Note Values Demystified with Proportional Rhythm Cards

“Quavers, those are the quick ones right?”

It can be difficult to convey to a student the relationship between the different note values. Just because it’s a quaver doesn’t mean it’s quick. Just because it’s a minim doesn’t mean it’s slow.

Have you ever had a student who thinks this way? What did you say?

It’s all relative. But how can we illustrate this, and allow students to experience it? How can we avoid a boring and pointless explanation that would go straight over that little 6 year old’s head?

One way is with proportional rhythm cards.

Proportional Rhythm Cards

I used these cards in one of the activities in last month’s Piano Party (click here to see what else we got up to). We had a lot of fun with them, and I really think it helped to clarify things for some of my beginning piano students.

It’s so easy to see how the note values relate to each other, and to understand time signatures when you’re making a rhythm with these cards.


Download the Relative Rhythm Cards

Vibrant Music Teaching members, you can access this resource inside the VMT library. Not a member yet? Find out more about becoming a member here.

How to Use

I’ve outlined the activity here for a group lesson. You could equally use this in individual lessons too, just make a rhythm yourself and you and your student can swap.

  • Download the proportional rhythm values cards.
  • Print out the cards, cut apart and laminate if desired.
  • Find something to use as barlines. I used popsicle sticks but you could use chopsticks, matches, pens, etc.
  • Ask all the students to construct a rhythm using the cards. Tell them what time signature to use and how many bars to make.

note value cards 4 bar rhythms

  • Once everyone is finished their rhythm ask each student to clap and count/vocalise their rhythm one by one.
  • Give each student a rhythm instrument. If you don’t have any you can get creative and use pots, pans, spoons, tupperware, or stationary.
  • Ask each student to play their rhythm using their instrument.
  • Swap places and instruments.
  • Ask each student to play the new rhythm in front of them.
  • Continue swapping until every student has tried every rhythm.

Proportional Rhythm Cards with rhythm instruments

Do your students think that all quavers should be played as quickly as possible?

What tricks have you tried to shift their mindset? Do you think an activity like this could help them see things differently?

7 thoughts on “Note Values Demystified with Proportional Rhythm Cards”

  1. What a great idea! Thank you Nicola.

    You can use this as a group game where the children can move around in a circle while clapping the different rhythms. Thanks.

  2. Hi, this was on a list of 9 free games in July 2019. I am already subscribed to the newsletter. How do I get access to this please?


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