Roads to new rhythms: a Kodály approach to teaching tika-tika

Teaching complex rhythms

Hands up who wants to know how I use Down the Road to teach a new rhythm?

In my last blog about low so and la I said I like to sing Down the Road differently to how it is usually sung.  In this blog I’ll tell you how I use this song and others to introduce more complex rhythms and why I think Down the Road, in the way I teach it, is such a great song for presenting one particular complex rhythm…

Down the Road: The Game

The game that goes with this song is a walking game.  Everyone walks to the beat in a circle or snake around the room.  So that we could still play a game during Covid, I designed a cup game.  Here’s how it goes:

Down the Road Cup Game

p.s. if you’d like a full demonstration, try out Doremi membership and search for “Down the Road” on the musicianship roadmap.

Even with the walking version, I change it!  In the ‘real’ version we walk the beat to this rhythm:

ta ta ta z

ta ta ta z

titi titi titi titi

ta ta ta z

I like it to move along more quickly so the rhythms are halved and I’ll explain why I do this later!

You and your students can change the movement to build in repetition: “everybody march together…”, “everybody run together…”, “skip together…” before going back to walking.

Definitely let the children choose an action, even though the sense of beat can go awry, giving them the opportunity to be creative is always a great thing to do.  Just make sure you return to walking the beat to restore the sense of beat!

Investigating the rhythm

After playing the game and getting to know the song really well, we’ll start to investigate the rhythm:

Let’s sing the song again and tap our beat fingers.

Now, let’s put some of the beats in our thinking voices

The thinking voice words are in brackets:

Down the (road)

Next, let’s tap the words on our beat fingers.

So instead of tapping a steady and even beat across four fingers, they feel where the rhythm is against the beat:

Down the road on beat fingers

Great! Let’s tap the rhythm AND the beat together!

This is more challenging: ask your students to tap the beat on knees with one hand and rhythm with the other.  As a step towards this, they could step the beat just like in the game and clap the rhythm or rock side to side for the beat while tapping the rhythm on their knee with one hand. 

Next, return to the beat fingers activity, adding the thinking voice activity:

Now let’s tap all of the rhythm on our beat fingers and sing but sing in your thinking voice on beats with thinking heads.

Down the Road thinking voice 2

What do you notice about the thinking voice beat?

We know a beat can have one long sound, two short sounds or no sounds… what about this one?

What do we sing on it?  (“everybody”)

How many sounds? (4)

Are they even or uneven?

We have four even sounds on the beat

Is there anywhere else where we have four sounds on the beat

The next beat!

 What word or words do we have on the next beat? (“walk together”)

I like to use this song with a faster beat because there aren’t many other songs with one word that has four syllables on one beat.  We have some where they might cross across two beats but to find a song that has one four syllable word on a beat is not very common.   I think it’s vital we introduce this with a song that has one four syllable word on the beat.  Two words is fine but it has to be two words or a phrase.

Another song with tikatika is Old Brass Wagon at “Circle to the left”

How many sounds on this beat?  You might get “five” as the answer because they go straight through to the end of the phrase to the word “left”.  But “left” is on the next beat.  “circle to the” doesn’t give me a unit of information… but “everybody” in Down the Road does.

I think using Down the Road in this way is so helpful!

A New Rhythm

Some of our beats have one sound, ta, some have two sound, titi, and some have no sounds.  We know that we show titi belongs to one beat by joining them together with a beam.  We need to do the same for our four sounds on a beat – make sure it’s clear that they belong together.  But a beam makes a note shorter by half.  In our new rhythm the sounds are even shorter – we need fit four in a beat, so we need to make it shorter by a half again.  Because we need to make it shorter we add another beam.  Our new rhythm is called a semi quaver and we say “tika tika”

Here’s our new rhythm:

Down the Road Rhythm

Let’s say the rhythm names:

Titi ta      titi ta

Tikatika tikatika titi ta

A note on introducing beams: Before presenting tika-tika make sure you’ve done some work on four quavers beamed together so they don’t think that four together is a semiquaver – you need to be able to show they’re different.

Rhythm names and subdivisions of rhythm

The rhythm names really come into their own with the subdivisions of the rhythm.  It’s harder and more frustrating for children to count longer notes.  I’ve abandoned other piano method books and wrote my own Doremi Sing and Play method because the other methods start with the long rhythms (minims and semibreves) and it’s so hard for a child to feel the beats – they’re doing nothing for two or four beats. 

AND they don’t just start with long rhythms, they start with songs like “Old Macdonald Had a Farm”, which is supposed to be subdivided, and they stretch it out so they can use the longer note durations.  Back in the old days when ink was a commodity it was written with long breves/semibreves to save ink but nowadays we can manage to print some quavers!

Want more advice and ideas?

If you found this blog useful.  Please comment below if you did or if there is anything you would like to say to me about it.  If you’d like to find out more about preparing your students to learn about pitch and much more, including over a year’s worth of lesson plans for teaching all the important musical skills with Helen’s clear microsteps, why not try out Doremi Membership for 14 days for just £1

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