Beat, a steady pulse that brings all musical sound to life. To teach this to children we are using an approach which has been used for many years by Kodály practitioners, that can be expressed like this:
The philosophy behind this approach allows you to use the core repertoire creatively according to classroom circumstances and progress. The songs and rhymes are tried and tested over many years and work within a practical framework. As well as giving the teacher the freedom to be creative, we want to encourage the children to contribute their ideas.
At first children won’t be aware of the concept of “beat”. We are preparing for that with these songs. Perhaps by Song 5 or later, they will be ready for us to “present” this concept to them. There is a pdf ‘Making beat conscious‘, which will help you do this. After that keep going through the rest of the songs; this is the “practice” stage in the graphic above.
Please watch the video about Beat on the previous page, Beat, before you start.
NB. Many of the PDFs of the songs have a second page that refers to concepts that will come further down the line so please ignore them for now.
1 Swing me over the water – gives children the chance to experience the feeling of swaying to a steady beat – led by the teacher at first, and then with a partner. At this preliminary stage, the children simply move in time with the leader – no need to talk about the concept of ‘beat’ yet.
2 Copy Cat – a great opportunity to teach children to watch, wait, observe – while the teacher demonstrates their actions (on the beat, though this is sub-conscious for the children at first). The children in turn will have a chance to be creative with new actions, and learn to make them ‘4 actions to each line’, (‘on the beat’, once this concept is made conscious.)
3 Touch your shoulders – simple beat-keeping actions, helping to internalise the beat in common with everyone playing in the circle. When the children are good at this, you can challenge them with putting some parts of the song into their ‘thinking voice’ and some in their ‘singing voice’. If you get to the point where everyone can do the whole thing in their ‘thinking voice, and still finish together, you know that they have internalised a sense of the musical beat!
4 Ickle Ockle – further play on subconscious use of beat – in order to synchronise with a partner. Also a chance to play with dynamics – singing louder or quieter. Echo quieter singing with ‘tinier’ movements/actions – eg instead of clapping, try tapping with one finger.
5 Feet Feet – this is a rhyme – ie it uses the speaking voice. A rhyme is spoken, and a song is sung. In addition, now we are synchronising steps on the beat – more difficult than previous upper body actions such as clapping.
6 Early in the morning – in this song, after the steady beat is established, with everyone tapping it on alternate knees, the group begins to ‘catch the beat’ from observing the ‘Postie’, (who may walk quickly or slowly, according to their mood!). A great chance to play with tempo, (faster/slower), dynamics, (louder/quieter), and even timbre, (the way we can make our voices sound).
7 Sally go round the sun – This song offers an opportunity to play with dynamics, (louder/quieter), as the last ‘BOOM’ needs to be louder than the rest of the song! Once the beat is established, the children can use their developing skill at keeping a ‘beat in the feet’ to walk round in the circle, and anticipate the ‘turn’ on the ‘BOOM’.
8 One Two Three Four – this is a rhyme – which needs a ‘speaking voice’. Focus on tapping the beat, making the words fit over that beat. There’s a good opportunity for the teacher to hear how individual children can manage that skill. Also, can a child listen really carefully when playing the guessing game?
9 Queen Queen Caroline – in this rhyme, the children are extending their idea of beat into a whole phrase. Each line, or phrase, fits into a four-beat pattern known musically as a ‘bar’, though at this stage, (preparation), the children simply experience this as different movements/actions.
10 Jack Be Nimble – this song really tests the children’s skill in ‘beat-keeping’. Only if they have internalised the group ‘beat’ will they be able to tell which number has a ‘clap’ sounding on it! They can then build on spatial awareness – calculating how far they need to travel with 8 steps to choose a new ‘Jack’. In addition, they will need to use at least two kinds of voice – ‘singing’, and one other – the speaking or else the “thinking” or internal voice.