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#146: Can You Count This? Where Simple Meets Compound

See if you can guess the answer to this.

What can sometimes feel gently rocking like a boat on a lake on a calm summer’s day, and other times puts a lively spring into your step? It isn’t hard, but it’s never simple. You’ve almost certainly encountered it in your harp music, and even though you may be able to play it easily,  you may not be able to explain it. You might think of it as double trouble or as a triple threat in the way it compounds the challenges in your music. Can you guess what it is? If you’re the type who likes to figure things out, pause the podcast here for a moment and then come back when you’re ready for the answer.

Ready? Here’s one final hint: the answer is a meter signature, and I know it’s one you know. Maybe you’ve guessed it. The meter signature or time signature I mean is 6/8. I know you’ve seen it and played it. “Greensleeves” or “What Child Is This?” is a melody that is most often written in 6/8. It has that gentle lilt to it, like the rocking boat I mentioned a moment ago. Irish jigs - think “The Irish Washerwoman” - are very often in 6/8 time. That’s the other side of 6/8, the rollicking dancing side.

Today I’d like to discuss some of the important characteristics of 6/8, not just how to count it, but why we count it that way. We’ll touch on the other time signatures that share those same attributes, ones that may puzzle you when you first encounter them like 6/4 or 12/8 or 3/2. We’ll also talk about the practicalities of these meters, what kind of fingering or placing strategies are best and why. And along the way, we’ll clear up some of the music terminology that may be confusing. I want you to come away from the episode feeling like you’ve learned something useful and practical, something that will help you play the harp better not just today, but over the long term too.

Links to things I think you might be interested in that were mentioned in the podcast episode: 

Get involved in the show! Send your questions and suggestions for future podcast episodes to me at [email protected] 


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