‘Crotchet’ Sounds Like ‘Crotch’ Because It Has The Word ‘Crotch’ In It

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Special guest post by Optimist Prime

Kaye Mart, expert opinion-holder and full-time American, was known to have “giggled” in a rehearsal yesterday, when a fellow student mentioned that the tempo marking was “crotchet equals sixty-nine”. Faced with blank, weary stares from her chamber music group, she clarified, “you know … crotch! Sixty-nine! Sex bits! Heheheheheh.”

Mart was of the opinion that everyone should say ‘quarter note’ instead, like “the rest of the world”. When her colleagues politely pointed out that it is appropriate to use the vernacular of the place in which you’re working, Mart replied, “Ew, you guys have vernacular? How come you aren’t immunised for that? England is gross.”

“It wasn’t that we didn’t get the joke”, sighed cellist Ed Deadpan after the rehearsal, “it’s just that we’ve lived with these words all our lives. We’ve already encountered every dirty permutation of it. ‘Hold your crotchet for longer’, ‘You need to bang out that crotchet’, ‘you all should play around with your crotchets much more’ … conductors say these things all the time. Our crotchets are numb to it now.”

The tutor supervising the group, Tim Groan, also had an opinion, which he gave without being prompted. “Obviously the British terms are far better,” he opined, “because I’ve learned and grown up with them, and my personal experiences are more valid than anyone else’s. Besides, the terms are eccentric and lovable – just like me. The longest note means “short” in latin, and the shorter the quaver is, the longer its name is – they don’t match up to your expectations. Just like me.” He looked down, forlornly. More brightly, he added, “also, being able to say “hemidemisemiquaver” really quickly proves how good I am at music. Hey, would you like to go out for coffee sometime? I am very single.”

Mart insisted that ‘quarter note’ was the best term because it was a quarter of a ‘whole note’, which lasted a whole bar. “No, no,” interrupted Groan, “clearly a note that lasts a WHOLE bar should be called a SEMIbreve!” He was dutifully ignored.

When Mart was confronted with the fact that some pieces are written in time signatures other than 4/4, she said, “oh, you sound just like my teacher here, Mrs. Schnucklepants. So nitpicky!” She continued under her breath, “crotchet. Sixty-nine. Heheheheh.”

When approached for comment, Mrs. Schnucklepants simply glared and muttered, “Shnuckletrousers. My name is SchnuckleTROUSERS!”.

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3 Responses

  1. eloisehellyer says:

    You have hit on a thorny cultural problem that I am afraid will never be resolved. I, an American, have the same problem with my Italian students – no easy to explain half notes, quarter notes, whole notes, etc. Nope – it’s gotta be crome, minime, hemisemidemicrome, etc., etc. So instead of a simple math lesson, I wind up wasting a lot of time explaining that a croma (crotchet to you, Throwcase), for example, is an eighth note and they have to remember that. Or else. Of course an awful lot of people in crotchet and croma using countries manage to learn to play (or count, anyway) very well, but the teacher’s job is a lot tougher, with all those unnecessary “or else’s.” Life would be easier for me if we took the mathematical approach. However, there is tradition to think of and throwing out the term crotchet would make talking about music so much less interesting……

    • Throwcase says:

      Indeed! I just learned both. That’s probably the best way, and it seems that’s your strategy too. Although the French system of noire for crotchet and croche for quaver is stirring the pot a little too much for me…

      • eloisehellyer says:

        While the mental agility and flexibility that one acquires by learning both methods is certainly useful to a student’s development, it’s still a pain in the neck from a teacher’s point of view. The violin is already difficult enough to learn and to teach so if I could skip a step by just doing the mathematical divisions of notes I would be a lot happier. However I must admit that those funny terms are kind of cute.

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