Rhythm Band

Purpose: practice reading rhythms.

Difficulty: your choice of Starting (halves, quarters, eighths), Intermediate (dots and ties), and Advanced (dots, ties and sixteenths).

How it works:

A personal note from the author: a long while ago highway 101 ran through the town of Morgan Hill, CA as a city street, so north/south traffic was held up a lot at the traffic lights. While stopped there once I heard a group of guys on the sidewalk doing rhythm band music for all to hear and I was sorry when the light changed. This was a game I had played with my brother and sister, breaking numerous kithen items. The basic principle is this: one person starts a repetitive rhythm of some kind, using anything at all to make the sounds. Then a second person joins in, adding a second repetitive pattern. Then a third person, and so on. After everyone has joined in and the pattern is going pretty well, the first person makes some kind of change in pattern and the others do likewise in turn. Eventually everyone is just freely improvising. Often one person will have a pitched instrument like a guitar, to bring in a bit of melody. It's important that each person repeat a pattern a number of times; that helps the whole thing to hang together

So is there a way to get some learning out of this? We can use it for practice in reading rhythm notation. You'll see a short, repeating, rhythmic melody, invented by the computer. Tap the rhythm in time with the metronome using any pair of keys on the keyboard. If you get the rhythm right, it will be added to the composition. If you don't get it right the first time touch "Try it again!" to repeat. Once you've played the rhythm perfectly, it will be added to the composition. To continue, touch the "New Rhythm" button. As more rhythms are added, the composition gets more complex and the reading requires a little more concentration. If you need help, you can listen to each rhythm by touching the Play button.

We recommend using just two fingers (your index and middle finger, for example) on one hand for rhythm tapping. Choose any two adjacent piano keys and tap the rhythm by alternating between the two keys. Since you're not required to play specific pitches, the default keyboard will be the one-octave "fat keys" model because you're less likely to accidentally hit two notes at once when tapping. Aim for the middle of the key- the very bottom of the key is less responsive.

The part you're reading is always the melody part, using a pitched instrument (by default that's a vibraphone, though you can change it.) When that pattern is added to the composition it will sound using various random percussion sounds.

You can clear the rhythms and start fresh on a new batch whenever you want, but once you've added eight rhythms to the composition, Musica will tell you that it is time to clear the rhythms.When you begin a new composition, a meter will be chosen at random. You can choose a specific meter any time you wish from the meter tool palette right above the keyboard.

The Tempo Options Window: (touch the metronome icon to view)

• You may wish to change the tempo to make it either slower, for very complex syncopated rhythms, or faster, for very simple rhythms.

• By default, the metronome is set to sound a "divided beat." One sound marks the main beat divisions while a second sound marks the subdivisions within the beat. If you'd rather not hear a subdivided beat, turn off "Use divided ticks." For an explanation of how subdividing the beat will help you read rhythms check out in Chapter 3 of our free multimedia textbook, Exploring Theory with Practica Musica (available for download at the iBooks store).

• Turn on "show beat markers" to see where the beats are in each measure. Seeing where the beats are will help you learn to count.

You can try each rhythm as many times as you like. When you finish, you'll see horizontal bars appear about the staff that can help you to understand any errors. The blue bars represent the starting time and length of each note as written. Below the line of blue bars you'll see green or red ones that depict your own performance: green if they are close enough to the original to be marked correct, and red if they're 'off' in some way - either starting at the wrong time, or too short, or too long.


• If you get mixed up or lost, jump to wherever the blue arrow above the staff is pointing. The blue arrow points to the next note you're expected to play.

• You may need to turn up the metronome volume for this activity. Otherwise, the sound gets lost with all of the other percussion sounds.

• Since the touch screen is very sensitive you'll want to use a certain playing technique. Lift your fingers high as you play, to avoid accidentally touching an unintended note - the screen will catch the slightest touch, deliberate or not. Be sure to treat the keyboard like a normal piano otherwise - that is, keep your finger on a note as long as you want it to keep sounding. Be aware that it is the touch of your fingertip that registers with the screen - your fingernail will not work! Play in the center of each key; hitting two notes at once will have the same effect as playing two notes quickly.

Musica Touch™ © 2014 Ars Nova Software. This page may be freely copied.