reprint: Binary Rhythm Pattern Indexing System from The Elements of Rhythm, Vols. I

One of the key and unique components to The Elements of Rhythm series and its introduction of binary rhythm pattern theory is the way in which we classify and catalog the fundamental building block rhythm patterns. I recall showing the book draft to Peter Erskine several years ago, and one of the most important questions he could have asked me was, “What are you going to do with all of those 0/1 combination tables?” I told him I didn’t quite know yet but that I was sure there was an application that either myself or someone else would come up with.

Shortly after that conversation, I discovered some work by mathematician/musician Vi Hart, where she gave a presentation regarding a simple way to identify basic rhythm patterns using 0s and 1s. It seemed we were on a similar path, so I contacted her and asked how far she’d worked out her system. Vi replied that she had only down a little work, so I expanded on her idea and came up with the Binary Rhythm Pattern Indexing System.

The idea is that we can classify and catalog each of the fundamental building block rhythm patterns by their event point level grouping and the sequence in which they logically and naturally occur.

The Binary Rhythm Pattern Indexing System is important for several reasons. First and foremost, it doesn’t exist anywhere in music theory or rhythm research, at least not as far as I was able to find at the time I published The Elements of Rhythm in 2012. Secondly, it can be used by anyone who is interested in systematically researching rhythm patterns and wanting to somehow identify their fundamental essence.

It’s a system that’s in its infancy, waiting to be explored as a tool and modified as needed. For now, it can give you a basic idea of how to catalog and classify the basic patterns for up to eight event point levels (beat note groupings or beat note divisions). I hope it can prove to be of use in your work, and please feel free to submit comments on its use, application and improvement. My special thanks to Vi Hart for the inspiration to find meaning in the numbers. She’s amazing in that way, and I invite you to explore her own works further, at

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(excerpts reprinted with permission from The Elements of Rhythm, Vol. I, Rollinson Publishing Co., 2012)

Drummers, Be A Tone Maker First, Then A Time Keeper

Here’s a shorter blog post that will give you a lot to think about if you don’t already play this way. I attended a Russ Miller drum clinic recently in Southern California, and he made the excellent point about note duration and time placement. He was quite correct about hearing notes as longer or shorter in duration and how this helps you play ahead of the beat, behind it, or exactly on it.


Short duration notes (or thinking about them that way) tend to put you ahead of the beat slightly. Longer duration notes put you slightly behind, and to be dead-on, a medium duration note. Sort of like Half notes for behind, Eighth notes for ahead, and Quarter notes for dead-on. These concepts, applied to snare, kick, or cymbal/hi-hat, along with individual volume level control/coordination, are simple but a lot to think about.


But there’s more to this thought. It has to do with PRODUCING TONE, not just thinking about duration. When we hit a drum or cymbal, we sometimes stop listening to each sound we are producing and shift instead to keeping the sounds in time, which are two entirely different activities. If you focus on producing a tone, you’ll be listening at a much deeper and more intense level.


To discover this, put on a metronome, and just play along to it, striking any surface. You’ll be listening to the click and your notes in relation to it…

Now, try playing on a surface, but really listen to and WANT to produce the sound, making it as identical as possible to the last note created.


I’m telling you, this WILL improve your timekeeping, because you are focusing on the thing being created IN TIME… rather than just time itself.


The snare drum is a great place to start this exercise, especially if you focus on the rim of the snare to make a truer tone.


Like I said… simple… but game changing.

Modern Drummer and DRUMHEAD, thank you for the book reviews of The Elements of Rhythm, Vols. I & II

Today’s blog is short. I would just like to extend a simple and sincere “Thank you” to Modern Drummer and DRUMHEAD magazines for the reviews over the past year of my books, The Elements of Rhythm, Vols. I & II (Rollinson Publishing Co.)





Modern Drummer November 2013, page 98.



DRUMHEAD July-August 2013, page 86.


There are many heavy duty pros out there with works, and many more up-and-coming authors with very helpful contributions. I consider myself in good and honorable company, and I really am most grateful.

This past year has been spent wrapping up a third book, my music autobiography (Tourette Syndrome and Music: Discovering Peace Through Rhythm and Tone, Rollinson Publishing Co.). Now that it’s done, I can focus on pushing all three the way I’ve wanted to do forever.

It’s mainly why I haven’t been pounding harder on promoting Elements, because there’s just so much time and energy in a day when you are the one-man publishing show.

If you’d like to see more about all three books, please visit:



To view the Elements series, please visit:



Rhythm pattern theory is not a subject you’ll find much about if you Google those exact words. In fact, most of the hits will lead you right back here or to the websites listed above. But believe me when I say that much bigger things are about to unfold, and I could not be more excited.

