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10. Rhythm

Musical Rhythmic Juxtaposition

The main component in Classical music is melody and harmony.  In Electronic Dance Music, the main component is rhythm.  The key to an effective groove is the correct juxtaposition of rhythmic patterns for different instruments and percussion, i.e. how the different rhythms combine.

 

Essentially, each instrument has its own rhythm which is repeated after a specific length of time.  Combining 1 or more instruments with different rhythmic patterns can produce effective or cluttered results.  Musical Rhythmic Juxtaposition or Micro Arrangement, describes the result when different rhythms are played simultaneously. 

 

The most natural way to record rhythms is using the keyboard and playing instrument live. However, you can record more complex and accurate rhythms by editing notes in the sequencer using the mouse. This is particularly effective for programming rhythmic SFX, percussion instruments, stab instruments, or gates.

 

Categories of Rhythm
Musical Rhythmic Juxtaposition helps to choose complimentary patterns of Rhythm.  By categorising rhythms based on specific characteristics, choosing rhythms from different groups results in a more pleasing combination.

 

There are several categories of Rhythm and 3 Categories of start position for each Rhythm:

 

Category 1a

Smallest Note               Semiquaver or 1/16th Bar

Rhythm                         Regular

 

 

Category 1b

Smallest Note               Semiquaver or 1/16th Bar

Rhythm                         Irregular

 

 

 

 

 

Category 2a

Smallest Note               Quaver or 1/8th Bar

Rhythm                         Regular

 

 

 

 

Category 2b

Smallest Note               Quaver or 1/8th Bar

Rhythm                         Irregular

 

 

 

 

 

Category 3

Smallest Note               Crotchet or 1/4 Bar

Rhythm                         Regular / Irregular

 

 

 

Category 4

Smallest Note               Minim or 1/2 Bar

Rhythm                         Regular / Irregular

 

 

 

Category 5

Smallest Note               Semibreve or 1 Bar

Rhythm                         Regular / Irregular

 

 

 

Category 6

Smallest Note               3/16 Bar or Polyrhythmic 5/4

Rhythm                         Regular

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rhythm Start Position

The start position of the rhythm also plays an important role.

 

Start Position 1: Rhythm starts on the beat e.g. 1/16, 5/16, 9/16, 13/16 like a house Kick drum.

 

Start Position 2:  Rhythm starts off the beat e.g. 3/16, 7/16, 11/16, 15/16 like a hard house Bass.

 

Start Position 3:  Rhythm starts on even sequence, e.g. 2/16, 4/16, 6/16 etc.

 

 

 

Combining Rhythms for an Effective Groove
Any instrument, Bass, Lead, Synth, Strings, Pads, Vocals, FX and drums etc can be assigned a particular category of Rhythm.  Any instrument can have more than 1 category variation in a riff, phrase or melody.

 

When producing an ensemble of multiple instruments, the most effective rhythmic compositions are created by choosing rhythms that contain different categories and start positions.

 

The rhythmic properties of one of the most energetic and contemporary Breakbeat tunes is represented visually in the diagram below.  The diversity of rhythmic categories used results in an interesting and complex polyrhythmic structure.

 

The rhythm for an ensemble of SFX, Acid Stab, Lead, Bass, Vocal Stab (top to bottom) have been extracted and combined into 1 sequence below.  Each instrument occupies 1 line of the sequence.  No two lines share a Rhythm Category or Start Position.

 

SFX                 Category 2b                 Start Position 2: Off Beat

Acid Stab         Category 2b                 Start Position 3: Even Sequence

Lead                Category 1b                 Start Position 3: Even Sequence

Bass                 Category 3, 1b             Start Position 1: On Beat

Vocal Stab       Category 4                   Start Position 1: On Beat

Fig 1: From Top to Bottom, SFX, Acid Stab, Lead, Bass, Vocal Stab

 

Note Length
The length of a note, especially one with a short release (ADSR) will also contribute to the rhythmic properties of the song.  It is important to ensure that the length of the note ends precisely on a 1/16th grid, or the balance to the Rhythm will be offset (diagram below).

 

Fig 2: Untity note length will interupt the rhythmic properties.

 

 

 

 

 

Unsuccessful Rhythmic Combinations
Using rhythms from identical Categories and Start Positions creates a repetitive an boring rhythmic ensemble.

