COLUMBIAS (Rumba Columbia)










(My friend, James H. VanDenAkker, died on December 1995. I've been going through his computer disks printing out his transcriptions of various rhythms, his drum notes and what few details about his life I've been able to find. I don't want the material to be lost and want it to be some kind of web drumming memorial to him. Luis)

Jim was born on 1/2/48. As a kid, he started becoming interested in the traditional drumming in New Orleans and began hanging out with the Indians when they would let him.

In 1965, he began to study traditional Haitian rhythms under Bohdi Sala.

In 1971-72, he went to Cuba and studied under Senor Bozas, working in his comparsa company. Mr. Danny Acosta played lead at the time while Jim played second.

In 1978, he opened Cambridge Custom Percussion (The Conga Shop) in Cambridge, Mass. While in Cambridge, he lectured and advised Harvard's Leslie College graduate program.

Photo of Jim in front of the Conga Shop, Cambridge, MA, with some of his drums. (1988 or 89)
Jim in front of the Conga Shop, Cambridge, MA, with some of his drums. (1988 or 89)

During his years in Cambridge, he organized many long term drum and dance circles. After 1990, one of the circles was formalized as The Earth Drum Council.

He had to close the Conga Shop due to a fire in 1990. At that time, he was diagnosed with the kidney cancer that killed him.




1. A wrench, if needed, or a pulling aid for diamonds.

2. A seat: A non-rotating (you may fall off) standard kitchen chair size with the seat 17 to 19 inches from the floor with a back, if possible.

You cannot expect there to be chairs where you go to drum. If there are some, they probably will not be the most comfortable and practical to play on. Besides, you have no "right" to a chair unless you brought it. You may find yourself standing around waiting for someone else to give up a seat. Folding and stacking chairs are usually 16 inches high or less.

(Wal-Mart offers folding stools of the right height. Very handy. Luis)

3. A drum belt. This is often just a piece of rope with a bit of coat hanger wire for a hook. It helps to keept the drum in place and relieves the legs from gripping the drum all the time. Be classy, make one out of colorful or exotic material and use a brass snap swivel hook.

4. Tape. It compresses the fingers so that the impact with the drumhead is transmitted evenly throughout the mass of the fingers. It also prevents the fingers from drying out and the skin from cracking. If your fingers start bothering you, wrap up with paper "masking" tape. For extended playing, use athlete's tape.

5. Drink. Drumming can use up a lot of water. Bring lots of liquid. Try stuff like Gatorade, watered down orange juice, sugar water, iced coffee, etc. Beer is nice at parties and you burn it up fast. Sweet rum is traditional but forbidden in some parks.

(Alcoholic beverages increase the rate of dehydration. I think plain water is the best bet. Luis)

6. Towel. A few paper towels to clean up any bird presents or spills on the drum head and to wipe hands or a sweaty brow.

7. Pencil and paper. An automatic pencil and graph paper come in handy to jot down rhythm ideas.

8. Plastic sheet. To cover your drum in case of intermittent rain.

(I would add: a drumstick to play cascara and rhythms that require it. An extra lug if you're playing for money. I also carry a small tape recorder. It's a great way to hear what the group really sounds like. Luis)




The best way to get a real good look at a rhythm is to "freeze" its motion so that its structure and relationship to other rhythms can be examined. While we can not take a photograph of a rhythm, we can create a graphic representation. This is done by using symbols to represent the strokes and evenly marking these onto a time scale.

The Strokes:

O = open tone
S = slap
B = base
P = pressed base
M = muff tone
t = touch
r = right hand
l = left hand
x = stroke by stick or bell
h-t = heel toe, usually with the left hand

Time scales are evenly spaced (proportional) and are numbered and divided with bar lines for ease of reading. Here are some popular ones:

|1 2 3 4|
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|1 2 3 4 5 6|
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 &|
|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|

Once a rhythm is written down, it can be easily examined for many different types of information. This information can be classified and lableled, which helps in composing, soloing, finding variations, and in remembering rhythms.

Type Of Information

Beat structure
Horizontal structure
Vertical relationships
Hand pattern geometry

Typical Label

Duple, triple, etc.
Binary, ternary, etc.
Polymetric, crossed, etc.
Alternating, broken alt., etc.






The quickest way to pick up a rhythm is by imitation. And, the quickest way to imitate a rhythm is by faking it. If you just do what you hear, you have a 90% chance of doing it right. This is because most human derived rhythms result from "instinctive" playing, and are therefore done with the most natural "instinctive" technique.

