My theory of rhythm

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
ethios4
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My theory of rhythm

Post by ethios4 » Tue Jan 12, 2010 9:35 pm

I've been working on a theory of rhythm in my head for awhile, thought I'd share on the forum and see what people think. I think it's at least somewhat valid, or hopefully at least though provoking. I get some use out of it anyway. Here goes....

Any given length of time can be divided by 2 (symmetrical) or 3 (asymmetrical), in simplest terms. Any greater divisions than 2 or 3 can be expressed as compounds of 2 and 3. For example, say you have a constant pulse of 200 pulses per minute. If you divide it symmetrically you get 1/8th notes in 4/4 at 100 bpm. If you divide it asymmetrically you get 1/8th notes in 12/8 at 66.67 bpm. It is impossible to overlay these two divisions in a way that they will ever resolve on each others terms.

For example in 4/4,
1---2---3---4---5---6---7---8---9
X---x---x---x---X---x---x---x---X = div by 2
X--x--x--x--X--x--x--x--X--x--x--x = div by 3

X = major accent
x = minor accent

The 2 and 3 will never line up perfectly with each other...they forever circle around each other. In the above example, the major accent of 2 and 3 will line up at measure 13, but that is a compound division of time (4 measures x 3, or 3 measure x 4). They will never line up at a completely symmetric or asymmetric divison of time (4 measures x 4, or 3 measures x 3). This incompatibility between symmetry and asymmetry is the basis of rhythmic tension.

The way to get these incompatible divisions of time to work together is by compromising one to fit into the others terms. This means truncating a rhythm to fit in the prescribed time. This is the basis for syncopation.

For example in 4/4,
1---2---3---4---5---6---7---8---9
X---x---x---x---X---x---x---x---X
X--x--x-X--x--x-X--x--x-X--x--x-X

By dropping the last "-" from the sequence of 3 "-"s times 3, the asymmetric pattern is forced into the symmetric phrase length. This rhythm is the first half of a clave pattern, and very very common in music. So there is tension between the two rhythms until the truncation at measure 3 where the pattern is reset. This tension can be extended for a different rhythm.

1---2---3---4---5---6---7---8---9
X---x---x---x---X---x---x---x---X
X--x--x--x--x-x-X--x--x--x--x-x-X

In this example the tension is sustained for 3 measures and the truncation happens in measure 4.

It is best to try these patterns out with music...very hard to understand by looking at little x's and -'s, but it makes sense once you hear it. Another way is to analyze rhythms of tunes. You have to reduce the rhythm to it's main elements, but I find it to work more often than not (for 4/4 music).

It's really hard for me to explain what I'm trying to get across here, and there is a lot more to rhythm than just this, but I find this theory to work surprisingly well for both analysis and composition. I'm at work right now, but I'll try to post an example analysis, and an example composition based on these principles.

Khazul
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Location: Reading, UK

Re: My theory of rhythm

Post by Khazul » Tue Jan 12, 2010 9:39 pm

You need to get out more :)
Nothing to see here - move along!

LoopStationZebra
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Re: My theory of rhythm

Post by LoopStationZebra » Tue Jan 12, 2010 9:39 pm

WAVs or STFU

:P
I came for the :lol:
But stayed for the :x

ethios4
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Re: My theory of rhythm

Post by ethios4 » Tue Jan 12, 2010 9:55 pm

No kidding.

Rabalder
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Re: My theory of rhythm

Post by Rabalder » Tue Jan 12, 2010 10:21 pm

I dont get it..
I understand it, but this is mathmatics.. Whats your point exactly?

.......I dont mean to sound like a jerk.... :arrow:

nuxnamon
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Re: My theory of rhythm

Post by nuxnamon » Tue Jan 12, 2010 10:29 pm

were you a math teacher in a past life? :D

Tone Deft
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Re: My theory of rhythm

Post by Tone Deft » Tue Jan 12, 2010 10:32 pm

those patterns WILL line up, eventually. think 'greatest common multiplier' from grade school math.

something of length 7 and something of length 4 line up at (at least) 7*4 = 28, then the pattern repeats itself.

if you get where I'm coming from and can point out how I'm not getting you I'd be curious.
"Obsession is a great substitute for talent." - Steve Martin on learning the banjo

Dell Inspiron 15 7000, Live 10.1, Win10 Home, Edirol UA101, APC40, Remote SL, SPD-SX, mic, guitars, JX305, Nova
soundcloud.com/tone-deft

ethios4
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Re: My theory of rhythm

Post by ethios4 » Tue Jan 12, 2010 10:33 pm

Rabalder wrote:I dont get it..
I understand it, but this is mathmatics.. Whats your point exactly?

.......I dont mean to sound like a jerk.... :arrow:
Oh no point really....it helps me with writing rhythms sometimes, and I like to think about mathematical basis for music. I was hoping it might inspire some ideas for others as well.

