The Orchestra Rocks with Steady Beat
Aim: How can we use steady beat to keep time and play with rhythms?
Summary: Students explore steady, strong, and weak beats while learning to sing or play melodic phrases.
Standards: National 1, 7, 10, 11; NYC 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Vocabulary: accent, phrase, steady beat
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Exploring Steady Beat
- Ask students to find their pulse on pressure points on their bodies (such as the wrist or the neck). Explain how a pulse is connected to the heart and heartbeat.
- Just like our heartbeat, music has a pulse. It might be fast or slow, but this steady beat is the repeating rhythm that helps us keep time.
- Play “The Name Game”: Form a circle and establish a steady beat by snapping fingers, patting knees, or clapping hands. Once the steady beat is established, go around the circle and have each student speak their name to fit in with the beat. The class repeats that name before moving on to the next student in the circle.
- Try variations: Speak the names with longer or shorter breaks between syllables, or even try elongating them or speeding them up, but always keep with the steady beat.
- Try other variations on this game, playing instruments or creating movements that represent each name. Be sure to keep the steady beat going with body percussion or instruments.
- What was fun about this activity?
- What was challenging or easy about this activity?
- How did we all stay together?
- Why is the steady beat important?
Verdi’s “Anvil Chorus”
This lively tune is from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Il trovatore. In this scene, a group of men are going to work with their hammers and anvils, tools used to shape metal. They sing along with the women in their camp, all looking forward to the end of a long day’s work.
Exploring Strong and Weak Beats in the “Anvil Chorus”
- Listen to Track 7 “Anvil Chorus” from Il trovatore (complete).
- Divide the class into two groups to perform the rhythmic patterns below from the “Anvil Chorus” (may be performed with the recording or unaccompanied).
- Group 1 stomps on the strong or accented “anvil” beats.
- Group 2 claps lightly on the weaker or unaccented beats.
- You may also try the above activity with classroom percussion instruments, with Group 1 playing a louder, heavier instrument like a drum and Group 2 playing a lighter instrument like a triangle.
When Giuseppe Verdi began composing, Italy was not yet an independent country and was ruled by Austria. People would cry out “Viva Verdi!”; the Austrian rulers believed that they were just shouting the name of their favorite opera composer, but it was also a secret code they used to voice their support for the man they wanted to lead them: Vittorio Emanuele Rei (king) D’Italia (of Italy).