Tapping a Steady Beat
TI:ME Technology Areas Addressed:
Teacher will need a computer with notation and/or music production software, a Web browser with the Flash plugin installed, and access to the Internet.
Prior Knowledge and Skills:
Students need not have any special skills or knowledge. This will be a largely kinesthetic activity.
MENC Standards Addressed:
MENC 2: Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
MENC 6: Listening to, analyzing and describing music.
MIDI files of Bach Inventions 4, 8, and 13.
A microphone and amplifier.
A steady beat interactive exercises is available at the McGraw-Hill online learning site for the Music First! textbook. You can find it online at:
At the conclusion of this lesson students will be able to tap a steady beat in response to music played at 60 beats per minute, 90 beats per minute, and 120 beats per minute.
To prepare for this lesson, the teacher must download midi files of bach inventions 4, 8, and 13. These pieces must then be loaded into music production software and modified as needed to ensure no changes in tempo. Bach invention 4 should play at 60 BPM throughout, invention 13 should play at 90 BPM, and invention 8 should play at 120 BPM.
Ask for a volunteer from among the students. Turn on the microphone and amplifier and ask the student to put the mic up to his or her heart. For younger students you may have to direct them to the left side of the chest. Use this demonstration to discuss the concept of pulse with your students. Ask them to identify other regular pulses in nature (breathing, tides, rising and setting of the sun, etc.)
Walk across the room at a slow and steady pace of about 60 steps per minute (one each second). Have the class clap their hands on each footfall. Then ask the class to continue clapping the pulse even after you stop walking. Discuss the aesthetic effect of tapping a slow and steady beat. Does it remind you of walking or relaxed breathing.
Walk across the room at a fast and steady pace of about 120 steps per minute (two each second). Again have the class clap on each footfall. Discuss the aesthetic effect of the faster tempo and relate it to the way the heart races after running.
Next divide the class into teams labeled the Macros and the Micros. Walk across the room at 60 steps per minute and ask the Macros to clap once on each footfall. Ask the Micros to snap two times per footfall. Next repeat the example and have the Micros snap 3 times per footfall. Explain that in most music you can hear big beats (the claps) and little beats (the snaps). The big beats are sometimes divided into two little beats and sometimes into three little beats depending on the nature of the music.
Have your computer and sequencer ready with Bach Invention 4. Play it at a steady 60 BPM. Ask students to move forward on each big beat by one step and then backward on the next big beat. This simple movement activity helps to cement steady beat understanding by involving the thighs and other large muscle groups. When students are able to coordinate the steady beat in this way, ask them to snap 3 times per big beat. Students should be physically engaged so that beat and meter are internalized.
Repeat this activity with Bach Invention 13 at 90 BPM and Bach Invention 8 at 120 BPM but have the students snap only twice during each big beat for these two works.
End the class by sending the students home with instructions to practice this activity during the week. Evaluation will take place one week later in the computer lab.
One week after the lesson, schedule your class for time in the computer lab. Load activity 3.1 from chapter 3 of MusicFirst! online learning center found at:
Have this screen on each computer when students arrive. Use the teacher station and video projector to demonstrate how the application works. Have students begin with Bach Invention 4 and have them tap the beat on the shift key of the keyboard. The software measures the student’s accuracy and provides a score for steady beat. Go around to each station and record each student’s score on Bach Invention 4 (60 BPM). Then have the students work on the other two inventions (No. 13 at 90 BPM and No. 8 at 120 BPM). Record all scores in a spreadsheet and use this information to individualize instruction as needed to ensure all students learn the vital skill of steady beat.
A logical follow-up lesson to this one would introduce duple and triple meter.