the Virtual Music Classroom
Music Activities and Resources for Kids and Teachers

Teaching Music and Music Making for the Classroom Teacher

Some techniques for teaching the basics of primary music and integrating meaningful music into other subject areas usable by teachers with no music training


3 principles of beat keeping activities

Priciple No. 1 is "Keep the beat even and steady"

This first activity will help you and your students to concentrate on keeping the beat steady:

Counting to four and clap your hands to the count going as quickly as you can and still keep an even, steady speed. Count to yourself to four over and over again in time to your clapping. Keep this up until you feel comfortable in your count.

Concentrate on making sure the beginning of each syllable comes right on the clap. The tendency is to anticipate your clap with the beginning of the word coming before your clap. Try NOT to do that. Concentrate on the sounds of your voice and hands! Try to begin the sound of the number you count with the sounding of the clap. ( This is called hand-mouth coordination!)

When this feels comfortable keep on counting to four at the same speed in your mind or out loud, but slow down the clapping so that you now clap on the numbers "one" and "three" only. If the steady, fast beat keeps going in your mind, the beat should now be slower and quite even. (Keep up your hand-mouth coordination!)

Now try and clap on the number "one" only.

Once that's easy, try it on every other "one." Here is an example of each count described above in one sound file: Clapping example #1

You are now at about the right speed (or "tempo") to clap the beat for most of the following activities. This tempo should not be faster than a beat each second or two. You are clapping the beat and feeling "pulse" inside the beat of eight pulses per beat. This is a good tempo or beat speed to start with for clapping the beat in any of the following activities.
Look at the words printed on the previous page with the strange spacing. You will see a graphic notation for this activity - only with words instead of counts. The words are written to show each line twice as slow as the last. Here is the way it might be written with counts:

1 3 1 3

1 3 1 3

1 1

1 1



Take time with the activity and be patient with yourself. With all the activities that follow, you will need this patience. While the explanations are sometimes a little dense, after trying each yourself and practicing a few times, I think you will find them reasonably easy to teach.

Principle No. 2:
The second principle to keep in mind in performing the beat, is that keeping the beat takes considerable coordination. Many teachers try to get Kindergarten children to march to the beat. This is not easy for young children. It requires them to move the left foot and then the right in sequence while concentrating on the beat. In very general terms, for the first years of school it is best to use beat keeping activities that repeat the same motion over and over. Hopping up and down and slapping the lap with both hands are samples of beginning activities in beat keeping. Even clapping is more difficult than these activities, as it requires spatial coordination in making the hands meet.

Only gradually will activities move into keeping the beat using a natural sequence of movements -
like slapping first the left hand and then the right, stepping, marching or skipping. Finally a true sequence of movements may be attempted e.g. slap lap, clap hands, snap fingers; slap lap, clap hands, snap fingers etc.

Try keeping the beat as described in Activity 1 using each of these kinds of activities and you will see the progressive difficulty of each kind of motion, especially at the faster speeds that begin the activity.

Principle No.3:
Finally, it is important in keeping the beat that physical movement be a part of the activity in most instances. Many of the activities which follow keep the beat orally. All these activities will be more fun and will more strongly impress the feel of the beat if you use an appropriate physical beat keeping activity to accompany the oral activity.

Enough of principles... let's have some fun!
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