Explaining ratios to parent
Found in: Accompaniment
Ratio question: I’m going to give my most basic explanation for a long-term excellent mum who told me the other day she doesn’t get ratios. I promised I’d get back to her.
“This is an accompaniment BH strategy that ensures the basic time signature for each measure is appropriate. Depending on the expression required in the piece it could be mathematically divided or doubled, e.g. three is divisible by itself and one, as in Scarborough Fair. Last, it also helps give specific instructions to RH and LH so there’s a balance of sound.”
I’d love to hear improvements on this explanation.
Joy O., Alabama
My basic explanation is “together, right” or “together, right, right”. And then I demonstrate.
Mark M., New York
I’d be inclined to give a demonstration. Person A, you’re clapping both hands into your lap. Person B, you’re going to clap your hands. Person B, start clapping, nice and steady. Person A, I want you to clap your lap only every other time Person B claps hands. Okay, so for every two hand claps, there is one lap clap. That’s a 1:2 ratio – one lap clap for every two hand claps. Let’s change now – clap your lap only every three hand claps. Great, that’s a 1:3 ratio – one lap clap for every three hand claps.
So those are different sounding patterns, and different songs will sound good with them. And with our two hands, that’s what we’re doing with accompaniment. The LH does single notes the way Person A was lap clapping. The RH plays chords the way Person B was clapping. Same thing.
Michelle H., Australia
I had to do the ratios fast to hear the differences because I didn’t quite get it either. Also when I’m teaching a class, I find if they are having a problem understanding, it’s either not understanding the word used or what they think the word means. It involves issues around past experience. Maybe math isn’t their strong skill. It wasn’t mine, and when things get technical or math-ish I fall into the “I don’t understand” trap. So anything around math triggers a “not know” or “don’t understand” in their head.
Have you tried having them close their eyes and you tap on their body? Can they piggyback your hands as you tap out the ratios? Can you use a different word instead of ratio – like “the 1:3 kangaroo or frogging” or ask them to choose a word? If you can uncover where the “don’t know” is, you can work from there.
Cate R., Australia
I would simple have referred her back to the initial ratio page and say how many times the left hand plays with the right. Hence, together right, or together right right.
Patti P., Hawaii
Another thought would be to talk about ratios in a piece they already know but in which ratios were not discussed, like Jackson Blues where there is a 4:1 ratio. We didn’t use the term ‘ratio’ there, but that’s all it is.
Liz S., Australia
I would go with demonstrating the different ratios, moving to the rhythm, and talk about how the music feels – moving in 2’s or 3’s.