Advancements in technology have been consistently aiding both students and teachers of music alike for eternity. For example, in music school, I needed a state-of-the-art metronome to get by (I won’t name the brand); you could program it with every conceivable subdivision, time signature, BPM, or necessary sound set. Even back in 2005, this metronome cost well over $100 USD brand new. I now have a free app on my smart phone with all of the same functionality. There are many more free-or-cheap, rhythm-teaching apps out there that you’d be foolish to not snag.
MusicTheory.net should be home base for any music teacher trying to teach – you guessed it – music theory. While it sports a no-frills, black-and-white interface, it has nearly limitless possibilities in exercises that test your theory knowledge. Some of the more notable exercises include:
Note recognition – displays a note on a staff, which the user is asked. The range of possible notes, clef used, and availability of accidentals are all customizable.
Keyboard note recognition – similar to the last exercise, except a piano key highlighted instead of a note on a staff. Similar customizability.
Interval recognition – again similar to the note recognition exercise, but displays two notes in a chord and asks the user to name the interval. Interval quality can be either turned on or off.
Other exercises cover beginner to advanced ear training, note construction (i.e. it asks you to place a note on a staff after giving you the name of a note), and lessons that help you prepare you for these drills. There’s even an option to create permanent links to specifically-customized exercises (for instance – if I only want a beginner student to start on “note recognition” between middle C and staff G on a treble clef, I can send her parents a link that will limit the exercise to those notes). However, the site is noticeably bereft of anything rhythm-based.
The Music Interactive
That’s where TheMusicInteractive comes in. TMI is a veritable treasure trove of apps for music education – particularly when it comes to younger students. Despite the kid-friendly color-schemes and themes, I personally found some of the music staff-, notation-, and theory-based apps confusing (or at least less helpful) than their similar counterparts over at MusicTheory.net. Plus, you need to download their apps to use them; there’s no online educational software.
But their rhythm games are wonderful:
“Jama Mambo” is the most eye-catching of the bunch. A three-eyed, green alien bleats a one-measure rhythm and the student is tasked with picking the rhythm through multiple choice with three options. The rhythms are randomly picked and can only reach top speeds of eighth notes; the exercise also isn’t customizable, so it reaches its ceiling in difficulty pretty quickly. In order to augment this exercise, I sometimes will ask my students to clap one of the two remaining rhythms that the alien didn’t sing. Either way, it’s a great first rhythm game for beginners – even if they struggle with dotted quarter notes or syncopated eighth-note rhythms, the multiple choice factor helps teach them how they work and gives some leeway.
“Rhythm Dictation” and “Rhythm Blocks” are a good step up from Jama Mambo. With both games, the app plays a rhythm with a drum-like sound, and the student needs to arrange “blocks” of rhythms in order to match the rhythm played by the app. For instance, your options in Rhythm Dictation include 16th notes, 8th notes, quarter notes, quarter rests, and 8th-note triplets. I prefer Rhythm Dictation to Rhythm Blocks as it picks its rhythms randomly, and is highly customizable – you can limit the number of plays the student gets in order to listen to the rhythm (at 1, 2, 3, 5, or 10), stretch the rhythm anywhere from 1 to 4 measures in 4/4, and change the speed. You can even decide which blocks (e.g. quarter notes, 8th notes) to include in the randomly-generated rhythm.
What are some of your favourite educational games for rhythm-based learning? Let us know in the comments!