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Your First Steps

by

Taletha

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    Now that you feel comfortable with the zills on your hands and comfortable using a dominant hand to create various rhythms, you will want to get up and dance while you play. It is a good idea to start moving with your sagat as soon as possible. If you become too accustomed to playing without moving it will be harder in the long run to re-train yourself. The series of exercises that follow are designed to ease you into moving and playing your zills confidently.

Exercise I - The Feet

    First get your zills on tight and stand where you have plenty of room to move around. Hold your arms out to your sides (pretty!) with the palms of your hands facing downward. Keep your chin up and don't look at what your hands are doing while you are playing. If you get into the habit of looking at your hands, there is a good chance you will use seeing your playing as a security blanket in the future. You still want to be able to engage your audience and dance as if your hands are empty.

A) Start out walking at a medium pace and each time your foot hits the floor play the cymbals on the corresponding hand:

Foot: r, l, r...

Hand: r, l, r...

    Try walking forward and back, then in a circle, then a spiral. Remember not to look at your hands and to keep your arms out to your sides and your chin up. As you become comfortable at one pace, increase your speed and experiment with walking flat footed and in demi-pointe.

B) Repeat this exercise, but instead of playing the same hand as the foot you are using, play the opposite:

Foot: r, l, r...

Hand: l, r, l...

    Once again experiment with directional changes and increase your speed as you become more comfortable with the movements.

C) When you are comfortable with exercises A and B try the following:

    1) Play 2 counts per foot starting with your dominant hand each time (for information about the dominant hand look here). In this case you will be playing 8th notes, counted 1&, 2&, 3&, 4& with the feet landing on 1,2,3, and 4:

Foot: r, l, r, l

Hands: r,l  r,l  r,l  r,l

    2) Play 3 counts per foot starting with your dominant hand each time. In this case you will be playing true triplets, counted 1&a, 2&a, 3&a, 4&a, once again with the feet landing on 1,2,3, and 4. If you are unsure how to count triplets, try saying the word trip-l-et as you play. You want to make each syllable the same value as the others:

Foot: r, l, r, l

Hands: r,l,r  r,l,r  r,l,r  r,l,r

    3) Add a triple step to match what you are playing:

Feet: r,l,r  r,l,r  r,l,r  r,l,r

Hands: r,l,r  r,l,r  r,l,r  r,l,r

 

    4) Turn it around! Do the above, but start on the foot opposite your dominant hand.

D) Now you'll want to apply a rhythm to your playing. Let's try good old Beledi!

    The Beledi rhythm as most dancers know it, or Masmudi Saghir, is a 4/4 rhythm. So, you have 4 beats per measure and a quarter note fills the space of 1 beat. The Beledi rhythm follows in Dum and Teks as well as how to count it within the space of each measure (how I count it anyhow =).

Dum  Dum teka Tek  Dum teka Tek

1&  2&a  3&a 4-

    This time you will one again want to take a step on each beat:

Foot: r   l    r   l

Hands: R R   r l r   R   r l r

And for us South Paws: L  L   l r l   L   l r l

 

Exercise II - The Hips

    Now you can walk and play. What about isolations? Let's start with a big hip bump (the closing the car door move). Start out by playing the Beledi rhythm. Play it for a bit until you feel comfortable, then add the hip bumps. You want each bump to land on counts 1, 2, 3, and 4.

    When you're comfortable with that, accent the Dums with your hips. It's a good idea to make a mental list of every movement you know and practice them with various rhythms and tempos.

    This may seem like a formidable feat at first, but with some patience, practice and consistency you might find that you progress quickly. For more information about isolations with zills, check out my other article, "Zills In Space."

 

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