By Patrick Fritz
I have a repetition tool that I consistently use with my students. It is simple, small, sturdy, and novel enough that elementary and middle school students are always curious about how it works. But it is not so complex that it derails a lesson. I call it a “bead counter” but the product name is “Golf Abacus.” I keep various sizes and colors to suit different personalities.
I use bead counters when I want to get at least 10 repetitions of a passage. I also use them to inspire a reluctant student to take a shot at just a few repetitions of a challenging phrase, fingering, scale, etc. After each successful repetition, the student pulls a small bead from one end of the string to the other. Sometimes the novelty alone can get the ball rolling. I don’t know what is so appealing about pulling a bead down after completing a repetition, but the students really like it! The bead counter provides a great visual representation of how many repetitions have actually been completed.
Although you can make a bead counter at home with little more than a trip to a local craft shop, I purchased mine on Amazon. I like the soft elastic band that I can hang on guitar headstocks. This allows the students to participate in counting repetitions and take care of the process themselves. Having the student pull their own beads also breaks the flow of a series of repetitions. They have to pause and mindfully reset for each repetition.
The Golf Abacus is small enough that I can hang it on a student’s guitar headstock, and it doesn’t touch their hands, knock about, or otherwise get in the way. I have purchased other bead counters made of bigger beads that are not well suited to guitar headstocks. Here is the link to my preferred counter:
For those who are interested in making their own bead counter, here is an online resource: