Everything you need to know about
The “Eastman” Counting System
Cynthia Barlow, The University of Arizona, Used by permission
Revisions by Charles Leinberger, Ph.D., The University of Texas at El Paso
The “Eastman” counting system is a set of syllables used to read rhythms. This method can be used to study the rhythms of written music, to accurately transcribe music you hear, to help you sight sing melodies, and so on. There are only 6 rules to master in the “Eastman” counting system.
1) A note that begins on the beat is called by the number of the beat.
2) A note that begins halfway between two beats is called “te” (pronounced tay).
3) A note that begins on the second quarter of the beat is called “ti” (pronounced tee).
4) A note that begins on the second third of the beat is called “la” (pronounced lah).
5) A note that begins on the third third of a beat is called “li” (pronounced lee).
6) Any other note is called “ta” (pronounced tah).
Rhythmic Counting Systems
Concept: An approach to teaching the “Eastman” Counting System to first-year theory students.
Philosophy: The use of a specific rhythmic counting system and “rhythmic reading” can be an appropriate first step in teaching/drilling sight singing and ear training.
Recognizing that each student learns in a unique way, counting systems may offer a helpful perspective for students having trouble memorizing melodies. Separating the sight singing process into specific elements (rhythm, melody, solfège, implied harmony, etc.) may be necessary, at first, for some students. It is my belief that rhythm is the best place to begin such a routine.
Counting Systems: “Eastman” versus “one-ee-and-uh.”
I prefer “Eastman.” The system is simple; there are only five [six] rules, and they allow for a wide range of rhythmic variety. The other system has a number of variables when dealing with triplets, and the use of “uh-one-uh-two” in counting swing rhythms can create confusion. One drawback of the “Eastman” system is a limitation within asymmetrical subdivisions. However, the other system doesn’t address asymmetrical subdivisions either.
Supporting Lessons: The “art” of foot-tapping.
The mastery of rhythm is a physical process as much as it is a mental one. Teaching students to tap their feet in a specific way (or at least breaking them of bad foot-tapping habits) is one way of helping them to learn to perform rhythms accurately. Requiring students to tap their feet can be a useful tool in the first stages of learning to sight sing (or take dictation).
Presentation Assumptions: First-year theory students.
This lesson would be appropriate for students in the first few weeks of theory study. The presentation is aimed at students who can read music and who have just begun sight singing and/or taking dictation (diatonic, major melodies).