Advanced Rhythm Studies
Published by Bachovich Music Publications, 2009
Advanced Rhythm Studies is a training ground for percussionists to hone their understanding and execution of poly- and syncopated rhythms. Using marching as reference, these studies develop and drill the basic vocabulary of rhythm, starting with simple and gradually building to very complex material. Although much of this course of study is very challenging, in this format you will find it to be approachable, engaging, highly effective, and even fun to play.
Purchase from Steve Weiss
Purchase from Bachovich Music Publications
Musicians are often introduced to rhythm in a manner that is haphazard and pedagogically disorganized. Percussionists are fortunate to receive special rhythmic training, but the repertoire can sometimes require a level of proficiency for which even they are unprepared. This lack of preparation may be illuminated by a work with exceptionally complex rhythmic relationships, or one where very simple, repetitive rhythmic material must be executed with exceptional accuracy.
The difficulty in repairing these shortcomings often stems from a flaw in the way we view our relationship with rhythmic ability. It is not uncommon, for instance, to hear some musicians concede they “have bad rhythm”. True, many people seem to be born with innate rhythmic skill, but it is incorrect to suppose that one is either a have or a have-not. Furthermore, this type of thinking makes the challenge appear impossibly large and undefined. If we instead view rhythm as a language, we can tap into well-established systems of education to remedy the problem. Regarding rhythmic language, one might say “I don’t know rhythm very well”. “Don’t know” instead of “don’t have” establishes an environment where fluency is within reach.
When we study a language, we start in pieces, first learning its vocabulary and basic grammar. Advanced Rhythmic Studies sets out to do just that, isolating and exercising little bits of rhythmic vocabulary and demanding complete comprehension by relating the rhythms to both an internal pulse (marching) and an external pulse (metronome). Through this approach, you will find these increasingly complex poly- and syncopated rhythms far more manageable than they may seem when encountered in musical contexts.
Much of the material here is quite advanced and will require a knowledgeable student (or one with a knowledgeable teacher), but the studies start out simple enough to be effective even for beginning players. There are five Parts, each with three, five, or seven Studies. Only the first few Studies of each Part are applicable to the music most percussionists encounter on a regular basis; the rest develop skills for especially complex music. You may feel that certain sophisticated rhythms and notations are presented earlier than expected. It is a common misperception that unfamiliar musical elements are also inherently difficult; this book aims to impart an understanding of the complexity of the material so that familiarity will cease to be an issue.
Upon completion of this course of study, you will have acquired proficiency with the highly syncopated rhythms of pop and world music, as well as a secure understanding of advanced rhythms like those found in the music of Elliott Carter or Charles Wuorinen. Other types of complex rhythms — those common in the music of Iannis Xenakis or Brian Ferneyhough — are not approached here, although the rhythmic thinking developed in these studies will make those challenges much less intimidating. Moreover, the Appendix at the end of the book briefly discusses such challenges and how they may be handled.