One and a half
We are currently at a time where lots of new musical material is coming
into our world as drummers and percussionists. It is an opportunity to
expand out vocabulary, a chance to integrate different perspectives and
approaches. We see this all the time when players like Steve Gadd in the
seventies and Keith Carlock or Jojo Mayer in the modern day come along
and completely zoom into a new area of the art. These inputs can also
come from global perspectives and approaches as well. Much has been said
of the Indian aspects recently from drummers such as Steve Smith, Benny
Grebb and Russ Miller. It is not something that will get worn with time
because the palette of rhythmic possibilities is so infinite that it
will keep us enriched for decades to come. If we keep our mind open and
our ears finely tuned, there is a whole lot of stuff that can expand our
horizons, whether we are Rock, Jazz or Pop players, drummers,
percussionists or any instrumentalists.
One of the great things about some of the material is that you can take
very simple ideas and transpose them so it is more of a mental workout
than a physical one. We all love those crazy syncopated beats and
moments where the drummer disguises where the rhythm is. Gavin Harrisons
rhythmic illusions is a great example of that. For the next few articles
we are going to go slightly into that zone by rhythmically modulation
simple phrases up through three time levels.
• Single speed
• One and a half times speed
• Double speed
Lets take a simple pattern of three eighth notes followed by an eighth
note rest and take it through these modulations.
Practice this with a metronome. Once you get inside the feeling of the
modulation with simple and short phrases like this then longer and more
complicated phrases become easier. In India they will take whole long
passages, sometimes four or eight bars up through these modulations.
That is mastering time.
Lets now check this out with a slightly longer one bar pattern using
only the bass and snare.
This takes a little longer to sit comfortably but with a little work
will sit in there. I cannot over stress the importance of using a
metronome or a click for this.
Next we take another one bar phrase but this time involving the toms as
well. This then becomes about hearing the melody and the rhythm through
One of the questions often asked with regard to Indian rhythms is "It's
all well and good, but how can I use it in the settings
I often find myself in such as Pop, Rock or Jazz". It is true, often
we see stuff which is Indian inspired leaning towards a more thought
out, intellectual style of music and playing which is not always the
direction a drummer or percussionist would take. Even those that do
don't always find outlets for their deeper studies within the context of
a regular gig they might be doing.
However, this is not an argument against studying and bringing some of
these influences on board. Any new pattern or task has a whole load of
benefits that come about from working into it's depths, deepening our
rhythm and concentration skills.
Quite often we over emphasize the physical aspect of these endeavours.
The mental side of things can be just as rewarding. Take this incredibly
easy pattern (Bars 1 and 2 of example 1) and take it through the
modulations of one and a half times and double speed. (As in the full
example 4). What we have is a tricky mental task of really feeling the
phrase within and across the triplet context.
Next up we will use the same template but only with the left hand
playing the main part on the snare. The bass drum will fill in the gaps
and the right hand will play quarter notes throughout. This really
forces you to get your head around the triplet feel when you switch into
one and a half times speed.
Having worked through this whole thing one can then start to extract
small parts of it and build grooves or themes from that. At the very
least, from working through this you would have developed your sense of
time and also your sense of independence.
If we were to turn up on a regular rock gig and start throwing this
stuff at the band then it might be difficult to find an application but
when we look at these type of things as 'rhythm skill developers' we can
think of it in a completely different way. Beyond the satisfaction of
getting to the point of where we feel comfortable playing it, we can use
it as a store of rhythm information from which we can develop lots of
other stuff. Look at Steve Gadds use of the Paradiddle for example. A
simple and straightforward rudiment but with a little creative thought
it can become a whole new thing. If he sat there thinking 'Well, this is
only good for rudimentary accents on the snare drum' then that whole
journey of creative discovery would have been lost.
Anyway, just to remind ourselves, here is the very simple root phrase in
4/4 eight notes.
Now below we have a triplet modulation (3 in the space of 2) of the same
thing played with the left hand on the snare drum whilst the right hand
plays jazz time on the ride cymbal. Also, we have two and four on the hi
This for me is a really great way to use this type of modulation. You
can take any eighth note simple phrase and modulate it in this way. Then
apply the same principles of adding the jazz time and you have a whole
new exercise each time. It leads to a lot variations which work the left
hand and the concept of jazz independence in an interesting way, not a
million miles from some of the examples in Jim Chapins Advanced
Techniques for the Modern Drummer.
Next we will add the bass drum in all the gaps. We will keep the ride
cymbal and hi hat parts and thus give ourselves a whole new challenge.
Of course, we can then go about extracting smaller sections from this
overall pattern to create new approaches to the same material. It will
lead to endless possibilities.
To recap, we started out by asking the question, 'how can certain Indian
rhythmic formalities be used in non Indian music such as Pop, Rock and
Jazz' We have partly answered that question by seeing the many paths of
discovery that can come from this material if one looks outward from the
pure pedantic content and towards the creative potentialities that
Now we have come full circle from straight rhythmic modulation and we
are working upon derivations and extracts from our original eight note
phrase modulations. Bear in mind there's lots more stuff like this in my
book, 'Indian rhythms for the drum set' on Hudson music.
Lets start this by extracting a segment from example 7. We will extract
one bar starting from bar one beat 2. (Snare only). Using the material
in this way is a good method for coming up with random phrases which we
otherwise might not think of.
Now, lets play that with the left hand and play with the right hand a
regular 6/8 pattern but as triplets.
Then we will add this bass drum and hi hat foot pattern which implies
ambiguity back into the phrase. (Remember, this all came about as the
result of rhythmically modulating a phrase into triplets. We then
extracted a small chunk of it and used that as our starting point. Of
course by doing this we lost the ambiguity of the larger phrase).
Now lets put all that together, the extracted phrase, the 6/8 feel on
the ride and the foot pattern.
Now we can take this with an inversion of the modulation process and
step this up a gear into sixteenth notes. Everything remains the same
but we have just modulated into sixteenths in example five. Notice how
much easier it is to play this pattern when we hear it as sixteenths. A
good exercise to develop our ears to hear this on the triplet and
sixteenths level is to play four bars of each with a click or metronome.
Definitely grooves to go into a trance to if you keep it going
uninterrupted for an hour.
"You were born an
original; don't die a copy."
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