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Pop Recital - Rhythm

In the Beginning, There was Rhythm

There are two fun factors with a pop recital. The first is playing a pop song for a performance (placing value on popular music as integral to the learning process), and the second is playing with a band/rhythm section where it all comes to life. This student thought he was a rock star after this performance of New York State of Mind! No rehearsals, and never played with a rhythm section before.Another example is when a student loves video game music, has the literacy to play off of a chord chart with a rhythm section, and THIS happens (first time for him!)

Here are the four rhythm section instrumentation options I recommend:

- Bass, Rhythm Guitar and Drums

- Bass and Drums (simplest and easiest to implement)

- Bass, Drums and Keyboard (safest option! secondary keyboard for you to comp along)

- Bass, Rhythm Guitar, Drums and Keyboard

FOUR-WEEK PLAN to prepare your students AND get them excited to play with their rhythm section goes a little something like this:

  • Week 1 should consist of learning how to count off. Then, add a slow beat that focuses only on the intro and maybe first verse if they are feeling good. Be sure not to overwhelm here. 
    1. Hallelujah first verse only
    2. 5 -6-7- 8 count off 
    3. Pick up notes count off 
  • Week 2 is building on the confidence of the previous week. Now is a good time to send home a practice track, record a beat/chord changes to play along with, or recommend a rhythm app for home use. Remember, keep it slow! iReal Pro and Super Metronome Groovebox are my top 2 beat recommendations. 
    1. Practice track example 
  • Week 3 is a good time to increase the speed a bit and make sure everything is in place for your student to make it to the end of his/her song. 
  • Week 4 is where the magic happens. Check out Kaci playing with a simple beat on the iPad with Super Metronome Groovebox and If I Ain't Got You or Bohemian Rhapsody that we worked with a keyboard beat on because we don't hold rehearsals before the shows. If you know how to prepare your students, it's not necessary!

A practical application you can also use that is straight forward, comes from warm ups. Check out this Music Tree 2B example. Or use a rhythm with another piece/song your student is working on, so playing with a beat is an extension of what they do in lessons. Here is an example of Positively Swinging with a beat on the keyboard.

I debated whether to share this video with you all, but it's quite possibly the most meaningful musical experience I have been able to be part of. This young woman, Emily, started lessons with me when she was in level 2B, probably in the 4th grade. Her parents are the kind of parents we piano teachers dream of; encouraging and making sure practice happened, anything I asked, she did, she participated in ever event, etc...When she was in high school, her father was diagnosed with cancer. He beat it the first time, and the second time it came back with a vengeance. He was extremely ill at the time of the pop showcase so couldn't be there, and Emily's mother requested the video be uploaded as soon as possible. The very last thing her dad heard her perform was this song, which she dedicated to him (though horrible allergies, you may have heard her say that on the video.) Two days later, he passed away. Here is her dedication to her dad, Say Something.

One of my favorite sayings I use in my teaching is, "In the beginning, there was rhythm," originally attributed to Hans von Bulow. What better way to practice what we preach than through introducing, facilitating and helping our students FEEL rhythm?

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