2nd YouTube Video, The Elements of Rhythm, Vol. I, Introduction to Binary Rhythm Pattern Theory

Hey there, here’s a little something more that I’m pretty sure will turn your rhythmic world upside-down if you’ll give me about six minutes of your viewing time…

In 1982, the some lessons I took with Terry Bozzio exploded in my head and lit a fire that never went out. It led me to figuring out a systematic approach to understanding where all rhythm patterns came from mathematically. I sucked at math from day one of first grade on up through forever, so, I’d say this discovery was personally kinda huge…

Regular readers have been really cool and kind about humouring me over the past five years, so I’d like to ask them, and you new readers as well, for one small favour: turn up the volume so you can hear my voiceover, and watch this video clip. It’ll show you where everything comes from that you’ll ever play, or at least get you started on it.

There are a finite number of building block rhythm patterns that all larger combinations come from. Binary rhythm pattern theory uses 0s and 1s to prove they exist and create a model of them, which we then re-write with conventional music notation. But first, we gotta prove that a finite number exits… which I’ve done.

Other educators have explored this notion, but I’m pretty sure I can almost absolutely that no one has done it to the degree that I pursued. It was an insane obsession, but the results… are pretty damn cool. And I say that with a lot of unusual pride.

Anyway, the first video was kind of general and broad… but this one gets down to it like nothing you’ve likely ever seen before. The page excerpts from my books are fuzzy at times, just because of conversion I suppose. I’m working on it, so please bear with me. But gimme six minutes… and your head might get set on fire too. I hope so, because all I really want to do in this world any more is get the word out about binary rhythm pattern theory and how it can help expand our rhythmic minds to explore basic patterns, odd meters, polyrhythms and beyond.

And please, if you like this one, tell your friends and share it. I have never asked this, but if you get the message and what it means, you’ll see why. I hope you do, and as always, thanks for checking out my blog. I love writing this stuff!


Mastering Quintuplets (5-note Groupings) as Polyrhythms

Getting quintuplets under your belt is not that hard to do if you start simple and build from there. This following an excerpt from The Elements of Rhythm Vol. I, my rhythm pattern theory text.

Quintuplets are simply 5-note groupings that are evenly spaced. They can be written in very complex forms, but to begin our study, we’ll first look at them as quarter notes.

There are exactly 32 quintuplet rest/note possibilities. If you master them in an easy-to-read meter like 4/4, they sound EXACTLY the same in 4/8, 4/16 and 4/32. Once you get the sound down, you can work on exploring them in different meters, as the following pages discuss and present.

If you are just getting started with polyrhythms, a good teacher can walk you through a more detailed exploration of our sample page excerpts. Intermediate to advanced players should be able to understand and integrate the principles with little difficulty.

For all levels of players, quintuplets open very interesting doors to the world of complex sound shapes, and the work you put into learning them will greatly expand your rhythmic vocabulary.

Enjoy, and as always, thanks for checking out my blog. There’s much more to come…

excerpts from The Elements of Rhythm Volume I (Rollinson Publishing Co.)  All rights reserved.



Odd Meters, Polyrhythms and Some Exploratory Guts

When I was 15, jazz composer Hank Levy came to my high school in Delaware and introduced our jazz ensemble for odd meter music. It was the core of what Don Ellis and Stan Kenton were exploring in their respective big bands in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s, and it was the rhythmic essence of music that Frank Zappa, Yes, King Crimson and other rock musicians were creating as well.

Was it commercial? Of course not. Stravinsky was writing music using odd meters and polyrhythms that blew peoples minds in the very early part of the 20th century, and it never made it to the Am radio top 40 play lists. But composers like Stravinsky and Edgar Varese didn’t care about popularity; they cared about exploring and taking things to the next and undiscovered level.

THAT’s what music is about for me. I lost touch with that ideal for a long time, but it’s been coming back lately. Last night, I got real good reminder of why one should follow that “see what’s out there” bliss. I met a woman who was going to audition for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, for their principle (first chair) flute position. She showed me some of the music, and it was incredibly brutal from a rhythmic standpoint, but for her, it was just another day at the office.

Somewhere in her training, music teachers valued imparting the highest level of development and exploration. If drummers are going to evolve and take things to the next level, we’ll need such teachers to make it happen. We’ll also need the music and the environment in which to play it… which isn’t going to happen commercially, at least not in the immediate future.

What this means is that we, as drummers, have to make that music happen. We have to value it, want to see what’s out there, and not wait around for anyone else to do it for us. I am not a deeply educated musician by any means, but I do compose and created basic songs and grooves that explore meters because that’s the stuff I love to play.

I am working more and more with revisiting polyrhythms and figuring out how to incorporate them into the improvisational world. Guys like David Garibaldi are constantly exploring how funk can be turned on its head, and we as a group, as drummers, should find inspiration in these ventures.

Vinnie Coliauta blew the door off polyrhythm performance with the classic “Joe’s Garage,” and he set the bar that we need to rise to and push a little higher. If we do not, no one will… and if we wait, it will be a long wait.

The next time you want to make a difference in music, do something different, something bold, something scary… something that challenges you well beyond what you thought you could handle. The future of rhythmic exploration is in all our hands, and as it always has been and will continue to be…