My 12-year-old daughter said to me the other day that, “I like math a lot because there’s nothing to memorize.” Josie does not realize that in order to solve a math problem, she has memorized a number of small systems that allow her to put together a complete answer for the equation. Math is made up of a series of small steps with each step building on the previous step. Only with a thorough understanding of each step along the way can she arrive at a final answer. All these steps get worked on, internailed, and yes, memorized. 1+1 is no longer a struggle at 12 years old, but at 3 or even 5, it was a total mind bender.
Sing and clap: “1 – 2 – 3 – 4” (we do lots of this on the African drums)
Look at the notes and names of each: We start with Whole notes, Half notes, Quarter notes, and Eighth notes (and this is the rhythmic language we speak for the first 3 years)
Look at the subdivisions of each note: (I used to play with a trumpet player who always said, “The key to any rhythm is to subdivide and conquer!”): A whole note is divided into two half notes. A half note is subdivided into two quarter notes. A quarter note splits into two eighth notes
Build a Beat: This can be extremely music nerdy and fun for kids to create endless combinations of these subdivisions. You might see us rolling the rhythm dice.
Feel and Play: Take a rhythm and create nemonic devices to clap, drum, sing, and eventually play the rhythm. We love the game, Fruity Loops for exactly this purpose.
These are the steps that need to take place for a musician to decipher the rhythmic code of this language. And this may be to tackle just a single measure of music while a standard pop song will have upwards of 300 measures in it! Music is built on a solid foundation one step at a time. So next time we go to a BMF gig and we watch those musicians playing music with one another, ask yourself how many mini problems are being solved by each musician. Each song requires hundreds if not thousands of equations. It’s the ultimate problem solving with an incredibly rewarding result.