Mastering the 256 Basic 4/4 Jazz/Latin Rhythm Patterns

One of the true values of The Elements of Rhythm, Vols. I & II,  is the exploration and presentation of the fundamental building block rhythm patterns found in virtually any and all styles of music.

If you have the books, you understand the process for systematically combining the patterns which results in no possibility being left out. You also know that there’s a lot of ink within the pages, and that it’s best to specifically target clearly defined areas of interest to study and improve upon.

When I first began work on Volume I, it was a simple idea: take the sixteen 2/4 patterns of eighth and quarter notes/rests that Terry Bozzio had shown me during a lesson and combine them with themselves to make bigger list of vocabulary patterns.

Pages 232-239 contain those 256 fundamental eighth and quarter rest/note combinations that comprise the basic 4/4 jazz and Latin rhythm patterns you’re likely to encounter. As with all the other patterns in the book, it’s not about sight reading; it’s about mastery of the absolute sound shape and the space between the notes.

Here an example from page 232, The Elements of Rhythm, Vol. I:

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If you go through the 256 patterns and sing them out loud, you will instantly recognize some of the more classic rhythms. For drummers, play time on the ride cymbal and play all the patterns with your left hand on the snare drum. It’ll take some doing, so give yourself a break in between completing the hand version. Then go back and play them between your hands and feet.

It’s also easy imagine the patterns in the context of Latin music, usually in two bar phrases. Many of the patterns can be played by drummers on the bell of the cymbal or on a cowbell, also in two bar phrases.

How ever you may choose to practice the patterns, remember that mastery, not sight reading, is the objective. Really take the time to get to know these patterns. Don’t let the pace of our world rush you at nine-hundred miles an hour. Breathe this stuff in deeply. It’s the core of your creative palette, and integration into your musical mind is the most important objective.

Do that, and the magic will unfold when you play.