Overthought And Under-Taught – Part 3: Reference Points – Coming From/Going To/Hanging Out

Mike Lawson • Rhythm • October 6, 2016

In this article we will identify reference points that allow us to place the notes of a rhythm in exactly the right place.

The reference points described are:

a. go to the beat – you are able to hear the release of the rhythm to the downbeat or strong beat.

b. come from the beat – you are able to get the tempo from the rest before the rhythm starts

c. hang out (unresolved) – you are going to the beat but not actually playing the release note These landmarks work with both double- and triple-based rhythms.

The previous two articles in this series talked about “1 to 6” and finding the upbeat. You will need this information in order to effectively use the reference point principle. To review:

“1 to 6” (equally dividing one beat into 1,2,3,4,5,6 parts)

Tap your foot and/or strike your leg (we will assume that each tap is one beat/one quarter note) and say the following:

One/ One/ One/ One/

Onetwo/ Onetwo/ Onetwo/ Onetwo/

Onetwothree/ Onetwothree/ Onetwothree/ Onetwothree/

Onetwothreefour/ Onetwothreefour/ Onetwothreefour/ Onetwothreefour/

Philadelphia/ Philadelphia/ Philadelphia/ Philadelphia/ FollowtheYellowBrick/FollowtheYellowBrick/FollowtheYellowBrick/FollowtheYellowBrick/ Road


Hand Technique #1 (finding the upbeat)

Place your left hand (palm facing the floor) about 6” above the right hand (palm facing the floor) and then tap your leg with the right hand when it reaches the top it hits the left hand and you “hear” the upbeat.

In order to feel exactly where notes are placed within the rhythm you must start at a slow speed and only when the rhythm is stable, gradually increase the tempo. If you try to go too fast too early the rhythm will continue to be distorted.

One of the most commonly distorted rhythms appears at the beginning of the melody to “The Star Spangled Banner”. It usually sounds like a triplet-based rhythm and therefore lacks the crisp, bold nature that should introduce the melody.

Here is a solution process:

• mm= 84, start hand technique #1

• count aloud the “1 to 6” subdivision – 1234, 1234 etc.

• accent the notes that are to be played in the first rhythm – 1234,1234, repeat • make sure that 4 occurs right before the downbeat

• make sure that you can hear/feel the downbeat

• add in the downbeat 12341234, 12341234, repeat

• make sure that 4 leads into 1 or “Goes To the Beat”

• gradually increase the tempo

We have effectively used all of your previous knowledge – “1 to 6”, hand technique #1 and reference points. The rhythm should start to feel good because we have placed the notes in the correct places within the beat.

Other common “Go To the Beat” rhythms include:

The main reference point for “Come From the Beat” is the non-played note proceeding the rhythm but many times you may also have a release reference point. Let’s take for example the following rhythms:

Since the first note of #1 is a dotted eighth you need to feel the attack “Coming From the Beat” and also the release on the downbeat i.e.

12—1234. This gives you two reference points. If the note were just a single sixteenth as in #2 then you would only hear it coming from the beat (1234, 1234). Many performers say or vocalize the silent downbeat in order to make sure that they are “Coming From the Beat”.

Other common “Come From the Beat” rhythms include:

“Hanging Out or Unresolved Rhythms” also have a reference point but the release is not actually played. The performer should hear/feel that release.

Triplet rhythms work with the same concept. Here are some common rhythms with their corresponding reference points.

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