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I have practically no music notation experience, so please consider me a dummie when answering.

I am reading this Wikipedia article, about the clave rhythm. They use a text only notation looking like this:

1 & a 2 & a 3 & a 4 & a ||
X . X . X . . X . X . . ||

or

1 e & a 2 e & a 3 e & a 4 e & a ||
X . . X . . X . . . X . X . . . ||

Is this a standardized notation? Does it have a name? Where can I read more about it?

I believe that the first line specifies 'points in time' and the second specifies which of those times should have a beat. But what points in time are specified? What do the 'e', 'a' and '&' mean?

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This is really interesting. I hadn't seen this kind of notation before. I didn't want to read the answer below so I could figure it out bymyyself and I did. I agree with the comment by Dave below. Thats how I figured it out too. –  Panagiotis Palladinos Nov 2 '12 at 13:50
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2 Answers

I would be leery of stating that 1 & a is breaking a beat into three -- I've been taught that for triplets one should use 1 la li 2 la li and 1 & a would be 8th note 16th note 16th note (in 4/4 time). It does appear that this example uses that, but that is non-standard. (Because there often is differences in tuples, it's important to pick one and be consistent -- and then make sure to explain it. I use la-lis because they aren't used elsewhere :-P)

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That's nice. I usually use "bippity-boppity". But it doesn't extend as well. –  luser droog Nov 7 '12 at 7:43
    
Pretty much every musician you ask is going to have a different syllable for triplet subdivisions. I prefer 1 ta ma 2 ta ma, though I've heard la li from a few people before. –  NReilingh Nov 8 '12 at 15:13
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You are correct in your interpretation of the two lines.

In the 1 & a example, you can see that the numbered beat is being divided up into three equal parts, and that there are four total beats per measure. This means we are in 12/8, and that each symbol corresponds to the value of an eighth note.

In the 1 e & a example, the numbered beat is being divided up into four equal parts, and there are four beats per measure. This means we are in 4/4, and each symbol corresponds to the value of a 16th note.

The Wikipedia page you referenced has this image: Clave Rhythms

Your first example is equivalent to the second line (son clave in 12/8) and the second example is equivalent to the first line (son clave in 4/4)

Ultimately, this notation is a type of rhythm counting system that can be used to verbally describe different rhythms. It works by assigning a number to each primary beat in a measure, and then subdividing that beat with various syllables like e, &, a -- some variations exist from place to place, but the basics of & being a duple subdivision and e, a being the next level down are fairly standard with western classical and jazz musicians.

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7  
Many english speakers mentally (or literally) say "one eee and aaa, two eee and aaa ..." when counting 16th notes, hence the symbols. –  Dave Nov 2 '12 at 13:35
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