Revisiting The Elements of Rhythm, Vols. I & II

On November 24th, 2012, I launched this blog about my books, The Elements of Rhythm, Vols. I & II (Rollinson Publishing Co.). It’d taken me thirty years to create the books in a format that I was truly satisfied with, and for the next three years, I had the time and energy to promote them to a fair degree.

But in all honesty, working full time in Los Angeles was simply too much, and I ran out of steam for getting the word out about what arguably was and remains one of the most systematic methods for studying rhythm patterns and their origins. I live in my hometown now (Austin, Texas), where the pace is a little more conducive to peace and sanity…

It’s my hope that if you’ve found your way to this blog, you’ll visit the dedicated website (www.TheElementsofRhythm.com) as well as read the other eleven posts I put up here a few years ago.  There are a finite number of building block rhythm patterns that all of the larger, more complex patterns originate from. My books contain the complete list and also offer an organizing system for categorizing them.

If you’re a serious student of rhythm, you’ve come to the right place. I appreciate you visiting the blog site, and I’ll be updating it much more regularly with comments, exercises and applications of the books’ contents. With everything that’s going on in the world today (Covid-19), we have a lot of time at home to study everything we never had time to explore. I hope this blog, the website and the books help you in your journey to better understand the subtleties and complexities of rhythm pattern evolution, and I hope you’ll check back often to see where we’re going with new ideas about this fascinating and dynamic subject.

With much appreciation, David R. Aldridge

Finale Music Interview, The Elements of Rhythm, Vols. I & II, April 2013

I wanted to share an interview with Finale Music for this site that readers might find of interest. It was a massive undertaking to complete both volumes of The Elements of Rhythm, and I made my way to the Finale booth at the 2013 NAMM show to share my books and express my deep gratitude for their product and its publishing power.

Here’s the link to the Finale interview:

http://www.finalemusic.com/blog/creating-anything-you-can-imagine-with-finale/

I posted a similar link on my related site, David Aldridge’s Drumming Blog (https://davidaldridge.wordpress.com/2013/04/18/finale-music-and-the-elements-of-rhythm-vols-i-ii-cyber-ink-on-steroids/)

When I saw them at this past NAMM (2015), I was introduced to SmartMusic and its capability for creating lessons that used interactive materials. I can create lessons, send them to students who have a SmartMusic subscription, and they can play along in real time. If they play incorrect notes, the examples are marked for review.

I am really looking forward to exploring this capability for teaching The Elements of Rhythm in both volumes. I’ll post more in the future to show where this has gone, but for now, I hope you enjoy the interview with a great company that I cannot say enough positive things about. I do not receive any discounts of free materials from them, by the way. I just like what they make, because it helps me make more of what I like.

finale-logo

– David R. Aldridge

Binary Rhythm Indexing System from The Elements of Rhythm, Vol. I

One of the key and unique components to The Elements of Rhythm series and its introduction of binary rhythm pattern theory is the way in which we classify and catalog the fundamental building block rhythm patterns. I recall showing the book draft to Peter Erskine several years ago, and one of the most important questions he could have asked me was, “What are you going to do with all of those 0/1 combination tables?” I told him I didn’t quite know yet but that I was sure there was an application that either myself or someone else would come up with.

Shortly after that conversation, I discovered some work by mathematician/musician Vi Hart, where she gave a presentation regarding a simple way to identify basic rhythm patterns using 0s and 1s. It seemed we were on a similar path, so I contacted her and asked how far she’d worked out her system. Vi replied that she had only down a little work, so I expanded on her idea and came up with the Binary Rhythm Pattern Indexing System.

The idea is that we can classify and catalog each of the fundamental building block rhythm patterns by their event point level grouping and the sequence in which they logically and naturally occur.

The Binary Rhythm Pattern Indexing System is important for several reasons. First and foremost, it doesn’t exist anywhere in music theory or rhythm research, at least not as far as I was able to find at the time I published The Elements of Rhythm in 2012. Secondly, it can be used by anyone who is interested in systematically researching rhythm patterns and wanting to somehow identify their fundamental essence.

It’s a system that’s in its infancy, waiting to be explored as a tool and modified as needed. For now, it can give you a basic idea of how to catalog and classify the basic patterns for up to eight event point levels (beat note groupings or beat note divisions). I hope it can prove to be of use in your work, and please feel free to submit comments on its use, application and improvement. My special thanks to Vi Hart for the inspiration to find meaning in the numbers. She’s amazing in that way, and I invite you to explore her own works further, at http://www.vihart.com

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(excerpts reprinted with permission from The Elements of Rhythm, Vol. I, Rollinson Publishing Co., 2012)

Reprint: Introducing the Elements of Rhythm, Vols. I & II

This blog was originally published on David Aldridge’s Drumming Blog, 11-14-2012…

How many rhythm patterns do you suppose there are?

Thousands, hundreds of thousands?

The list is infinite, but the number of patterns that make up the fundamental building blocks is finite.

I’ve spent the better part of three decades, on and off, working on a series of books that present the basic patterns and their logical evolution. I have greatly appreciated your readership of my blog, and I would now like to announce the official release of those books… The Elements of Rhythm Vols. I & II (Rollinson Publishing Co).

