Most of us learned to count rhythms using the 1-e-&-a system. This is a time-tested approach, especially for youth and adult instrumentalists, and it has personally served me well for years. For younger kids, Kodaly's ta, ti-ti system seems to works better, and this is what is being taught in our local elementary school system. We also use Kodaly's counting system in our KWA ministry (along with fruit rhythms.) However, beginning around the middle school years, most music educators agree on the need to transition kids to a "beat-based" counting system. 1-e-&-a is the most common system taught in this area of the world. This allows for counting syncopation and more complex rhythmic patterns.
The other day, however, I ran across an "improved" counting system invented in the late 1990's. It is called Takadimi. It was invented by a group of college music theory professors as a more comprehensive approach to counting rhythms - especially at the collegiate level. However, it was also seen to be of great value when used with younger musicians. I'm beginning to feel that this possibly may be a better system for vocal students than the more popular 1-e-&-a approach. Due to the beginning consonants on each syllable, the system seems easier to articulate for singers, and my limited testing indicates that it appears to be easier for novice musicians to grasp. I like the fact that there are only a small number of syllables to learn, but the system is comprehensive enough to easily accommodate anything from basic to complex rhythms. The fact that it has been throughly field tested and vetted with elementary through college age teachers & students is also a compelling strength.
In the example above, you can see a snippet rhythm for one song we are currently learning. The rhythm is counted: "ta-di, ta, mi-ka-di ta, mi-ka-di ta, di ta." This is how I taught it to the kids: First I counted out the correct Takadimi syllables in spoken "chant rhythm," and the kids repeated the chant back. We did two measures at a time. Then I sang the the Takadimi syllables with the correct pitches, and the kids repeated this. Finally, I sang the line with the actual words to the song, and the kids repeated this. In a few short minutes, the kids were singing a rhythmically complex song correctly. Kodaly's syllables would be problematic to try to utilize in this instance, and simply singing the song to the kids by rote would have probably resulted in the rhythms "relaxing" toward the beat instead of staying syncopated. The kids just think the "non sense syllables" are fun, but they are learning to be musicians one measure at a time.
I plan to experiment with this "new" system for a while and see if it continues to add value to what we are trying to accomplish in our ministry. At a minimum, it will be another "tool" in my musical toolbox. If you'd like more information on the Takadimi system, visit www.takadimi.net.