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SIX-EIGHT RHYTHMS: An Introduction
In my teaching practice I find that six-eight rhythms are some of the hardest ones to grasp mainly due to a poor understanding of the breakdown and pulse. Six-eight rhythms are prevalent in many cultures, below you will find a wide ranging list of examples. These recordings are currently available on cd and they would complement any musicians library nicely, so make an effort to find them and study them.

Recordings: [track] [artist] [title] [label] [style]

Baba Jinde - Olatunji Drums Of Passion (Columbia CK 8210)  West African
Ye Ye - Mongo Santamaria Afro-Roots (Prestige PCD-24018-2)  Afro-Cuban
Terra - Paulinho Da Costa Agora (Pablo OJCCD-630-2)  Afro-Brazilian
Tio Goyo - Wilfredo Franco Peru Musica Negra (ASPIC X55515)  Afro-Peruvian
El Aparecido - Inti Illimani La Nueva Cancion Chilena (Monitor MCD 71794)  Chilean
La Flor Azul - Mercedes Sosa Live in Argentina (Tropical Music 680.916)  Argentinian
La Cigarra - Linda Ronstadt Canciones De Mi Padre (Asylum 960 765-2)  Mexican
Ghozali  - Charef Zerouki My Gazelle (GlobeStyle CDORB 047)  Algerian
Mac's Fancy - De Danann Mist Covered Mountain (Gael-Linn CEFCD 087)  Irish
Water Girl - Zakir Hussain Making Music (ECM 1349 831 544-2)  Indian
Pancho's Seis Por Ocho - Eddie Palmieri/Cal Tjader Bamboleate (Charly194)  Latin Jazz
Incident At Neshabur - Santana Abraxas (MFSL UDCD 552)  Latin Rock
That's Alright - John Lee Hooker The Healer (Chameleon D2-74808)  Rhythm & Blues
Waraya - Salif Keita Amen (Mango CIDM 1073 848 793-2)  Contemporary North African
Lusambo - Alex Pertout Alex Pertout (Larrikin LRJ-273)  Contemporary Latin-Jazz
The Juggler - Weather Report Heavy Weather (CBS CD81775)  Contemporary Jazz
Proof - Paul Simon The Rhythm Of The Saints (Warner Bros 7599-26098-2)  Pop World

What they all have in common is that the pulse is felt in exactly the same way. If you count in 6/8 the 'pulse' (or your foot) will be on beats 1 and 4. Practice the following exercise by: 

a) Clapping all the notes while tapping your foot on beats 1 and 4
b) Tapping 'hand to hand style' (R L R L R L) while tapping your foot on beats 1 and 4. It is important to count throughout.


example 1


If you think in 4/4 you can transfer the above example to eighth note triplets, counting 1+a  2+a  3+a  4+a. This will give you two bars of 6/8 in one bar of 4/4. This time the 'pulse' (or your foot) will be on beats 1, 2, 3 and 4.


example 2


Now try this popular Afro Cuban 6/8 cowbell pattern by clapping the rhythm while tapping your foot on beats 1 and 4.


afro-cuban 6/8 cowbell


In order to fully understand 6/8 rhythms, practice counting, clapping and tapping until mastered.


© Alex Pertout. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without prior written permission from the author. This article was first published in Drumscene magazine.


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