Lesson: Compose and play rhythms in different meters with Chrome Music Lab
In March, Google launched the free Chrome Music Lab Experiments site to celebrate Music In Our Schools month and to allow users to explore the way in which music works. Peter Kirn of Create Digital Music wrote about the browser-based music tools in his article Google Are Giving Away Experiments To Teach Music And Code.
The 12 experiments that make up the Chrome Music Lab easily lend themselves to multiple uses in music education. Here’s a complete lesson plan that uses the first one – Rhythm – which allows students to compose and play rhythms in different meters.
Important: read before you start
The website featured in this lesson – part of the Chrome Music Lab – has been built with the Web Audio API. It will NOT work well (or perhaps at all…) in Internet Explorer so please make sure you use Chrome or Firefox. If you’d like more information, please see this Why Won’t That Music Website Load? article.
Students will compose and play rhythms in time meters of 3, 4, 5 and 6
Music Education Standards
- 2. Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music
- 4. Composing and arranging music within specified guidelines.
- 5. Reading and notating music
- 4.1 Develop aural skills by exploring, imitating and recognising elements of music including dynamics, pitch and rhythm pattern
- 4.3 Create, perform and record compositions by selecting and organising sounds, silence, tempo and volume
- 6.2 Develop technical and expressive skills in singing and playing instruments with understanding of rhythm, pitch and form in a range of pieces, including in music from the community
- 6.3 Rehearse and perform music, including music they have composed, by improvising, sourcing and arranging ideas and making decisions to engage an audience
- 8.4 Structure compositions by combining and manipulating the elements of music using notation
- 8.5 Perform and present a range of music, using techniques and expression appropriate to style
- Single or multiple computers, iPads or Android devices
- Data projector & speakers
- Chrome Music Lab Rhythm site (if it won’t load, please see Why Won’t That Music Website Load?)
- Printed copies of the worksheet
- To be able to play simple rhythms in a variety of meters
- Basic music notation skills
Chrome Music Lab: Rhythm instructions
When you first visit the Chrome Music Lab Rhythm resource, you will see the first of four different options for meter: the 3 meter option. Press Play and then click on the grid at the bottom to create a rhythm. The arrow shown next to the on-screen players allows you to move to a different meter (and different set of instruments)
NOTE: The instructions below suit younger students, but you could run the same activity with older students. Move more quickly through the steps (or omit some). There are also extension options below
Part 1: Compose and perform a rhythm in a 3 meter as a class
Visit Chrome Music Lab – Rhythm on the teacher computer which is displayed on a data projector for the class
- Select the first rhythm screen option (3 meter)
- Create a simple rhythm that uses one sound at a time by clicking on the grid at the bottom (having one sound at a time will make it easier to perform the rhythm later on). Click on the Play button
- Ask the students to listen (and look!): what are the 3 instruments that are playing? 2 drums and a triangle. What type of drums are they? Timpani
- Ask students to identify the meter. Tell them: each vertical line on the grid shows you where the beat is. How many beats are there in this pattern?
- Ask students to identify which instruments are playing the low, middle and high sounds (in order from lowest to highest: low timpani, high timpani and triangle)
- As a class, choose 3 body percussion sounds that could match the low, middle and high sounds that are being played on the screen (for instance: stamp, thigh slap and clap)
- Using the low body percussion sound (stamp), play the rhythm shown on the screen for the low timpani
- Using the middle body percussion sound (thigh slap), play the rhythm shown on the screen for the high timpani
- Using the high body percussion sound (clap), play the rhythm shown on the screen for the triangle
- Divide the class into 3 groups and have each one play a different part. Have the class perform all 3 parts simultaneously
- Challenge! Can the students play all three parts by themselves?
- Ask students to come up to create a new rhythm on the grid. Perform the rhythm as a class
- Perform the rhythms using untuned percussion instruments instead of body percussion
Part 2: Compose and perform a rhythm in meters of 4, 5 or 6 as a class
- Repeat the same steps with one or all of the other meter options – 4, 5 or 6
Part 3: Compose and perform rhythms in small groups
After students have done the above activity as a class, they can split up into small groups (3 or 6 students per group works well) to compose and perform their own rhythms
- Assign a specific meter to each group or ask the students to choose one
- Using the printable worksheet that is provided with this lesson [download below], ask the students to fill in the names of the instruments on the left side and the time signature
- As a group, decide the rhythm for each of the 3 instruments and notate the rhythm on the worksheet grid
- If the students have access to laptops, iPads or Android devices they can recreate their rhythmic pattern on the screen
- Each of the 3 students in the group chooses one instrument part to play (2 students per part if working in groups of 6) and practices their part
- Play the 3 instrument parts together as a group. If there is an extra student in the group, they can act as the conductor, keeping the beat for the other students
- Each group can then perform their pattern for the rest of the class
Part 4: Notate your rhythm
I’ve created a set of worksheets to accompany this lesson: each one gives students space to notate the rhythm they have created in online.
Using the stave lines at the bottom of the worksheet, students can notate their rhythms using quarter and eighth notes and rests.
- If you have access to a drum kit, use the different parts of the kit to recreate the rhythmic pattern
- Use beat boxing sounds (mouth sounds) instead of body percussion to create rhythms
- Use an online drum machine to recreate rhythms in the 4 meter screen
- When performing the patterns in small groups, advanced students can cycle through the 3 parts, reading them in order from top to bottom. Perform the each part 4 times through before switching to the next part. Then reduce the number of repeats.
- Change the tempo: while performing the rhythm without the app, speed up the tempo or slow it down (it’s not possible to change the tempo in on-screen app)
- Once students have created a rhythm, ask them to identify a song they know that matches the meter. Can they sing the song over the rhythmic accompaniment?
- When students have composed and performed rhythms in small groups, see if two groups with different meters (ie. the 3 meter and the 4 meter) can perform their rhythms simultaneously (!)
- The students can successfully perform their composed rhythms individually and as a group
- The students can notate their composed rhythms on the worksheet grid and on the notation stave lines
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