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Music Education
Resources by Paula Downes, a lot of music by Andrew Downes


On this page:
Introduction to Rhythm
Syllables and Movement
Composition Video
What does a dot do to a note?
Triplets, Quintuplets, Sextuplets, Septuplets, 2s against 3s, 3s against 4s

Rhythm needs to be a natural part of our bodies rather than something we try to add on from the outside.  It therefore needs to be internalised before we attempt to learn musical notation.

The teaching ideas presented below take you through a sequence of methods, helping children to eventually learn  notation after having developed their musical ear and rhythmic sense through singing and movement, building children's musicianship in a holistic way.

I would recommend that music teachers use these ideas for Elementary, Primary School and KS3 aged children.

I would also suggest that singing teachers and choir trainers use these methods to help people to learn to sight-sing.  Some of the ideas can easily be used as warm-up exercise in choir rehearsals and will help the singers to learn the music more quickly in the long run. 

Furthermore these methods can be helpful to everyone learning a musical instrument.  All instrumentalists would benefit from being able to sight-sing, since this is the first step to being able to hear music in your head before you play, and this in turn helps you to sight-read and to play more musically.  If a pupil/student is having difficulties in this area, it is definitely worth teaching them the Kodaly syllables.

In this section of the website, you will find teaching ideas, free video demonstrations, other information which can be displayed on an interactive whiteboard, and a composition worksheet to download.

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Syllables and movement
Below you will find syllables assigned to each rhythm.  These are based on the Kodaly Method.  Teach these to children without notation and follow my movement suggestions above each musical example.  Clap a steady crotchet/quarter note pulse as you teach the syllables.

1) taaaa 
Step with left foot for one beat then drag right foot slowly forwards for the other three beats.  Arms should be moving in opposite direction from legs:

Taaa underneath semibreve/whole note

2) taa 
Step with left foot for one beat then drag right foot forwards for the other beat:

taa taa underneath two minims/half notes

3) ta 

ta ta ta ta underneath four crotchets/quarter notes

4) ti ti 

ti ti underneath 8 quavers/eighth notes

5) tika tika

tika tika underneath 16 semiquavers/sixteenth notes

6) ti tika 
Big step on left foot, two smaller steps, then big step on right foot, two smaller steps.  Move arms in the direction of the big steps:

ti tika underneath a quaver/eighth note and two semiquavers/sixteenth notes repeated four times.

7) tika ti 
Start on left foot, two small steps then a big step etc.  Move arms in the direction of the big step:

Tika ti underneath two semiquavers/sixteenth notes and a quaver/eighth note, repeated four times.

8) tumti
Step with left foot on the first note, bring right foot forwards to left foot on the second note.  Lift arms on longer note, drop them on shorter note:

tum ti tum ti underneath dotted crotchet/quarter note, quaver/eighth note, dotted crotchet/quarter note, quaver/eighth note.

9) timka 
Gallop pretending you are holding reigns:

tim ka underneath dotted quaver/eighth note and semiquaver/sixteenth note, repeated four times.

10) syncopa 
Big step on left foot, two small steps (right then left), big step on right foot, two small steps (left then right).  Move your arms in the same direction as your body:

syncopa underneath quaver/eighth note, crotchet/quarter note, quaver/eighth note, repeated.

11) tiroli
Run on tiptoes, changing the direction of arms every three notes:

tiroli underneath triplet quavers/eighth notes

12) Hippopotamus
Run on tiptoes, changing the direction of arms every five notes:

Hippopotamus underneath quintuplet semiquavers/sixteenth notes

13) Pocotaceptl
Slap this on your legs, stressing the first of every six:

Popocatepetl underneath sextuplet semiquavers/sixteenth notes

14) Elephants walking softly
Run like a soft elephant, changing the direction of trunk every seven notes:

Elephants walking softly underneath septuplet semiquavers/sixteenth notes

Further Activities
Now divide the class into groups and get each group to perform a different pattern on the spot.  Get them to perform them all at the same time, phasing them in and out, changing each group’s pattern until they have all had a go at them all.  Change the dynamics by holding your hands high and low, gradually or suddenly getting higher or lower.

Next, get them to perform lots of patterns together in small groups so they have to be independent.  Perhaps ask them to produce a composition based on a train journey or a machine.  The tempo could change as they go through their piece.

Finally, pupils can compose their own piece, putting a combination of the different patterns together.

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The diagram below is a rhythm tree.  You can now teach this to the class.

Here is an extended version:

Extended rhythm tree including demisemiquavers/32nd notes, and hemidemisemiquavers/64th notes

The tails of quavers/eighth notes, semiquavers/sixteenth notes, demi-semiquavers/thirty-second notes and hemi-demi-semiquavers/sixty-fourth notes can be linked together with beams.  This makes it clearer to see where the beat is.

Beaming in simple time
beams in compound time

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Rhythm Farm!
The video below will introduce the class to different animal sounds for each rhythm.  Get the class to perform these and then download the Animal Farm Composition Worksheet.


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What does a dot do to a note?
If we add a dot after a note, we add on half of the original note value.

examples of dotted notes and their values

A dotted note is often paired with the note worth the same as the dot:

examples of dotted notes paired with the note worth the same as the dot

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Triplets are three notes in the time of two (duplets):

Different types of triplets

If you want to perform duplets against triplets, it is helpful to say  the following as you play:

Nice cup of tea

If you want to perform fours against threes, it is helpful to say the following as you play:

pass the golden butter

Quintuplets are five notes in the space of four:

examples of quintuplets

Sextuplets are six notes in the space of four notes:

examples of sextuplets

Septuplets are seven notes in the space of four in simple time, or in the space of six in compound time:

examples of septuplets in simple time
examples of septuplets in compound time

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A rest is a break or pause in the music.  There are different lengths of rests just as there are different lengths of notes:

Table of rests and notes

Coming soon - a downloadable 'Musical Maths' Worksheet

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Music Education
Resources by Paula Downes, a lot of music by Andrew Downes

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