Delving the Mysteries of Six Eight Time

May 17, 2010

Until reaching May Time, the second piece in the Suzuki volume 2, all of the pieces I've played so far have had one of three time signatures: 2/4, 3/4, or 4/4.

4/4 is the easiest for me to play. I just get it. BUM-bum-bum-bum BUM-bum-bum-bum. It works. 2/4 work as well as it is just 4/4 time with an accent on the 3rd beat: Bum-bum Bum-bum. 3/4 time used to throw me for a loop when I was toying around with learning piano. I know it's a waltz, I can visualize the waltz in my head, but sticking to that rhythm didn't make sense. Learning to play a bowed instrument only added complexity to this rhythm, but I've finally "gotten" it. Bum-bum-bum, Bum-bum-bum, 1-2-3, 1-2-3.

The tail end of volume 1 and the start of volume 2 of Suzuki is littered with Minuets, so I've been getting lots of 3/4 time practice. May Time introduces 6/8 time, which is not just 3/4 times 2.

I've been using words with one or two syllables to learn rhythmic patterns. Cats and kitties, and big fat cats have helped me to learn half, quarter, and dotted half notes in all the time signatures I've had thus far. Unfortunately they don't work for 6/8 time. You just have to count: 1-2-3-4-5-6, 1-2-3-4-5-6. Or 1-2-3-1-2-3, 1-2-3. Fortunately I've had enough practice breaking down new pieces into small parts to be able to sort out the rhythm of May Time relatively quickly.

I still need to work on the overall smoothness and sound of the piece, there are some string-change slurs that never quite sound right to me that I need to work on.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.