When it comes to learning music, many students struggle with keeping a steady beat or matching specific rhythms. As teachers, our goal is to help our students master tricky rhythms and progress to even more advanced rhythmic patterns.
If you haven’t focused on rhythm in your studio, it can be difficult to know where to start. Here are seven ideas to establish your students’ understanding and practice of different rhythms using Rhythm Sticks.
1) Teach New Rhythms
As you explain new rhythms to students, use Rhythm Sticks to help them visualize each element. For example, easily teach dotted notes by having the student add the dot and explaining how the dot changes the note value.
2) Rhythm Dictation
Rhythm dictation trains the student’s ear and helps them gain confidence in detecting patterns and specific rhythmic values. Clap a rhythm and have your student select the correct Rhythm Sticks to create the pattern you clapped. This idea can be used at all levels by giving your student the specific Rhythm Sticks they need (just quarter and half notes, just quarter notes and rests, or all note values and rests).
I have created Rhythm Cards with dozens of ideas to make rhythmic dictation easier for you. These work perfectly so you don’t have to come up with rhythms on the spot–especially when you’re at the end of a long day and your brain is tired. Sample Level 1 Rhythm Cards for free when you sign up for my newsletter (where I’ll send even more free printables and fun news!). You can also get the full Level 1 Rhythm Cards set here.
3) Rhythm "Quizzes"
Flip the rhythm dictation game around and create a pattern with the Rhythm Sticks that your student claps back. If you have group lessons, you can have students take turns creating rhythms that the rest of the class claps.
4) Copy Rhythm from Piano Piece
If a student is struggling to master specific rhythms for a piano piece, have them copy the rhythms with the Rhythm Sticks. Then clap the rhythm only until the pattern is established in their minds.
5) Rhythm Coordination
Go beyond clapping and counting rhythms by creating two lines of rhythm–one for each hand. The student can tap their right hand rhythm until they are confident, then tap the left hand rhythm. Once they can correctly tap each hand, they can put the rhythms together with both hands tapping their unique patterns. This idea is great for students who struggle with polyrhythms and need extra practice with triplets against eighth notes.
Use this idea in group lessons by dividing the group in two and having one group clap one rhythm and the other group clap a second rhythm. When they can do it well, switch the groups.
6) Show Note Values
Help students learn and master note values by visualizing how note values line up with each other. You can build a rhythm tree by placing a whole note at top divided into two half notes divided into four quarter notes, etc. Mix up note values and numbers and have the students pair the correct values to the correct numbers. Further test their knowledge of note values by having them match several smaller note values to the larger ones (what notes equal one dotted half note?).
7) Rhythms for Anyone
The tactile element of Rhythm Sticks make them perfect for blind students who need to feel the differences of the rhythms. Because this is a hands-on activity, Rhythm Sticks also work well for students with ADHD or other neurodivergence. Students not only sense and hear the rhythm, they can now visualize and put together rhythms for themselves.
Even more ideas…
Rhythm Sticks can be used to aid students in composition, rhythm games, online lessons, and more. How would you use the Rhythm Sticks in your studio? Comment and share!
About Rhythm Sticks
The 38 pc Rhythm Stick notation magnetic cutouts include dots to build a variety of rhythmic patterns and numbers for 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4 time signatures. Thick, durable foam magnets are easy to pick up and provide reliable adhesion to any steel/magnetic board.
Find out more here.