[Smt-talk] rhythm notation pedagogy

Stephen Jablonsky jablonsky at optimum.net
Tue Sep 28 06:43:54 PDT 2010

The students who have difficulty with beaming are the ones who have not had years of music lessons and practice before coming to college. We seem to be getting more and more of these music major wannabes who cannot read music. The reading and writing of rhythmic figures is a question of recognizing grouping patterns that comes with much practice. You are correct that the principles are simple and straightforward but the students need to gain more familiarity with different meters and their attendant patterns. It had always surprised me that for decades the only rhythm book on the market was the one Robert Starer wrote so very long ago. To fill that important void I wrote The All-Star Rhythm & Pitch Book to address specific questions about the most fundamental of all musical elements. It is published by Kendall/Hunt and covers all the meters and patterns in common practice from the beginning to Stravinsky, and also includes some challenging pitch warmup activities as well. Each activity is a complete rhythmic composition that is both challenging and enjoyable to conquer and perform. We have used them for many years with much success in our four-semester sequence of musicianship courses. The part of the book the kids enjoy the most are the rhythmic trios I composed for them to play with percussion instruments. I find that there is a vast difference between students singing or clapping rhythms and applying them to an actual instrument. That is why each of our musicianship classrooms has a supply of clave, guiro, cow bells, and assorted hand drums.

On Sep 25, 2010, at 11:13 AM, David Feurzeig wrote:

> Collective Wisdom:
> I find that entering students are ever more clueless regarding standard practice for notating rhythm with proper respect to meter. My hunch is that careless computer notation is to blame--including now second-order effects on students who don't necessarily use digital notation tools themselves, but see more and more abominably-notated rhythm in their band arrangements and other parts.
> Oddly, I have not seen any standard theory or fundamentals texts that explains standard beaming and grouping both fully and clearly. So I have done so myself, in supplementary materials. Traditional practice is not all that hard to codify, and once codified, not hard to impart. My question is, is anyone familiar with any published text that *does* cover this adequately?
> Thanks for any enlightenment.
> David
> David Feurzeig
> University of Vermont
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Prof. Stephen Jablonsky, Ph.D.
Music Department Chair
The City College of New York
160 Convent Avenue S-72
New York NY 10031
(212) 650-7663

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