We got rhythm

In the last blog post Getting Pitchy, we looked at a process for finding pitch material in a group setting. Let’s say that in the course of that process, it became clear the group loves beat-based music. We’ve got 40 minutes left in class, and we need to get to a group composition by the end of the hour. What to do…

Let’s jump straight into a rhythm game based on different lengths of loops:

  1. By section, ask participants to count loops of different beat lengths out loud
    1. Brass count 1-2-3-1-2-3 etc.
    2. Woodwinds count 1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4 etc.
    3. Piano, guitar and percussion count 1-2-3-4-5-1-2-3-4-5 etc.
  2. Layer the loops, practicing all combinations of two loops, as well as all three loops at once. This gets trippy – listen to the loops phase and do the math to understand when the downbeats line up.
  3. Layer loops, this time asking participants to clap on beat one and count in their heads.
  4. Using the pitch material decided on as a group (see Getting Pitchy), ask sections to compose and practice a loop on their instrument that is the same number of beats they just practiced counting.

    Loops from Culture in Schools workshop, L’École secondaire Val-Mauricie, Shawinigan Qc

Tip: initial loops frequently come out in quarter notes. While sections are rehearsing, I give tips for finding rhythmic variations as needed.

  1. Layer the loops on top of each other as in #2.

In this 20-30 minute sequence, the group came up with music that has coherent pitch material, beat, and rhythmic process. By asking the group to work in sections, we built in a bit of orchestration. In the remaining time we have in our 1-hour class, there are a number of directions this collective composition can take. More next time!

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