With the end of the year just around the corner (or so it seems), many of our students will be getting a bit wiggly on the bench, perhaps a bit teary-eyed at staying inside on a sunny day, & in general wanting to do something just a little bit different. Rhythm warm-ups are a great option to change things up.
One of the favourite warm-up activities we do in my studio is rhythm warm-ups. I wanted my students to feel a steady pulse (beat) as they played piano, but also improvise with rhythms so when they saw them in their music they were easier to recognize. I wanted a warm-up that kind of did it all.
Traditional Rhythm Exercises
It had been yet another lesson in my studio with a student playing their quarter & half notes the same length. They could clap the rhythm perfectly. But, the moment they were playing there was a disconnect.
The rhythm warm-ups went out the window & all that was left was a song that sounded a lot like the economics teacher saying “Bueller, Bueller” over & over in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Do your students have a disconnect between rhythm exercises & playing their repertoire?
Later that week, one of my older students was playing a piece for me. But, as I listened I realized that there was a bit of slow-motion action going on as my student changing tempo within a section. It was a bit of a yo-yo as he moved fast in the easy sections, slowed it right down for a measure or two, then sped right back up. And, when I pointed out to the student? He had no idea that he changed tempo.
Do your students play as if the pulse is a yo-yo?
I used to get frustrated when my students had these issues. They affect so many different aspects of playing. So, I created a unit of rhythm warm-ups that targeted exactly what my students struggled with while bridging the gap between rhythm exercises & actually creating music!
Lessons With a Smile
We need an activity to take our students from looking at the clock to wondering how time flew so fast!
My students loved this new approach to learning rhythm patterns &, just as importantly, we both heard a big jump in their ability to keep a steady pulse while playing rhythms accurately in their music!
And, I loved how easy it was to …
- Start each lesson with whole-body movement to train them to feel a steady pulse
- Get them engaged with common rhythm patterns: physically, aurally, through improvisation & visually
- Do quick warm-up activities with practice during the week & follow up at the next week’s lesson
Off the Bench & Moving Around
When students use large muscle groups to feel rhythms before playing them on the piano, you give them a powerful practice tool.
Rather than struggling to figure out whether they are “in time”, your students can easily & quickly get that internal metronome going.
Plus for your wiggliest students, I promise they will love this approach to learning.
If you are teaching online, this approach will work perfectly as students get active as they learn. Just because you are online doesn’t mean everyone can’t get off the bench to move!
See it in action
To see how this worked in my studio, watch this video. We all had a lot of fun with both the warm-ups & recording the video!
Rhythm Warm-Ups That Get Students Off the Bench
I’ve created a 3-month set of warm-ups that will get your students up off the bench, playing & exploring rhythms like they never have before!
P.S. This article was originally published on April 13, 2018. It still has all the same great content but has been updated to reflect teaching today.