December 2015 | 2 Tips for Tap Teachers | Sound Quality

Photo by Robert Rosen

Photo by Robert Rosen

Sound Quality

By Thelma Goldberg

Tip 1
It’s important to teach an awareness of sound quality as well as rhythm clarity. Once students demonstrate good technique in basic movements, challenge them to explore varying volume and tone. Even beginners can learn to regulate volume.

  • Try alternating between loud and quiet sounds every 4 or 8 counts during parts of weekly exercises.
  • Adjust the music volume several times during an exercise, telling students to adjust their tapping volume so that they can still hear the beat.
  • Play a listening game to sharpen awareness of tone: have students face away while you demonstrate sounds (such as shifting from heel drops to toe drops) and raise their hands when they notice the tone change.
  • Play a “call and response” game in which students try to reproduce the tone, not the rhythm or step.

You’ll find students become more attentive when prompted to listen carefully and be aware of the volume and tone of their taps. They may even notice tonal differences between treble and bass sounds.

Tip 2
Using different parts of the tap also affects sound quality. In shuffles, for example, we can choose to produce a full-bodied brush and spank with the full toe tap; a light, high sound with the toe tap’s front third; a sharp, striking sound with the toe tap’s inside or outside edge; or a scuffing sound with the heel edge.

Try developing a shuffle series that changes the sound in these ways so students can practice using different parts of the tap. Being able to do this gives students more control and dynamic range, and their growing awareness of sound quality will give them a deeper respect for all their tap sounds.


Thelma Goldberg, teacher and director of The Dance Inn in Lexington, Massachusetts, since 1983, is the author of Thelma’s Tap Notes: A Guide to Teaching Tap: Children’s Edition.