I’m holding my first clinic about Elements on July 7, in Austin TX, through Tommy’s Drum Shop. It’ll be at the One-2-One Bar, 1509 S. Lamar Blvd. 7:00 p.m., free. Info links are listed here:


As always, I very much appreciate your readership of this blog and interest in my projects. I believe this particular one will ultimately revolutionize rhythm pattern instruction around the world.

An ambitious hope, yes… but you know what? It’s already happening 🙂

That said, thank you for being part of my rhythm revolution world. Stay cool this summer, and stay tuned for a whole lot more…


– David



RPPW 14 – Rhythm Production and Perception Workshop, and The Elements of Rhythm Vols. I & II

In June of 2013, I received a Yahoo Society of Ethnomusicology groups e-mail regarding a call for papers and presenter for RPPW 14, Rhythm Production and Perception Workshop, hosted this year by the University of Birmingham, in Birmingham, England. I had never heard of the workshop but was immediately excited at learning of their existence.

One of my long-term goals is to share my books, The Elements of Rhythm Volumes I & II, with the academic community. The comprehensive list of fundamental building block rhythm patterns and the indexing system used to number and identify them could be applied in many areas of study and research, so, I submitted an abstract of my books and theory to see if there might be an interest.

There was!

rppwjpeg14I was invited to be a poster presenter at the conference, which meant I needed to create a 4’ x 3’ poster to be displayed on a board in a room filled with other presenters. The poster had to convey what my books contained, so I condensed the two volumes into two sections on this:


The left side shows the logical progression of a beat divided into parts, and then the parts being assigned 0’s for silence and 1’s for sound to. This illustrated that rhythm patterns could be created and roughly depicted at any beat division level.

Below that table, the possible number of combinations per beat and beat division level were calculated. Then, the 0’s and 1’s were shown being combined with each other to create the actual number of possible patterns. In this case, it was for beat division level 2. I refer to these combinations as Absolute Sound Shapes.

Next, rest and note shapes replaced the 0’s and 1’s to create the notation version of the Absolute Sound Shapes. This is the approach to rhythm pattern theory introduced and explored in-depth in The Elements of Rhythm Volume I.

The second portion of the poster presented the Binary Rhythm Pattern Indexing System.  I developed this simple system to number and identify the Absolute Sound Shapes within each of the combination tables. In this example, a measure of 4/4 is divided into four parts (quarter notes) and assigned four different rhythm patterns. Below each pattern is its Binary Indexing Number (BIN). Those BIN’s are highlighted in each of the four combination tables found at the bottom of the poster, showing how the patterns evolves sequentially in each table.

On of the greatest honors for me was inclusion in the official RPPW 14 programme, which got used quite a bit during my three-day visit!

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After a 10-hour flight and gracious re-cooperative hosting by my friends, Bob Gentry and Tilly Casson, I left London by train and headed to Birmingham, two hours north. I hadn’t been back to Europe since I was in high school, and this was a lifelong dream to both return and to present my books and theory to the academic world. From September 11-13, I was completely immersed in the environment of some of the top rhythm perception researchers in the world. Surreal hardly even begins to describe the level of intelligence I was surrounded by.

Poster presenters were each given one minute to introduce themselves before the group each morning, and I was fortunate enough to be chosen for the first day. After listening to several Ph.D’s and Ph.D candidates give their 60-second summaries, I offered my books and theory as something that came from the layman’s world but could be applied to many levels of academic research. As far as I know, I was the only non-academic presenter at the conference.


After the morning lecture sessions, we broke for lunch in the poster presenting room. Mine was at the very furthest end, but quite a few curious and interested individuals found their way by to check it out and ask me questions. For the next two hours, I lived a dream I’ve had for thirty years: being able to show a unique and finished product and entertain questions and discussion about it.

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Some of the people who came by included Dr. Andreas Daffertshofer, a researcher from the University of Amsterdam who specializes in human movement. Dr. Guy Madison is a research professor at Sweden’s Umeå University and is also a drummer, as was Dr. Carl Haakon Waadeland, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Daniel Cameron is a neuroscience researcher and Ph.D candidate from the University of Western Ontario and drummer/percussionist who even joined me a few days later in a drum set/hand drumming event I presented for local group of kids and parents through Tourettes-Action UK, a support group.

But I’d say the highlight honor was meeting and speaking with the host of RPPW 14, Prof. Alan Wing. In the world of rhythm and timing research, he is the big dog rock star. He co-wrote a paper forty years ago that has remained the standard by which timing and rhythm perception questions are largely measured. I thanked him for the invitation to present and gave him a copy of my books, something I’d wanted to do for years.

My plan is to keep attending such conferences, make contact with the academic world, and work to bridge the gap between science and the arts. Our world as drummers is fascinating and relatively unexplored by science. I want to encourage this and hopefully offer my books and theory as source material to enhance that exploration.

