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Teaching counting out loud

Posted By: TrueMusic

Teaching counting out loud - 12/13/12 05:59 AM

I have two students that I've been drilling into them the ideas of hands separate practice, slow practice & counting out loud to keep rhythmic integrity. One of them picked it up in a second. I told her what to do, walked her through it a couple times, and now each lesson I can show up confident that she'll be able to play her pieces while counting out loud, left hand alone, right hand alone, and hands together. She was the first one I taught the importance of these ideas. The other student, however, seems a bit slower and struggles with counting out loud - it screws him up, but he needs to do it since he is often dropping or adding beats. Could be that he's a transfer student so he's used to doing something else, I'm the girl's first teacher so she listens to what I say and my style of teaching very well.

But, what are some tips and tricks you guys have used to help teach counting out loud while playing?
Posted By: ZoeCalgary

Re: Teaching counting out loud - 12/13/12 06:24 AM

My 8 year old refuses to do this. He has played for just over a year and simply can't seem to do it. I'm curious as to what some teachers will say. I think there is just too many other things to think about that the counting throws him off. He just won't do it.
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: Teaching counting out loud - 12/13/12 06:36 AM

Funny, I just had a horrendous time doing that three times today. My students can't count, either!

I don't advocate counting out loud while playing the piano. I can count the beats out loud for my student while she's playing the piano, but for most kids doing both simultaneously is like a juggling act, and it makes things a lot worse.

Here are some tricks:

1) Imitation. Depending on the age and the neurological development of the student, sometimes you just have to rely on the old "copy me" method of learning rhythm, one measure at a time.

2) Listening to CD or video recording. This is one area where I actually employ ideas from the Suzuki camp. This works for most students.

3) Say the rhythm out loud (without touching the piano), either using made-up syllables or lyrics. If the student can rap the rhythm using spoken sounds, then the student most likely can play it. You can always use the tiki tiki ta ta method. Better yet, do this with the metronome.

4) If the rhythm is not overly complicated (no dotted rhythm or syncopation), then just write out the counts in the score. Sometimes all it takes is a visual representation of the counts.

I have come to accept the fact that some kids will never learn rhythm. It's biological. Some kids are not born with any innate beats or rhythm. This also applies to adults. Have you played for an adult chorus?

Also, I've found that the age and development of the student has a lot to do with their rhythm. Don't expect any kids younger than 7 to have perfect rhythm.
Posted By: Nannerl Mozart

Re: Teaching counting out loud - 12/13/12 02:17 PM

I've tried a few things as well - AZN piano covered some ... here's what has worked for me
- Using the metronome
- Clapping
- Using rhythm sticks rather than clapping
- Tapping
- Using Syllables - French - Tate, ta or Takadimi
- Teaching kids how to conduct in time and then to conduct whilst saying their rhythms in French time names (this is how they taught us in university... it works up to a certain point and then a neutral syllable is normally more convenient)
- Feeling for ones literal pulse and talking about the clock ticking - how pulse is ongoing

Posted By: Minniemay

Re: Teaching counting out loud - 12/13/12 03:09 PM

I find that using the French counting (Ta Ta, Ti-ti, Ta) work remarkably well in this situation. Number counting can often confuse students because they also are thinking about finger numbers. If they say, "1" they want to play finger 1. I also think the counting must be solved before any playing takes place. Off the bench, up and swinging, clapping AND saying the counting, then perhaps playing on the closed key cover, still counting.
Posted By: Joyce_dup1

Re: Teaching counting out loud - 12/13/12 05:53 PM

I struggle with teaching this also. I have found that students who have trouble counting most often don't know how to count and are playing with incorrect rhythms. When we review the note values, and practice counting out loud, they can play the piece correctly. Until we do that, they most often don't play correctly, even if they are copying phrase by phrase as I play with them. Sometimes it is necessary to use "Ta" in place of numbers. But I find that if they cannot count out loud, they cannot play. There is the occasional student who will play correctly by ear, but that is a separate issue and it does not take away the requirement to know how to count. Without the ability to count, they will not be able to play ensembles or duets, and they will not be able to play music on their own. So I continue to stress counting out loud, in all its variations, but it is tough.
Posted By: Opus_Maximus

Re: Teaching counting out loud - 12/14/12 07:18 AM

All excellent suggestions here. One more method I'll add is of physically tapping out the rhythm ON the student's body WHILE they play - so they can feel my impulses (on their back, shoulder, head, wherever..) and transmute them into the piano. Works for some.
Posted By: DanS

Re: Teaching counting out loud - 12/14/12 03:09 PM

Originally Posted by Joyce_dup1
I have found that students who have trouble counting most often don't know how to count and are playing with incorrect rhythms.

