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
- 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.
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