Drumming Articles

The Fabric of Time - Part 2

Indian drummers nearly always conclude their solos with a chosen rhythmic phrase which they repeat three times, creating a climax by ending on the first beat of the time cycle (known as "Sam"). Three times is the optimum number for it gives the attentive listener a chance to recognise the pattern second time around and also to anticipate the third.

In North Indian music this would be called a TIHAI, or a CHUCKRADAH if it is much longer. In South Indian music, the shorter one is called an ARUDI, whilst its longer counterpart is called a CORVAY.

We can adapt this concept to our kit playing and percussion for fills, taking fours, or to confuse the bass player we might not like.

Let's take a simple 3/4 phrase:
Now, if we repeat it three times we have a total of nine crotchets, which when used in 4/4 gives us the following:
You see, the third accent ends on beat one of bar three. Let's transfer this to the kit to make some fills:
Let's look at some more interesting rhythmic patterns that we can use in the same way ...
In these examples, the tihai ends on beat 1, which is nearly always the case in North Indian music. However, in South Indian music, if the head of the tune starts off-beat, then all arudis should ideally end in the same place. For example, let's say the rhythm of a tune went like this:
For us to end on beat 2, we would adjust our arudi as follows:
This procedure can be particularly useful when playing Bongo breaks in 2-3 clave. So bongaseros, see how you get on with this ...

Start by playing basic martillo, then play the 2-3 clave pattern once, followed by the arudi and you will find yourself on the first note of your clave pattern (not the first beat of the bar). Then play the 2-3 clave pattern once before returning to the martillo. The point of playing clave like this on the bongos is to establish the time before and after one goes across the rhythm.

Right then, let's go for it. Maths is not my strong subject, but it's clearly evident that 3 x 11 = 33. So, if we create a rhythmic phrase 11 beats long ...
Then if we take this phrase and repeat it three times in 4/4 we have this:
We have a very complicated-sounding four bar phrase which ends on the first beat of the fifth bar. This concept would be ideal for constructing a four-bar break in jazz. For example ...

Again, limitless permutations are possible. These are just some to get you started, or finished - however you choose to look at it ...

See you next time.