subdivision and foot tap

11Sep08

I often joke that musicians don’t have to count any higher than 4. We have 4/4 time, 3/4 time, 6/8 time (which is just two groups of three) and even more complex examples like 5/4 (which is really 2+3 or 3+2). Never have I encountered a meter were counting to higher than 4 was necessary. Even listening to music from native India, which is typically groups of 3 and 2 alternating.

I found this pretty decent summary of meters and subdivision. It breaks things down pretty well. It also lists example pieces. Not to shabby.

Today, it became evident how difficult learning an instrument can be. I’m working with my kids on the simple duple subdivision in 4/4 time. We require a toe-only foot tap to help with this. So, here is the list of basic skill requirements in the third week of beginning band (and we aren’t even talking concepts):

1. Actively strain and conform facial muscles.
2. Maintain a solid upper-body posture that is contrary to daily activity.
3. Learn to decode music into “nonsense” syllables.
4. Learn to consciously breathe from the abdomen while remaining still.
5. Contract abdomen muscles to help produce a hissing sound.
6. Learn to conserve air over time.
7. Coordinate 1-3, 5 and 6 or 1, 2 and 4-6 alternately at regular intervals.
8. Learn to minimize movement of a newly explored muscle, namely the tongue.
9. Further coordinate.
10. Produce a sound using all the above skills to stay together with other students.
11. Manipulate complex machinery with difficult and unnatural hand postures.
12. Hold 15-20 pounds of metal using mostly your neck.
13. Remain quiet and attentive for an hour while doing this.
14. Oh, yes, and tap your foot at regular intervals to indicate an understanding of subdivision.

No wonder 6th grade band students are crazy or hateful by Christmas.

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