My very first trial lesson for a music teaching job, the administration wanted me to teach meter. Nothing could have been easier.
Meter is one of the elements of music, and students can grasp this concept at a very early age. It can be mastered by grade seven without problem. Here’s how.
Play a sample of music with different meters and have students clap the beat. This prep exercise has nothing to do with meter, but warms up their ears by listening to the pulse of the music (which is the exact definition of beat, by the way).
My song list includes:
– 15 Step (Radiohead)
– Take Five (Dave Brubeck Quartet)
– The Blue Danube (Strauss)
– any pop song (let’s say “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” by The Beatles) or my begrudgingly favourite non-song to trot out and whip once in a while (for so many reasons-remind me to do a whole plog post on it), which is unfair, but a lot of fun – “Friday” by Jessica Black
– a polka
– and the grandaddy, The Rite of Spring
I usually leave the last one out until a few classes later. The idea is to build confidence, not confusion.
After the listening activity, we move to the clapping.
Pat your lap with your left hand (weak beat) with a constant tempo. Stress the downbeat (strong beat) with your right hand. Demonstrate 4/4 meter first and tell them.
Now the fun begins.
Call each student out of the room and tell them to demonstrate a meter of your choice. That new “conductor” sits in a chair at the front and taps out the meter while students count and figure out the meter. All students get a chance to be the conductor.
As they grasp the concept of strong/weak beats, eventually you can have someone do mixed meter. For example, a bar of 4/4 and a bar of 3/4.
That’s a simplified lesson plan for you. The next lesson, they write basic quarter note rhythms with mixed meter and melodies on manuscript paper.