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Rhythm Syllables

The benefits of teaching rhythm syllables to children are well documented to improve reading.

Imitate, isolate, diverge: every generation will change it to fit the standards for their generation!



Beat Competence - STEADY BEAT

Making music with rhythms is a team effort.


Interview with Zoltan Kodaly


by Darren Wicks

Rhythm syllables are a tool for teaching and internalizing a strong sense of rhythm. Using the rhythm syllable method, commonly occurring rhythmic patterns are given a particular name that aids in their reading and performance. This idea is not strictly confined to Kodaly teaching. Both African and Indian music employ a system of rhythm syllables. The Hungarian system was adapted from the work of the French musician and teacher, Emile-Joseph ChevÈ (1804-1864).
Strictly speaking, rhythm syllables are not names, but expressions of duration. They are effective because they linguistically represent real sound - that is, they sound like the rhythms they represent. With rhythm syllables it is possible to chant a rhythm pattern so that it is in time and in rhythm. Ordinarily this would be impossible using the theory names of each note (crotchet, quarter note, etc.). Rhythm syllables are spoken, never written down as words. Their written form is the rhythm symbol itself.
Rhythm syllables are partly necessitated by the developmental nature of Kodaly teaching. For a child, ta is a much more logical and more effectively internalized name for a crotchet or quarter note simply because both names are made of a number of syllables, yet in actuality the crotchet is really one sound over one beat.
Here are the commonly used rhythm symbols and there corresponding rhythm syllables:

  • crotchet or quarter note = ta
  • 2 quavers or eight notes = ti-ti
  • 4 semiquavers or sixteenth notes = tika-tika
  • eight note+2 sixteenth notes = ti-tika
  • 2 sixteenths + an eighth = tika - ti
  • minim or half note = too
  • dotted crotchet + quaver... dotted quarter+eighth = taam- ti
  • dotted eighth + semiquaver = tim-ka

by Bonnie Lomax

I use Kodaly rhythm syllables ta and ti-ti in 1st grade. We go from words to ta's by deciding how many sounds (syllables) are in the word. The children find this much easier if they 'put the word in their hand'. They tap two fingers in one hand and say the word.
We also write the rhythms with our bodies. In 1st grade I use four pieces of blue paper cut into puddles (beat) and the children write the rhythm for "Rain, Rain Go Away." One child stands on a puddle for a ta and two children together with arms ON, not over, each others shoulders stand on a puddle to make a ti-ti. We use also use dog bones for beat or whatever fits the song. By 2nd grade the students no longer need the beats and can write rhythms with their bodies using some pretty creative notation.

Practice Beat Competance with Dance

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