easiest way to learn finger cymbals in tribal improv

I’m a very linear thinker in some ways, but in others, totally holistic. Every now and then these two tendencies cross, and one takes precedence… I’m a pisces, so that’s my excuse!

Recently I was thinking about this as it pertains to playing cymbals in Tribal Odyssey Bellydance versus Oriental style, also known as Raks Sharki, nightclub, or cabaret bellydance.

The videos I put online a couple of years ago (the ones in the free playlist on “how to play finger cymbals”) follow the linear method, starting at the baseline and working up little by little. BUT, in TOBD we learn by doing – a very different method. I think it’s more fun, and actually much easier!

Whenever my newer dancers put on finger cymbals for the first time, they can just dance along as usual, without playing. Since they’ve already been dancing our format for at least 6 months by this point, they have developed muscle memory. Another plus is that they may have been hearing cymbals playing while they danced if other more advanced dancers are with us (or even just me).

When they’re comfortable with how the cymbals feel on their hands, they can start adding the “Muted Beledi Accents” on the two slow combos, Small Hip Circle and Reverse Flat-8. That is plenty to do right there. And of course, whenever they lead the group they don’t have to play their cymbals. It’s much more important for them to do the movements correctly so we can follow them easily. So the rest of us (or just me) can keep playing cymbals while they lead.

It’s a FABULOUS way to learn finger cymbals! As their playing skills grow, and they’re able to play and dance at the same time, we add other cymbal patterns, usually the Singles on the Large Hip Circle; and the 2-2-5 on the Back Undulation and Rolling Hips. It really works well!

screenshot of video

follow-me drills

Another plus is that the cymbal patterns help anchor the movements in time, hooking the combinations onto the beat. Especially the patterns that actually start on count one, with the combo – kind of hard to explain unless you do group improv. But what this does, is make it easier for people who have trouble hearing the beat in music, or don’t understand counting time, to grasp what this means, and what it feels like. I think it makes a big, big difference!

I’ve added a Drill Video on my channel for new finger cymbal players here. It’s taken from behind us as we dance so you can follow along; and just listen to the cymbal patterns, or add them in a little at a time. You can follow this Drill Video  playing finger cymbals with the Slow Combos (the easiest to start); and next I’ll add a Drill Video on the Fast Combos with cymbals. Stay tuned!

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