Body Percussion Tempo Challenge

Body Percussion Tempo Challenge
A lesson activity for practicing different tempos

Often when a student is struggling with a phrase or measure, I’ll suggest that we play it slower. My students nod and say okay. Then they play it again at exactly the same speed. They often really don’t seem capable of changing whatever their default speed is. So this week we are working on tempo changes.

What You Need:


  • None

How to Play:

  • Stand up in front of the piano. Have the student pick four of the body percussion cards and lay them out in any order on the music stand. I put a ruler afterwards to represent a repeat sign.
  • Each card gets one beat, so we now have a measure of quarter notes in 4/4 time with a repeat sign. For example, the layout might be: Clap, Stamp, Stamp, Cluck. Practice the rhythm a few times.
  • The metronome app on my phone allows me to tap a beat and have it give me the metronome marking, so I tell the kids we are going to find out what their default preferred tempo is. They count, I tap, and the metronome gives us our start speed.
  • Working together, try to do the body percussion measures at that speed.
  • Draw a random tempo strip. Try it at that speed. Is it faster or slower than the student’s default speed? (If they get Presto and can’t manage it, that’s okay. It can be a good lesson in how important it is to learn things at a slower tempo before we try to take it fast.)
  • Continue drawing tempo strips until all are done. Which tempos are easiest? Which are hardest? How does it feel to switch between them?
  • If there is still time, try different tempos or working your way back up to presto. Many times a student who can’t do presto when they first draw that strip, will be able to do it if you work your way up slowly.


  • To make it easier, don’t use the rest cards. Also, you can require each card to come in a group of two identical cards, so that you end up with something like: Clap, Clap, Stomp, Stomp. It is easier than having four separate actions in the measure.
  • To make it harder, create two different measures. Also, gradually increase the speed beyond presto.


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