Drum Languages:

Memorizing the sound of several rhythms at a time is very confusing because the drums will sound the same in each piece. However, we do have highly developed language centers. By assigning to each different stroke a syllable that sounds like the note on the drum (onomatopes), the rhythm can be made into a song that is easier to remember. In most cultures, the syllables are those already common in the language and are easy to say rapidly. Here are sounds that can be used in the American English drum language (a variation of Go Do Pa Ta)

Open tone (O) De, Da, Do as in deh, dah, do
Bass (B) Dn, Bm, Gn   long, low pitched
Slap (S) Dit, Dak     short, sharp
Touch (t) T           short, quiet


DeDeDn  DeDeDit DeDeDn  DeDe
O O B   O O S   O O B   O O
r l r - r l r - r l r - r l




Many rhythms that you create or encounter can be played in different ways. The way you subconsciously feel (process) a rhythm while playing it is projected to the listeners and to other players.

The following tresillo is shown in three of the main ways a rhythm may be felt:

1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
|:, . , * , . , * , . , * , . ,:|
x - - x - - x - x - - x - - x -   sequential
x.....x.....x...x.....x.....x...  straight
x     x     x   x     x     x     with the beat


To speak this line try "k" for the notes and "t" for the rests (-). In playing you would feel the sequential flow of the individual notes and rests. This makes for precise timing. Every note has its natural slot, as well as an alignment with other accompaniments by virtue of a shared pulse rate. e.g.: common Samba agogo.


Here we have long and short rests instead of separate pulse sized rests. This gives you the ability to shorten or lengthen the rests to give the rhythm a different expression. Play this rhythm as written and slowly lengthen the short rests and shorten the long rests until you have three evenly spaced strokes per measure. Then, change them back to the original. This flexibility allows for subtle playing and playing in linear polymeter. e.g.: many claves.

With the Beat:

On hearing the first two examples, a dancer might not feel a definite beat. In trying this one, play the notes with one hand and tap the beats with your foot or the other hand. (In performance you would "feel" the beat, not tap it.) The first note is on the beat, the second is just before a beat, the third is centered between the two beats, etc. This will project a real feeling for the beat. e.g.: standard African 12/8 clave.

Another very common way to feel a rhythm is called "part alignment". This is similar to "with the beat", only you align with certain notes in an accompanying rhythm instead of with the beat. This bonds the two rhythms together for the listener. e.g.: many types of lead drumming.

These are not the only ways of feeling a rhythm, just the commonest ones. They can be mixed in different ways.

So, when you create or come upon a new rhythm, think about it in different ways. Play it in different ways. This will increase your flexibility and projection and allow you to understand the orientations of the rhythms of other cultures correctly.




Rhythm and music terms sometimes have different meanings.

Cycle: One whole repetition of a rhythm.

Measure: In rhythm; a drawn abstract representation of a block of time on which notes, etc. are written for reference. The block of time represented may be from 1/4 of the rhythm's cycle to the span of the whole cycle itself.

Example: Rhythm of two 8 pulse measures

|========== cycle ==============|
|=1st measure  =|=2nd measure  =|
|               | *             | =accent
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &| =16 pulses (8 per
|B   t   B   t  |B   t O     t  |  measure)
r    l   r   l  |r   l r     l

Example: Rhythm of one 12 pulse measure

|======== cycle ========|
|======= measure =======|
|*     *     *          | =accents
|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 4 5 6|
|B   O B   O B   O   O  |

Pulse: Smallest "regular" temporal division of a measure.

Ostinato: The continuos repetition of a cycle.

Rhythm: Pattern of notes, usually of one or two or (rarer) more measures, to be played ostinato. May be a single part or be made up of several parts (multilinear).

Rhythm Music: (as separate from melodic music) Music produced primarily by altering patterns of notes and/or accents rather than altering pitch. Melody may be non- existent or incidental to the rhythmic pattern.

Melodic Music: (as separate from rhythm music) Always has a melody of pitches in a rhythmic pattern. Produced by changes of pitch rather than by changes of pattern.

Percussion Instrument: The sound is created by something being struck. It may be melodic as in a piano or xylophone or non melodic as in a drum.

Rhythm Instrument: A short scale (non-melodic, few pitches) instrument used in the production of rhythm music.

