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Reading Rhythm Syllables

Teaching "Whole Music" Literacy by Kit Eakle

What do Whole-Language teachers and Music teachers have to learn from one another? (adapted from a Research Forum article published, 1994, Lanley, BC School District)
When considering "literacy," we often assume that we are considering knowledge of communication through the written word. However, the reading and writing of music are also communication skills that fall within the notion of "literacy." Music is a kind of language (some even term it the "Universal Language") with its own logic and syntax. A pedagogy has evolved to teach the skills of reading and writing music with its own methodology and developmental scope and sequence.

From: "Gregg A. Collins" Oct 1997

We use a variety of methods for labeling rhythm figures. We also all agree that if the children internalize the rhythm, it doesn't really matter what we label them....

From: Marcia Oates

My approach is similar. I teach my students a variety of strategies for reading rhythms. For quarters and paired eighths, they use two-syllable and one-syllable words. I let them choose words from specific categories (students' names, favorite foods, etc...). For quarters and halves, we might use the words "long" and "short", or "meow" and "bark", etc.

The key to success is, in my opinion, that the strategy doesn't become an end in itself. As soon as possible, my goal is for students to play rhythms correctly without saying anything. When practicing rhythm reading, we read each example first using the word cues. Then we try to play the rhythm while moving only our lips. The final step is to play the rhythm together, without using any cues at all. Pretty soon, we can drop the cues altogether.

Another fun alternative to drilling rhythm reading is rhythmic dictation. I use a metronome and start with two-note examples, then three notes, then four....

My students are always amazed that they can do this!