Gabrielle B., Iowa
Advanced Teachers: Talk to me about how to approach teaching compound time
Stephen R., California
is this in relation to any particular piece? For example Greensleeves is in 6/8 and High Five is in 12/8. I would keep the explanation simple to students, but it’s basically dividing the beat into 3 parts rather than 2. It’s a different feel than simple time. In 6/8 the beat falls on counts 1 and 4 (we count to 6 using eighth notes). The dotted quarter note would get the beat generally. This is the main reason why a piece would be written in 6/8 vs 3/4. It has to do with where the beat is. In compound time we often find quarter note followed by eighth note rhythms and seeing these as “humpty dumpty” rhythms really helps. Gordon Harvey had mentioned this with High Five. Hope some of this helps!
Un Mani, Australia
How to teach this. As in RR go with the innate intelligence of the body v maths counting head stuff Hum and rock/clap together …ask them where they feel the beat..Using Greensleeves, it matches the Twice as Green doubled LH. You, along with the student’s beat, simultaneously clap the pulses in 3’s like that training exercise in the jazz with Neil and the teachers. Then swap and swap again seamlessly.Hum Greensleeves over the top. That’s how IId get them to ‘feel it b4 discussing numbers. After success with this, ask leading questions to they get them to discover why the time signature is thus. First question…how many pulses were you doing when I did the beat? Or…what did youa notice about the beats of Greensleeves? The music might come out only then for discussion.
Stephen R., California
Clapping and voicing the Greensleeves rhythm was actually a learning strategy with the piece. Little did students know we were processing 6/8 at the time.
Evan H., Kansas
Basically, they already know how. It’s the notation that confuses people. I would have them just say/clap/tap rhythms out loud without knowing how they are written (“humpty-dumpty”, “hickory”, etc.). This helps students to feel the rhythm instinctively.
After that, borrowing a bit from Reading Rhythm: singles are dotted quarter notes, doubles are “humpty” (quarter followed by an eighth), and triples (new ingredient) are “hickory” (three 8th-notes in a row). This gives them everything they need to process basic compound-time rhythms. For groups of 6 sixteenth notes in a row, I would just use a six-syllable word or phrase (“very very heavy” or somesuch).
Gordon Harvey, Australia
I think it would depend on the context. I would usually only teach it to help unfold a piece. For a piece like ’57 12/8 Blues, if the student struggles with the rhythm, you could teach the underlying beat and have them clap through it. I teach it as four groups of three. I clap out the threes and count the four. I’ve found this almost always unnecessary for ’57 12/8 although High Five (from the Jazz program) can be trickier. With that piece, this simple exercise is often good to do to set the rhythmic scene before discussing the Humpty Dumpty that’s so common in that piece (as Stephen Riedel mentions). If you want to, you could mention that Humpty is just beats 1 and 3 of the group of three, but again, only if it helps with learning the piece.
If you’re teaching compound rhythm as part of reading or theory, that’s another story, but the above exercise would be good to have been done beforehand to get a PB context.
Mark M., New York
FYI, when dealing with 3 against 2 in any compound time or polyrhythm (6/8, can happen in 3/4, triplets in 4/4, etc.), note that Accompaniment Variation #1 is already exactly this, so you can use it to teach that particular combination.
Original discussion started January 4, 2021