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

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.