What the heck is podorhythmie?
Watch the video and then spend time practicing every day. It’s a good idea to watch the video several times, so that you get the feel and technique.
Try playing along with Teilhard!
What is Podorhythmie?
Podorythmie is a traditional French Canadian/Acadian and Métis method of tapping one’s feet during musical performances.
Often referred to as just les pied or feet, it is a percussive technique which accompanies the melodic instruments by rhythmically tapping both feet on the floor. This technique is especially common during folk music performances and has been practiced for hundreds of years from all the way from Newfoundland to Québec. Podorhythmie has made it’s way into fiddle music all over North America and as far away as Europe and the UK.
Having been incorporated into the Contradance and square dance music of the U.S. and Canada, it has gained in popularity over the past twenty years.
Shoes and Equipment
Really, there is no need for extra equipment to perform the podorhythmie.
The idea is you just tap your feet along with the fiddle or accordion in whichever shoes you might be wearing, you can even use your bare feet!
That said, sometimes special boards and shoes are employed by the performer.
Shoes with wooden heels or leather soles generally have a desirable sound.
Sometimes, the artist will use taps or fibreglass added to the toes and heels to create a louder sound. Contact microphones or specially crafted amplified boards are used in professional stage productions to augment the volume of the podorhythmie.
Sitting at the front edge of you chair with a straight back, feet square on the floor, lift the heel of your right foot and bounce gently, keeping the ball of your foot in contact with the floor. Now do the same with the left. Next alternate each foot, letting them fall to the floor with a thud, right, left, right, left, and so on.
Once you put the energy into lifting the heel let gravity do the work as it drops back down to the floor.
Move to your toes now, lifting each one in turn as though you are waddling down the road, left, right, left, right etc.
Next, say “one ee and ah two ee and ah one ee and ah two ee and ah.”
Lay this over your foot taps like this (it makes a zigzag pattern): Right heel as “one” Left toe as “ee” Right toe as “and” Left heel as “ah” Do this for a while until you get comfortable with it.
The main emphasis is on the ‘ah one’ ‘ah two’, (I always vocalise this as cha CHOOM). Listen for this when you are doing all 4 beats, notice how it makes you feel, the pulse, the movement lifting the rhythm forward.
This is what picks the dancers feet up, pushes the tune along and gives that driving energy.
Give a little accent to these two beats and let the toe beats fall more softly.
Now what you want to do is give some more oomph to the thing!
This is for when the two accordion brothers show up at the jam with their bagpiping cousin who brought two loud guitar thumpers along!
Traditionally, the old timers would wear big boots and gravity do the work, slamming their Grebs to the floor.
Let’s take this one foot at a time. Start with the toe bounce we were doing in the beginning but this time build it up to the point where you are sending you whole leg into the air. Start with the toe of your left foot gaining momentum until your leg is jumping up.
Once you have put the energy into ‘the flick’, let gravity do the work and allow your leg muscles to relax and your foot will drop to the floor with a thud, which should fall flat with both heel and toe at the same time, THUD.
Do that a few times with each foot.
Each time you do it, do it slowly to really get a feel for it, the quick flick and immediate relax and thud. As you increase speed you’ll notice your your toe makes a ‘tap’ as you launch; this becomes part of the sound, choom, chaka choom, chaka choom etc. You will also notice that your right foot especially is just basically going HEEL TOE HEEL TOE, kind of rocking back and forth, doop dap doop dap etc.
Be careful not to overemphasise the toe tap, you don’t want to sound like an old rock’n’roll drum set.
The real emphasis is is on the two ‘heel notes’, CHAH CHOOM, CHA CHOOM.
Start with the small movements gaining in volume as you get comfortable. Play along with the radio or whatever music is on around the place. Watch you don’t drive your family and friends crazy, this practice can be very addictive as you sit at your desk or table, or wait for the bus. You can do it anywhere and it is strangely satisfying!
Beware! You may find yourself doing it without realizing it!
Check out these links to see and hear the podorhythmie in action:
- La Bottine Souriant (translates to The Laughing Boot!)
- Des Temps Antan (literal translation The Times of Yesteryear)
- Le Vent du Nord (means The North Wind)
- Le Rêve de Diable (translates to The Devil’s Dream)
- Jean Carignan
- Rosier Brand
Here are some links to bands outside Canada who have adopted the driving podorhythmie: