Vocalization of Rhythms
Neil Moore, California
In response to the following question:
“I am finding that my students have a knowledge of singles, doubles and quads in their traditional form of Ta, Te-te and tigger-tigger (or any variation of these). The schools seem to teach this in their music classes. I have built on this, and asked the students what they are most comfortable saying, and we have continued to use the traditional vocalizations, so as not to confuse them. Is this a workable strategy or should I avoid the classical wording for now?”
I deliberately don’t use traditional vocalizations (ta, te-te and tigger-tigger – or the other variations of these), because of where we are heading. As we move into more advanced reading, including very advanced pieces, we return to working with students to recognize the various ways in which the relationship between singles, doubles and quads exists. E.g. 8ths, 16ths and 32nds – 16ths, 32nds and 64ths – half, quarters, eighths etc.
When we work on more complex rhythmic divisions, as well as work on complex 16th note variations, I want students to have a mechanism whereby they can look at complex use of 16th notes (including rests and ties), and identify and focus on any individual rhythmical event that is occurring. Very often complex rhythms are most easily learned when the rhythm is turned off and each event is processed individually in a numeric context.
In other words, each and every 16th note, as part of a group of 16th notes, is totally identifiable when seen and spoken as rhythmic events (1, 2, 3, 4). Wonderfully, this relationship is preserved when working with 16ths, 32nds, and 64ths by merely seeing the 16th as a single, the 32nd as a double and the 64th as a quad.
However, the relationship of these same events is lost when analyzed as traditional vocalizations because “tigger-tigger” does not give access to each individual event. If I say ‘tigg’, which ‘tigg’ am I talking about? Even in a the most basic dotted eighth note combination, ‘1 and 4’ clearly and instantly identifies the events being used, and with total accuracy. Not so with ‘tigg and er’. In the case of the dotted eight combination, does ‘tigg and er’ relate to the 1st and 2nd events, the 3rd and 4th, or the 1st and 4th?
Sometimes, complex passages are far more easily learned when, note by note, they are put under the microscope and seen as micro-events, and then each note understood in its appropriate ‘event context’.
There is a lot more that can be said (and shown) about this, but I hope this begins to give you a sense of where I’m coming from.