Finding the Math in Music (Activity for Teachers)


Listen to Sousa’s March it’s easy to clap the beat. But you can also play around with the beats. Listen more closely and see if you can find and keep time to a slower beat that also fits with the music. And you can also clap a faster beat that fits.

Figure 1 is a picture of those three beat levelsListen to the march several times while you follow Figure 1.


Figure 1

Figure 1

The space between lines at each level shows the relative time between claps—space mirrors time.

1. Clap the Basic Beat shown in blue—the one you probably clapped first.

2. Clap the slower Grouper Beat shown in red—it groups the Basic beat.

3. And finally clap the faster Divider Beat, shown in green—it divides the Basic beat.

The top row is the slowest beat—the lines are farthest apart. The middle row is the one you probably clapped most naturally, and the bottom row mirrors the fastest beat—the lines are closest together. Each time you listen, try to clap a different one of the three levels. If there are several people working together, assign different levels among the participants and clap together.

Did you notice that two basic beats go by for every grouper beat and two divider beats go by for every basic beat?  So there is exactly a 2:1 proportional relationship between each level.

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Finding the Math in Music (Activity For Students)

Making Simple Ratios

Making Complex Ratios

Composing an Accompaniment