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Welcome to Renate's Baton. This blog is mostly for and about my choir, The York Region Community Choir.

But, While I'm holding the baton, I'm in charge. So, if I want to talk about other parts of my life, I will. :)

The choir itself is a community and I'm discovering that we have a lot in common with one another besides our love of music and singing.

When I go off on a tangent, there is always a crowd coming along. Join us!

Friday, October 12, 2012

And-a-one, and-a-two: Counting and swing

Ok, if you're old enough, you might remember Lawrence Welk counting in his orchestra with his trademark "An'-a one, an'- a two" (which was actually often "one an' two an'").

Lots of the music he performed was dance music, and quite a bit of it was swing. When music "swings" the beats are not as even as usual.

Let's look at regular "straight" time first.

Most of our music is in 4/4 time. So, there can be four quarter notes in a bar, and we count 1  2  3  4.
If we have all eighth notes, then it's 1+2+3+4+.
Sixteenths: 1e+a2e+a3e+a4e+a.
It all divides up evenly so that each bar takes the same amount of time and beat 1 is always in the same place. So, I can conduct all of those buy simply giving you the four quarter note beats.

3/4 time sounds different. Let There Be Peace on Earth is in 3/4.
It sounds like a waltz. 1 2 3 1 2 3.
We also have 1+2+3+,
and 1e+a2e+a3e+a.
It's more dance-like but still straight. Our new song, In Our Town in December also has that waltzy feel.

Sometimes you get a bit of that 123 feel in a song, like in Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves.
We sing "Sing the so-o-ng o-f my own na-a-tive land" with triplets.
Triplets are written joined together with a number 3 above them (sometimes there's a bar above or a curved line above). 3 notes take the time for 2.
The counting for that phrase is: 4 a 1+a 2+a 3  4+a1.

Here, we're saying 1+a2+a, but it doesn't sound like Lawrence Welk. What's up with that?

Sometimes people will say that swing is like triplets, but it's not. We can try to write it in straight notation, but  it doesn't quite capture it.

Look at Hymn to Freedom. It's in 4/4 but at the top, it says 'Gospel Style' and then you see this:


It's not exactly like that- that would be bouncier than a swing or gospel swing. The idea is to make you aware that the music moves differently. Swing has a cool, jazzy feel.  When you see that Oscar Peterson wrote Hymn to Freedom, you can start to imagine how he'd play it. The counting is the same as for eighths so you say 1+2+3+4+, but it swings :) That's not easy to describe. You need to feel it. And to feel the sixteenths, you add the a. 1+a2+a --Like Lawrence Welk

Blue Skies swings. When we sing it, we don't even think about it. It's jazzy and we swing it. Don't worry about it too much.

For more on counting, go to my previous blog post on counting. And this cool video post.


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