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Drum Lesson Two

More Complicated Rhythms and Poetry

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Overview: Individual beats can be grouped together to form measures. Measures may contain any number of beats, but most often hold 2, 3, or 4 beats. Rhythms are created when each beat is divided into groups of two (duple) or three (triple). In poetry, the stressed syllables in words create duple or triple rhythmic patterns similar to musical rhythms. These rhythms can be spoken or performed on musical instruments.


  • Subdivide the beat into groups of two (duple) and three (triple) using familiar nursery rhymes and percussion instruments.
  • Students will identify and perform triple and duple rhythms found in simple nursery rhymes and poetry.
  • Compose a percussion ensemble piece using rhythmic ostinatos derived from creative writing.

Activity I. Finding the Rhythm in Nursery Rhymes

1. Choose a nursery rhyme most students in the class are familiar with (ex. Hickory, Dickory, Dock; Itsy Bitsy Spider; Mary Had a Little Lamb; etc). Have the class recite the rhyme in unison. Repeat the rhyme, but this time have the students clap along with the rhythm of the words.

2. When the students can comfortably clap the rhythms of the rhyme, have the class tap a steady beat on their thighs while the instructor recites the rhyme and claps the rhythm of the rhyme to the beat. Now reverse and have the teacher clap the pulse and the students clap the rhythm of the rhyme in time to the beat.

3. Discuss with the class the different types of rhythms found in the rhyme: Is the beat being divided into two groups (duple) or three (triple)? For older students, have them notate the rhythms using eighth notes and quarter notes. Identify the poetry pattern most often used in nursery rhymes (see patterns above in vocabulary section).

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Activity II. Play the Rhythm of the Rhyme

1. Pass out percussion instruments and have the students "Play" the nursery rhyme in unison.

2. Write out each line of the rhyme on the board, using a separate line for each line of the rhyme, and notating each word's rhythm below it. In this example, the word "the" is placed at the end of the previous line because it is a pickup to the next group of four beats.

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3. Have the students play the rhythms of the rhyme in unison while following the notation for the rhythm. Next divide the group into two groups. Group 1 will play the beat while group two plays the rhythms. Switch parts.

Activity III. Extend the Learning

1. Divide the class into small groups. Have each group write an original four line poem using a rhyme scheme of AABB.

2. Help students turn their poems into rhythms. Write out the speech rhythms of the poem using traditional notation.

3.Following the example of Activity IV from Lesson 1, each group is to select four segments of the poem to create repeating rhythmic patterns (rhythmic ostinato).

4. Have the students perform their pieces for one another.

5. Select the best three and create a rondo (A B A C A) for the whole class to perform.

Assessment for Lesson 2:

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