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Jarrod Cagwin

Multi-Cultural Inspirations
for approaching odd-metered rhythms
on the drumset
Article 1

Concepts of Swinging 9/16


Rhythmic excerpt and analysis of the composition

Ma Muse MAbuse
by Rabih Abou-Khalil
From the album Mortons Foot, on ENJA Records (2003)

Rabih Abou-Khalil: Oud, Composition


Jarrod Cagwin: Drums, Frame Drums
Michel Godard: Tuba
Luciano Biondini: Accordion
Gavino Murgia: Voice
Gabriele Mirabassi: Clarinet

Multi-Cultural Inspirations
for approaching odd-metered rhythms
on the drumset

Article 1: Concepts of Swinging 9/16



There is a common tendency in the Western musical world of counting too
much when faced with playing and improvising in an odd meter, referring to
rhythmic time signatures with an odd numerator. Frequently the internal balance
of the rhythm is misunderstood, resulting in the musician loosing the essence of
the groove and applying and excess of mathematical reasoning. The term Odd
Meters has been coined by the Western musician, and typically implies any rhythmic cycle or time signature that is not counted in 2, 3, 4, or 6 pulses. In fact,
there are a variety of cultures in the world that prefer playing and dancing in odd
metered rhythms, such as 5, 7, or 9, rather than the classic 2 beat, waltz, or 4/4
grooves for example.


One such composer who appreciates odd metered rhythms is the Lebanese musician Rabih Abou-Khalil, with whom I have worked with as a drummer
and percussionist for nearly 20 years. In approaching the rhythmic structures of
his compositions I draw from a variety of cultural influences and hand /stick techniques to create a groove that utilizes the melodic possibilities and balance of the
drum set, straying away from any excessive static recurring patterns. The majority of Rabihs odd metered rhythms are derived from an additive composite of 2s &
3s at the 16th note speed. These divisions also correspond to the Thom/Ta (Dum/
Tek) relationship, or the low and high phrasings of the rhythm commonly found in
music of Oriental world. I utilize the South Indian rhythmic system of Solkattu(Konnokol) for rhythmically analyzing and vocalizing all phrasings before I approach
the drumset. More detailed instruction on my solkattu methods can be found in
my book One by One.

In this article I hope to share some of my musical influences in the approach
of fast cycle odd meters. My aim is that it is benefical for others looking for a different way of using the standard drumset from the traditional sense.
Just as a set-up note: For these examples I am
using a standard set of:
Bass Drum (B.D.)
Snare Drum (S.D.)
Floor Tom (F.T.)
Hi-Hat (H.H.)

B.D.
H.H.

S.D.

F.T.

Rhythmic excerpt of Ma Muse MAbuse, by Rabih Abou-Khalil


From the album Mortons Foot, on ENJA Records (2003)
In the following example of Ma Muse MAbuse there is a principal rhythmic theme
of 9/16, subsequently subdivided as 4+5/16. The approximate metronome speed
is 1/8 = 200 b.p.m., thus creating a rhythmic cycle that passes very quickly. I
use a standard 5 line drumset staff for notation. I recommend of course to begin
practicing the exercises at a slower tempo.
Exercise Group 1

The first step is to break the rhythm down into its numeric components. I generally
do not apply polyrhythm or cross pulses until I can feel the cycle in its respective
2 & 3 groupings. This phrase of 9/16 is broken into a composite of 4 + 5. From
that it is broken into its denominations of (2+2) + (3+2), or (A) + (B), which can
be thought of as call and response phrases. In this example, the call phrase applies to (A) and the response to (B). The Thoms (low phrasings) generally correspond to (A), and Taks (high phrasings) to (B). Therefore the spoken rhythm is:
2+2 = Thom - Thom - and 3+2 = Ta ki ta Ta ka. The dash represents a silent division, or rest, of one 16th in the rhythm.
(A)

(B)

I find a good way to begin to feel the rhythm is to separate yourself from the
drum set and create a body rhythm between your feet and hands. Initially, (A)
is applied to your feet and (B) to your hands as claps. In effect, you are using a
form of Palmas, the rhythmic accompaniment found in Flamenco music from southern Spain. It is important to experiment with alternating your feet, so that you
develop a balanced foot/hand dance within your body. Your feet and hands
should still retain a dancing feeling as well when applied to the drums.
(A)

Foot
Taps

(B)

Hand
Claps

(A)

(B)

Exercise Groups 2 & 3


Next is to apply your feet to the drum set, bass drum, and hi-hat foot respectively. Begin by separating your feet into a 3 feel, while your hands continue to
clap the response phrase (B). By subdividing the rhythm into pulses of 3, you can
begin to feel the rhythm with a more African sensibility. You can begin to experiment with different groupings with you feet, sometimes alternating R & L or groupings of 3 or 4 for each foot, for example, as shown in exercise 3.

Bass Drum with Hand Clap

Hi-Hat with Hand Clap

B.D. & H.H. (both feet with Hand Clap)

B.D. & H.H. alternating

B.D. & H.H. in groups of 2

B.D. & H.H. in groups of 3

Exercise Group 4
Next is to change your clapping pattern to phrases of 3 within the complete
phrase of 9/16, omitting the 1 of each grouping of 3. It is very useful to continue to recite the original solkattu phrase of the 4+5. This keeps an ostinato with
your voice and creates a polyrhythm with your hands and feet. This is a very
similar concept to how Eve drummers from Ghana approach the Kagan parts. By
changing the accent of the 3 with your hands, you can begin to push and pull the
rhythm, which greatly influences the swing of the groove.

