Arthur Hull always says “If you can say it, then you can play it.” It makes perfect sense. If you can say the rhythm with your voice, or if you can move the rhythm with your body, then you have embodied the rhythm.

None of my nuclear family members would admit that they are musicians. However, I started saying rhythms out loud as a young girl, thanks to my dad. When I was in 5th grade, my older brother Geoff went to fight in the Persian Gulf War. When he returned, my dad, my little brother and I had prepared a Welcome Home Beat Box Piece just for Geoff. Some of our influences included The Fat Boys (the Human Beat Box and Wipeout feat. the Beach Boys), Dogs Barking Jingle Bells, and chickens singing In The Mood. But we really wanted this original beat box piece to be just for Geoff. We rehearsed a lot, and it paid off because Geoff was in tears when he heard our live performance.

Our performance for Geoff sounded like this: Boom-che-Boom, BoomBoom-che-Boom, Boom-che-Boom-Boom-che, BoomBoom-che-Boom.

I recommend “liking” on Facebook by Shannon Ratigan. You get a new rhythm to say every week! I’m taking these to my two drum classes today for my students to say out loud. Some of my favorites include:

♫ Boom, sha-La-Ka-Boom-Boom (pause) Boom, sha-La-Ka-Boom-Boom ♫

Drum circle rhythm WaaHida in 4/4: 1+2+3+4+ ♫♫ Doum-tekkatekkaTek-tekkatekkaTek-ka-, Doum-tekkatekkaTek-tekkatekkaTek-ka-, ♫♫

♫♫ Boom – che-boom_che-boom-a-choc_o_late__choc_o_late, (dramatic pause) Boom – che-boom_che-boom-a-choc_o_late__choc_o_late ♫♫♫

Word association is a great way to get a 6/8 drum circle rhythm going. ♫♫♫ Fol-low-the-yel-low-brick-road-go-do-pa-ta-pa ♫♫♫

Special thanks to Shannon for sharing his rhythmic talents online!

There are examples of saying it and playing it in classical and jazz music. Because I am a classically-trained pianist, I’m especially moved by piano music. Here are some world-famous pianist examples of “saying it and playing it:”

*Classical example. Glenn Gould plays Goldberg Variations. Listen closely to #3. What’s that buzzing in the background? No, that’s not your home heater creaking or birds chirping outside your window. That is Glenn Gould himself. He was often criticized for his vocalizations during recordings, but somehow he managed to become one of the most famous and highest-acclaimed interpreters of keyboard music by J.S. Bach.

*Jazz example. Keith Jarrett plays the Paris Concert. Listen closely to the Blues excerpt. The recording engineers actually do a stellar job of covering up the voice, but, oh, it’s there. When I saw Keith Jarret play live in Philadelphia five years ago, he might as well have had a body double humming along up at the vocal mic.

What’s the last rhythm you said out loud? Share your ideas and comments below.

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