Most students learn rhythm by having someone play it for them and repeating it enough times to memorize how it goes (you would be surprised that most students learn this way even though music educators do what they can to test and check). That works to some degree, but when the tempo changes and you mix up more rhythms than they are used to playing together, they get lost somewhat quickly. They don’t really get “rhythm” as a concept and how the notation gives them the information they need to learn. They get the information, but they don’t get how to synthesize it! So, I have developed the Additive Rhythm Technique (ART) to alleviate this and other problems I have encountered in students. The experience of teaching students one-on-one, in a small ensemble setting (say a band class of the 6-10 percussionists) and large groups (Marching Band settings, etc.) has shown me that this technique completely opens the door for their understanding of rhythm and notation and gives them the tools to understand any rhythm that comes their way!
What if there was a way to teach rhythms so that students could not only understand how to play what they see, but they could have the tools to learn new rhythms without being shown how to play them?
What if there was a way to have people really feel rhythm and feel how there rhythms fit in with other parts of different rhythms?
What if there was a way to do this and speed up the process of understanding by 50% to 90%?
Instead of thinking of our notation system as one of division, start with the idea that everything begins with sixteenth notes. I know that this idea is used in some approaches, but they generally are looking at working with subdivisions first and using the system in a different order. I am NOT talking about this. I am talking about seeing the rhythms starting in a different place. There is no division any more, you now just relate to notes by counting, not dividing beats. I will utilize all the same well-known nomenclature, but I want you to think a bit differently about it.
If you only teach Notes (written as Sixteenths) and Rests (Sixteenths also), you can just teach the difference between the two - Notes make sound, Rests make silence. It may look different to you, but students only know what you show them. If it’s that simple, all students will know what to do when. Also, Time Signatures can be simplified to just a simple “4” or “3” or “2.” There is no need to get into what the bottom number means. Students rarely remember this into upper grades and they don’t even need to know it!
For the Long-Short concept, you can use Ties! This simplifies this process and only requires students to understand one more concept for all longer Notes! It truly is an easier way to think. Once more, you don’t have to change the way you teach, just what it looks like to students. It would work with accepted teaching methods (Kodaly, Orff, etc). The material would look a bit different, but the approach could stay essentially the same.
So, instead of trying to teach 14 to 20 ideas, you can do it with 6! All you need is: Notes, Rests, Ties, 4, 3, and 2! All songs used at the elementary level can be done with only these 6 things! The ART for Younger Ages gives you material to help teach the concepts. Once students are familiar with the ideas of counting to 4, 3 and 2, they can then transition to the way of counting that all musicians use. (Ok, well almost all) It is recommended that this transition happen the year before they move to learning other instruments like Band, Orchestra or other. Until then, they only need the 6 basic components! Think of the time you can save. You also will have more time to teach other fundamentals!
Two tied sixteenth notes can be rewritten as one eighth note. Now, this may not seem all that important at the moment, but it becomes very important when you go through the process of reading something new. This shortcut of an Eighth note makes it faster for your brain to process the information (at least three times as fast). Since there is less to look at, there is less to process, hence more speed! As long as you keep the idea that and Eighth note is ALWAYS worth two Sixteenth notes no matter what counts you are on, how fast you are going or what time of day it is, you will be able to read anything! Now, you can extrapolate on to other notes. A Quarter note is worth four Sixteenth notes - ALWAYS. No matter how you count them, Quarter notes are always worth four Sixteenths. Half notes are worth eight Sixteenth notes and Whole notes are worth sixteen Sixteenth notes. The exact same principals apply to rests for their respective lengths, lest you forget. Now on the surface, this doesn’t seem all that important. BUT, when you begin to use this information in learning new rhythms, or “harder” rhythms, it becomes extremely helpful! That, my friend, is the power in this whole process. When you understand that Eighth notes are worth two counts (and not necessarily half a beat), you can then count accurately through these notes and rests. Instead of assuming you know how long a note is, you will know how long it is - the counting structure tells you! 80% of what you will ever perform is based in Sixteenth notes and rests. Even getting just this part of the picture learned with dramatically improve your understanding of rhythm! Fuhrman Music Publications is dedicated to developing material to help people not only understand this process, but be able to put it into practice so that people can read faster and more accurately at an earlier age. The sooner music sounds good, the more students want to play and learn! If they can sound good right away, they will stay in music longer! Check out the Publications page to find out what we have to offer in your endeavor to be a better reader!
Kevin Fuhrmanʼs Additive Rhythm Technique has given my singers the power to read rhythm. Students no longer rely on rote learning and are able to figure out difficult rhythmic passages on their own. Kevinʼs system of addition, rather than division, is simple. Kids get it and use it. I highly recommend this technique for anyone looking for a way to infuse the real learning and implementation of rhythm into their music curriculum.