Compound Foot Tap

Why teach compound foot tap:

  • Compound time understanding 3/8, 6/8 etc. (each beat is divided into three 8th notes or 3 pulses.)
  • Kids have a good feel for duple time because of foot tap. They need that same comfort level with compound time signatures.

How to teach compound foot tap:
Teach the following steps over a number of days with 3-5 minutes of class being spent on it. Within a couple weeks they should be pros!

Step 1 – Foot tap/Down Press Up

Compound Foot Tap

Down (Flat)

Compound Foot Tap

Press (Toe down, heel up)

Compound Foot Tap

Up (Heel down, toe up)

  • SAY “Down, Press, Up” as students TAP their foot.   
  • You might also try having students say “Flat, Toe, Heel.” That helps them not skip the “flat” part. But overall, you want them thinking “Down, Press, Up.”
  • Tell them they can practice this foot tap in other places – car, bus, other classes etc. – until it feels natural.  This should only take a couple days.

Step 2 – Foot tap/One-La-Li

  • SAY One-La-Li, Two-La-Li as they tap their foot
  • You can also have 1/2 the class say “Down, Press, Up” and 1/2 say “One La Li” and then switch.
  • If students had a good understanding of step 1, this should only take 1 day.

Step 3 – Foot tap/One-La-Li/Clap

  • Same as step 2, but have students CLAP the rhythm of six 8th notes as they do it. 
  • Then have them clap dotted quarter notes to get the hang of clapping on downs only.
  • This should take 1-2 days.

Step 4 – Count from Written Music
              (Download free sample page here. Compound Foot Tap)

  • READ (COUNT, TAP & CLAP) simple counting lines in compound meter daily. Do the same basic rhythms until hand/foot coordination is mastered. (Line 1-2 on the sample page)
  • Do this for a couple days.
  • After students have a good grasp on those rhythms, you can throw in quarter/8th patterns (Line 3 on the sample page)
  • Finally, add 8th rests. (Line 4 on the sample page)

Step 5 – Incorporate it into your routine
This is one of those things that if you don’t review it and have them use it often, they will forget how to do it. Try to play something with compound foot tap a couple times a week.  Daily is even better.

Here are some simple ways to incorporate it:

  • Play a scale in dotted quarter notes in 6/8. You don’t have to write it out, just demonstrate and have them do it with you. Tell them “play that scale with each note getting down/press/up.”
  • Play the chromatic scale in dotted quarter notes and then in 8th notes in 6/8. This is a great way to even out fingers too.
  • Sight-read simple exercises in 3/8, 6/8, 9/8 etc. Have students count first and be sure they are tapping correctly.
  • Try to play at least 2 band pieces or (parts of band pieces) in compound time each year.
  • Consider compound time when choosing solos and/or audition music for individuals.
Cindy Bulloch retired in 2007 after a 29-years public school career including positions in Enid, Oklahoma, and Abilene, Lewisville, and Odessa,Texas.  A student of Dr. Gary Garner, Mrs. Bulloch earned both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Music Education from West Texas State University in Canyon, Texas.  Under her 19 years of direction, the Nimitz Junior High School Band achieved a high level of excellence.  Their many honors include 19 consecutive sweepstakes awards at the UIL Concert and Sightreading Contest, “Outstanding Band” festival awards, the John Philip Sousa International Sudler Cup, the Texas Bandmasters Association Exemplary Band Program Award, and twice named the Texas Music Educators Association BBB Junior High Honor Band.   Mrs. Bulloch is now an active clinician and adjudicator around Texas.

Related Reading:
Play the Method Book in Cut Time! (reinforces compound foot tap)
Simple Steps to Teaching Flute Vibrato (Also by Cindy Bulloch)
Teaching Rhythm Logically
Improving Sight-Reading Skills with Thirds

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