Spin the Rhythm Bottle

Here’s a rhythm activity I used this week with all my students. The basic version here is okay, but bland. It’s enormously more interesting if you use one or more of the variants below.

What You Need:

  • A set of cards with note values on it
  • A bottle
  • Paper
  • Pencil

Setup:

  • Lay out your cards in a circle and place the bottle in the middle.
  • Pick a time signature and write it on your paper.

How to Play:

  • Have the student spin the bottle. When it stops spinning, they should draw that note after the time signature on the paper.
  • Ask the students how many beats they have left in the measure. If it’s not complete, they spin again until it is. If they get a note that is too big to fit in the rest of the measure, they should fill out the measure with one (and only one) note that will complete it.
  • When the measure is complete, have them count and clap it.
  • Build a second measure with the same method. When it’s complete, they should count and clap both measures in succession.
  • Repeat until you run out of time.

Variants

  • To make it easier, limit the types of notes you include, such as only quarter notes and half notes.
  • To make it harder, include harder notes such as sixteenths and triplets.
  • To drill on a new rhythm concept, such as eighth notes, put a lot of the same card out so they are more likely to get that rhythm.
  • To make it more exciting, include a Wild card. Wild means they can choose a percussion instrument from a selection you provide to play and count their rhythms.
  • To reinforce after you have several measures, clap (or play) it as a round. Take turns being the person who starts or the person who starts at the beginning when the first person has made it to the second measure.
  • To use as an improv technique, have them improv a melody on the piano based on the rhythms they created.

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