Tone Deft
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Re: My theory of rhythm

Post by Tone Deft » Tue Jan 12, 2010 10:36 pm

thought of a better way to explain how they will line up.

make clips of those drum patterns.

drop them into different tracks, hit play and watch the little circular 'loop progress' bars. those bars calculate how long it takes for the overall pattern of the rhythms to repeat themselves.
"Obsession is a great substitute for talent." - Steve Martin on learning the banjo

Dell Inspiron 15 7000, Live 10.1, Win10 Home, Edirol UA101, APC40, Remote SL, SPD-SX, mic, guitars, JX305, Nova
soundcloud.com/tone-deft

nuxnamon
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Re: My theory of rhythm

Post by nuxnamon » Tue Jan 12, 2010 10:40 pm

ethios4 wrote:
Rabalder wrote:I dont get it..
I understand it, but this is mathmatics.. Whats your point exactly?

.......I dont mean to sound like a jerk.... :arrow:
Oh no point really....it helps me with writing rhythms sometimes, and I like to think about mathematical basis for music. I was hoping it might inspire some ideas for others as well.
maybe your trying to hard for inspiration and putting too much pressure on yourself.. maybe meditate and relax a bit.. or try creating a track but this time, don't do your usual work flow and do things differently. start with the melody first instead of the drums or just do the opposite of what you would normally do. Use VST's you haven't touched for a while and just have fun and your more likely stumble upon serendipity.

3phase
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Re: My theory of rhythm

Post by 3phase » Tue Jan 12, 2010 10:40 pm

nice move ethios.. but you forgot about the mean ableton user..
ableton.. enables simpeltons to do produce music...
so dont worry about dumb deft and his friends here
mac book 2,16 ghz 4(3)gb ram, Os 10.62, fireface 400,

ethios4
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Re: My theory of rhythm

Post by ethios4 » Tue Jan 12, 2010 10:42 pm

Tone Deft wrote:those patterns WILL line up, eventually. think 'greatest common multiplier' from grade school math.

something of length 7 and something of length 4 line up at (at least) 7*4 = 28, then the pattern repeats itself.

if you get where I'm coming from and can point out how I'm not getting you I'd be curious.
Its hard for me to explain in words. Suppose you have a some kind of standard symmetrical beat going, like Kick-hat-Snare-hat-Kick-hat-Snare-hat. Then you play a guitar chord every three 1/8th notes, like a reggae skank pattern but on 3's. There is a certain tension there....you want them to come together in a strong downbeat, but they don't. They will come together at odd phrase lengths such as 12 bars, 24 bars, 36 bars, but never 32 bars, 64 bars, etc. The tendency (for me at least) is to want to break the pattern of the skank so that they line up again.

ethios4
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Re: My theory of rhythm

Post by ethios4 » Tue Jan 12, 2010 10:45 pm

nuxnamon wrote:maybe your trying to hard for inspiration and putting too much pressure on yourself.. maybe meditate and relax a bit.. or try creating a track but this time, don't do your usual work flow and do things differently. start with the melody first instead of the drums or just do the opposite of what you would normally do. Use VST's you haven't touched for a while and just have fun and your more likely stumble upon serendipity.
hahaha, no it's not that I'm lacking in inspiration or anything. This is just my music theory musings. It's not like I sit down and try to write music strictly based on this stuff, but some of it does filter in to what I do.

Tone Deft
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Re: My theory of rhythm

Post by Tone Deft » Tue Jan 12, 2010 10:48 pm

ethios4 wrote:Its hard for me to explain in words. Suppose you have a some kind of standard symmetrical beat going, like Kick-hat-Snare-hat-Kick-hat-Snare-hat. Then you play a guitar chord every three 1/8th notes, like a reggae skank pattern but on 3's. There is a certain tension there....you want them to come together in a strong downbeat, but they don't. They will come together at odd phrase lengths such as 12 bars, 24 bars, 36 bars, but never 32 bars, 64 bars, etc. The tendency (for me at least) is to want to break the pattern of the skank so that they line up again.
the underlined part isn't correct, it depends on the lengths of the patterns. if one pattern was a 32 bar pattern where it was all hi hats then on the last beat there's a kick and the other pattern is just a simple 4/4 kick, they would like up after 32 bars.

take ANY number of loops of ANY length, drop them into Live and Live will show you how long it takes them to repeat.



3phase - you're wrong again, suck it beyotch!! :lol:
"Obsession is a great substitute for talent." - Steve Martin on learning the banjo

Dell Inspiron 15 7000, Live 10.1, Win10 Home, Edirol UA101, APC40, Remote SL, SPD-SX, mic, guitars, JX305, Nova
soundcloud.com/tone-deft

ethios4
Posts: 5377
Joined: Tue Dec 02, 2003 6:28 am

Re: My theory of rhythm

Post by ethios4 » Tue Jan 12, 2010 10:52 pm

I'll just have to post pics and audio. I'm dancing about architecture here.

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