I have always been interested in cross fertilising the various
musical traditions I have been fortunate enough to have spent
time with. One question I am continually asked by percussionists
and drummers in relations to this is ‘Do I need to study other
musical traditions in minute detail before I can incorporate it
into my own playing?’
The simple answer is NO, not unless you want to specialise in
that chosen area specifically. We are all looking for new ideas
and new inspirations to fuel our creativity and if this involves
a bit of ‘Rhythm shopping’ elsewhere then so be it. Don’t be put
off by a fear of being overwhelmed by the infinity of some
rhythmic cultures. Dip in and out and if you feel the urge then
really delve deep and get involved. If you have a clear and
unshakeable idea of your own identity then the things you learn
get incorporated into that rather than visa versa.
Take the numerous incredible rhythmic systems from India. Lets
look at one and use it as a base to develop some fills. The
concept is called ‘TIHAI’ and involves repeating a phrase three
times so it lands on the downbeat with the last note of the
third phrase. Here is a simple tihai in 4/4 over one bar.
Here is a slightly longer one over
Here is one in 6/4
Finally one in 6/4 again but starting on beat three of the bar.
With all these examples try playing three bars of time and then
the respective Tihais as a fill. They are interesting even when
they are this simple but really open up new avenues as we
develop them and orchestrate them on the kit.
Here we will continue our look at tihais and begin orchestrating
them on kit. Remember a tihai is a rhythmic cadence created from
repeating a phrase three times calculated so as to end on the
first beat on the bar. They are ideal for fills or for
intergrating into solo work and can create some really
interesting off beat patterns when one starts to delve a little
deeper into the possibilities.
Example one sees a simple orchestration with singles around the
toms leading to a double on the bass drum. At the end of the
third repeat of the phrase the pattern ends on beat one. Notice
the phrases are indicated with phrase marks over the top of the
Example two is a rendition of the same tihai but in 5/4. The
first quarter note is filled with a pick up and the tihai starts
on beat two of the bar.
For example three we are back in 4/4 and employ a similar
phrasing but extend the tihai over two bars.
Finally for example four we start off with the same tihai but
then create a ‘tihai within a tihai’ from the first beat of the
second bar. This type of rhythmic construct is very common in
Incorporating these structures into time and groove is very
important. Example one shows the skeletal structure on the snare
of what we are aiming for. We are looking to orchestrate three
groups of five from the second sixteenth note of the second bar
as our tihai. This means we have one bar of 4/4 and one single
sixteenth note to count of to get to that point.
Example two sees this written on the kit with a simple
paradiddle based groove. From beat 4 of bar one we count off a
group of 5/16 which would be counted as part of the groove
before hitting the tihai voiced around the toms.
For example three we count a group of 3/16 from beat four bar
one and then we have a gap between each group of 5/16 in the
Finally for example four we count a group of 1/16 from beat four
bar one and then we have an added quarter note cymbal hit
between each group of 5/16 in the last bar. These are really
interesting phrases when played accurately. Bear in mind this is
really the tip of the iceberg. The subject is covered in detail
in my book, ‘Indian rhythms for the drum set’ available on