Friday, July 07, 2023

Tri pa let

Related to my late forays into different systems of counting: in an online conversation, someone asked about counting 16th notes within an 8th note triplet, specifically a triplet-rate hemiola: 

Generally, people count 8th note triplets:

1-&-a 2-&-a - or - 1-trip-let 2-trip-let

A natural way to count the rhythm above would be to add a syllable to either of those ways—a, la and ta are common. I would most likely say:

1 an-a-da 2 an-a-da 

One could also say: 

1 tri-pa-let 2 tri-pa-let

Which is offensive for a couple of reasons:

First, a lot of people already wrongly count triplets tri-pa-let tri-pa-let, with the tri falling on the beat. So this could result in further confusion. 

Second, and worse, there's no pa syllable in the word triplet— we're violating the structure of the word! And it sounds extra-dumb. 

But people already chop up the word all the time when they have to count triplet partials, using a lot of isolated lets and trips:

I don't hear anyone complaining about
this... except me, because I hate it.

I didn't ask anyone to bring the word TRIPLET into it, whose morphological integrity I am now obligated to preserve, even if it hinders our ability to COUNT RHYTHMS— the alleged point of all of this. A system that is only good for one thing is not a system, it's a device

So the heck with it. When you see 16th notes within an 8th note triplet, and you refuse to give up the 1 trip let way of counting, you can add the syllables, as needed: 

1-da-tri-pa-le-ta 2-da-tri-pa-le-ta

We're essentially Italianizing the word, breaking up the consonant clusters with extra vowel sounds. It's the language of music for a reason.  

This even works pretty well as you get into more broken rhythms— if you say these out loud, you'll notice how the trip let syllables are ghosted even in the more remote rhythms:  

But those are pretty uncommon. It's fairly unusual to see it notated— most likely in drum set books, where the natural context is generally 4/4. The last pages of Dahlgren & Fine, for example. In snare drum books those types of rhythms are generally written in compound meters. Usually we just see the first or second partial, or first two or last two partials doubled to make 16ths. You can just touch the extra syllables and it's easy.  

Finally, let's be clear: nobody counts this way. But nobody did every other thing in drumming, until somebody started doing it. It's a natural extension of something widely done, that works well if you don't get too hung up on this imported restriction of maintaining word structure, which has nothing to do with the needs for counting rhythms.

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