I make my students count out loud from the first lesson on. If I get a transfer student who can't count, I often will get a second, easier book for the student, and make them play and count so that they can get used to it (while continuing on in their usual book).
Posted By: TrueMusic

Re: Teaching counting out loud - 12/14/12 07:15 PM

Overall good advice here! Thanks guys. I've got a few more ideas to take to this kid who is struggling with counting.

I also found explaining the proper feel for 6/8 timing quite difficult two weeks ago....but that's a whole other story. It took this poor little girl 3 lessons and me explaining it to her in as many different ways I could think of, clapping the rhythms, feeling the "big pulses" as well as the little ones, and she finally got it. But I guess that's another story.
Posted By: bzpiano

Re: Teaching counting out loud - 12/14/12 11:24 PM

My favorite of counting method is Faber's quarter note is "walk" and eighth notes are "running". They also have triplets as "blueberry".

Posted By: Whizbang

Re: Teaching counting out loud - 12/15/12 02:40 AM

Originally Posted by TrueMusic
But, what are some tips and tricks you guys have used to help teach counting out loud while playing?

I'm by no means rhythm blind, but the 1-and-2-and or the 1-e-and-a-2-e-and-a stuff really never worked for me... something about vocalizing the different words became a distraction.

What I ended up doing what trying to figure out, for small phrases, the minimum beat. Say there's a dotted-eighth and a sixteenth note. Well, if you took the sixteenth as a count, you'd go BEAT-BEAT-BEAT BEAT. (Hold during the hyphens.) These aren't actual measure beats, but they communicate that a dotted eighth = 3 sixteenths.

Or say you had a measure (completely hypothetical) that was 3 quarters and 2 eighths. Well the eighths are the smallest bit, so you can mentally count BEAT-BEAT BEAT-BEAT BEAT-BEAT BEAT BEAT.

I have no clue if the above is remotely pedagogically sound, but it's the way that I ended up having to grok rhythms.
Posted By: Michael_99

Re: Teaching counting out loud - 12/15/12 05:21 AM

Girls, women for whatever reason multitask perhaps as early as reading and watching tv, or reading and knitting, where boys don't do multitasking except perhaps listening to music while doing homeowork. Girls are usually a little more social but boys are more social with their peers. Also I suspect that boys do not do well making mistakes in front of others, especially adults, being cool and all that, where girls - I will let them explain. This is good -> boys may comb their hair but girls of almost any age will drag out their makeup anywhere and put it on on the bus, in car, while talking on the telephone, at school.
Posted By: Ben Crosland

Re: Teaching counting out loud - 12/15/12 07:30 AM

For me, the bigger problem is getting the student to count out loud when they practise at home.

I no doubt have a similar percentage of students who find counting aloud while they play more difficult than others, but they can mostly do it with enough help and encouragement.

Then, they go home. Do they count aloud even once in the week? Do they heck wink

Posted By: Nikolas

Re: Teaching counting out loud - 12/15/12 09:07 AM

They heck not Ben! grin

I'm one of the lucky ones that most of my students have an inner metronome that works... roughly ok, so there aren't any huge problems...

The single kid who's very problematic with the rhythms, is also problematic in counting and in general his reactions to what I tell him take a few secs (30?) to get inside his head. I have to repeat everything 3-4 times before it sinks in and he actually does it. This includes telling him to stop playing, or that he plays with the wrong hand or other.

This kid is fine, btw, very clever, with no signs of any other problems in his social life (he's in the family) and his spelling and grammar are also fine. So I'm having very serious doubts on him being dyslectic or other like that, and need to focus on other issues... :-/
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: Teaching counting out loud - 12/15/12 10:43 AM

Originally Posted by Ben Crosland
Then, they go home. Do they count aloud even once in the week? Do they heck wink

That's why, for most students, I let the metronome be the babysitter. If by next week they can't play the whole piece at quarter note = 80, then they didn't practice correctly, or didn't use the metronome at all, or didn't touch the piano at all.

And then there are those rhythm-challenged students for whom a metronome is just another distraction.
Posted By: Amy B

Re: Teaching counting out loud - 12/15/12 03:12 PM

For all of my beginners, we will march around the living room, counting to 4 or 3. We stomp our right foot louder on one. This way, their whole body is feeling the beat. They also like to see that when we do four, the right foot always falls on one, but when it's three, it switches feet! Obviously, this is not for more complicated rhythms, but for those that just don't "feel the beat", it will sometimes help!

Just an aside, I teach both of my own kids, ages 9 and 12. They both learn kathak, a type of Indian classical dance, where they dance and count out loud/recite (sometimes in different beats!) at the same time. Both my kids will count out loud while playing piano, just on their own.....I rarely have to ask them. It's been interesting how their dance training has made them so much stronger in keeping time in piano.

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