Rhythm Hey

Rhythm Hey is about improvising together.

As we sat up from playing Floor Head Hum, facing each other with our eyes open, I figured people might feel a little bit more self-conscious.   I chose Rhythm Hey as the next game, because it would help people become comfortable with inventing rhythmic motifs, even if they had no prior musical experience.

I volunteered to be the first person in the circle to create a rhythm, and did a simple beat within a twelve count.  I did it by clapping, and as the game progressed around the circle, people used their legs and chest and found other ways to make different kinds of rhythmic sounds.  One person even used their mouth to make a farting sound for one of their beats and everyone thought that was really funny.


One person creates a rhythm, clapping or using a rhythm instrument or noisemaker.

Take the time you need to find a new rhythm.
You can have as much time as you need to search for your new rhythm. Make it clear that you are searching for your new rhythm. Then, once you have found it, try to lock in with the group.  If at a loss for how to create a simple rhythm pattern, there is a great game to use here called Twelve Count.  As any player explores to find their rhythm, every other player “psychically” transmits their support and trust.

Repeat the rhythm over and over.

The inviolable rule is this: once established, never ever alter your pattern at all,
even one tiny bit, until it is your turn to do so. Simply repeat it over and over again.

Once you have found your rhythm, and you are really certain about it, then say “Hey.”

Do not say Hey too quickly!
 First, make sure you really know your rhythm and can repeat it over and over again at least six times. As you play your new rhythm relax and support the sound of the entire group.

Once the rhythm of the first player is firmly established, the next player going clockwise in the circle, contributes a new rhythm that somehow complements the first player’s rhythm.

This will be easier than creating the first rhythm,
and you mightn’t need to do the count to twelve thing.  Make it clear that you are entering with your own rhythm. It needn’t fill all silence. This player might fill one gap, accentuate one other beat, or even choose a cycle that lasts two times through the first player’s cycle. There are limitless possibilities. But listen carefully as you introduce your rhythm into the existing sound, and try to lock in with the first player’s rhythm.

Continue around the circle, clockwise, with people joining in with their own interlocking rhythms.

Close your eyes and pretend that you are in the audience
listening to this rhythm orchestra.  At all times, try to listen, so that if anyone were to yell “stop” at any instant, you would be able to recall the individual rhythms of every other player.

When you come round to the beginning of the circle again, you might want to listen for a little while.

Also. Try getting very quiet together
while continuing to keep your rhythms.  Try getting really loud, and then return to quiet again.  Enjoy your deeply connected and interlocking rhythms.

Now go around the circle again.  Each player leaves their old rhythm, changes to a new rhythm, and locks in with the group.  As each becomes very comfortable with their new rhythm, they say “hey” and pass to the next player.

Again, take the time you need to find a new rhythm you like.
You can have as much time as you need to search for your new rhythm.

Play Rhythm Hey until you have gone around the circle a few times.

Eventually
you will be able to go around the circle quite smoothly, creating a kind of music that gradually changes and evolves.

Rhythm Hey becomes Melody Hey if you play with little melodies (motifs) and not just rhythms.

Also. It can help a lot to pass around an object
to indicate who is entering, a nice stone or a nice piece of wood.

Also. Rhythm Hey works quite well in a large group format.
Break a large group into smaller groups of 2-4 players.  Each of these smaller groups acts like a single player in the ordinary game, sharing a single rhythm.  Each small group can decide who among them invents their rhythm, and they can take turns as the rhythm inventor.

Also. An alternative large group format
is to only have a section of a circle playing at once. This section of the circle can rotate around the circle so everyone has a chance to play and a chance to listen at various times.  For example, if there are ten players, you could start the game with six players playing their rhythms together. The other four players in the circle would be listening, not having started their rhythms yet. When the next player to the right (the seventh) joins with their rhythm, the player at the left-hand tail of the group drops off and becomes a listener. In this way the group of six active players proceeds around the circle.

Also. You can play this game alone with a multi-track recorder.
It is a great way to create solid beats. Consider erasing the first few tracks you lay down, only leaving the tracks that were created later.  This is a truism of the group game as well, the first few player’s rhythms might be disposable, the really good part is once you have gone around the circle a couple of times.

Also. One person starts a melody, and everyone else joins more or less simultaneously
and settles into a groove together.  Now, when you hear that everyone has completely settled in and locked in with everyone else, you say “Hey.”  Since you are all listening to one another, everyone should say “Hey” at the same moment.  If someone says “Hey” when you are still searching, they are basically telling you, “I’m not listening to you.”  So this encourages you to always be listening to everyone other than yourself.


We went around the circle about twice, and when it was my turn for the third time, I said, now let’s play Floor Head Hum while we keep our beats going!

Playing both Floor Head Hum and Rhythm Hey turned out to be really cool and also a bit tricky.  It used so much of people’s attention to keep all of those parts going at once that people got really absorbed in the musical experience.  Since people were making rhythms with their hands while humming long notes with their mouths, they eventually ended up singing rhythmic melodies, and the whole game evolved into a long song.  By the end, everyone was really into it, and the evening ended in a huge bout of laughter when the fart sounds came back for a reprise.

If you are enjoying this, then a good next place to go next is Over and Over.

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