Reviews, Rhythm

Review: Rhythm Menagerie by Wendy Stevens

Wendy Stevens from the ComposeCreate blog has created a wonderful rhythm resource called Rhythm Menagerie.

The Basics

In Wendy’s own words:

“Rhythm Menagerie is designed to take away the distractions of note reading, articulation, and other music concepts so that students can focus on having fun while strengthening their rhythm!”

Rhythm Menagerie is a 93-page pdf for teachers to use with their students.  The license permits teachers to print as many copies as they wish as long as they are using it with their own students.  Rhythm Mengerie is for sale on Wendy’s website for $34.99.  (Wendy has kindly offered to give Color In My Piano readers a limited-time discount, however — read to the bottom of this post to learn more!) 

Organization

Rhythm Menagerie is divided into eight units:

  1. Quarter & Half Notes
  2. Whole Notes
  3. Dotted Half Notes
  4. Quarter Rests & Ties
  5. Half & Whole Rests
  6. Eighth Notes
  7. Eighth Rests
  8. Dotted Quarters

Wendy varies the time signatures between 3/4 and 4/4 (and some 2/4 too) throughout the units.  At the end of each unit, there is a certificate for the teacher and student to fill out.

Each unit is further divided into 3 levels of rhythms.  Each level is three pages long, which a page devoted to:

  1. Single Line Rhythms
  2. Two-Handed Rhythms
  3. Fun With Sounds

I really like the “Fun With Sounds” pages!  Students are encouraged to snap, tap, clap, play, or whatever to make the rhythms more challenging and exciting!

Appearance

The layout is attractive, colorful, and easy to read — including the music notation.  Each unit uses a different color as the background color.  Various pages through Rhythm Menagerie feature pictures of animals and fun facts about them, such as owls, wallabies, wolves, mountain hares, and more.

Some Notes about Printing

Wendy suggests using Rhythm Menagerie in group settings as well as for private piano study.  To do this, the teacher could print one or more master copies of the whole book to keep in the studio for group classes.  Wendy shares a great video with pictures and clips of her students using Rhythm Menagerie during the summer camp she held last year.

I love this idea, especially the thought of doing the “Fun With Sounds” pages with a group of students!  Because I do not currently own a color printer, I decided to check with my local print shop to see if they could print and bind the book for me.   They quoted about $50 to get the booklet printed in color and spiral bound.  (Color prints cost $0.45 each, and the pdf is about 100 pages long. The binding only costs about $5.  Those copies sure add up!)  Because of the expense, I haven’t made my studio copies yet but I hope to eventually (I plan to buy a color printer before my summer camps).  And so, for now I’ve only been using Rhythm Menagerie in private lessons and have been printing it out unit-by-unit in black-and-white for my students as needed.

One other note: if your printer is not a borderless printer (such as mine), there will be a white margin all the way around the page and the page numbers will be cut off.  I consider this to be a minor inconvenience, however, and I have been writing the page numbers back in myself by hand.

Final Thoughts

I have been using Rhythm Menagerie with a handful of my private students for a few months now.  I assign them one page per week as Wendy suggests (which is 4 rhythm exercises each 4 bars in length), and I require that they write the counts under the notes and count aloud as they tap or play the rhythms.  I like this approach because it requires minimal time out of the lesson or the practice time each week, but over time makes a big difference because they are doing rhythms regularly!  I am already observing improvement in my students’ rhythm skills!

Wendy has kindly offered a promo code for Color In My Piano readers who are interested in purchasing Rhythm Menagerie!  Enter the code “Colorinmypiano” before March 30, 2011 and you’ll receive $5 off.  Click here to learn more about Rhythm Menagerie.

Full disclosure: I wrote this honest review after Wendy kindly sent me a complimentary copy of Book 1.

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