It's spring time here in Calgary, AB, and with that comes gardening and planting! We decided to mulch in some manure from a local farm to give our soil more nutrition. While we were doing that, we did a lot of digging and exploring in the soil and found lots of worms, bugs, old garbage, big rocks, etc. It always seems to happen that as you dig into something, you learn more about it, right?
I've been diligently working on the Complete Music Training Course for Ballet Teachers (sign up here to be kept up to date on that), and I noticed something interesting as I was digging into the details and exploring how to teach them clearly. There are 3 different varieties of a quick 6/8; each one has it's own quality and speed. 1 of them, unexpectedly, doesn't even belong to the triple meter family! Strange!
The 6/8 march is very similar to a 2/2 (cut-time) march. This is the one 6/8 that is actually part of the duple meter family when it comes to counting it because of a clever musical trick called 'Compound Time'.
Compound Time: You see, typically each beat is divisible by 2. In the case of compound time, each beat is divided into 3 even thirds! If you take a moment to march around a room and clap 3 even claps for each march step, you're demonstrating compound time! 3 claps in 1 step, or, 3 eighth notes in one quarter note, as in the case of the 6/8 march!
Have a listen to this march (Washington Post March) and see if you can hear the stable duple meter structure (1 2, 1 2, 1 2, 1 2, etc) with the 3 quick eighth notes on each beat! Because of this duple (2) meter structure, the feeling of the 6/8 march should be more vertical (up and down) rather than circular.
This 6/8 is probably the most familiar to you. It is likely one of the first styles of music that you ever danced to, as a child! Again, it's 2 groupings of 3 eighth notes, BUT, instead of feeling vertical, this music feels like circular.
If you were holding a pencil in the air in front of you and listening to one of these, the shape that would feel most natural would not be up and down, but circles, hitting the bottom of the circle on the dancer counts! Have a listen here! This circular feeling is due to the fact that it should be counted like a fast triple meter, not like a march.
You'll also notice, if you think about it, that most of these 6/8s are in major keys and will lead the listener/dancer to feel happy! This is a common theme in most 'normal' 6/8s except for the..
That's right, a tarantella is another 6/8, BUT, it is primarily composed in minor keys which lends an aggressive feel to it. Also, unlike the other two 6/8s, this music is VERY FAST! If you're considering using one, be super cautious that you don't allow your choreography to slow it down because you will lose it's 'essence', for lack of a better term.
Counting wise, the tarantella is another fast triple meter! It's so fast, that you'll likely skip actually saying some of the rhythm. 1_a2_a,3_a4_a,5_a etc.
As you explore using these different 6/8s, always remember that they require your dancers to be DOWN on the count. They each have their own moments of lift, but you must always choreograph with the fact in mind that your dancers need to be touching the floor on the count!
So, march, glissade/assemble, spring point, whatever you decide to create using these quick 6/8s, AND, if your students are not moving to the music, musically, consider grabbing my Rhythms and Beats for Ballet: 6/8 package for $19.99 USD.
It's incredibly fun and engaging for students ages 4-12 and includes fun resources like word searches, crosswords, videos, and colour pages that all support the theme of the package: the quick 6/8. Check it out here if you're interested in learning more and reading reviews from other teacher's experiences with it.
Sign up here to nab your free 3 page PDF guide for ballet teachers who want to be more prepared and capable when it comes to working with a pianist!
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