How to Teach Metric Rhythm Counting to Piano Students

Some piano students just get metric rhythm counting, straight away. Some need a little more guidance. Either way, I think all piano students can benefit and learn from the fun activity in this article.

How to Teach Metric Rhythm Counting to Piano Students

How to Teach Metric Rhythm Counting to Piano Students using erasers and a whiteboard!

This metric rhythm counting exercise can be done with just a few minutes of lesson time and a few items you probably have lying around anyway. Let’s get started.

Step 1: Grab a Whiteboard

If you don’t have a whiteboard handy, perhaps you have a picture frame?ย 

I have a few picture frames with a printed staff and keyboard inside, and I also keep a big one with blank paper in it behind my games table.

These are super cheap (hello, IKEA!) and work just as well as whiteboards in my experience.

Step 2: Write your Time Signature and Counts

It doesn’t matter what time signature you start with. Just make sure to explore different ones as you repeat this exercise so they don’t get locked into one and their learning is more flexible.

I’ll use 3:4 in this example.

3:4 time metric rhythm counting on whiteboard

Write out the counts and the “ands” for your chosen time signature and practice chanting them a few times together. Switch between saying the ands and not saying them, at the same tempo.

Step 3: Add Hedgehogs and Unicorns

Place a token of some sort under particular numbers on your whiteboard. (Choose simple patterns to start.)

I use my best friends the Iwako erasers for this, but you can use other erasers, buttons or whatever else you have on hand.

Simple metric rhythm counting on whiteboard

Count again and clap on the spots where the tokens are sitting. Then discuss what note values would create this pattern and have your student write those underneath.

Simple metric rhythm counting on whiteboard

Erase the bottom rhythm and start the process again with a new pattern. Move on to more complicated patterns as your student is able for them.

Syncopated metric rhythm counting on whiteboard

How do you teach metric rhythm counting?

Have you had any students that really struggled with this and how did you overcome it? Share your experience in the comments below so we can learn together. ๐Ÿ™‚

9 thoughts on “How to Teach Metric Rhythm Counting to Piano Students”

  1. Yay! Another opportunity to use those adorable erasers! ๐Ÿ˜€ I like how this activity makes rhythm and counting so visual. I think it would be very helpful for students that struggle with divisions of the beat or dotted rhythms!

  2. Apart from being aware of number of beats in a bar I’m not sure of the value of more than a passing reference early on. Ta, ti ti etc. are always going to be more rhythmically accurate if you’ve begun that way. I came to Kodaly time names late but find them much better for rhythmic counting than the one and two and that I grew up with.

    • I think it’s important that students can do both. I agree with you that Kodรกly is better for beginners and a good tool to have going forward too. But I think that metric counting is important as it helps you understand “where you are” and how a time signature works and feels.


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