To this end, I’m going to be collaborating with Dr. Gareth Dylan Smith, a drummer and head of the Percussion Studies division at  London’s Institute of Contemporary Music Performance. We are going to specifically work to promote the drum set as an instrument of academic study across many platforms. Gareth is also the author of I Drum, Therefore I am (Ashgate Press), and I wrote a short blog piece about him here two years ago.

I can’t really describe what it’s like to see a dream that took so long all the way through other than to say this: it’s worth every minute, every struggle, every sacrifice, and every step you take to finish what you start. When you do, you learn to live and keep living. It’s huge, and it’s fuel for much more to come…

Finale Music and The Elements of Rhythm Vols. I & II – Cyber Ink on Steroids

Regular readers of this blog are probably familiar with my books, The Elements of Rhythm Vols. & II. I created them within an InDesign template and used Finale 2011 to create all of the music examples. I originally wrote ALL of the examples out by hand, years ago, and when it came time to do every thing myself in real print, I owe my life’s work to Finale Music.

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I met the guys (Tom Johnson, me, Scott Yoho, and Justin Phillips) at NAMM 2012 and showed them my books, got interviewed briefly for some video clips, and Scott Yoho, their Marketing guru, very kindly offered to write a blog with an overview of the books and some of the creation challenges. Here’s the link:

I’ve been very fortunate to have people from all over the world reading this blog for the past three years, and on this rare occasion, I want to use it to publically thank Finale Music for creating a product that handled an unbelievable amount of detail. Some readers have seen the previous posts with page samples, and Amazon let me post a PDF that lets you look inside the books as well.

I didn’t have anywhere near enough room in the blog interview to describe how truly insane and tedious the level of refinement was to create so many rest and note shapes. I spent about a year and a half working out all the layout details, over 400 pages worth, learning how to convert one type of file into another, and basically, wearing many hats and drowning many times along the way!


It mattered to me that everything be as perfect and precise as possible, because if you’re gonna say that you have THE collection of building block rhythm patterns that all the larger combinations you could ever imagine come from… you’d best be right. Finale’s software accomplished the utterly damn near impossible, and yep, this surely is a sales pitch and a serious two thumb’s up.


When I wrote for DRUM! in the 90’s, I couldn’t always include a personal message in the articles, which is why I love blog technology so much. I am eternally grateful for Finale helping me accomplish a three-decade journey, just as I’m every day grateful that people stop by this blog to check things out.

So let me say this: if you are thinking about blogging drum music examples of your own, or considering cranking out your own set of books, I can give you over 400 pages of detailed reasons why Finale Music just flat-out kicks printing ass. It’s cyber ink on steroids. And no, they don’t give me free stuff to say this, nor do I ask for it.

Carry on.


The Elements of Rhythm Vol. I: The Essence of Rhythm Pattern Theory


When I was a music major in college, drummers had to take music theory. We had to learn about tonal relationships, chord patterns and progressions, harmony, etc. What we did not learn was that were a finite number of building block rhythm patterns that all the larger, more complex patterns come from. In other words, there was no rhythm pattern theory. Just tonal. So, I created an approach to rhythm pattern theory to fill the void.

The Elements of Rhythm Vol. I presents and explores the basics of this theory to create the fundamental patterns. I am re-printing them here to let drummers (and all other musicians) see how it works.

I believe that if musicians study and master the patterns, they can greatly expand their rhythm capabilities. Once you see how the patterns evolve, you’ll recognize that there is a very systematic and fascinating structure that underlies notation. Here are a few excerpts that cover the fundamentals:





The tables that follow in Volume I re-create these patterns using several different beat note values, and all the patterns are written out in sheet music form to practice. For example, if you take a measure of 4/4 and lay out all the possible quarter note/eighth note possibilities, there are exactly 256 of them. One valuable application is in the area of jazz and big band reading. Same with small group Fake Book reading.



In the Introduction to Volume I, I related a story about seeing Peter Erskine play one night at a summer jazz band camp I was attending. He had to sight-read a fairly challenging chart, and the next day in class, he said he was glad to have seen some “familiar friends” on the sheet music pages. That phrase stuck with me for years, and when Terry Bozzio showed me a 2/4 group of patterns that he said were the essential basics, the phrase came back and really lit the fires.

Here are a few of the larger 2/4 patterns:



I’ll be putting up more samples shortly, but you’ll get the idea here pretty quickly. Just remember: there are a finite number of building block rhythm patterns that all the larger combinations come from. Program yourself with the basics, and you are loading your performance computer with all the software it needs to make you a lean, mean, rhythm machine.

(excerpts reprinted from The Elements of Rhythm Vol. I, with permission, Rollinson Publishing Company, 2012. All rights reserved.)