Beat vs Rhythm Grade 1
Looking for help with a beat vs rhythm lesson plan? Beat and rhythm, although a grade 1 expectation, can be deceptively difficult – especially if you are not a music specialist.
Understanding the difference between beat and rhythm is the first and most fundamental concept in the “duration” element of music.
What is the difference between beat and rhythm?
The problem is that MANY people misuse the terms beat and rhythm – the same way that so many people misuse apostrophes when writing plural words.
Beat refers to the steady pulse that determines how “fast” a piece of music feels, while rhythm is the pattern of individual short and long sounds in the melody or accompaniment of a piece of music.
In urban styles of music (rap or hip hop for example), the term “beats” is often used to refer to a repeated basic rhythm that forms the base of the accompaniment. This also contributes to the confusion about the difference between beat vs rhythm.
Definitions for beat and rhythm:
Beat and rhythm form the “duration” element of music.
Definition of Beat – The steady pulse of a piece of music. This is what you tap your foot or bob your head to. How close together the beats are is what determines the tempo (speed) of the music. Generally speaking, beat is always the same throughout the song. It does not start or stop.
Definition of Rhythm – The short and long sounds heard in different parts of the music – the words, melody or accompaniment. Rhythm frequently forms patterns that repeat, which can confuse students into thinking it’s beat, since it’s repeating. But the beat does not have SHORT AND LONG SOUNDS as rhythm does.
To be clear: All music has both beat and rhythm. Beat is the overall pulse that determines how fast the music is. Rhythm are the individual short and long sounds that you hear.
Beat vs Rhythm Lesson Plan Ideas
1- Start with Beat
When teaching rhythm and beat, always start by teaching beat. Listen to many pieces of music while tapping the beat. It helps to listen to pieces of music that have an instrument accentuating the beat, such as in “The Beat Is The Heart of Music”, shared below.
Notice that this song is in 4/4 time, so the hearts are shown in sets of 4. We don’t really teach time signatures in grade 1, but it is an important first step for students to begin to understand that beats come in sets.
2 – Use lyrics to teach the difference between beat and rhythm
Use poetry and simple song lyrics to transition from beat to rhythm. Tap the beat while reciting the words. Then, tap along with the words instead and note how that feels different. The syllables form the rhythm, which makes it easy to pick out. “The rhythm is the way the words go.”
Simple poetry is a great tool for teaching students the difference between beat and rhythm. In this example, the apples represent the steady beat with the rhythm notated inside.
3 – Feel the beat
Teach students to feel the beat with a beat circle. Sit all students in a circle, and then have them all turn a quarter turn to the right so they are facing the back of the student beside them. As you play various pieces of music, have them gently tap the beat on the back of their neighbor. This helps students to feel the beat as they are tapping it, and also makes it much easier for you to correct students who are not feeling the pulse.
4 – Teach both concepts at the same time
Teach both beat and rhythm with the same pieces of poetry or music. It’s important that students see that all songs have BOTH in order to understand the difference between them, so being able to identify both beat and rhythm within a single song is important. A good example of a simple poem that can be used to teach rhythm and beat is “Jelly Belly” by Dennis Lee.
Use a symbol such as a heart to represent the steady beat, and then write the separate rhythm sounds inside each beat. This shows visually how the rhythm and beat work together.
Free beat vs rhythm lesson plans
This set of four lesson plans will help you teach your grade 1 students all about the difference between beat and rhythm. Includes complete instructions, worksheets & powerpoint presentation file.