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Rhythm & Singing

Fascinating thread on 'rhythm', or rather perception and discrimination in
the subdivision of the 'beat'. Thanks for the references.

A related (?) real-world application at a higher level is that found by
ear-trainging (aural perception) instructors. Some 15 - 20% of our
'liberal-arts-style' music school students seem to have as a central
problem, 'keeping the beat'.

This is not to be confused with 'sub-dividing', but is rather the
(unknowing?) introduction of pauses when certain kinds of difficulties are
encountered. The corollary of 'jumping ahead', is also found when there
are (very) long notes.

Such that a pattern (compound duple) of six: (view in a monospace font)

                                     1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 +
is performed (or counted) as, (eg)
                                     1 + 2 +   3 + 4 + 5  +  6 +

With very long notes the 'jumping ahead' example looks like (eg)
       1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 +
       1 + 2 + 3 + 4 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 +

In my experience teaching sight-reading (which includes rhythm alone as
well as sight-singing melody), a large number of this 10 - 15% profess
successful (semi-)professional activities as singers.

There seem to be a number of circumstances which make this apparent
contradiction possible:

(1) they sing alone, accompanying themself on guitar (or piano);
    sometimes with a bass or guitar, who 'goes with the flow'

(2) they sing as soloist with choirs (where a strong metric basis is
    provided), and the choirs' level of performance may be significantly
    below that of the soloist (big fish / small pond)

(3) they perform in musics in which rhythmic liberty is a positive aspect
    of creativity (some jazz stylings, 'free' blues and gospel)

(4) they work in areas where the music is extensively rehearsed and the
    metric problems are solved by rote/memory performance

(5) they sing only highly language specific material (only baroque,
    classical period, light rock, folk etc), and they have absorbed
    enough of the language-specific metric elements that they do not have
    to 'count', and are habituated to metric and rhythmic parameters

(6) and a few more related to the above

In my own listening, I am well aware of my ability to 'stop time' (and
loop) in my head to listen to one chord and do an aural analysis (pitch /
orchestration etc), and also the ability to 'fast-forward' through a
piece or section to check some feature or other.

These skills are essential to doing musical dictation, where the music
often needs to be 'stopped' (in the inner-ear -- no not _that_ one,
sorry), to determine some particular feature, or listened to (internally)
at high speed to check for errors.

Any references or comments would be most welcomed.


Kevin Austin

(Currently teaching basic ear-training and writing an integrated method.)


      Assoc Professor K Austin
      Department of Music / Departement de musique
      universite Concordia University
      7141, rue Sherbrooke o
      Montreal, QC  H4B 1R6


tel: (1) 514 - 848 - 4709
FAX: (1) 514 - 848 - 2808

Vous pouvez ecrire en francais ou en anglais.

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know enough to leave the trees.