SOPP487: I am working on the Sight Reading Master Course and I am struggling with the 32nd notes, how do I count them?
Vidas: Hi, guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra
V: Let’s start episode 487, of Secrets Of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Andrei. He wrote:
I am working on the Sight Reading Master Course and I am struggling with the 32nd notes, how do I count them?
V: Very practical question, right, Ausra?
V: What do you do with 32nd notes? Do you count them?
A: It depends of the piece. If I’m learning a piece by a contemporary composer, then yes, if the smallest note values are 32nd, then yes, I subdivide everything in 32nd—until I learn the text.
V: If the music is not familiar and not easily predictable, right?
V: Like Messiaen. You count in smallest note values.
A: That’s right. There is no other way how to do it.
V: But flourishes in the Art of Fugue that my Sight-Reading Master Course is based on, might be well predictable, quite predictable. And I’m thinking whether Andrei has to even count them or not.
A: Well, I think that whole thing is to know math a little bit—to know how many notes are in another note value.
A: For example, you have to realize that in one eighth note, you have two sixteenth notes…
A: Yes? And in one sixteen note you have two 32nd notes.
V: Yeah, it always doubles.
A: So you really need to know how much, how many notes is on that certain beat.
V: I’m not good at math, but this I understand.
A: So, and then you just really need to count. Well, what would you suggest? What would be the best note value to count in this particular example?
V: I wrote to Andrei to try counting in eighth notes.
A: I think that’s a good advice.
V: And if it’s still too many unclear notes, it’s means maybe he’s playing not slow enough.
A: Yeah, that could be a problem.
V: Right? So in one eighth note you have two sixteenth notes and four 32nd notes. Four 32nd notes total in one eighth note. Is it possible to play four notes without counting? I would think so, yes—in one eighth note. But then you have to really take it really slow—maybe twice as slow as you are playing right now.
A: That’s right. I think that wrong tempo might be a problem. Then of course later on when you will master hard parts, you might will play in a faster tempo but not at the beginning. Especially if you are struggling with some rhythmic issues.
A: And what do you think? Have you encountered that sometimes you tell your students that you need to count and they are telling you ‘oh yes, I’m counting’ but they can still not master it and still play incorrectly rhythmically.
V: What I do is I ask them to do aloud, aloud.
A: Yes, I think that’s the best…
V: With their voice.
A: that’s the best way to do it.
V: Because if they do this inside of their head, it might seem that they are counting correctly, in a constant tempo, but you never know.
A: That’s also what I’m doing with my students when they are writing dictations...
A: Musical dictations. Especially in one voice, dictations might be quite hard, so if they cannot grasp it and count it, I’m forcing them to count loud.
V: So let’s say, in Sight-Reading Master Course, there is a tempo of cut time, alla breve, maybe 2/2 or two half-notes per measure, right? But at the concert tempo you should count in half-notes. But when you practice you could subdivide it in anyway you want. So you could treat it as a 4/4 meter easily. One, two, three, four. But to tell you the truth you could subdivide it in eighth notes—one and two and three and, and count it slowly enough. If that’s too fast, you could count in sixteenth notes also by adding one-e-and-uh, two-e-and-uh, three-e-and-uh, four-e-and-uh. But I don’t think you could even add the additional syllable for the 32nd. That would be like specially composed poem for counting. Maybe we should Google, you know, how to count in 32nd, or even create a special poem. Maybe I could get creative with this and produce something. Do you have an idea?
A: Well, I don’t know. I need to think about it. But anyway if you would practice slower and count, I think everything should work out quite well. It all comes with experience.
V: Mmm-hmm. One-e-and-uh; it’s like counting in sixteenth notes. So now if you wanted 32nd notes, you should add one additional syllable between each of the sixteen notes; one-e-and-uh, would become, what would be a better syllable to fit here.
A: Could you do the same, just in a faster tempo? And it would work for 32nd.
V: One-e-and-uh, two-e-and-uh. Yeah, you could. But you could do one-beat-e-beat-and-beat-ah-beat, (laughs) for example.
A: I couldn’t do that. It’s too complicated for me.
V: Or you could do really creative. Instead of beat you add some organ term with one syllable. What is your favorite one-syllable organ related term? Like flute, for example? One-flute-e-flute-and-flute-ah-flute, for example?
A: I don’t think I know many one syllable organ terms.
V: You could twist your tongue and go to the doctor afterwards.
A: Maybe no.
V: Tongue doctor. Is there a doctor like that?
A: I don’t think so. I think your tongue is working pretty well so I don’t think you need to worry about it.
V: Alright guys. Get creative and if you really want to count in 32nd notes or 64th notes or 128th notes—I don’t know, get wild. Alright. This was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: Please send us more of your questions. We love helping you grow. 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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