Clap it? Nope – FROG it!
Teaching rhythmic awareness is a huge part of beginning and elementary piano lessons in my studio.
Sure, it’s “easy” enough to teach the basic rules of “a quarter note gets 1 beat” and “a half note gets 2 beats,” but teaching students to be rhythmically aware while playing the correct notes with the correct fingers can be downright tricky!
And these are just a few of the things we might want our students to learn. What about all the other aspects of a piece?
Wow! That’s lot for one mind to absorb. This is why it’s especially helpful for beginning students to practice concepts separately at first.
Clapping can be a nice way to isolate rhythms when learning a piece. But let’s face it: clapping is… kinda boring.
Rhythm instruments are a fantastic way to keep young minds (and hands) focused on rhythm. I’ve used a variety of instruments in the past, but when I noticed my little frog guiro just sitting there on my shelf, and he gave me a great idea.
... don’t clap it. FROG it!
Check out how this video to see how we use engaged this student is as he FROGS his rhythm while learning Clementine from Movement 1 of Piano Pronto.
Using a simple percussion instrument can make rhythm work much more memorable. Triangles, tambourines, shakers, and rasps make great rhythmic awareness tools!
My studio is going to be on a “frog kick” this year. I’m hoping to pick up some more, as they come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
The guiro in the video came from a vacation years ago, but I’m guessing it’s the 3″ or 4″ model. Here are a few links to the various sizes available on Amazon. I found these images particularly helpful since the bottom two how an adult hand for size comparison.
They even make a Jumbo 8″ Frog that you could use as “Teacher’s Frog” for comedic effect, but it would probably be pretty difficult for most hands to hold. Still, I might pick that big guy up for summer camps next year — it would make a great way to get students’ attentions!
There’s also a decently cheap set of two frogs available with Prime shipping. (I do suggest having two — one for your student and one for you.)
Update: Last year a student of mine gave me a beautiful purple frog guiro. I haven’t been able to find a matching one online, but recently there’s been a slew of colorful ones on Amazon!
And of course, there are also many other types of rasps out there — traditional designs work just fine. If that’s what you have in your studio, use them! Check your local music stores for more percussion options such as shaker eggs, small bells, and even tambourines.
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What kind of percussion instruments do you use in the studio? Do you have any other teacher tips for isolating rhythm and making it FUN to learn? Leave a comment below!
Be sure to check out my 3 Part Gearing Up for Fall series!