I was working on three-time or triple time with two brothers this morning and I thought I’d share some of our activities. The boys, Dylan and Thomas, are nine and seven years old and have completed Dippy Skips. Thomas is working through June Armstrong’s Toy Box and is about to play Sail Boat. I want him to have a really good sense of three beats in a bar before I show him the piece.
Pulse First I sang a song familiar to them, Bells in the Steeple from Dippy Skips. I asked the boys to show me the pulse softly on their laps while I sang. Once I’d sung a few times they took it in turns to sing or tap the pulse. Both boys achieved this easily. Remember, they already know the song.
I offered them one of two pulse strips which I’d printed and laminated. One was hearts and one was pigs! They both chose the “three little pigs”! I didn’t mention the significance of the three, and they didn’t comment. They took it in turns to tap the pigs while they sang Bells In The Steeple. The first time Thomas tapped, he paused on the dotted minim. I didn’t comment but he did it again but this time correctly. I was just deciding whether to comment or leave it and he looked at me puzzled. “I ended up on different pigs the second time!”. “I know why!” exclaimed his brother. “Ok, I said, hold that thought while we see if Thomas can spot what happened.” I showed him two different ways of tapping, one was correct and one was incorrect. Thomas knew immediately which was correct and explained that he hadn’t kept the pulse going on the held note.
Rhythm They each took it in turns to sing another song, Lavender’s Blue, and clap the rhythm. This time Dylan, clearly determined to show that he can keep the pulse through the high notes, managed a lovely rhythm-pulse combo! It was clear from his face that he realised his mistake and insisted on getting another turn. By the time Thomas came to do it, he had seen his brother do it a couple of times. He confidently clapped it perfectly with a beaming smile.
Writing Rhythm Using a couple of “Three Little Pigs” strips each, they used building blocks to record the rhythm of the first two lines of the song. We then clapped and said the rhythm names. Dylan and I also clapped in canon, something Thomas was reluctant to do, but I did insist he watch and decide if we had performed it correctly.
Rhythm Memory I created a new three beat rhythm, ta titi ta, with blocks on my heart strip and we all clapped it. I gave it some fun words. I explained that the rhythm had the words “Three Little Pigs”. The boys closed their eyes and I changed one of the beats so it became titi titi ta. I challenged them to record both rhythms on their strips and they came up with their own words for the second line.
Creating Rhythm Each boy then altered their rhythms to create something of their own, with their own rather interesting words! We played around for a while with activities to nurture their creativity and memory. Dylan even asked if he could march the pulse, clap an ostinato and say his rhyme. I watched carefully to see if he created a three beat ostinato. He didn’t, and was quite puzzled. It was time to point out how many pigs we had!
The Big Reveal Dylan realised straight away that there were three beats in each bar or line. Thomas wasn’t so sure. He was confused by the question, he thought I meant how many sounds per pig. Not unreasonable since we’d been focussing on rhythm. My fault entirely! I explained more clearly, giving examples of songs in two time and four time. Then chanted his Three Little Pigs rhyme and tapped the pigs. That was it, he realised it was three.
Practise We then sang as many songs, rhymes and patterns as we could think of while clap-clicking in threes. Clap click click Clap click click. I asked them to clap and click while I played Sail Boat. We will repeat some of these activities next week. By the time we look at Sail Boat in our lesson, Thomas will not only have a really good grasp of the feeling of three-time, he will also have heard the piece several times.
Solfa This session was all about the rhythm but Sail Boat has many patterns that are ideal for singing in solfa. There are repeating s-m-s, m-s-m, f-r-f, r-f-r. It does go down to low la, and ti, near the end but otherwise stays within the do pentachord. If we do some work on these motives over the next few weeks then Thomas will find Sail Boat familiar and achievable.
Click Three Time Hearts and Pigs to download the pig and heart pulse strips. They can be cut into two strips or left as a two line page.