Dalcroze · Practice

Changing Beat

Here we play with beats of 2, 3 and 4 divisions. I start with 3, which I am playing with a swing feel on the recording. At “hip” I take a way a division (e.g. 3 divisions becomes 2), at “hop” I add one (e.g. 3 divisions becomes 4). I am playing in a measure of 2 or a duple meter. “Return” signals a change back to 3. It could be notated in 6/8 with a dotted quarter beat for “3”; 2/4 with a quarter note beat for “2”, and 2/2 with a half note beat (and eight note subdivision) for “4”. The eighth note is kept at a constant tempo–or at least that is my intention! This is known as a “reaction” game or activity in Dalcroze parlance. In this case the signal is verbal (they can also be visual, musical or tactile).

Try bouncing and catching a ball on the beat. Bounce from one hand and catch to the other, alternating hands each time. It becomes a short study in the relationship between time, space and energy.

It is common practice in jazz to move between 2’s, 3’s, 4’s and more in jazz, however most often the beat stays constant (rather than the division or subdivision). I do remember Wynton Marsalis experimenting with this device on a couple early albums from the 1980’s, however. I’ll see if I can find it and update this post if I do.

Or… maybe you have an example in any genre of music you’d like to share?

Dalcroze · Practice

Expanding and Contracting Beats in Duple Meter

In a measure of two beats, the length of beat can change from as low as two divisions (e.g. two eighths with a quarter note beat) to 6 divisions (e.g. 6 eighths with a dotted half note beat). I call the number of divisions right before each change. You could:

  • Simply step, gesture or conduct the beat (always in groups of 2; only the length of the beat changes).
  • Step the beat, gesture or silently clap the divisions. Also the reverse.
  • Step the division on 1 and the length of the whole beat on 2.
  • Toss a scarf (if not a scarf, it will need an object with some sort of air resistance unless you are outside or have very tall ceilings!) on the first beat, catch it on the second.
  • Same as above but also step the division on 1 and the full length of the beat on 2.

Plenty more ways you could get creative with this.

We’ll work with this activity (among others) in the Open Class Wednesday morning, October 6, 2020. This is a free Open Level Drop-in Dalcroze class I’m offering online during October and November. Send me your info through the contact form and I’ll put you on the list.