[Doggiebox] Re: relevance of time signatures

Dan Costello stellaswindow at earthlink.net
Sun Feb 13 13:51:03 EST 2005

Adrian wrote:

> ...I do find a maximum of 48 a little limiting, for writing e.g. flams 
> or grace notes or buzzes. (Only David's excellent Ludwig kit provides 
> flams and buzzes.)

Ah-ha. Now I understand. Especially if it's a slow piece, and you need 
to approximate a roll or flam or something.  That totally makes sense 
to me. And I agree to a certain point-- although, yes, David's addition 
of those actual motions on a drum kit are so much more realistic than 
anything you could get by stacking up individual drum sounds. I've done 
some fairly complex fills with other kits, but have avoided rolls 
altogether, unless I'm using the Ludwig kit.  ;-)

Sterling wrote:

> Also, there are numerous ethnic-dance meters in which, for example,
> bars of four slow beats alternate with bars of three quick beats. In
> such cases, as Adrian suggests, things could still be handled just by
> setting different TEMPOS for the quick-beat bars, cumbersome though it
> may be to keep shifting tempos and display resolutions.  But it's still
> nice to have the convention of /4 and /8 time-signatures to play with
> in expressing these relationships, in which the actual tempo really
> doesn't change at all.

That last sentence is it exactly. Even in the most bizarre African, 
Caribbean, Indian, Javanese, etc. rhythms, those cultures still almost 
always a basic unit. It's like the smallest Lego block. Even though 
most of the time you're using the 2x4 blocks to build and create with, 
you can still look at those as eight little 1x1 blocks. (ex. two groups 
of three 1x1 blocks, and one group of two 1x1 blocks... or you could 
separate out just one 1x1 block to use as a spacer, to construct 
"non-traditionally" or "asymmetrically.") So even though those beats 
seem "slow" or "fast," it can still be expressed most accurately and 
consistently in standard western rhythmic notation.

About two months ago I attended a master class with Sandip Burman, the 
world-renowned Indian tablas player. He was working on a new rhythm 
that he had developed as longer phrases all tacked together (which he 
referred to as his new "13 and 3 quarters" rhythm), but to be able to 
share it with us, we all helped break it down entirely into groupings 
of a single unit. Even though it had sections that felt totally free of 
any consistent structure, we worked it all out, section by section, so 
that each section could be expressed in groupings of that smallest 
single unit. There were three sets of 6 beats (that felt like 6/8, with 
emph. on 1 and 4), a set of 4 beats (with emph. on 1 and 3), then a 
group of 5 beats, then the 4-beat set again, then a group of 7 followed 
by the 4-beat set, then a group of 9 beats followed by a different set 
of 4 beats with a rest on 1, and accents on 2, 3 and 4.

So:  (6 + 6 + 6) + 4 + 5 + 4 + 7 + 4 + 9 + 4  =  55

55/4 = 13 3/4

And when it gets going fast, of course you're not counting up to 55 
each phrase; you focus on the accents. Just like if I were to write 
this out, or build it into DB-- I don't want to have to count up to 55 
every time, but that's essentially what I'd be doing if I didn't have 
some sort of subdivision, and a way to express WHERE the ACCENTS are.

That's what different meters are all about-- even though a 3/4 and 6/8 
measure take up the same space in time at equivalent tempos, the 
accents are different. Just having "six squares per bar" isn't going to 
describe that.

Sorry this got so long... hope some of you enjoy it. I'll submit 
Sandip's rhythm (for use with the tablas kit) to the DB repository so 
you can hear it. Strictly for educational purposes, though, right guys?


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