Academic journal article Research and Issues in Music Education (RIME)

Rhythmic Characteristics of Improvisational Drumming among Preschool Children

Academic journal article Research and Issues in Music Education (RIME)

Rhythmic Characteristics of Improvisational Drumming among Preschool Children

Article excerpt

A call-and-response drumming activity was carried out to determine the rhythmic characteristics of improvised patterns created by preschool children. Specific goals of the study were to: (1) determine the durations, start and stop times, and rhythmic patterns of improvised responses to a simple given call using drums; (2) determine the presence or absence of steady beat in improvised responses; and (3) describe the social factors that may affect the improvisational choices of young children. Six 4- and 5-year-old children participated in the activity over five weeks. Each week, the researcher played a four-beat rhythmic call and invited each student to individually play an improvised response within four beats. Results indicated that 86% of responses began on beat one immediately following the call, and 80% of responses ended on beat four. Seventy-nine percent of responses were four beats long. Eighty-four percent of improvised responses contained a steady beat. Students were either not able or did not wish to mimic the responses of other students, and very rarely repeated the call provided by the researcher. Results suggest that 4- and 5-year-old children are able to improvise both simple and complex rhythmic patterns on drums within specified guidelines.

Rhythmic Characteristics of Improvisational Drumming Among Preschool Children

Improvisational activities in the music classroom can provide opportunities for young children to explore, discover, and create their own musical ideas. The act of improvising allows children to simultaneously play, listen, and make musical choices based on their growing musical vocabulary. The music education profession has historically shown support for the implementation of improvisation in music classrooms. Notably, Donald Pond's work at the Pillsbury Foundation School from 1937-1944 (Moorhead & Pond, 1941, 1942, 1944; Moorhead, Sandvik & Wight, 1951) provided music educators and researchers with detailed descriptions of the spontaneous musical activities of young children. In addition, both the Contemporary Music Project for Creativity in Music Education in 1957 and the Manhattanville Music Curriculum Project in 1965 shined a light, both philosophically and practically, on improvisation as a vital part of a comprehensive music education for all students (Mark & Gary, 1992). Currently, the inclusion of improvisational activities in music instruction is supported and encouraged within the music education profession. Improvisation is included in the National Standards for Music Education (Consortium of National Arts Education Associations, 1994), many state standards documents, and the Performance Standards for Music: Prekindergarten (Ages 2-4) (Performance Standards for Music, 1996). The National Standards for Music Education, first published in 1994, have led to curricular reform throughout the United States. Many state standards documents have paralleled the ideas within the original National Standards publication, with improvisation often included as a suggested activity within music instruction.

The process of teaching improvisation can be challenging for music educators. Upon completion of improvisational lessons, teachers may wonder whether or not the students have lived up to their improvisational potential, and whether the activities chosen were developmentally appropriate and challenging. In order to provide meaningful improvisational activities for young children, it may be helpful for teachers to become more familiar with the characteristics of children's improvisation at various ages. Research studies observing students' individual improvisational abilities have generally indicated that children are able to develop melodic and rhythmic improvisational skills over time (Azzara, 1992; Brophy, 1999, 2005; Flohr, 1979; Laczo, 1981; Paananen, 2006; Reinhardt, 1990). With the exception of the study by Paananen (2006), this research has primarily utilized xylophones, providing children with melodic choices during their improvisational endeavors. …

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