Long and Short Beats: A Natural Approach to Odd Meters

 Is there a method that can help musicians instantly count, feel and perform odd meters without feeling stiff and mechanical and the music sounding like an exercise or a meaningless intellectual effort? Yes!

Odd meters can be approached naturally and effortlessly and turned into a fun musical experience through a very simple method that I call Long and Short Beats. The method can help musicians approach all types of odd meters naturally, both while listening and performing them.

Long and Short Beats is a structured lecture/workshop that uses the method of long and short beats to give musicians the practical tools to understand odd meters and develop the skills to use them in improvisation and composition. In a nutshell, the training is “odd meters made easy”. It is useful for musicians playing any instrument and for vocalists, composers and arrangers working in any music genre.

In this workshop you will learn how to:

1. Recognize, understand and assimilate any odd meter structure with ease by using the natural approach of dissecting everything into long and short beats.

2. Quickly become proficient in performing any odd meter through this natural approach, which will allow you to comprehend the rhythms and meters on a physical and emotional level, as well as intellectually.

3. Build a rhythmic and phrasing vocabulary in all odd meters by using the long and short beat concept.

4. Freely improvise and compose using any odd meter.

Why is understanding odd rhythms important?

Much of today’s instrumental and improvised music has developed to utilize odd time signatures. Comprehending and developing the skills to use them in improvisation and composition is becoming increasingly necessary for every musician who works in the field of jazz and other improvised music. However, to many people who have not grown up in cultures where odd rhythms are an integral part of folklore music, the concept of naturally feeling and understanding odd meters and phrases is somewhat foreign and unusual.

More about the method

Long and Short Beats is a way of thinking about rhythm and meter in small segments, or rhythmic cells consisting of binary(short) and ternary(long) groups of pulses, strokes, or beats.

This approach greatly simplifies the process of counting and calculating more complex irregular rhythms and meters, which in turn makes them much more understandable. The concept is very simple, yet powerful – everything concerning odd rhythms can actually be boiled down to long and short beats, or 2s and 3s.

When one thinks of odd meters in terms of small rhythmic cells, they are no longer a secret, mind boggling intellectual effort. They can thus become part of the intuitive musicality of any musician anywhere in the world.

The idea for the method comes from the way people in cultures with odd meter structures in their traditional folk music (like most Balkan, some Middle-Eastern and North-African countries) sing and dance to odd meter music just by feeling and without thinking or having any music training in order to be able to do it.

Bulgarian traditional and contemporary folk music uses a great amount of odd time rhythms. Improvising in them is part of every musician’s vocabulary, no matter their instrument or style. Moreover, since much of odd meter music accompanies dances, Bulgarian people are used to odd rhythms and can even dance, sing along or play them without realizing what they look like in musical notation.

Probably the most natural way to learn odd rhythms is by connecting them with dance steps and ready melodies that exist in the vast repertoire of folk music.

Why is understanding odd rhythms important?

Much of today’s instrumental and improvised music has developed to utilize odd time signatures. Comprehending and developing the skills to use them in improvisation and composition is becoming increasingly necessary for every musician who works in the field of jazz and other improvised music. However, to many people who have not grown up in cultures where odd rhythms are an integral part of folklore music, the concept of naturally feeling and understanding odd meters and phrases is somewhat foreign and unusual.

Bulgarian Rhythms:

An expanded version of the workshop includes a more elaborate look at the essence history and development of Bulgarian folk meters and rhythms and how they can be used in any music style on drums and percussion and any other musical instrument, as well as when composing and arranging.

Workshop topics include:

The natural way of feeling and counting Bulgarian rhythms; comparing Bulgarian rhythms to western odd rhythms; how to find a common system of comprehending odd rhythms by using the Bulgarian way.

For drummers and percussionists:

1. How to understand and play Bulgarian folk rhythms.

2. How to a achieve an authentic feel in odd meters by using techniques and orchestration concepts used by traditional Bulgarian drummers.

3. How to include Bulgarian rhythms in any drumming vocabulary and transform rhythms from any rhythmic tradition into a Bulgarian meter (or any odd meter).

4. How to make beats, percussion parts and fills in odd meters based on Bulgarian meters inany style

5. How to freely phrase and play musically interesting solos.

For other instrumentalists and composers/arrangers:

1. How to apply Bulgarian rhythms to non-Bulgarian music.

2. How to build and phrase any melody with Bulgarian rhythms.

3. How to compose, improvise and arrange using Bulgarian meters.

The workshop is easily adjustable to students on any educational level – high school, bachelor or master students. It can also be conducted at any music educational facility – music school, conservatory, music center or art center.

Workshop video from Utrecht Conservatory 2019:

Workshop video from Amsterdam Conservatory 2007: