Some Different Ways of
Feeling or Playing a Rhythm

Many rhythms that you create or encounter can be played in different ways. The way you subconsciously feel (process) a rhythm while playing it is projected to the listeners and to other players.


The following tresillo is shown in three of the main ways a rhythm may be felt:


1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &

|:, . , * , . , * , . , * , . ,:|

x - - x - - x - x - - x - - x -   sequential

x.....x.....x...x.....x.....x...  straight

x     x     x   x     x     x     with the beat




To speak this line try "k" for the notes and "t" for the rests (-). In playing you would feel the sequential flow of the individual notes and rests. This makes for precise timing. Every note has its natural slot, as well as an alignment with other accompaniments by virtue of a shared pulse rate. e.g.: common Samba agogo.




Here we have long and short rests instead of separate pulse sized rests. This gives you the ability to shorten or lengthen the rests to give the rhythm a different expression. Play this rhythm as written and slowly lengthen the short rests and shorten the long rests until you have three evenly spaced strokes per measure. Then, change them back to the original. This flexibility allows for subtle playing and playing in linear polymeter. e.g.: many claves.


With the Beat:


On hearing the first two examples, a dancer might not feel a definite beat. In trying this one, play the notes with one hand and tap the beats with your foot or the other hand. (In performance you would "feel" the beat, not tap it.) The first note is on the beat, the second is just before a beat, the third is centered between the two beats, etc. This will project a real feeling for the beat. e.g.: standard African 12/8 clave.


Another very common way to feel a rhythm is called "part alignment". This is similar to "with the beat", only you align with certain notes in an accompanying rhythm instead of with the beat. This bonds the two rhythms together for the listener. e.g.: many types of lead drumming.


These are not the only ways of feeling a rhythm, just the commonest ones. They can be mixed in different ways.


So, when you create or come upon a new rhythm, think about it in different ways. Play it in different ways. This will increase your flexibility and projection and allow you to understand the orientations of the rhythms of other cultures correctly.


Jim's Notes: A Course in Drumming