Feeling the Beat

Experiencing the beat of the music is not always as easy as it seems.  In our culture, music is all around us.  In the car, on the radio, at a coffee shop, in the background of movies, accompanying dance performances. We listen and we sing along, but we often have a hard time finding the beat and staying with it.

What is the beat?  The beat of the music is like the heart beat in our bodies.  It is the steady pulse that is always there, keeping the music alive.  All music has a steady beat.  The rate of the beat can change (just like when we run our heart beats faster and when we sleep our heart beats slower), but it stays steady.  The problem is we are not all trained to find the beat.  So what can you do to practice find the beat?

Here are a few exercises that will help you feel the beat.  Some we do in our class and you can try them as well.

  • Tap your knees as you are listening to the music and say the words, “beat beat heart beat” over and over
  • Use a straw or stick and imagine the way a conductor would conduct, bringing the stick down on the beat and up on the off-beat
  • While you are standing in line at a coffee shop, tap your toes along with the music
  • Use a percussion instrument, like a drum or an egg shaker, to accompany a piece of music, playing and shaking on the beat

The way beats are grouped is called the meter of the music.  The most common groups are three and four.  If the music is grouped in beats of four you can practice feeling the beat by counting “1 2 3 4” along with the music.  The same is true if the music is grouped in beats of three, like a waltz.

Finding the beat is not only important in music class.  Music surrounds our everyday lives, everyone should know how to find and keep the steady beat in music so you can dance with a partner, clap along at a pop concert, play with an orchestra, sing with a choir, and tap along to the radio.


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