I am so excited about a lesson I did with my students last week! In a piece of music that we are working on, there is a particularly difficult rhythm. It is a sixteenth syncopated rhythm, of course, and I was thinking about how to teach it like a professional musician would break it down and learn it. I also wanted my students to get a visual on how the steady beat is the key to reading any given rhythm at any time.

In the end, I want my students to have strategies. Strategies for how to figure out new rhythms beyond using colors or syllables. I also want my students to understand why a certain strategy works and how to use it.

So here it is:


Students will understand and learn how to use the steady beat to read rhythms


  1. Create a rhythm using your 4/4 Note Knacks Time Signature Frame and blocks. For example: eighth, eighth, quarter, quarter, quarter
  2. Have kids tap rhythm out
  3. Ask students what the shortest note is (eighth)
  4. Place 8 eighths in front of frame (It helps to have another set of Note Knacks for this!)
  5. Tap the eighth steady beats as kids tap rhythm
  6. Slow it down and do it again, but this time tap the eighth blocks as they tap the rhythm
  7. Ask students which eighths did you tap on? (1st, 2nd, third, 5th and 7th)
  8. Push those eighths forward that they tapped on
  9. Do this process again with many rhythms
  10. With older kids you can try out a syncopated rhythms ~ I was so amazed at how easily they got it!! Have them decide which eighths they tap on and push those blocks forward before they attempt the rhythm. It will make all the difference!


                  Find out what the kids thought:

  • Why do you think we used eighths instead of quarters or sixteenths? (let’s try it)
  • How does the steady beat help us figure out the rhythm?

When we moved to syncopated rhythms, they got it because they figured out the formula ~ they understood which blocks to tap on and which to stay silent on. This is huge! We primarily dealt with quarters and eighths, so sustaining didn’t come up with 2 groups, but it did with one group. This is when I realized I needed my students to explore the concept of sustaining sound for a certain number of beats. I will cover this in next week’s newsletter…so stay tuned!!