Th - Th - Ta ki ta Ta ka Th - Th - Ta ki ta Ta ka

Th - Th - Ta ki ta Ta ka

Th - Th - Ta ki ta Ta ka

Th - Th - Ta ki ta Ta ka Th - Th - Ta ki ta Ta ka

* as a note: for later study this exercise can be incorporated with the hands on
the drums. Any surface can be used, such as Hi-Hat or between two drums. The
strokes can be in any combination.

Exercise Group 5
At this point you can begin to apply your hands to the set. I recommend beginning by using brushes on the snare drum to create a lighter dancing feel with a
balanced sound. Here you can experiment with different sticking combinations
(5a). There are many sticking possibilities and you are free to experiment with
your own. As in the previous exercises, it is good to keep the original 4+5 solkattu motif going in your head.
Th - Th - Ta ki ta Ta ka Th - Th - Ta ki ta Ta ka

Next move on to the hi-hat with sticks (5b). Here you should concentrate on creating a controlled open and closed action with the hi-hat foot. Keep in mind that
your feet should feel like they are dancing, thereby shifting your inner balance at
your hips back and forth. Example 5c adds the bass drum near the middle of the
phase, allowing both feet to continue the underlying feeling of three.

A good practice is also to inverse the hand


stickings, beginning with L.

Very important to feel the combined phases of


4+5 with hands and the underlying feeling of
continuous 3s with the feet.

Exercise Group 6: Two Bar Phrases with Snare Drum and Floor Tom
With these exercises we begin to add snare drum and floor tom strokes. Many of
the concepts that I apply to the drum set come from my studies in West and North
Africa. I do not always regard the snare drum as it is typically found in the western world. Often I do not use the snares, or keep them at a very loose tension
so that they only sound when I use a full center stroke or rim shot. This allows
me to make phrasings between my snare and floor tom more closely related to
Sogo, Atsimevu, and Kete drums from Ghana for example. My bass drum and
hi-hat foot always function to push the rhythm from the inside, instead of typically playing the bass drum on the one, or the hi-hat foot on eighth or quarter note
pulses. By utilizing the open stroke on the hi-hat, I can simulate textures that come
from the Riqq, an intricate classical tambourine found in Oriental music.

Use of R and L strokes on the snare. I find


as a good practice and for musical effect
to be equal with both hand and not locked
into standard drumset playing position.

This example uses a paradiddle on the F.T.


to allow for a clean open H.H. stroke on
the last 16th, helping to swing the rhythm
back around.

Integration of double-strokes with B.D. and


S.D.

This example begins the phases with the


S.D. or F.T.. This is a good practice for
leading the phrases with the hands.

Concepts for Swinging 9/16


1.

(a) Basic division of rhythm with


Solkattu phrasing.
(b) Separation of Low & High
components of the cycle, using
hand claps and foot taps.
(c) Right & Left foot tap variations.

2.

(a) Underlying triple pulsation


with bass drum.
(b) Underlying triple pulsation
with hi-hat foot.
(c) Unison of feet.

3.

These exercises are two bar


phrases to train your feet in alternating patterns, while continuing to clap the response
phrase with your hands. Exercise (a) contains alternating
R & L, exercise (b) places the
bass drum cadencing to the
second bar, and exercise (c)
contains displaced patterns of
3 with the feet.

4.

5.

These exercises will develop


the inner 3s across the 2 bar
phrases of 9/16. The upper
pattern on the fourth space
has variations of the emphasis
of the accent of each grouping
of 2, while your feet continue
in an alternating pattern of 3.
The upper pattern should be
clapped &/or played on the
hi-hat.

(a) Application of sticking patterns to the snare drum.


I recommend first using
brushes to obtain a lighter
feel.
(b) Application of the step-foot
with the hi-hat.
(c) Addition of bass drum with
the previous pattern.

Two Bar Phrases with Snare Drum &


Floor Tom
6.

(a) Alternating R & L strokes on the


Snare.
(b) Paradiddle combination with
floor tom.
(c) Double stroke between bass
drum & snare drum.
(d) Beginning of phrase accented
with snare drum or floor tom.

Ma Muse M'abuse

e = 220

b
& b b 45
16
f

(Thom)

45
j
j 4234
16
16

Thom Taka din Ta - (Th) Th Taka dinTa

b
& b b 45
16 j

(Th) Th

Taka din Ta

by Rabih Abou-Khalil

(Th) Ta Th ki ta Ta di ki na thom Ta

5
4216

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Taka din Ta

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Ta

45
16

ki ta Ta di ki na thom

>
> >
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Ta ka di na Ta ki ta Ta ka Ta ka di na Ta ki ta Ta ka Ta ka di na Ta ki ta Ta ka

b
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j
b
j
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16 45
16 n # 4345
16
p
15

Din Takita

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Ta din dina ka

dha

b
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din dha gu Ta din dha gu Ta

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(Th) Th Ta ki ta Ta di ki na thom Ta

4234
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Taka ki ta Ta di ki na th Dha

This is the lead sheet melody line. At the end of the melody begins the improvisational section continuous in 9/16, after returning to the complete melody on cue.