Counting Broken Rhythms in 12-8 Time

Counting broken rhythms in 12/8 time can be tricky and goes beyond the traditional 1-2-3, -2-2-3,-3-2-3-,4-2-3 or 123456-223456 counts. When soloing in 12/8 time it can be tricky to keep within the basic rhythm and as the broken rhythms become more and more complicated you can easily loose your place within the basic Rhythmic Structure.

I have broken a piece up into many many of the common rhythmic motifs that you could possibly encounter within a piece of music written in 12/8 time. The piece is limited to 1/8th and 16th notes for simplicity. I note that many more complex rhythmic motifs are possible with the addition of 1/32 notes but for the sake of keeping things simple to start with these are ignored. More complicated pieces are beyond the scope of this tutorial.

Broken rhythmic motifs in 12/8 time can be counted best using 1/16th note counts in the majority of cases, or a Hybrid Count that uses both 1/16th notes and 1/8th notes together. There are 2 ‘Rhythmic Shortcuts’ available to you to use to interpret the Broken Rhythms quickly and easily.  The first is a 1 -e-& count which equates to a dotted 1/8th note or 3 x sixteenth notes. This shortcut is denoted as (1e+). Ignore the brackets they have no musical value ( no count value) but are used to draw attention  to which parts of the music they represent in the score. When using the dotted 1/8th note count it will repeat as ( 1 e + ) plus another (1 e +) which follows it and equates to 6 x 1/16th notes which is equal to 1 beat of 12/8 or a dotted crochet 1/4 note = to 1/6th note. Or a single count of the 1 -2-3 triplet count in quavers.

The other ‘RHYTHMIC SHORTCUT’ used is 1-e-&-a ( written as 1 e + a in the example piece. This will be familiar to anyone used to counting sixteenth notes in 4/4 time. Typically this is counted as 1e&a, 2e&a, 3e&a etc. In the shortcut method being demonstrated the ‘& is substituted with a ‘+’ sign for easier notation. To use this traditional 1/16th note count in 12/8 time we must modify it by adding an extra 1/8th note quaver on to the end of it, So it would read as 1-e-&-a (+ an additional 1/8th note or 2 x 1/16th notes). To make this count up to 6 x1/16th notes we must add an extra quaver beat to this to make this up to the 1/6th beat or dotted Crochet beat. So we add either a  (3) the last  1/8th note beat of the triplet rhythm as a single 1/8th note / quaver. This makes a ‘HYBRID Count’ using both 1/16th notes and 1/8th notes. Or we can continue by using a strictly sixteenth note count by adding a (3e count) or a (1e Count) whichever method you choose amounts to the same number of beats equal to 6 x sixteenth notes. So the result is either a 1 e + a 3 e or a 1 e + a 1 e count. Both of these are equal so it makes no difference whichever you choose to use. In the example wherever I am using a ‘HYBRID Count ‘using both Sixteenth and Eigth notes I have highlighted this. So a ‘HYBRID COUNT’ Looks like this;  1 e + a 3 or a 1 2 3e   or 1e 2 3 for example. It may be best to start study of the example at this point for a clearer understanding. Reference the specific items denoted by ‘HYBRID’.

Please follow the pdf and there is a piece of the music in Audio form to help you hear the motifs being visualised.

Shortcuts in 12-8 Definitive vrs

I recommend that you  further study the masters of ‘Broken Rhythmic’ playing such as ‘Albert King’ and ‘B B King’ who both commonly used to solo using motifs written in the 12/8 time signature.

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