Rhythm/Basic Materials/Footsies/Preface

A Guide to Musical Phrasing

We will be using popular/folkloric Melodies to study the different levels of Rhythm because these melodies are impeccably structured, allowing easy identification of each level.

The concept of different rhythmic levels is not the easiest thing to digest.
All the technical explanations are placed in the section below.
It is preferable to come back to them later
once one has the feeling of what these levels are about.

Footsies - How to feel the rhythm of a melody
While we sing a melody, it is important to establish points of reference in the body,
          preferably in the feet,
     to clearly establish the rhythm in both its dimensions :
          the Quantitative Dimension of note values
               by counting the number of times the feet strike
                    while they are beating at the smallest level, and
          the Qualitative Dimension of Beat and Off-Beat
               by noticing which foot strikes where.

We should stand in a relatively unencumbered place
and sway from one foot to the other.
The left foot will be reserved for the Off-beats
and the right for the Beats

Keep the feet going:
At every level, the feet must beat perfectly regularly, like a metronome.
Do not follow the melody and stop the continuous measuring activity of the feet when there is a longer note.
     Just keep going.

This is where it starts !

Those on a guided Tour should click on next in the Navigation Bar below.

Those browsing should not be discouraged by all the technical jargon below.
Grab what you can and come back to it later,
after a few sessions of what we call "Footsies".

The Structures of Rhythm

The nature of Rhythm is essentially one of groupings and subdivisions.

Basically Binary
In the Basic Materials of Rhythm, all groupings and subdivisions are binary (by two). Ternary groupings and subdivisions (by three) are the beginning of irregularity and require a procedure of transformation.

At all levels of notes values,
     from the smallest, that of the shortest note of a melody,
     to the largest, that of half the length of the melody,
there will be a regular alternating of Beats and Off-beats.

The simplest definition of Beat and Off-beat seems to involve subdivision.
     Any note value divides into two equal smaller note-values,
          the first On-the-Beat and the second Off-the-Beat.
This concept of Beat/Off-beat is familiar to all of us at the smaller levels,
     but almost totally unknown, or at least unappreciated, at the larger levels.

The Quantitative Dimension of Rhythm measures the length of the note values.
     (This is most easily done at the smallest level.)
The Qualitative Dimension of Rhythm measures the degree of Beat and Off-Beat.
     (This will be useful at all levels.)
No two notes of a melody will have exactly the same quality of Beat/Off-Beat,
     exactly the same sensation of rest/movement.

End On A Beat
All levels of these songs will end on a Beat.
     They may however start either on a Beat or an Off-Beat.
     The only way to be sure of the beginning is to check the end.

Growth Of The Pick-up
The pick-up (technically called the anacrusis) gets progressively longer as the levels get larger.
The conventional definition of the pick-up (the notes preceding the first barline)
     gives a static definition, limited to one specific level.
Following the growth of the pick-up at all levels is a completely different ballgame.
1. At the smallest level, there is no pick-up. Ever.
2. Each level starting on the Left Foot (Off-Beat) will produce a pick-up at the next larger level
     (composed of the notes of the first Off-Beat).
     These pick-ups will pile up on each other so that -
3. At the largest level, the accumulated pick-up will be almost half the length of the whole piece. Always.
Pick-ups are placed with respect to the feet,
     not to any barlines, which are visual and not part of this work.

A word of precaution concerning the last note
When we are establishing the different levels,
          and we say that every level ends on the Right foot (Beat),
     we mean the very beginning, the impact of the last note.
When we are establishing the length of a note,
          and we say that there were so many beats on the last note,
     we mean the complete last note, with all its beats (Right-Left-Right-Left...)
          (only the first Beat, on the impact, will be written bold).

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