The next Kodály teaching tool is rhythm language. What relative solmization is for melodic shape and tonal relationships are rhythm syllables for the relationship between different lengths of sounds or rests related to the (regular of irregular) beat. In Hungary, with slight differences, these rhythm names are widely used in music education:
This is a length-oriented rhythm language. For example, two shorter sounds on a beat replacing a longer one are named in a different way. In a 2/4-beat, a quarter note would be called ta and two eight notes would be called titi. The syncopation should then actually be called tita-ti. Perhaps the choice to call it Syn-co-pa is made to avoid the association of the name ta to the symbol of a quarter note.
Next to the rhythm language used in Hungary many other systems of rhythm language were invented, such as the French time names or the systems of McHose/Tibbs or Gordon.
In the 1980’s the American music educators Richard Hoffman, William Pelto, and John W. White developed the Takadimi-system of rhythm syllables. It is a beat-oriented system, which means that the rhythm syllable is determined by the position of the sound related to the given beat. A sound on the beat is always named Ta, regardless of its length. A sound on the second half of the beat is always called di. Four on a beat are called Takadimi, from which the system got its name. The syllables themselves are borrowed from Indian percussion players who use rhythm language since ages to orally pass through rhythmic patterns, called Konnakol.
It is important to mention that the Takadimi-system of rhythm syllables is not used in Hungary as far as I know. I use it a lot in my teaching on the Royal Conservatoire, especially in the Young Talent classes because it is very useful for instrumentalists. It just offers more complexity so that comprehensive rhythmical situations can be approached aurally before turning to the notation.
This is an overview of the Takadimi rhythm language:
Two elements are characteristic for the Takadimi-system.
1) In different time signatures choosing different symbols for the note representing the beat, the rhythm syllables stay the same. So the same rhythm expressed by the same rhythm syllables can be notated in different time signatures. And also vice versa, the same rhythm notated in different time signatures leads to the same rhythm language in performance.
2) Every rhythm pattern gets its own unique rhythm word:
Rhythm pattern ‘words’ like Tami, Takami, Tada or Tadida (see above) become recognizable as a unique group at once, again without having to calculate or decipher. Even quite complex rhythmic structures become accessible just by the language itself:
The most important thing above all is – like with relative solmization – that any rhythm language has to be taught aurally first, without explaining the system as such, especially with children. Learning the notation is a second step. First children have to aurally distinguish basic rhythm patterns by translating known songs into rhythm syllables. Also rhythmical improvisation plays an immense role here. After this is achieved notation can be introduced step by step.
In one of the lessons of the Higher Professional Education we were concerned with Schubert’s “Der Wegweiser” from Winterreise:
The time signature is 2/4, so we should call the quarter notes ta, the eighth notes tadi and the sixteenth notes takadimi. Actually we get a problem to name the ‘overdotted’ rhythms in the melody and the left hand of the piano-part, due to the 32-notes which can not be named anymore. I decided to ask this to one of the founders of the takadimi-system, Richard Hoffman:
Interestingly, I discussed the same question with my colleague Erik Albjerg, a jazz solfeggio teacher. He came up with another view which is sometimes used in jazz theory: beats or bars of sudden double tempo called ‘double time feel’. In the case of Schubert this would mean switching to double time feel on the beats with an overdotted rhythm. Actually this confirms the solution of ‘small’ tami’s that the students suggested. Anyway, I agree with Rick that creativity and flexibility in teaching is always more important than following a rigid system. At the end we tried both in the lessons: adjusting the beat level for the whole song or just using local ‘small’ tami’s. For the students it led to a deeper understanding of the rhythm and its ‘dragging’ character, underlining the meaning of the words of the song.
 This is only true for regular subdivisions of the beat like in 2 and 4 sounds or 3 and 6. When it comes to other or further subdivisions (like quintuplets or septuplets) the auxiliary syllable ti is added. In that case the system reaches its end because the same syllables are then used for another subdivision (Takadimiti = quintuplet). In practice this appears to work well because if Takadimi is really known well it is easy to perform quintuplets using the auxiliary syllable. So this choice is made for practical reasons.