Teaching Syncopation with Rocket Man

On the assignment sheet I’m currently using with students there is a practice reflection that also includes a space for students to write down a piece they would like to learn.

“What piece would you like to learn?” is one of my favorite questions on the practice diary. Not only is it an opportunity for the student to communicate their musical interests with me, but it’s opened my eyes to new music. It’s amazing to see how many students push themselves to learn to play repertoire much harder than their “level” – especially when it’s a song they really want to play.

Giving students some autonomy and choice in music is also important for retention. For more on that, check out the post: A Picture Number is Worth a Thousand Words: Studio Retention-Rate Marketing.

One of my students who plays around the late-intermediate level recently wanted to play Rocket Man. Musicnotes.com is my go-to place for all individual song requests. The arrangement I found for her has proven to be an excellent study in syncopation and is challenging her rhythm skills.

Perhaps you have a student who may enjoy it as well?

Here is the arrangement of Rocketman on Musicnotes.com.

Just for fun, here’s the Offical Music Video for Rocket Man.



  • You are so right. It’s a great study in syncopation! I’m an intermediate level player, but I’m learning Rocketman from a song book with all the dotted 16th notes included. It’s very challenging. The accents are sometimes on a 16th note on the first quarter of the 4th beat, if that makes sense. Much more difficult than it first appears to be. I tried everything, even a flow key. The absolute only way I could learn to stay on the beat was to break it down and count 1 e & a…. and then internalize.

    • Thanks for sharing, Jen! Yes, often breaking down that micro-beat and feeling every little beat of the divided rhythm is the only way to tackle complicated rhythms!

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