Finger Cymbal Patterns for Beginners, continued
Streaming Video PLAYLIST how to play Finger Cymbals for Beginners
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by Anthea (Kawakib)
This Is How We Do It: Group Improv with Finger Cymbals
Over the couple of years in this column we’ve explored finger cymbal patterns that beginners can learn, along with various dance steps and combinations. It’s been a very popular subject and many dancers have written that they’re following this series and the companion youtube clips and now playing cymbals! I’m so glad! Finger cymbals are special and can add so much excitement to your show. It’s worth the effort to learn them if you can.
With the permission of my former Tribal Odyssey collaborator Miramar of Winchester VA (BellydanceWithMiramar.com) I’m going to share the cymbal secrets of that style of bellydance. Tribal Odyssey Bellydance™ is structured group improvisation for group bellydancing; it’s primarily based on Egyptian beledi dancing (my favorite style) and the cymbal patterns fit so well onto the steps that it’s easy to combine the two skills.
We only use six different cymbal patterns but that adds plenty of variety in our performances. Each cymbal pattern goes with two specific dance combinations and no other; so that means we only have twelve combinations with finger cymbals.
Because each simple pattern always accompanies the same dance combination that’s performed the same way, it’s easy to learn to play while you dance. That’s why I like teaching cymbals this way instead of drilling patterns like we did in the “old days”, the way we have up to now in these articles (and youtube clips). This way, instead of random dance steps and combinations with any finger cymbal pattern, you’re building yourself a real dance repertoire that becomes performance-ready much sooner.
I also like the fact that the patterns switch up more often than in simple drilling, which gets
boring to do and to hear.
Try It Yourself!
Take a simple dance combination--for instance, a figure-eight hip movement. Let’s say you do one complete figure-eight hip movement in four counts. Notice where your weight change is, even if it’s very slight. Adjust your timing so that you have two counts on each foot, and to make it simpler to keep track of, let’s say you always start with your weight shifting onto your RIGHT foot.
Now (with your arms in a lovely pose) add your finger cymbal pattern--any pattern that fits into 4 counts. Let’s say you decide to use the 2-2-5 pattern. When you shift your weight to the Right, you will ALWAYS be starting your pattern (the “2-2" part) and when you shift to the Left, you will ALWAYS be doing the second half of the pattern (the “5" part).
Then work up another simple combination, with a different arm pose for variety. For instance, large un-weighted hip twists, but only two twists in four counts: first the Right hip, then the Left hip. (“Un-weighted” means that your weight is NOT on the foot underneath the twisting hip.) Think of another cymbal pattern that fits into four counts, like 3-3-7. It may help if you count your cymbals while you dance, like this:
“1-2-3--1-2-3--1-2-3-4-5-6-7", timing your hip twists to hit those two accented 3's, first the Right hip, then the Left hip.
Just like the previous example, your first hip twist will always go with the first half of your cymbal pattern (the “3-3"), and the second hip will always go with the second half (the “7").
If you don’t know or remember these finger cymbal patterns, they’re all in past articles on my site, and in drills online at youtube.com/DanceEternal. (The streaming videos on adding cymbals to Tribal Odyssey Bellydance combinations begin in the Level Two TOBD Playlist.)
So now you have two different dance combinations that have different finger cymbal patterns - practise them over and over until you can keep dancing and playing without stopping. It’s fantastic!
Since they’re always done the same way, you can get very comfortable and familiar with using both, and transitioning between the two. Often it’s the transitions that separates the good dancer from the not-so-good! That’s another reason I love structured group improvisation - the transitions get a LOT of attention and people become very graceful and smooth.
Besides 2-2-5 and 3-3-7, the other finger cymbal patterns we use in group improv are:
- Singles (only on odd counts)
- Muted Beledi Accents
No More Boring Finger Cymbals!
One thing I’ve noticed in shows recently is that finger cymbals are coming back, and more dancers and groups are playing them now--but there’s a tendency to just play one or two cymbal patterns. Start passing my articles around! Don’t bore your audience with Triples or Rolls forever. Besides, it’s better for your hands to mix up the patterns instead of playing the same one for three or four minutes at a time!
Remember that when you practise, you absolutely have to use music that you can hear the beat on, and especially need to know where count 1 is. We’re talked about that before. You can’t just play cymbals any old way any old time, so don’t do it if you’re not sure. Find a teacher to help you hear the beat--that’s crucial in any style of bellydance. Sometimes your friends or family won’t tell you the truth because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. That’s why it’s so helpful to ask an objective outsider. Teachers are there for you - and not the other way around, so don’t worry about asking “dumb questions” because we’ve heard it all and it won’t faze us a bit. Good luck!