I'm looking for a way to show the dotted eighth - sixteenth rhythm using a system of rhythmic symbols.

In standard notation, the rhythm looks like this:

tum ka

In French, it is easy to teach this rhythm because we can say "saut-te" and then the name of whichever note follows, such as "noire".

In English, use the "1e&a" method of counting rhythms, and I find that the way this rhythm is represented using this system is ambiguous. Apparently in this system there is no difference between counting four sixteenths or counting a dotted eighth followed by a sixteenth.

For instance, if we count four sixteenth notes, we use all the syllables: 4 sixteenths

But now when we count the dotted eighth sixteenth rhythm, which only has two notes, we still apparently have to count all the syllables, making it identical to the four note example above: enter image description here

So in desperation, I turned to the Orff system. This method of rhythmic solfege uses words to represent rhythms, such as "raspberry" to represent triplets, or "hippopotamus" for quintuplets. But still I can't find any examples of words to use with the dotted eighth-sixteenth-quarter rhythm.

What's in your experience the best and least ambiguous way using rhythmic syllables to count or sound out this rhythm?

  • Apple for triplets? What? Good question though.
    – Tim
    Mar 15, 2020 at 20:02
  • Ok maybe not. I put a different fruit :)
    – brettv
    Mar 16, 2020 at 1:56
  • I use the Kodály method, which is international. Its only problem is that it doesn't really account for tuplets.
    – Pyromonk
    Mar 16, 2020 at 10:34

3 Answers 3


I know many people in the "English" system (not just in England, of course) who would say that the "e" and "+" should be silent, as if represented by rests. This method only emphasizes the attacks of notes, leaving duration ambiguous.

The method you describe focuses on the binary state of "sound is present" or "silence", and it represents this unambiguously. However, it of course does leave the attacks of notes ambiguous: two quarter notes would be the exact same as one half note.

The middleground I've seen is the system you mention, where either sound is played or not, but any syllables that are part of the same note would be "slurred" when spoken, so two quarter notes would be "one, two" and a half note would be "one two" (which is hard to imagine just looking at the words, I know). A better way to think about it is to emphasize every new note; "one, two, three, (four)" would be different from "one, two, three, (four)": the former being a dotted half note and a quarter rest, the latter being three quarter notes and a quarter rest.

The reason this isn't a huge deal threatening to shake the foundations of music theory is because as long as your system works for you and you understand it, you can conceptualise rhythms pretty easily and communicate them with minimal confusion. All the ways of conveying rhythm (I myself got taught a method using "ta, ti ti, tika tika" for uarters, eighths, and sixteenthsths) are easily understandable to experienced musicians who might not have ever trained in using them before.

  • 2
    The "ta, ti ti, ti-ka ti-ka" method is called the "Kodály method". Just in case you forgot ;)
    – Pyromonk
    Mar 16, 2020 at 10:35

This is a fairly old thread by now, but it makes perfect sense to say "one...a" while holding the "one" as if saying "ooooooone."


Personally I use a tatatata system where the example in question would be Taaa-ta as seen on the following image: enter image description here

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