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Getting Motor-vated Part 1 -Rhythmic Ideas for Teaching

Getting Motor-vated Part 1 –Rhythmic Ideas for Teaching

By Brant Parsons

 The Motor-vation idea is something I adapted from inventor, drummer, and educator Bob Gatzen. I replaced the word “motivate” with “Motor-vate” which means to move ahead, and continue progressing in positive forward motion. This applies to both drumming and life. So in my quest for new teaching ideas and methods to Motor-vate students, I came up with something for teaching rhythms.

 I believe that there is more than one way to teach the same thing and still get good results from the students. When it comes to teaching rhythms, many of us tend to use the “counting” method – 1e + a , 2 e + a, etc. It’s very effective for any rhythm, for drum set and composition. It helps keep us drummers/musicians on track with rhythms, timing, knowing where beat “1” is, and identify mistakes faster. I feel that this method should be an eventual goal for all students to aim for.  Another option is to use the method of teaching rhythms using syllables to express sound – “Ta, Te Te, Tic a Tic a, Syn-co-pa”.  This is the foundation of what students are taught from grades K- 6. It is good for learning snare rhythms but also effective for drum set applications and composing. However, it can be very tricky to say at fast tempos and also to find beat one. I found that this method would often remind students of school work.  I feel that because of this, some tend to lose the “enjoyment” and Motor-vation of drumming.  As a teacher, what would you do if a student maybe just can’t understand it?  Well about 4 years ago I came up with an idea to help motivate students to learn rhythms differently.

 I started using cars and vehicles to represent rhythms. That’s right, cars!  Using words in place of counting has been done before, but hasn’t really been developed. Although it’s similar to the syllabic method, the students found it to be more fun, enjoyable, and easier to understand. It became a Motor-vational for both teacher and student. I found it to be good to use with beginner students ages 6-13. Here is the basic idea:


Quarter note = “Ford”     (1)     (R) OR (L)

8th notes = Porsche,    “Por, sche”     (1 and)    (R   L)    

16th notes = Lamborghini     “Lamborghini”    (1 e and a)      (R L R L)                    

Two 16th and  one 8th  = Chevrolet      “Chevrolet -”      (1 e and  )     (R L R)

8th notes  and two 16th notes = Landrover       “Land –   Rover ”   (1 and a)        (R R L) (L R L)

16th 8th 16th = “Gim    me  –  a”         (1 e  a)                (R  L   L) 

off beat 8th notes = no GAS    ( – and)               (R or L)                            


Here’s an example of a drum fill in 4/4 time.

 Lam  bor   ghi   ni     Por   sche      Gim   me        a         Por   sche                 (1e+a, 2 +, 3e a, 4 +)

Tic     a     Tic      a     Te     Te            Syn    co     pa           Te     Te

 I’ve found this method not to be as effective for drum set applications with regular notation so I still teach the students to count the 8th notes on their hi hat/ride (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +).  They enjoy it, as they know that the drum fills are coming up. The students would use the “car” words to represent playing the drum fills.

This method has proven time and time again to be effective for many students to have fun learning rhythms.  Maybe you can give the students a project to “find” rhythm words like the one above to names of video games or cities in the world to fit the main rhythms. A few years ago I had a mentally challenged student who just couldn’t understand how to play the main rhythms. The “TeTe’s” were difficult to say because of his speech issues and he just found the “1 e+ ah” counting to be confusing. However,  he enjoyed using counting rhythms using the “cars” method so much and clearly grasped it so well,  that he composed his own piece. This is a great example of positive Motor-vational in my life!

 I hope that these ideas can help you and your students to have fun learning rhythms effectively. Stay positive and keep Motor-vated! Happy Drum’n!



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