Freebie for Teachers: Compound Rhythm Cards

Updated: May 4, 2020

Hi everyone!

Today I'm excited to share a set of flash cards for Compound Rhythms (6/8), which is a simple and fun way to introduce this time signature to students.

About the Compound Rhythm Cards:

  • Free printable! (Personal use only)

  • 3x A4 pages of 6/8 rhythms

  • 8 rhythms per page

  • The backing page is included so you can print double-sided

  • Have them in your studio or easily carry them around

Compound Rhythm Cards

This gives you a total of 24 rhythms on 3 A4-sized sheets. You can use a colour printer to print the backing card on the back of each of these. I had each page laminated at a print shop and cut out the individual cards using the back page as a guide with a pair of normal scissors. It's slightly time consuming but you can get it done in under an hour!

These cards can be helpful for any student who needs a fun way to learn rhythms. NB: If you are preparing your students for an ANZCA exam, this kind of rhythm can appear as a sight clapping question in the aural tests for practical exams in some grades.

The set available now is my updated, less fiddly version! When I first made these, I had several pages of rhythms but they were bulky and difficult to carry around. I also felt that having large sets of flash cards slow down the process of selecting and trying the exercise, so in order to minimise the time from getting the cards out to trying out the rhythms, I created a smaller deck of cards. It's easier to incorporate even into a short 30-min lesson if it's fast and easy to use!

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There are many different ways to use any set of flash cards, including this one. I've listed a few suggestions below, and you might be able to apply these methods to any flash cards you might already have!

  • Select 1-4 cards to improve sight-reading (clap or tap).

  • Select 4-6 cards and set them on the floor or on the music stand. Make sure every card is visible to the student. The teacher then claps one of the rhythms and the student has to pick which one it was. You can also make this even more fun by playing a melody to one of the rhythms on the piano instead of clapping. This helps to develop listening skills (and ultimately sight reading, as well).

  • Have a musical 'conversation' with your student: the teacher and student each select one card and set a pulse. Then either: (a) Seamlessly alternate between teacher and student, tap or clap your rhythm in different ways, varying dynamics, expressions and articulations, or (b) If the student is comfortable on the piano, use the chosen rhythm to improvise a melody, and alternate seamlessly between each player. This helps to develop a sense of pulse and listening skills essential for musical awareness.

  • Select 2 cards and set them up on the music stand. Start clapping (or tapping) the rhythm and continue for 2 more bars, improvising a response to the first 2 bars. This also helps to develop a sense of pulse, as well as awareness of "question and answer" and phrasing.

  • Select 2 or 4 cards and improvise a melody on the piano according to the rhythm. (I usually select the cards for the student at first, to make sure they start with something easy - once they are more confident, I get the student to choose the cards at random.)

  • Select 4 cards and use a whiteboard marker to jot down chord symbols on each card. (I usually start with I-IV-V7-I but would move on to more complex patterns as students become more confident). The student then improvises a melody using the rhythm, while playing the chord structure in the LH.

I hope you'll enjoy these cards and I hope to make a video one day demonstrating some of the methods I just mentioned to use flash cards to their fullest potential!

Happy Teaching!