Archives for posts with tag: morse code

My fascination with Morse code rhythm has started ever since I heard Barrington Pheulong‘s Inspector Morse theme tune. When I discovered that I could use Morse code rhythms to explain some hard-to-explain rhythmic patterns in music to my students in a direct way so that they can get the feel of how the rhythms should go rather than understand them mathematically.  Motivated by that fact, I started writing short rhythmic tunes using Morse code style notation, and they became very popular amongst my young students.  Because they only need to know two rhythmic syllables (dah and di) to play syncopated rhythm tunes without needing to read standard musical notation.  In my piano studio, these Morse code tunes have become a cornerstone of the rhythmic and aural exercises to improve overall piano playing skills. They’re turning out to be very useful for working on articulations, effective dynamic shaping, ear-eye-hand coordination, attentive listening, and learning about tonalities and metres, etc.

There’re 27 tunes (plus a bonus tune) and are of varying length from 4 to 14 bars. They are repetitive so that players learn about the usefulness of repeated short musical ideas in music. The ideas in this book can be extended to be used as a tool to set a motif for a composition.

For those who can already read music and also for those who are starting to read, it may be an idea to add an activity of transcribing some of the tunes into standard musical notation as shown in the book on p.48~49 (p.50~51 in A4 version) as examples or something inventive like this!:

Morse code notation example2_small

Another creative way of exercising Morse code rhythms would be to use a drum metronome usually equipped on any digital piano these days.  Unlike a standard metronome, a drum metronome has its own rhythmic patterns with a strong steady pulse provided (if you choose the right style, that is!), which often helps players increase their focus level in listening and improve their play-along-to-the-beat skill. You probably find yourself moving (head nodding to start with!) to a drum metronome more to feel the beat.

But before using a drum metronome, it may be advisable to do a simple exercise learning how to ‘listen and play’ to what you hear.  The simplest and most effective exercise actually occurs during learning the Morse code tune; at the stage where you sing the Morse code rhythms whilst playing the notes.  In most cases, players tend to play faster than their singing.  Draw their attention to what they’re singing and ask them to ‘match’ the speed of their playing to their own singing speed.  A couple of playing through this way, they learn what it takes to ‘really listen’ to your own playing.  Voice can be the best the guide, not only as a metronome but also in controlling the finger movement, shaping musical phrases, etc.

The book is available from my website shop and also via Amazon.com and Amazon Europe (UK, France, Germany, Italy, etc.).

cover image wo c

Special thanks to my husband for his support in making this book, Ewan Bailey for allowing me use his witty cartoon illustration, Barrington Pheloung for inspiring me in the first place.  Last but not least, my students for giving me the impetus to write this book and also for being the most honest critics.

Happy playing!

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It’s been a while since I started to use morse code for my piano students as a tool to interpret some tricky rhythms in music.   Morse code having only two rhythmic syllables (di for short sound, dah for long sound) makes it simpler to help them get the ‘feel’ of those rhythms of syncopated nature in particular, without knowing their notational values.  Children generally like decoding games, so when I find the rhythm that’s useful to interpret in morse code, I ask them to listen to the morse code signal (usually played on one note of the piano) and find its morse code letter on the morse code chart on the wall.  We sometimes create a tune out of morse code letters, which is another fun part!  ‘Decoding’ and the fact you only need to know ‘two rhythmic syllables’ seems to tickle their inner curiosity.  It’s a great to tool to exercise the creative brain that every child has.

Here’s the sample image of the morse code chart poster I made.  It’s been professionally printed on 150gsm silk paper.  It’s available for sale from my website shop:

s_Morse Code Chart_sample

I’m putting together a collection of morse code tunes I wrote for my students.  They are particularly popular amongst those whose music reading skill is still at the elementary level.  Focusing on the rhythms and finger positions on the keyboard makes it much simpler to learn some catchy tunes that you don’t usually come across until you reach early intermediate level.  No notation usually means that it helps open students’ ears to listen to their own playing more, and to just focus on the rhythms and playing.  I’m looking forward to making this collection available to the public in the near future.

Happy creative learning!

Have you ever wondered what your name sounds like in Morse code? I was always fascinated by the fact that you can communicate with that di di dah dit thing. When you think of it, Morse code is actually a series of rhythmic patterns put together.

Morse code alphabet:

You can hear what they sound like here – http://youtu.be/Z5uyK5MrsTs

An Australian-born composer Barrington Pheloung did an amazing job with Morse code to write a theme tune to one of the classic British detective TV drama, Inspector Morse. How he managed to integrate the name ‘Morse’ in Morse code into music was an ‘ear’-opening experience for me.(http://youtu.be/W8mrMF1RVCA)

 

To be able to use it in music, it somehow has to make a rhythmical sense within a given metre, so it can’t be used exactly as a Morse code manual says. Every letter is spaced with a tiny gap, which can be included or excluded in music to fit within a given time. You can hear how exactly he name ‘Morse’ should sound like in Morse code here – http://www.philtulga.com/morse.html (you can type in ‘Morse’ from the keyboard on the screen and play it using ‘tone’). As I was making my attempt to translate some names into Morse code, I found out that the metres that can handle Morse code easily are either 3/8 or 4/4. The Inspector Morse theme tune was written in 6/8. Here are some of names I translated into musical rhythmic patterns.

Inspired by Barrington Pheulong’s Inspector Morse theme tune, I once wrote a piano etude for one of my intermediate students with an add-on intro in which her name in Morse code is diguised as a melody. Her name is in the list above; can you work out which name that is by listening to it?


—update 1—
Due to the popularity of morse code rhythms amonsgt my piano students, I’ve decided to make a poster showing all the alphabets in Morse code in three groups.  It’s available from my website shop.

—update 2—
I’m putting together a collection of morse code tunes I wrote for my students.  They are particularly popular amongst those whose music reading skill is still at the elementary level.  Focusing on the rhythms and finger positions on the keyboard makes it much simpler to learn some catchy tunes that you don’t usually come across until you reach the late elementary level.  I’ll announce when it becomes available to the public.

—update 3—
‘Fun with Morse Code Rhythms for piano’ is now available from my website shop and also via Amazon.com and Amazon Europe (UK, France, Germany, Italy, etc.).

 

Thanks for reading!