Toccata, from the Italian word toccare ("to touch"), is a classical virtuoso musician’s fast and dextrous showpiece.
A product of Lodge Studios Inc., Toccata Blocks are proportionally shaped game tiles that help music students learn about rhythm and meter.
The set contains 10 different time signature blocks (4/4, 6/8, 2/4, etc.), and tiles with pictures of notes and corresponding rests on the reverse side. The time signature blocks are inserted into matching color-coded bases, leaving just enough room for tiles with the correct number of notes and rests to fit in the measure represented by the time signature.
For example, as 4/4 time means four beats to the measure—with the quarter note getting one beat—the 4/4 base can be filled by four quarter notes (or rests), a half note (equaling two beats or rests) and two quarter notes, or one whole note (equaling four beats or rests).
Toccata Blocks are the invention of Catherine Schane-Lydon, a music teacher and performer since 1985, currently teaching at Woodland Hill Montessori School in North Greenbush, N.Y.
“The first thing kids do when they play with them is take the simplest notes—whole notes, half notes and quarter notes--and make little castles, like they’re traditional blocks, and go ‘La-la-la,’” laughs Schane-Lydon. “So when I tell them to put them away, I ask how many pieces there are, and how many beats does each one get?”
The next step is to string the blocks/notes together, and then include the rests in constructing combinations of increasing complexity. Schane-Lydon also introduces paired eighth notes and then the concept of meter in creating measures out of the time signature pieces and corresponding bases--and the correct combinations of notes and rests needed to fill them.
“I’ve been working on this for over two years,” says Schane-Lydon, who is readying a second set of Toccata Blocks featuring more advanced time signatures and sixteenth notes. She also hopes to come up with a kids' companion book similar to one she grew up with, the beatnik monkeys drumming classic Hand, Hand, Finger, Thumb.
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