The One Rhythm to Rule Them All (pt. 2)

Like I said in my last post, there is only one rhythm in Drumming.  One would think that this rhythm, alone, is uninteresting.  However, the way this rhythm can be interpreted is actually quite complex.  Take a look at the diagram below:Drumming Rhythm

*Bold lines indicate strong parts of the beat

As can be seen in the above diagram, the rhythm is ambiguous.  It can be felt in large duple, large triple, in increments of four, and in increments of six.  Alone, this rhythm is still quite intriguing. But, part of Drumming’s formal development occurs through the process of phasing, or sliding the rhythm over, to a different part of the beat.  Let’s compare the rhythms that result from this phasing process.  Below is a written out diagram of the first phase:

Phases copy

The bottom three lines show the three stages of a phase. The “start” in the first phase is essentially the same as the rock pattern.  In between one phase, there is a middle, which is essentially the rhythm slid over by an eighth note. Even though the eighth notes line up, the “middle” still does not feel stable.  Rhythmic resolution occurs on the “end” phase, when the performer slides the rhythm over by two eighth notes.

Although the same rhythms are essentially being played, an interesting rhythmic contrapuntal phenomenon occurs in this “resolution.”  The listener begins to notice interesting resulting rhythms and melodies from the well-tuned bongos, marimbas, or bells. The groove can still be felt in different meters, even though the rhythm has been displaced from the rock.  It’s hard to believe that all this comes from just a combination of eight eighth notes and four eight rests!


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