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LINEAR RHYTHM CONCEPT

Part 1: Linear Drumming


Joe Dorris (drummer: Cat's A Bear) and I have played music together for over twenty years. We actually met because of Linear rhythm. I was in Boston, having finished Berklee, and he came up to see about studying with Gary Chaffee, who's method books on Linear playing are indispensable for the modern drummer. We met at a jam session, and have been playing music ever since. Since Joe is my longest drum teacher, his enthusiasm for has Linear rubbed off on me!

Linear involves a way of thinking in groups of numbers, and assigning various related patterns to those numbers. A typical trap set Linear three, for example, is hh(rh) sn(lh) kick, and the related Linear four is hh(rh) sn(lh) kick kick. These groupings are most typically used to construct measures, so a measure of sixteenth notes could be played as a 3-3-3-3-4 using the above patterns. Give it a try, on a drum kit, or with your hands and (usually) right foot, and keep each event evenly spaced in time, and see what happens!

example 1: 3-3-3-3-4  [ top ]

rh(r) on hh or ride
lh(l)
on sn or rack tom

R-l-k R-l-k R-l-k R-l-k R-l-k-k

When the example is broken down in groupings, the Linear number set becomes apparent:

R-l-k
R-l-k
R-l-k
R-l-k
R-l-k-k


When broken down in sixteenth note groupings, the beat-pulse is shown:

R-l-k-r
L-k-r-l
K-r-l-k
R-l-k-k


Notice how the beginning of each grouping moves into a different position in the first three beats:

R-l-k-R
l-k-R-l
k-R-l-k
R-l-k-k

In Linear drumming, these beginnings typically serve as accents. In this number set they create a syncopated accent line. In standard rhythm notation, the accents would fall on beat-one, the ta-of-one, the and-of-two, the e-of-three, and on beat-four. This is a fairly common rhythm, one heard in bass lines, band kicks, drum fills, guitar strums, and melodic and solo lines.

These accent lines can also be manipulated by rearranging the order of the numbers. In the 3-3-3-3-4 the four can be exchanged for any of the threes, and that will change the accent line. This is a great way to experiment with rhythm, whether you are learning about time in music or composing music. You will also discover other familiar sounding rhythms as you do this. One of the variations places the four in the center:

3-3-4-3-3

The accent line formed by this number set creates a pattern called a Brazilian Clave. The beat-pulse groupings are as follows:

R-l-k-R
l-k-R-l
k-k-R-l
k-R-l-k

The rhythm count is one, ta-of-one, and-of-two, and-of-three, e-of-four. The Clave often takes place over two measures. In this case, the accents would fall on beat-one, and-of-two, and four of measure one, and beat-two, and and-of-three of measure two. This can be a relatively easy way to learn or teach the Brazilian Clave.

As you can see from these few examples, Linear is a highly flexible and useful way to unlock rhythm. To experiment with similar ideas, try making different combinations of numbers adding up to sixteen (one measure of sixteenth notes, or two measures of eighth notes). If you want to experiment using the matching groupings to the ones in the above examples, try using these:

five: R-l-r-l-k
Six: R-l-r-l-k-k
Seven: R-l-r-l-r-l-k

Here are a few examples to get you started:

7-5-4
6-6-4
5-5-3-3
4-3-5-4


Have fun!  [ top ]
 

*GUITARISTS:
The accent lines created in the examples above can be translated easily into guitar strumming. Play a sixteenth-note strum where the downstrokes fall on the beats and the ands, and the upstrokes fall on the e's and the ta's.

Play the accents with a harder, louder stroke, and play the remainder of the strokes softly or not at all (by missing the guitar strings) and you will hear the line formed by the number set.

*ADVANCED:
If you are working on these patterns with a trap set or hands and one foot, you can add the other foot to the mix in two ways. First, play the opposing foot (usually the left) on each beat. Next, just put the foot on the second and fourth beats of each measure. These are the most typical ways drummers use their hi-hat foot, and they're a great way to understand the "feel" of time in music.

Article by Frank Singer ©2005 All Rights Reserved  [ top
[ 002 ]   [ 003 ]

Linear Rhythm Concept
Article Index

1. Linear Drumming
2. Linear Drums and more
3. Orchestrating Linear for the Trap Set

Resources and Definitions

Resources_Definitions.htm
001 Handout: Cells
002 Handout: Groove Examples
003 Resources and Definitions (document in pdf form)
Linear Picking 1 (guitar)
Linear Picking 2 (guitar)
Time Drill (piano)

 

 

 

 

Linear Rhythm Concept
Article Index

1. Linear Drumming
2. Linear Drums and more
3. Orchestrating Linear for the Trap Set

Resources and Definitions

Resources_Definitions.htm
001 Handout: Cells
002 Handout: Groove Examples
003 Resources and Definitions (document in pdf form)
Linear Picking 1 (guitar)
Linear Picking 2 (guitar)
Time Drill (piano)


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