Rhythm is arguably the most important component of music. It should stand to reason, then, that we should aspire to master rhythm before all else. As a classical guitarist, you are often left alone in your practice with little more than the metronome to keep you “honest” with your rhythm, so it can be very easy to develop a sloppy sense of rhythm.
At the CGC Summer School, all of the participants were thrust into ensemble settings, which immediately revealed how varied everyone’s rhythmic sense can be. So, in order to help the CGC community develop a better sense of rhythm, and the ability to read rhythms with ease, I will be developing rhythmic materials for the members.
Before I start, however, I would like to offer the general readership of Classical Guitar Corner a free 15 minute workshop on 6/8 rhythms. This will be useful for everybody, as I firmly believe that we can all benefit from solidifying our rhythmic skills.
Please find the free download and instructions below:
- This set of drills and exercises should take you no longer than 15 minutes. I would recommend including everyday in your practice session for a week with the goal of becoming very familiar with the different rhythms, and very accurate with the execution of each one. Apart from improving your rhythm it will also help with sight reading.
- There are 8 Rhythm Drills and 9 Mixed Rhythm Exercises. Drills are marked with numbers and exercises have “Ex.1” at the beginning of the line.
- The rhythm drills are intended to be looped for 60 seconds each.
- Before your play the drill on the guitar (all are on the open 2nd string) sound out the rhythms using the sounds written below the staff. These sounds are from the Kodaly method.
- The rhythms are accompanied by smaller subdivisions that help keep your rhythm accurate. The subdivisions have accents marked that will help you identify where the rhythm fits in.
- The 9 Mixed Rhythm Exercises combine the rhythms we have already worked on. Before you play them on the guitar say/sing the Kodaly sounds in the correct rhythm. I have not provided the sounds, nor have I provided a key for these sounds. This is intentional and forces you to reference the drills above, helping comprehension and retention. You can play each exercise up to three times, but then move on.
- Set your metronome at 38 MM. Each tick of the metronome equals a dotted quarter note.
A bit more information for those who are interested:
The six/eight time signature
The 6/8 time signature is a compound time signature. This means that each beat is divided into three parts rather than two. There are two main beats each divided into three parts.
We count this as : “one – two – three – four – five – six”
Each of these counts is an eighth note, that is why it is called the “six eight” time signature. There are six eighth notes. The one and four are in bold above as they land on the beat and have more weight that the other divisions.
The Kodaly Rhythmic Sounds
It is very useful to verbalize rhythms before playing them on an instrument. This is because we are taking away the technical challenges of playing an instrument and just focusing on the correct rhythm.
There are many different ways to verbalize rhythm, one popular way is to use common words like “cat-ter-pil-lar” or “ap-ple”. It can be quite fun, especially for kids (or even just those young at heart) to find words that match rhythms, and it is a great way to learn. I have chosen to use the Kodaly method for rhythmic vocalizations on this site because I believe they are very well selected, and the fact that they can be transferred to any rhythm in any time signature makes them appealing. As many of you know, I like structured learning, so this work very well in the CGC context.