How to Teach Rhythm with Tips, Tricks and Triplet Challenges

If you struggle with how to teach rhythm once it comes to trickier elements like triplets, you’re not alone. Many teachers find these concepts difficult to teach, especially to young students.

Which is why I’m sharing three great rhythm activities, and a new Thinking Theory video today to help you with triplets. Use these exercises in your lessons and your students will be two versus three pros in no time.

Rhythm Challenge 1: Stamping & Patsching

We used this at the Kodály Summer School last year to practice syn-co-pa with ta, but it works equally well for any two versus three practice.

You may need to practice this one yourself first to get really smooth at it!

  • Clap/patsch (lap tap) triplets using any vocalisation you like to help. I use “tri-o-la” in my teaching.
  • Sitting down, stamp crotchets/quarter notes, alternating legs.
  • Combine the two but ask your student to only do one at a time. This way she can get used to the combined sound before trying it herself.
  • When she’s ready, ask your student to keep the stamping going and add in the patsch for the triplets.

This can be a BIG challenge at first but it is super fun. Keep encouraging your student to try it and assign it as part of her home practice. You’d be surprised how determined some kids can be to get this right. 🙂

Rhythm Challenge 2: Triplet Scale Practice

Scales are a great way for piano students to get really comfortable with triplets. There are many ways you can bring triplets into scale practice, but here’s a few to get the juices flowing:

  • Triplets in both hands with the metronome
  • Triplets in one hand and quavers in the other
  • Triplets in one hand and crotchets in the other
  • Triplet scale in one hand with crotchet arpeggio in the other

These exercises have the added benefit of keeping your student’s brain awake while practicing scales. Win, win!

For more creative scale practice ideas, read this post: Making Scales Stick – 7 Different Ways to Practice Scales.

Rhythm Challenge 3: Nice Cup of Tea

Being from Ireland, this is the most well-known and well-loved phrase for teaching two against three that I know. Perhaps it’s used everywhere…but we are obsessed with tea here so I suspect other parts of the world might choose something different.

Practice this with your student while tapping on the closed piano lid:

  • Tap hands together on “Nice”
  • Right hand on “cup”
  • Left hand on “of”
  • Right hand on “tea”

Once she gets used to three in the right and two in the left, switch hands. Then bring the pattern to the piano and use the phrase to improvise.

This simple trick can really help students on the path to internalising two versus three.

Teaching Triplets Flipped Learning Video

In these videos, I teach students about triplet notation. Feel free to send these videos to parents for their kids to watch, use it in group lessons or as part of lab time.

USA Version

International Version

These videos are designed to be clear and concise so that students can watch them – and then get on with some writing work for reinforcement. Teach rhythm concepts with these videos and save yourself time to do the fun activities during the lesson time.

These videos correlate directly to Thinking Theory Book Three page 8. View the full Thinking Theory series here and see what makes these workbooks so special.

More Flipped Thinking Theory

If you liked this music theory video, you might also like these others:

How do you introduce triplets?

Do you have tips for how to teach rhythms like this? Share your thoughts in the Vibrant Music Studio Teachers community on Facebook or in the comments below.

1 thought on “How to Teach Rhythm with Tips, Tricks and Triplet Challenges”

  1. I grew up in the southeastern United States, but the piano teacher I studied with in middle & high school was from England. She modified your words to fit the Southeastern U.S.’s penchant for iced sweet tea: “cold cup of tea.” It’s funny to think about – I’ve never questioned the origin of the words. They just seem to work!

    To your list of movement activities, I’d add have the student walk 8th notes around the room and clap triplets, all the while saying “nice cup of tea” or “cold cup of tea” out loud. Then for a good challenge: swap it up! Walk triplets and clap 8th notes.


Leave a comment

Item added to cart.
0 items -  0.00