Small assignment: Polyphonic rhythm duet
Make up a polyphonic rhythm duet. Write it down as a score and perform it using various percussion instruments. Lyrics and a melody can be added.
Goal and output
Invent and rehearse a rhythm duet
• Talk about what a 'polyphonic rhythm duet' means
• Use rhythms that are appropriate for the skill level of the group. Review the rhythms before performing the assignment if necessary. You may use familiar rhythm words for inventing the rhythms or come up with new rhythm words based on a current topic (harvest, Christmas, Easter, May Day, winter sports, summer holiday, etc.). Remember that you can use ties when writing rhythms.
• The assignment can be performed in a group, inviting each student in turn to come up with one measure of rhythm. The assignment may be all in one time signature, or the time signature can be varied if desired. The two parts of the rhythm duet should be created so that when one part has a long note value, the other part has shorter note values.
• The students may also be divided into pairs and instructed to come up with a rhythm duet by themselves. After they have finished, join up the duets of all the pairs into one long rhythm duet. Each pair may be invited for instance to come up with both parts for one measure. The time signature can be agreed with the group in advance, or else each pair can be allowed to choose their time signature. This will most likely produce a piece with changing time signatures.
• Write out the rhythm duet as a score. Talk about how to write a score.
• Perform the rhythm duet using rhythm instruments with different sounds, or select various percussive sounds on keyboards in the classroom on which to perform the rhythm duet.
• You may invite students to come up with lyrics to which the rhythm duet may be performed. They may also come up with melodies for the rhythms, expanding the assignment into a vocal duet.
Topics in the assignment
Assignment suitable for further study