Kids love competition – not too much but just enough always gets them studying a bit harder. For example, at every group class I never fail to see a student fall in love with a new piece they hear performed. Even though said piece may be a bit difficult for them, they come to the next lesson so motivated to play that piece for the next recital (or the next-next recital if it’s really tricky…) This gets them motivated to practice more because really, “If So-and-so could play it I know can do it too!”
So currently, I’m in the midst of preparing everyone for a crazy Ensemble camp here in July. And what’s better than a bit of competition mixed in to some ensemble work?! Thus I came up with Rhythm Duels for our recent group classes. After dividing students into groups of 2, I gave each group one of the Rhythm Duel sheets. Each printable sheet of Rhythm Duels have two 8 measure parts of rhythms in various levels. First I had my students learn both parts together. I asked each pair to write in whatever counting they preferred – this could be Ta’s and Ti-ti’s or 1 + 2 +’s. Then they practiced each taking a line and counting together slowly while clapping separate parts. Duets but with rhythms so my younger students could get a bit of practice at ensemble work. Then we had them perform for each other with twists added into make it even harder!
Here are a few of our favorite twists:
Switch – when this gets called out, performing students have to change parts at the downbeat of the next measure.
Faster/Slower – before beginning performing students let listening students choose a tempo for them… if they dared!
Ritardando – slowing down to the end, sounds easy but doing this with another person can be a bit tricky!
Forte/Piano – why not mix in some dynamic practice?!
Foot tap/Clap – listening students call out a change for performers, to be started at the downbeat of the next measure.
Finally, you’re probably wondering why I mentioned competition? Well our students got so involved they’d make each round harder and harder till one of them made a mistake and the other won the Rhythm Duel! They’re already talking about the next time they get to play.
Download and print off your copy of the first levels of Rhythm Duels today! I hope your students have as much fun as we did.
Whitney Hawker, NCTM, teaches group and private piano at Weber State University, Utah. She loves surprising students with the perfect piece or a new exciting game! After graduate school, she missed sharing ideas and resources daily with colleagues so she and her friend, Spring, began blogging together at 4DPianoTeaching.com