, students have all the information they need to write in counts and figure out rhythms on their own. These decisions and the consistency of the system will clear up much confusion.
EEi RHYTHM CURRICULUM
We have also provided rhythm worksheets in EEi that cover a variety of rhythmic possibilities. These are available in the teacher account to share with your students or to download and print.
EEi RHYTHM WORKSHEET SUGGESTION:
It is helpful for students to write in the counts for better understanding, but ultimately they should learn to count the rhythms without the counts written in. Some students will read the written-in counts and not look at the notes. If they only use rhythm charts with the counts written in, they will essentially be reading numbers and syllables and not looking at the music. To avoid this:
Download an EEi Rhythm Sheet
Print/Copy the same chart on both sides of the paper.
Have students write the rhythms in on one side and leave the other side blank
This will allow students to write the counts for understanding and to use as a reference while counting rhythms without the crutch of the written out rhythms below. This is a good way to introduce new rhythms and start mastery at the same time.
Like anything in music, with consistency, additional practice, and follow through, understanding and performance will improve. If you have not already looked at the Rhythm Counting in the EEi Music Studio lesson, this can be the next step in your students rhythmic understanding.