Playing Back Rhythm

In this section (and throughout this chapter), we urge you to embrace your intuition! You may be able to simply play rhythms back without thinking about them. Where this doesn’t work, we have a few suggestions.

First, don’t forget about meter! When you’re having difficulty with a rhythm, make sure you’re tracking the important pulses of the meter. Beat is usually most important, followed by downbeat/cycle beginning, and finally beat division. Pay attention to where sounds start regarding the meter. Once you’ve got that figured out, make sure you’re tracking the meter yourself as you try to play it back. Particularly tricky rhythms may need to be clapped or tapped before transferring them to an instrument.

Second, remember that anything we can do to group the music into “chunks” will help us remember it. One of the most helpful ways of thinking about chunks is through rhythmic cells—you may wish to review those.


Activity: Playing back rhythms

Goal: Replicate heard rhythms

Instructions: Listen to the songs in the playlist below. For each, listen to the first 1–2 phrases, and try to clap back the rhythms of the melody. If you are having difficulty, make sure you are keeping track of the meter and thinking about how each note relates to the beats. It’s fine to repeat the phrases as necessary to learn them, but make sure you are practicing your memory skills.


Suggest a song for this playlist!


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Foundations of Aural Skills Copyright © 2022 by Timothy Chenette is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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