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Re: Rhythm Question

Kevin wrote:

This is kind of a question for Rick W but really anyone who has an opinion to share should jump in as well.

I'm thinking a lot about rhythm in my looping and drums and percussion in particular and I'm finding it very odd how many of my pieces seem to sound very static too me even with changing beats and the like.

What I'm curious about is that little 'switch' that happens in rhythm that seems to change the momentum and propel the beat forward (or backward I suppose) making the entire feel of the music change. Does that make any sense?

You can have a drum beat that is backing a group and it still feels like its a repetitive beat and then with a slight change in pattern/instrument/accent/what the whole sound changes and feels more propulsive and moving.

I'm a guitarist primarily so my repertoire with regards to such things is limited so I thought I'd throw this rambling thing out there and see if it makes any better sense to anyone else.*

This is a complex issue and a lot of the specific answer would involve hearing specific examples of what you are talking about to hear what it is that you believe sounds static in order to give an educated answer.

Stasis and repetition is an interesting subject. The repeated guitar line in Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love" could be viewed, intellectually, as too static and uninteresting, but there's no denying that it IS the song.

Having a melodic 'pad' under a section of music could also be viewed similarly, but the truth is, it's repetition is
precisely why it is an effect tool in arrangement.

I have a decided bias: I love music that grooves; I love repetitive riffs and repetitive parts that interact with each other in an interesting way. For my money, most people who use drum patterns that have constant changes in them in our live looping community take away from the power of the music: the viscerality of it, precisely because they don't commit to a groove.

But this is an aesthetic approach that is rooted heavily in the rhythms of the African Diaspora, as innovated in the New World (both in the Caribbean Islands and in the North and South America). I became a live looping artist precisely because this approach resonated with me, personally. I was interesting in African and MiddleEastern drumming, the Serial Minimalists in Modern Classical music, the burgeoning sequencer oriented Synthesizer musics and their influence on pop, R&B, Riff Rock and Roll, minimalist Funk, dance Swing, et. al.

Most of these musics are specifically dance oriented, whether played by a single drummer and melodic instrumentalist/singer to larger ensembles
all over the world.

Now there are many musics on the planet that eschew this kind of approach, from Shamanic musics, to Ambient music to a lot of Modern Jazz and so called Free Jazz to Indian Classical Music to lots of different styles of Asian classical musics which all have great validity, so one must ask themselves:
What do I want from my music, rhythmically speaking.

As an example, Indian Northern and Southern Classical musics are highly sophisticated, rhythmically, but they are specifically oriented towards ornamentation: Ultimately, the greater degree of ornamentation, the more successful the music, rhythmically speaking. Like a lot of very modern Jazz, there is a great delight in how much you can 'get away with'. This creates some beautiful musics. In the same breath, the people in Rajasthan dance to rhythms that are almost West African in orientation with strict repetition of 'grooves'.

Again, the question: what do you want from your music, rhythmically speaking?

In the holistic course I teach that covers the planets dominant rhythmic paradigms called the RHYTHM INTENSIVE I spend the entire first hour talking about how our neurophysiology combine with the nature of sensors and our own peculiar 'pattern' orientation effects the way we
hear all music:

This is a much longer discussion, but , essentially, our natural 'fight or flight' mechanisms that alert our 'lizard' brains to survive in the event of a threat
seem to govern why rhythms are thought of as being 'funky' or not.

The basic binary and ternary based rhythms of human beings seem to fall into two distinct categories:

1) Rhythms that repeat every beat or two beats (let's say, for example, that we are talking about 16th notes in 4/4 for the sake of simplicity (and ubiquity) These rhythms I call 'FRAMING RHYTHMS' because they are very useful for setting up a conceptual frame to set off the 'picture' of the next category of rhythms

2) Rhythms that do not repeat from beat to beat (although long chains of these varying rhythms may repeat in bars of 1 to 8 bars) These rhythms I call 'SYNCOPATIONS' and I borrow this term from Western Classical Music, though my definition is slightly different than the standard Classical definition

These latter rhythms are the ones that 'excite' our nervous system..................in classic terms, they create 'Tension' and the 'Release'
or , just like in melody and harmony,  Consonance and Dissonance.

One thing I've noticed having studied as many of the dance rhythms as I've been able to in World music and American Popular music is that if we fail to ever repeat a rhythm from beat to beat, that almost all people think it sounds bad and tune it out. I love to demonstrate this to young students who haven't gotten the power of repetition in groove drumming. I play a short solo where I throw everything and the kitchen sink into my playing for about two minutes straight without repeating anything. I use all the skill I've accrued in almost 50 years of hand, finger and stick drumming and I just love it at about the 30 second mark when their eyes glaze over. I try to play past that point to prove my point. We are pattern oriented, intrinsically: we have a sophisticated, but nonetheless binary approach to how we process information in our brains (a nerve impulse either passes the synaptic connection (1) or doesn't (0) so we are continually trying to make 'sense' of the seeming chaos of existence (I say seeming because on a lot of levels the chaos is actually not that great in natural phenomena). We impose pattern on the world by the way we percieve, so pattern, pattern recognition and repetition of patter tells us whether we are okay or not.

We also have tolerances for how much variation we can 'handle' listening to a piece of music. I know people who only listen to the most 'vanilla' ambient music; people who can't tolerate 'inside' jazz or hugely popular 'teen' pop music.................I know really intelligent people who think Justin Bieber is a genius.........others
who want him eradicated from the earth.

But, for some reason and for most people, we seem to need a certain amount of repetition for something to 'groove' (again, I'm not talking about free form Ambient music or Free Jazz). Figuring out how much repetition is needed is a final aesthetic question that every artist needs to solve themselves but whenever I work with an electronic artist or a jazz artist who is trying to learn more about rhythm I almost always counsel them with the tried and true "LESS is MORE" advice.

Towards this end, we can take a formal approach (like taking the aforementioned Rhythm Intensive course) or by studying a particular kind of formalized music that we relate to (Say, Afro Cuban music or early 70's Funk or whatever) and finding out what it is that we resonate with to develop an approach that we enjoy.

What is interesting to me is that a lot of musicians want an easy way to understand all of this. There, of course, is no easy way to understand Western Tempered Harmony and all of it's permutations and stylistic variations, though there are underlying principles that govern these permutations. So, commensurately, there's no easy way to 'grok' how rhythm works.

I don't know if I've answered anything for you, Kevin, but these are the thoughts your thread provoked in me.

*On 5/28/2015 7:26 PM, Loopers-Delight-d-request@loopers-delight.com wrote:
Hello all,


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