The dotted quarter note-eighth note rhythm is one of the most difficult rhythms for elementary age students to count and play correctly. This lesson from the MakingMusicFun.net Music Academy makes it easy!
The dotted quarter note - eighth note rhythm is the most difficult rhythm for elementary age students to play correctly. In this lesson I’m going to make it easy. Let’s get started.
Hey, I’m Andy Fling, the founder of MakingMusicFun.net. We create lessons and resources for elementary age kids, teachers, and parents. If that’s you, and this lesson is helpful, please consider subscribing.
Sometime around the second year of music lessons, kids are introduced to this rhythm:
Dotted Quarter Note - Eighth Note
One of the first pieces I teach that includes the dotted quarter note-eighth note rhythm is “Ode to Joy.” Most kids struggle to play this piece accurately because of this rhythm. They come close because they’ve heard the song before, but it’s never perfect.
It's not until they understand the note values and a counting trick that I’ll share later in the lesson, that they play this rhythm correctly.
The first step is to learn the value of both rhythms.
The first note is a dotted quarter note, and it gets 1 1/2 beats. It’s a note that combines the quarter note, which gets one beat and the 1/8 note, which gets 1/2 a beat. The second note is an eighth note, and it gets 1/2 a beat.
The dotted quarter note is tricky for two reasons. The first reason has to do with the dot on the right side of the note.
The dot tells you to add half the value of the note to it. Since the quarter note is worth 1 beat, the dot is worth 1/2 beat. When you ad these two values together they equal 1 and 1/2 beats.
That's the easy part.
The second reason that the dotted quarter note is tricky has to do with how long you hold the note.
In the first year of music lessons kids hold notes for one beat, two beats, three beats or four beats. All of these rhythms ask you to play notes for whole beats. The dotted quarter note asks you to stop in the middle of a beat to play another note.
When students begin learning "Ode to Joy" they always play the dotted quarter note too short. When this happens they’re not keeping a steady beat. They can’t, because the notes don’t fit into the measure correctly.
Fixing this is easy! Students just need to say "two" on beat two. Saying “two” will help them to know when beat two is starting. Half a beat later they'll play the eighth note.
You can also counting everything with the following phrase:
C C D E - 1 2 C Half Note
It may take a couple of tries before students get it, but they can do it!
If you decide to give this counting strategy a try, let us know how things went in the comments. Thanks!