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Playing in odd time signatures

Playing in Odd Time signatures

Many cultures use vocalizations to learn specific Rhythms. Vocalizations are also used to count out the rhythms. This is especially useful when learning what are referred to as “odd” times. They are called “odd” time signatures because the rhythms seem strange and “odd” to musicians that are used to the common rhythms of our culture - rhythms with 2,3,4,&6 beats per measure. Rhythms in these times will be referred as common rhythms.

Music that falls in the odd time category is usually a combination of common rhythms played in the same measure of music. For example a seven beat rhythm may consist of 3 beat pattern followed by 4 beat pattern.

The use of vocalizations is found in many cultures. We will use the vocalizations used in the music of India as an example. Specific words are used to represent the various sounds of the drums used in India. These words are called Bols.

These same Bols can also be used to learn odd time rhythmic concepts. This is where it can be confusing. When using the bols to count odd time patterns they represent the count of the rhythmic pattern. They do not represent specific tones on the drum. We will be using these words to learn to play in odd time signatures; we will not be learning the various tones on the drums.

Each time signature has a specific series of words used to count the beats. They are as follows:

Two Beats: TA KA

Three Beats: TA KI TA

Four Beats: TA KA DI MI

(These words are commonly used but they are not the only words that may be used. Different players and teachers may use a different vocalization for each count but the concept is still the same.)

Any odd time can be created by stringing these words together. For example a seven beat rhythm could be stated as follows-

3 + 4 pattern

1 .2..3. 1 .2 .3..4

TA KI TA TA KA DI MI

or

4 + 3 Pattern

1 .2..3..4 .1 .2 .3

TA KA DI MI TA KI TA.

 

The most important concept is to remember to state the words evenly.

For example-

Correct Way:

1 . ..2.. ..3.. ..4 . ..5
TA ...KI ...TA ...TA ...KI

Incorrect way:

1 . ..2.. ..3.. ..4 . ..5
TA KI.TA ...TA ...KI

This is not a five beat pattern. It is in four. A good way to practice this is with a metronome or a drum machine. If you don’t have access to either of these then tap your hand or foot.


More examples:

5 Beat patterns

1) 2 + 3 PATTERN

1 .2 .1 .2 .3..

TA KA TA KI TA


2) 3 + 2 Beat pattern

1 .2 .3 .1. 2 .

TA KI TA TA KA

 

7 Beat Patterns

1) 3 + 4 Beat pattern

1 .2 .3. 1 .2 .3 .4

TA KI TA TA KA DI MI


2) 4 + 3 Beat pattern

1 .2 .3 .4 .1 .2 .3 .

TA KA DI MI TA KI TA

 

9 Beat Patterns

1) 3 + 4 + 2

1 .2 .3. 1 .2 .3 .4. 1 .2 .

TA KI TA TA KA DI MI TA KA


2) 4 + 3 + 2

1 .2 .3 .4 .1 .2 .3 .1 .2

TA KA DI MI TA KI TA TA KA

 

11 Beat Patterns

1) 3 + 4 + 4

1 .2 .3 .1 .2 .3 .4 .1 .2 .3 .4

TA KI TA TA KA DI MI TA KA DI MI


2) 4 + 3 + 2 + 2

1 .2 .3 .4 .1 .2 .3 .1 .2 .1 .2

TA KA DI MI TA KI TA TA KA TA KA

This is only a small fraction of the odd numbered combinations available.
Repeat these phrases repeatedly until they become second nature.
Then experiment with coming up with your own.

Dennis Maberry

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