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Counting 8ths
Medicine for the 4x4 Fixation?
Dr. Charles Heiden - 2010

The problem. How should an elementary student count? Our best string class methods "square off" in a fashion that encourages 4x4 fixation. "The beat equals the pulse of music" we are told. "A quarter note equals one beat of sound." "4/4 means four beats per measure, and a quarter note gets one beat." "Each eighth note equals one-half of a beat." Already "one-half of a beat" is a problem – the clap of one hand? – but the 4x4 fixation creates a formidable stumbling-block when the student reaches the dotted-quarter note: one-and-a-half beats?

An 1875 solution. In his Op. 38 "Easiest Method for Violin," Franz Wohlfahrt had an elegant idea about this pedagogical problem. From 4/4, go to 3/4 where the dotted-half is easy: 3 counts! Then extend triple meter to 3/8 where the dotted-quarter becomes 3 counts. Next move to 6/8 where the dotted quarter is still 3 counts, but the dotted-half is counting 3 two times. Never mind the abstract complexity of "Compound Meter" with its "Duple" and "Triple" sub-classes – the student has already played the basic concept!

A 2009 extension. Wohlfahrt’s elegant procedure is retained and extended in my "Revised" version of Op. 38 by adding two items: 1) "Cheerleader" counting in 8ths, and 2) An application of this in an exquisite 1597 bicinium [two-voiced composition], without bar-lines, by Giovanni Paolo Cima. To understand the "cheerleader" method, count the familiar tune of "Away in a Manger" in 8ths, as follows:

12- 123 -1-12-123-1 -  12-12 - 12-12-1234
A -   way  in   a   man-ger   no  crib  for   a    bed

(Shout and clap the large, bold 1’s, mumble the other counts, but always in a staccato delivery.)

Here’s how this looks on pp. 30 – 32 of my revised Wohlfahrt Op. 38.

Sample p.30, 3/4      Sample p.31, 3/8 to 6/8      

Sample p.32, unbarred bicinium & cheerleader counting


To order your copy of Dr. Heiden's Revising Wohlfahrt's  Op38 For Today"s D-major Beginners:

    Heiden’s revision, Book 1 of Wohlfahrt’s Op. 38... $19.95    

    Heiden’s revision, Book 2 of Wohlfahrt’s Op. 38... $19.95      

For further information, click here to see the full catalog drescription.



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