 

Lead                Category 3                   Start Position 1: On Beat

Bass                 Category 2a                 Start Position 1: On Beat

Synth                Category 3                   Start Position 1: On Beat

 

Fig 3: Top to bottom, Lead, Bass, Synth

 

 

 

Rhythmic Patterns

Another way to generate a variety of rhythm components for an instrument, e.g. Bass, Lead, Synth, Vocal Stab, Musical Stab etc is by generating Rhythmic Patterns.  To create a pleasing groove, create an instrumental ensembles by combing different types of patterns.

 

Rhythmic Pattern 1: Small Grid of 4

Regular rhythmic patterns of 16 notes can be generated by looping a smaller grid of rhythms, e.g. grids of 3, 4, or 5.  The rhythm of a Kick in a 4 to the floor pattern is used as the first example below.  The smaller grid is composed of 4 semi quavers, or 4 x 1/16th of a bar.

 

The smaller 4 grid patter is repeated 4 times to complete the 16 notes or 1 bar.

 

1A: On beat 4x4

 

1

 

 

 

x 4 =

1

 

 

 

2

 

 

 

3

 

 

 

4

 

 

 

 

 

 

1B: Off Beat 4x4

 

 

 

1

 

x 4 =

 

 

1

 

 

 

2

 

 

 

3

 

 

 

4

 

 

 

 

1C: 3 unit  delay

 

 

 

 

1

x 4 =

 

 

 

1

 

 

 

2

 

 

 

3

 

 

 

4

 

 

 

 

 

1D: 1 unit delay

 

 

1

 

 

x 4 =

 

1

 

 

 

2

 

 

 

3

 

 

 

4

 

 

 

 

 

1E: Double Alternator

 

1

1

 

 

x 4 =

1

2

 

 

3

4

 

 

5

6

 

 

7

8

 

 

 

 

 

Alternating Rhythmic Patterns

There are about 16 useable variations of small 4 note rhythms.  To prevent repetition becoming monotonous, try alternating 2 smaller grid rhythms e.g. 1E, 1D, 1E, 1D…

1

1

 

 

 

1

 

 

1

1

 

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

 

Be wary of too much variation, because if too many Rhythmic Patterns are used, the rhythm sounds random and looses momentum.

 

 

 

Rhythmic Pattern 2: Small Grid of 3
Instead of using small block sizes of 4, blocks of 3 and 5 will create pleasing a polyrhythm.  Alternating blocks of 3 is another simple technique unavailable to create variation.

 

Polyrhythmic 5/4 A

 

1

 

 

X 5

1

 

 

2

 

 

3

 

 

4

 

 

5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Polyrhythmic 5/4 B

 

1

 

1

X 5

1

 

2

3

 

4

5

 

6

7

 

8

9

 

10

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rhythmic Pattern 3: Small Grid of 5
Using small block sizes of 5 will limit looping to 3, with 1 empty unit before the block of 16 can repeat.

 

1 and 2 Alternator

 

1

 

1

1

 

X 3

1

 

2

3

 

4

 

5

6

 

7

 

8

9

 

 

 

 

2 and 1 Alternator

 

1

1

 

1

 

X 3

1

2

 

3

 

4

5

 

6

 

7

8

 

9

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Grid Sizes
Using a Small Grid size of 6 is simple using a small grid size of 3, twice, and is therefore unnecessary.  The same principle of redundancy applies to a Small Grid size of 8, which is merely a Small Grid of 4, twice.

 

 

Drum Rhythm combined with Bass, Lead or Synth Rhythm
A standard drum beat bar contains 16 notes, or 16 semi quavers, and generally every single note will contain a sequenced instrument e.g. Hat, Kick, Snare etc.  To determine the Rhythmic Category for the purpose of Musical Rhythmic Juxtaposition, it is only necessary to count the rhythmic components of the accents, e.g. the Kick or Snare.

 

Fig 4: Disregarding the 1/16th hats, the drum beat below is Category 2b, i.e. Quavers using an irregularpattern.  A suitable Rhythmic Category for the Bass would be one that uses Semi Quavers, i.e. Rhythmic Category 1a or 1b, or Category 6 for a Polyrhythm. Top to bottom, OpenHat, Cloased Hat, Snare, Kick

 

Rhythmic Intensity: Song

Generally, the smallest element of a standard bar consists of 16 notes, or 16 semi quavers (see Chapter 2 Musicology).  The key is to find the correct intensity for each specific section of the song because if you start too intense, there’s not much room to increase.  If you start too relaxed, the song sounds too dull. 

 

Appendix 11 contains a library of effective groves for combining Drums, Bass, Leads and Synths.