The Complete Beginner’s Guide To Rhythm

Whether you're encouraging your child to learn an instrument, or simply looking to explore music together, this beginner's guide to rhythm gives you the basic concepts.

I'm the kind of person who's always tapping on stuff. You know those annoying moments when you're having a meal and notice that the table's shaking? Yep, that's me down the other end.

When we started this magazine, I thought "oh that's nice for Grace, I'll build her a website", but always thought I wouldn't have much to contribute.

I think that's a symptomatic issue for a lot of homeschooling parents too - the old fear "What if I don't know what to teach?". I now realise it's not about knowing everything, but rather 'sharing the load' with a bunch of influential people in your children's lives.

I mean sure, you might not know much about maths but your engineer uncle might. And you might be a total 'brown-thumb' (opposite of a green thumb), but the lady next door with the epic garden seems to know a thing or two.

Play to your strengths, understand what you're well equipped with and either explore it together, or don't be afraid outsource some of the rest with someone more knowledgeable.

Well, apart from being the website designer/digital marketer/entrepreneurial-type, I'm also a drummer, so I know a fair bit about rhythm.

We had an article back in issue 3 covering the importance of teaching music appreciation that our readers really enjoyed, so I thought it would be good to go into a bit more depth on rhythm specifically.

So let's share some skills. Here's some basic concepts and tips for how you can explore rhythm with your kids.

The Basics of Rhythm

Time signature: this is the foundation of your beat. The easiest way for me to put this is to say that it's the pattern you follow in a consistent count of usually 2, 3, 4 or 6.

Try this with your kids:

Count 1, 2, 3, 4 out loud: 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4 etc

Tempo: This just means the speed at which you're playing or counting. I suggest you start slow and then build up your speed. Everyone wants to get faster and faster but a great challenge with your kids is to see how slow you can play before it becomes too hard to keep a consistent rhythm.

Accent: No this doesn't just mean speaking with a foreign accent. An accent is the focal point or emphasis of your time signature. So if you're counting 1, 2, 3, 4... you can accentuate any of the four beats. 1, 2, 3, 4... or 1, 2, 3, 4... or 1, 2, 3, 4. It's kind of like reading a sentence where the emphasis on a single word can change the inflection of the sentence's meaning.

Dynamics: This is basically just how loud or soft you play. A great exercise is to find a mix of materials to find rhythm with and record which one is the loudest through to the softest.

A bit more advanced

Syncopation: Think about syncopation as the 'notes between the notes'. When we're talking about counting in 1, 2, 3, 4 there is actually a series of notes in between all of these too.

So if you sounds this out: "1-and-2-and-3-and-4-and" you'll notice that there are now 8 points we could accent on - either any of the numbers or any of the 'and's. So try sounding this out with the accents:

1-and-2-and-3-and-4-and-1-and-2-and-3-and-4-and

Activities Involving Rhythm

Play together

To really grasp the concept and explore it further, you'll be much better to play a beat together. Being in rhythm with each other is great for team work and non-verbal communication (though try recounting your last 3 meals while keeping the beat as a game too!).

Find different things to hit/tap

There are countless household items to add to your rhythm section. The typical ones are pots and pans or knocking a couple of blocks of wood together. But think alternatively - brush your teeth or use a scrubbing brush for a maraca sound, use a book as a bongo, or your leg, use your mouth to beatbox, play a lounge cushion with your palm (for a nice deep sound). The options are everywhere. Have fun exploring the drum kit that is your house.

Use this simple technique to stay in time

Use a clock as a metronome. A 'metronome' is anything that has a consistent tempo to help you stay in time. A clock that actually makes an audible ticking noise is ideal. Try and stay in time with the seconds hand first. When you're ready, try and fill the spaces between the seconds ticks with a beat.

Identify the time signature of songs

Put the radio on and try and count whether the song has a time signature that counts in 2, 3, 4 or 6. To clarify, if you can count the beat with a consistent pattern, then that will be the time signature.

Dance to the music

The best way to find the beat is to move to it. Especially for kids. They seem to naturally find the rhythm and then end up swaying, jumping and dancing to the right tempo and beat. Your body naturally finds it when you relax.

I hope you have found these useful and feel ready to give them a go for yourselves.

If you have any tips on rhythm, we'd love to hear from you. Just add your comments below and like or share.

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Eric Koelma

Mulberry Business Manager

Eric is a self-confessed cool nerd, a football fanatic, husband/right-hand-man to Grace and dad to Leo. Eric's philosophy on life is simple: "If I'm not learning, I'm dead."

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