Rhythm Composition Unit Plan

Rhythm Composition Unit Plan 

Diane K. King
[email protected]
Pennridge South Middle School

TI:ME Technology Areas Addressed:



Middle School


General Music


Computer Lab., Finale NotePad, Hand held percussion instruments. (If you do not have access to a lab and NotePad you can down load the Rhythm Composition tiff file template and have your students compose with a pencil)


240 Minutes

Prior Knowledge and Skills:

Note values, time signatures, Kodaly rhythm syllables

MENC Standards Addressed:

MENC 2: Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
MENC 4: Composing and Arranging Music within specified guidelines.
MENC 5: Reading and notating music.
MENC 7: Evaluating music and music performances.


Hand held percussion instruments. Rhythm Composition Template attached to this plan.


  1. Using NotePad the students will compose, notate and perform a three-part rhythm composition for hand held percussion instruments.
  2. The students will perform their compositions.
  3. The students will evaluate the composition techniques of their peers and create a list of techniques that were most successful.


Day 1 Introduction to Rhythm Instruments

  1. Display all hand held percussion instruments you own.
  2. Using a rhythm exercise, have the students demonstrate each instrument.
  3. Create a list of instruments available. The students should be aware of the instruments whose sound duration is short and therefore are unable to perform whole and half notes. They should also be aware of instruments like the cowbell that could overwhelm an entire composition if used in excess.
  4. Spend the remaining class time allowing the students to play as many of the instruments as possible using a variety of rhythms in common time. You can experiment with instrument combinations and number of students performing.
  5. Have them circle three instruments for which they would like to compose.

Day 2 Lab

  1. Have students open the Rhythm Comp.3mus file in Notepad.
  2. Add instruments selected during the previous day into the template.
  3. Have the students begin to compose.

Day 3 Lab

  1. Continue to compose.

Day 4 Lab/Classroom

  1. Finish compositions.
  2. Print Compositions.
  3. Return to your classroom.
  4. Assign students to trios. (Make sure you have at least one student in each group who can keep a steady beat. When students self select groups all the “musicians” choose each other and you will have several performances that will be stellar and the others will fail. By “sharing the wealth” you can a sure that more of the performances will succeed.
  5. When students get into their groups have them follow this practice procedure.
    1. Choose one composition to perform.
    2. All students “ta and tap” all parts (using Kodaly syllables).
    3. Assign parts
    4. Each student “ta and tap” alone.
    5. “Ta and tap” 2 parts together
    6. “Ta and tap” all parts together
    7. “Show Me the Money” When the groups can “ta and tap” all 3 parts together for the teacher allow them to use the instruments for practice.

Day 5 Rehearsal/ Performance

  1. Continuation of rehearsal procedure from Day 4.
  2. Perform for each other.

Day 6

  1. Evaluate the compositions.

Ask the students…
Did you like the way the instruments sounded together?
Was there “tension and release” in the comp.?
Is there anything that you would change in this comp.?


Did the students:
Compose a 3-part rhythm composition for hand held rhythm
Perform in an ensemble for 3-part rhythm composition?
Evaluate the performances?
Keep a list of composition techniques that were successful?

Follow Up:

Take the evaluations and have students make a new composition using the recommended changes.

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