Teaching Kids About Tempo
Tempo is a concept that is not exclusive to music. Children usually have an inherent understanding of fast/slow by the time that they can talk.
However, exploring the concept of tempo or speed through music can be a fun pursuit with your child. In my experience, children love exploring this concept more than any other; probably because it requires no real skills or prior understanding. Since this is usually an easy concept for children to master, it provides an avenue to all the other musical elements that we’ve discussed in the earlier musical blogs.
Tempo can bring together these elements and provide context for a deeper understanding of each.
It is at this point in learning the building blocks of musical appreciation where each element begin to support the others, and a greater understanding can come together with how they unite to create music. Through identifying the beat when dancing along to songs, you can help your child understand which ones are faster and slower; and vice-versa. The rhythm of skipping, as opposed to running can show the differences in speeds. The difference in the volume of stomping loudly, or tip-toeing quietly can also reflect the differences of moving your feet slowly and quickly.
You can use a child’s understanding of fast/slow to provide them with an understanding of the other elements. Or you can use their understanding of the original elements to reinforce their understanding of tempo. Either way, these elements are coming together and showing how they work together in all forms of music.
Play songs of different speeds and try to encourage your child to move in time to the beat. Through this recognition of the beat, the child should be able to recognise which are faster/slower.
Mix up using slow/fast with loud/soft. You can play a game of opposites. Slowly creeping, followed by loud running. Then you can swap it around by loud slow stomping followed by tip-toeing really fast.
Tapping or clapping faster rhythms and slower rhythms to the same song will help identify the different tempos of rhythms, even though the underlying song is staying the same.
What other ways have you found to explore tempo or speed with your children? Let me know!
Read more of Sam's musical how-to articles on:
- Learning pitch for kids
- Understanding rhythm for kids
- Identifying the beat
- Teaching kids about volume
- Learning to count through music
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