Many years ago, I took some drum lessons with Terry Bozzio when I was living in Los Angeles. He showed me a collection of simple 2/4 patterns and told me that they made up the basics of just about everything else I would ever see.

From there, I developed a list of 4/4 patterns as a sort of jazz drummer’s vocabulary list… and I expanded it significantly.

In the mid 1980’s, I met American music composer Lou Harrison and shared my list of patterns with him. He had written about a simple binary formula, 2n, that let you create basic silence and sound combinations. We had been working on the same thing in many ways, and he gave me a lot of suggestions as to where the book could go from there.

The level of detail became pretty intense, something much bigger than I had expected. It took many, many revisions to sort out all the information, but what I eventually came up was that the book and patterns formed the basis for something drummers (and all musicians, really) have never had: a rhythm pattern theory resource.

In Vol. II, I take the fundamental patterns and present them in multiple music lines. This lets you read a pattern in 4/2, 4/4, 4/8, 4/16 and 4/32, all stacked on top of each other. This shows that an identical-sounding rhythm pattern can be written many ways and still retain what I call its absolute sound shape. Vol. II also explores the many ways you can count a rhythm pattern, which helps de-condition you from always expecting certain note shapes to be counted certain ways.

Keyboard players can look at notes and see everything they will be working with. So can guitar players. But what do drummers have to look at? Where are the source of rhythm pattern origins? Where are our collection of basic shapes?

That’s what my books are really about. They give everyone a collection of the basic shapes that all the larger, more complex combinations come from.

The value of this list is that you can prepare your mind, your eyes, your ears, and your whole body with the fundamental movement possibilities. It’s not about sight-reading, however. It’s about preparing and programming yourself, completely, with nothing left out.

Several other authors have explored similar approaches using the basic patterns, to whom I give credit in Vol. I, but my approach goes somewhat further in terms of the different ways you can write a pattern. I use half, quarter, eighth, sixteenth and thirty-second rest/note values and create a very large collection of patterns that can be studied and mastered.

I’m going to be teaching seminars in the near future, demonstrating how drummers can use the patterns to explore odd meters, polyrhythms, and advanced improvisation methods. I hope you can take a few minutes and check out the website to see more about what I’ve created, and I truly hope that music teachers will find the materials useful for helping students gain a much broader perspective of how rhythm patterns logically evolve into an amazing structure. I also include teaching guidelines in the Appendices to help provide structure for this new approach to rhythm pattern study.

My dream is to travel the world eventually and share more insights, with both the music community and the music research community. There is so much to explore and so much to integrate… and we as drummers are truly the keepers of the temporal flame. If you’ll visit http://www.theElementsofRhythm.com, I hope you’ll see where the ignition for my passion comes from.

What Is Binary Rhythm Pattern Theory?

When you look at a piano keyboard, you see every note you will be able to play on it. All the tones you’ll be experimenting with are right there in front of you. The same idea applies to a guitar fretboard. There’s no mystery as to where the tones are that you will use to create with.

When we study music theory, we learn about the relationship those tones have to each other, and how they can be combined to form chords. We learn about the intricacies of harmony, counterpoint, and all the elements of tonal music we’ll need to advance our knowledge of composition and song construction.

But what is binary rhythm pattern theory? Simply put, it’s the equivalent of music music theory for rhythm pattern development and evolution, based on the systematic combining of 0s and 1s to create a complete list of all the building block rhythm patterns that are then re-written using conventional rhythm notation.

And, it’s what The Elements of Rhythm series are fundamentally based upon.

If you visit the website (www.theElementsofRhythm.com), you can see Sample Pages from Vol. I that introduce a look at the essence of our approach to rhythm pattern theory. Unlike a piano keyboard or guitar fretboard, musicians have not had a source they could reference and study to actually see how rhythm patterns are formed and how they evolve… until now.

There have not really been classes available to explore rhythm pattern theory for the same reason: the source material never existed… until now.

So what we’re really talking about is an aspect of music theory that has not been able to be explored… until now. This is significant, because most musicians you talk with will not have any real reference to the subject. It’s going to take some time, maybe quite some time, for the idea and the application to find its way into the music education world.

There are a finite number of building block rhythm patterns that all larger, more complex patterns are constructed from. There’s an incredibly elegant and logical organization to how these patterns evolve, and there is irrefutable (and simple math) proof that this order exists. It’s every bit as logical as the study of tones in music theory, and every bit as useful for advancing our knowledge of rhythm pattern composition and advanced pattern construction.

Besides providing the basic list of patterns that can be studied and mastered, rhythm pattern theory lets us approach the subject of polyrhythms in a way never really seen before. By mastering the polyrhythms in simple formats, such as 5/4, we can go on to recognize their sounds and shapes in 5/8, 5/16, and 5/32. Then, when these shapes are encountered in more complex rhythmic environments, they are already familiar to the reader to some degree.

We will be providing many examples in future posts to give readers realistic application of the patterns presented in Vols. I & II.  For now, we first need to introduce the term and the concept. We hope you will share this post with other musicians to let them know that rhythm pattern theory exists, because it holds great potential for expanding all players’ grasp of what it possible in the world of measured time.