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Don Taylor

Rhythm Methods

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I struggle with rhythm and I am wondering what other folks do to find rhythms. I am talking about rhythm in the sense of sounding notes of different lengths correctly[*], not the related topic of keeping the beat.

 

Do you count (either audibly or inaudibly) in the classic 1 2 3 4 | 1-e-&-a 2 3-& 4 | style. If so, do you always count?

 

I do count but I find it distracting and I really lose feeling for the music because I have to concentrate on counting so much. Plus I cannot sing (either audibly or inaudibly) the numbers very easily.

 

Then there are a number of rhythm solfege systems: Kodaly, Gordon, Takadimi and more. These assign syllables to notes. Sort of like the diddly-di-di Irish mouth music stuff. This is more appealing to me as it feels more like singing, it can be expressive and it does not seem to take up so much mental space. But these systems seem to be meant for teaching children and then they are expected to graduate to the classic counting system before too long.

 

Don.

 

[*] I have the most problem with long notes (whole notes or dotted whole notes) and with rests. Long rests feel like I am just guessing most of the time

 

PS. I should have said that I am asking about reading rhythms from standard sheet music, not for learning by ear.

Edited by Don Taylor

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Forget 'solfege' and 'classic counting'.....whatever they are ......and just go with the flow of the music and give us your version.

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From various sources I have picked up words to use. A triplet is saturday. A sequence of 4 1/8 notes is caterpillar.

 

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I am sure there must be more but these are the ones that spring to mind.

 

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Go ahead and count, at least as part of your practice. After you are sure you have the rhythm right, then you will gain the feel for timing that will allow you to stop explicitly counting, and concentrate on other aspects of the music. For whole notes and longer, you are talking about full measures or bars anyway. Since you have already indicated no difficulty in keeping the beat that shouldn't be a problem, so just count measures. Same thing for rests. Then you just need to count the fraction of a measure leading into your next note.

 

If you don't like counting, try stepping. Not exactly the same as tapping your foot. I learned this while participating in a community street samba percussion group a while back. They had to teach a complex interwoven and syncopated rhythms. Instead of trying to count 1-2-3-4 they would start us off stepping side to side: Right-together-Left-together. That gets the feel of the basic count into your body, and it is immediately visible if anybody is off count. (It looks really cool to see the whole band moving side to side together, with a variety of drums, bells, etc. even before the music starts, and looks amazing when the music does start!) Then for teaching, the rhythm of each part would be demonstrated with hand-clapping, while everybody keeps stepping. Then only once everybody has their rhythm internalized, the same thing is done with the instruments. So the feel of the music isn't lost to the counting, but rather the "counting" (stepping) becomes part of the feel of the music.

 

Obviously this is easier if you can play standing up! I've moved a couple times, and it has been years since then, but yes I still use "stepping the beat" and hand clapping, followed by stepping while playing, as method to learn and internalize a complex rhythm in a new tune.

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Do you dance? If not, go to a contradance, and keep going until you have internalized the one-ness between the music and the movement. Then imagine you’re contradancing as you play. Before I went to my first contradance (1977), I only played classical music, on the cello guitar, and recorder. As soon as I started dancing and hearing the tunes, I started playing 5-string banjo, hammered dulcimer, and finally concertina (1987). The dancing makes it almost impossible to get the rhythm wrong.

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