Rhythm Syllables

Chanting rhythm syllables while and clapping or tapping the rhythm is an easy and fun way to quickly learn rather complicated rhythm patterns.

In this lesson you will learn to use syllables that are such a great tool for practicing rhythms when learning music theory. 

I will also show you how to combine the syllables for different rhythm patterns. You can print free PDF's with rhythm exercises to keep practicing on your own!

Let's Practice using Rhythm Syllables

Since this is a beginners lesson we will only use simple time signatures, like 2/4, 3/4 and 4/4, where the quarter note is worth 1 beat. 

There are different ways of sounding or chanting rhythms- this method is just one of many. If you choose to use “Ti”, “Ta” or whatever doesn't really matter.

But sounding the rhythms before clapping, tapping or playing, makes it a lot easier to perform even relatively complicated rhythm patterns.

This method is even easier than counting rhythm, since you will focus on the sound of the rhythm, rather than numbers.

By learning to read notes in groups or patterns you will also speed up your note reading skills.

How to Read Music

Rhythm Syllables

Note values can be divided in two groups;

  1. longer note values that are equal to, or more than 1 beat, and
  2. shorter note values that are grouped together to form 1 or more beats.

Work in This Order

To learn this method of rhythm syllables as quickly as possible, work in this order:

  1. First learn how to chant the syllables for each note value or group.
  2. Practice different rhythms by chanting the syllables while clapping, stamping or tapping a steady beat.
  3. Then clap, tap or play the rhythm (not the beat), together with and same as the chanting. If you can, stamp the steady beat with your foot, or use a metronome. Otherwise, just feel the steady beat inside you.
  4. Finally, clap, tap or play the rhythm pattern while thinking the rhythm syllables.

For extra cool factor: Instead of stamping the beat, or using a metronome- try using conducting patterns as you speak the rhythms!

Longer note values with one or more whole beats:

Simply start with the syllable Ta and then emphasize an a for each additional beat, like this;

Whole note (4 beats)= Ta-a-a-a

Dotted half note (3 beats)= Ta-a-a

Half note (2 beats)= Ta-a

Quarter note (1 beat)= Ta

For rests you say shh for each silent beat. When clapping the rhythm, don't clap or tap on rests. As you get more confident, leave out the shh and just stay quiet for the rests, while keeping the beat going of course.

If you need a reminder about note values and rests, go here.

Exercises

Practice on these examples. Keep the beat steady as you chant the syllables!

Shorter note values combined in groups of one beat:

 (The bold letters indicate where the beat is.)

Tip: Triplets have to be very evenly spaced on the beat; ti - ke - ti. Imagine saying Winnie-the (Pooh) without the Pooh.

For rests shorter that a beat, simply replace the syllable with a shh.

Exercises

Let's practice!

Tips

  1. Remember to keep a steady beat.
  2. Chant the syllables (which you should have learned by heart by now!), then chant and clap the rhythm.
  3. Clap the rhythm and think the syllables,
  4. Finally tap or play the rhythm on your instrument.

Recommended Resources

For more help with rhythm and ear training, I recommend:


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