Adding some rhythm to the mix

Thursday: I’ve been thinking about rhythm ever since Colorado, for a few reasons. First, I enjoyed Jeremy Dittus’s Dalcroze presentation in Colorado and became interested in the Dalcroze method of music education, in which rhythm and dance are paramount. Second, in M’s group class in Colorado, her teacher (Kevin Hart) broke up the class with a clapping exercise, which engaged both the kids and the parents. Third, M has been playing 3/4 songs in 4/4 time lately.

So today, I started looking at two books on the subject

  • Joy Yelin’s Movement That Fits: Dalcroze Eurhythmics and the Suzuki Method. I bought it from Amazon and only had a chance to skim it, but it looks like an excellent resource. Yelin has taken songs in the Suzuki repertoire (e.g., May Song, Twinkle) and come up with related Dalcroze-inspired rhythmic exercises. She also has a good introduction about the Dalcroze method in general.
  • Alan Dworsky and Betsy Sansby’s Slap Happy: How to Play World-Beat Rhythms With Just Your Body and a Buddy. I got this book and CD from the library, but I’ll probably buy it. Dworsky and Sansby have a lot of books about world percussion, including some djembe books. In this book, they teach how to play various rhythms using just different types of body percussion (thigh slaps, chest thumps, snaps, claps, etc.). The CD makes it pretty easy to follow along, and the book is geared toward doing the rhythms in pairs (e.g., you can do patty-cake or slap a buddy’s hand on some beats). It’s a great package.

To ease into practice, I told Maura that for the first half of our practice, we would do things in Slap Happy. She was a little hesitant when things were difficult (it’s not so simple to coordinate your hands and feet, even in a pretty simple rhythm pattern), but we had fun for about 15 minutes. I plan to keep doing it.

We started our regular practice after dinner, and it went great. M brought in two fairy books to use — she wanted to earn the fairies for repetitions. Basically, this means that when she does a repetition (or a few), I say, “Great! You’ve earned the fairy with the red wings!” (Or I ask her to pick which fairy she earned.)

Substance-wise, we didn’t get past the second half of Meadow Minuet, which we’ve been practicing. She did well on the C section, but she got the D section in her head with bass notes in the first half but not in the second, so she stops playing the bass notes halfway through. To get her to pay attention to the bass notes and play them was a real challenge, and we worked our way around to it through a combination of trading off parts, slowing down a lot, and singing and talking. By the time we finished, though, she managed to play, at a slow tempo but in time, the bass notes that she had been dropping entirely when we started. So that was progress.

I do think that M’s foundation work is starting to pay off. We got through portions of the song much more quickly than we would have just a few months ago, it’s largely because I don’t have to spend a lot of time trying to adjust her technique, and her technique is so solid that it really supports her playing.

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