Reading With Animals
by SEP/MPS member Tom Aungst

S.E.P. The Scholastic Educator Program is designed for high school percussion educators whose schools have established successful programs both in their region and nationally.

The ability to read music is vital for students at every level. Reading should be stressed as very important from the beginning. It can be frustrating for a student who has not been taught how to read music from the beginning to learn or "catch up" later on. The speed at which the student learns to read should equal the pace at which they are progressing on the technical part of playing their instruments. Learning to read music should be easy and fun, especially at the elementary level.

Learning how to read is a process that takes time to develop. Counting rhythms is the essential first step of this process. Sometimes conventional methods such as "1-e-an-dah" or "t-t-ta" can be hard, especially when the student is trying to remember these methods and play the particular rhythm. Over the years, I have tried to make counting and reading more fun. I have attached animal names to various rhythms like:

These are just a few examples, and you can have the kids make their own names for fun. This really helps students understand what the rhythm sounds like before attempting to play the rhythm on an instrument. As the student matures and progresses as a player, I introduce the traditional way of counting. The transition is smooth because the students already understand and feel comfortable with how the rhythm sounds.