AVA216: How to master the rhythm of 3 against 2s in the In Dulci Jubilo, BWV 608?
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start Episode 216 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast.
And this question was sent by Denham and he writes:
Please can you do a masterclass on the In Dulci Jubilo in the same Orgelbuchlein Book. BWV 608.
How to master the rhythm of 3 against 2s. It is so difficult.
Thank you Vidas!
V: Do you remember this piece (here is slow motion video), where it’s a canon between the chorale parts, I think, the soprano part and the pedal part, but then hands are playing interchangeably duplets and triplets. Remember, George Ritchie talked about that.
V: In our early music performance class that’s one of the more difficult things to learn, I think, right?
A: Yes, especially for the beginners.
V: So. But, actually, it’s not very, very complicated when you think about it. It’s not like three against four.
A: Oh, that’s true. Three against four is much harder. Or you know, if you think three against two is hard, pick up the big cycle of organ music by Petr Eben called “Laudes,” and you will find rhythmic figures that would curl your tail!
V: Mhm, interesting. You see, “In Dulci Jubilo” is written in A major, and in original notation, it has 3/2 meter, and, against a half note, there are triplets of eighth notes. But of course, in the modernized version it’s a little bit different because we need, then, to have probably a different type of notation, right?
A: Mhm, yes.
V: We need probably to have something like quarter notes against dotted half notes or eighth notes against dotted quarter notes. Right?
A: That’s true, but it’s again the same problem: three against two.
A: But, you know, I think for people for whom it’s so hard to play triplets, vs. duplets, it’s probably because they don’t have a well enough developed hand independence. Don’t you think so?
V: Yes, of course you’re right. And this can be achieved by playing and counting those parts separately, right? I’m not sure if Denham does this, playing parts separately. But in this piece, there are actually four parts in this canon between the soprano and the bass. And the bass, of course, has to be played, probably, with the 4’ stop, which will sound an octave higher. And you see sometimes, like in measure 3, there are three groups of triplets in the tenor voice, and six notes in the alto playing duplets. That’s what’s the most difficult, is to play alto against tenor---inner voices, right? And sometimes they switch, three against two, or two against three.
A: Yes, but you know, first of all you would need to work in combination. Sometimes it sounds boring, I know, and probably our listeners are getting bored of my advice of working in combinations, but this is really what will help in a piece like this, because if you would, let’s say, play only right hand and pedal, first, and then left hand and pedal first, and after a while you would be really comfortable with it, only after long with those combinations, you can try to play that third measure.
V: Or the fourth measure when they switch.
A: Or the fourth measure. Yes.
A: But anyway, you know, if after working in combinations for let’s say two weeks, you still have struggling playing duplets against triplets, then maybe you just need to do simple exercise, not playing, but trying to…
A: ...clap them, but yes, not with both hands, but… let’s say...
A: Yes, tapping. Imagine that you play on your hip...
A: ...one left and right. I don’t know… do the duplets with your left hand, and triplets with your right hand. Do them separately and then put everything together. And then you will be comfortable with your left hand clapping duplets and your right hand clapping triplets, then just switch...
A: ...and do triplets with your left hand, and duplets with your right hand.
V: Hm. That’s possible. And the way to learn this is actually very simple. You can imagine, those two voices. When they are mixed they form a rhythm in em… let’s say 9/8 meter. Instead of playing with both hands, you can play with one hand. <claps the rhythm x_xxx_x_xxx> this way. And when you need both hands, it’s the same thing. So basically, I’m tapping on my computers for you to hear better. <taps out the rhythm x_xxx_x_xxx_x_xxx_>. Right? I can switch, too <taps out the rhythm again x_xxx_x_xxx_x_xxx..>. So basically, you have to fit the quarter note---the duplet---in the middle between the second and the third of the triplets. Right Ausra?
A: That’s true, yes.
V: Mhm, and you do that by playing separately, or tapping separately, first.
A: Yes, but, you know, this is the struggle that each beginner has to overcome. It seems so hard as a beginner. But after a while, you know, after ten years, you will be just laughing about things like this.
A: Because by that time you will encounter much, much, much, more difficult rhythmic problems in organ music.
V: And of course, in Bach, this is more complex stuff. He was one of the pioneers of course to do this---two against three---and it was quite unusual. And that’s why he used an old rhythmical version writing in 3/2 meter but writing triplets basically in eighth notes.
A: Yes, but if you would think about, like, later composers, let’s say, I remember playing Céasar Franck, and in his C major Fantaisie, he used fourths against triplets.
A: So four against three, and it was hard for me, because I was also maybe like on my second or third year of organ playing at that time. So, but then think about Messiaen, how complex his rhythms are. There, you have to subdivide in 32nds maybe, you know, in order to get the rhythm right. Or you know, like I mentioned Petr Eben before that. So…
V: I’m just looking at the Google Brahms piano exercises. If you want more advanced exercises, especially for more advanced rhythmical figures, try to study 51 exercises by Brahms. That’s an amazing place. And, even the firs exercises is just absolutely impossible to play right away. You have to spend some time with it. Maybe a few days to get it. Even the first exercise. So, Brahms was a champion to do this, because in the Romantic era, they had all kinds of rhythmical variations, right? So you will also need to do this.
So, we hope this was useful to you. And study Brahms and other things, too. And remember to send more of your questions. We love helping you grow. This was Vidas!
A: And Ausra.
V: And remember, when you practice,
A: Miracles happen.
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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