Learning the fundamentals of reading music – rhythmic values and note names – is so vital to playing an instrument, but it can be boring and frustrating. Finding a way to make any part of it more interesting and fun is always a bonus. Rhythm Cat delivers.
The Rhythm Cat app (from the Melody Cats suite of apps by LMuse Limited) is a fun and effective way to improve rhythm skills. It is an engaging way for beginners to get past the challenging and often discouraging introduction to reading music but can also be a bit of fun for more experienced musicians to conquer the progressively more complex levels.
On each level, you are presented with a rhythm example. The levels progress in complexity, allowing you to move ahead as your skill increases.
After hitting the Play button, the soundtrack begins and a countdown is shown (depending on the time signature – usually 1-2-3 or 1-2-3-4). You then need to tap the large green button to tap the rhythm of the example shown, in time with the soundtrack. As you move through the rhythm, correct taps will turn the corresponding note green, while incorrect notes stay black. The very first level is basic one-beat crotchet beats. A new rhythmic value is introduced at each level – minims, semibreves, rests etc but the first ten levels don’t move beyond these basic foundation-level rhythms, giving a beginner plenty to play with. This is an example of a rhythm near the end of this section:
The app also has high-quality soundtracks. Rather than being cheesy or childish, there is a nice variety of musical styles and tempos, including classical themes, folk tunes, and pop-sounding tracks. Something for everyone 🙂
As the examples get more difficult, students must tap two different buttons, and then three The notes are color-coded with blue and red to match the notes. (The cat illustrations also become more colourful).
The color-coding is a great idea, but is a little confusing. The blue and red notes coordinate with the blue and red buttons, but the regular notes coordinating with the green button stay their original black. These green-button-but-black notes still turn green if you tap them correctly and stay black if you miss them. But it’s only a small annoyance and you’ll become accustomed to it fairly quickly.
The app is very sensitive about making sure you tap the rhythm exactly on the beat, which could potentially be frustrating at times, but also will help you learn to be precise as you listen to the beat of the soundtrack. Each level is scored with one, two, or three stars. If too many notes were incorrect, you will fail the level and be unable to proceed to the next one.
The free version of this app has 15 levels to try out and can be found here. The Pro version (here) has four “stages,” with 15 levels in each stage. Stage 1 uses basic rhythms, including crotchet rests and paired quavers. Stage 2 introduces the dotted crotchet paired with a single quaver and also ties, to create syncopated rhythms. Stage 3 introduces the quaver rest and complex time signatures (e.g. 3-13 is a killer – it mixes 3/4 and 2/4 and goes pretty fast). Stage 4 continues with more advanced rhythms using three buttons.
Developed in collaboration with professional musicians and educators, Rhythm Cat is an excellent app to use at home and in the studio. Students will learn to look ahead more as they tap these rhythms, and will learn the important skill of listening to themselves and others (in this case, the soundtrack) to stay together.
If you are considering music lessons for your child or for yourself, please contact me to discuss the options. Piano lessons are conducted at my studio in Wallsend, NSW.