Percussionist: Accompanies melodic music on percussion instruments.

Rhythmist: Performs rhythm music with rhythm instruments.

Part: One rhythm in a multiple rhythm piece.

Multilinear Rhythm: A rhythm consisting of more than one part.

Beat: (abstract) In music, a fixed unit of time, marking a regular series of strong and weak accents that is some major fraction of the time of a measure. i.e.: 1/2, 1/3, 1/4 of the measure. Used for conducting and counting.

Beat: (real) In rhythm, ostinato series of strong accents produced by rhythm. Used for performing and measuring.

Main or Dance Beat: The outstanding series of perceived physiological accents of a rhythm. (Where the unrehearsed dancer would tap or move his/her feet or body.)

Subsidiary Beat: All beats other than the main beat.

Part Beat: The main beat of a single part.

Counter Beat: subsidiary beats occurring exactly between the main beats.

Polymetric Beat: Different metrical beat series, usually subsidiary.

Tempo: How fast a rhythm is played.

Accent: Where a note has greater presence and/or appears to be louder. Three main types are used in rhythm music.

1. Dynamic: a louder, harder struck note.

2. Tonic: Note stands out because of a sudden change in pitch.

3. Agogic:

    a. Isolation: there are no notes immediately before it.
    b. Duration: there are no notes immediately after it.

Wattage: slang for how intense or effective a rhythm is. High wattage rhythms have great presence and drive. Low wattage rhythms are less danceable.



How does one find out the "truth" about traditional rhythms?

I usually use a method that might be called the rule of three.

1. Get at least 3 recordings of the rhythm.
2. Performed by 3 different groups.
3. In 3 different localities.
4. Recorded by 3 different producers.
5. Who were sponsored by 3 different organizations or institutions.
6. Each recording being done in a different decade.
7. Find transcriptions of the rhythm in ethnographic research reports.
8. Transcribe all 3 recordings. Compare them and keep only the notes they have in common.

The result, what all 3 examples have in common, is what I call a footprint. Like a bear's print; could be griz or polar or adult or cub or male or female, but it is a bear. There may be a lot of ways to play a Guaguanco, but its footprint is distinctly different from that of a Samba or Calypso.

I learned early on to not accept just someone from (e.g. Luis) Nigeria telling me, "This is the way Ewo is done." Maybe it is just the way his village does it, or the way he does it, or maybe he doesn't know what he's talking about.

I either want to see three different groups play it, or get the recordings of three separate groups.

This may not be a perfect method, but it is a whole lot better than just believing someone because he dresses like an African and American drummers think he is African.

Unfortunately, this method takes a lot of time. Individual rhythms are usually not listed in discographies or catalogs. Here is the method I've used in the past:

Buy all the ethnographic recordings of the culture you are examining.

Buy all the ethnomusicological disertations, thesi and research reports and their recordings of the culture. These are usually on microfilm and can be accessed by computer through University Microfilms in Michigan (don't know if this is still current. Luis)

Possibly, you already know all this, but it is too time consuming and difficult to do.




Hand patterns are primarily used to give a rhythm momentum. They are somewhat similar to drum rudiments except that they are usually naturaly derived and simpler.

Examples (rests are indicated by "-")

Alternating  r l r l r l r l .....

Alternating  r l r - l r l - ..... (inserted rests)

Alternating  r l r - r l r - ..... (skips every second                                     left)

Short Tertiary  r l - r l - r l - .....
Full Tertiary   l r r l r r ....
Broad Tertialy  l - r - r - .... (polymetric)

Additional hand patterns may be found employed in specific rhythms.

Examples (Calypsos, two common hand patterns.)

1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
|:, . , * , . ,:|
B   t O B   O
r   r l r   r  (An alternating type pattern)
r     l   r l  (An open pattern - no touches)

An alternating type pattern refers to the even spacing of one hand so that the opposite hand may be free to play between. This is a structure that permits alternation.

An open pattern is a pattern that adheres strictly to the sounded rhythm itself and has rests, but no touches.

With the alternating pattern, any note in a sequence can be struck. However, this is rather energy consuming because the hands are moving all the time.

The broken alternating pattern has built in hand syncopation:

1 & 2 & 1 & 2 &
r l r - l r l -

The second half is a 'mirror image' of the first. It also allows fexibility in timing. The following example shows the broken alt. pattern moving from an 8 to a 6 bit pattern:

1  2  3  1  2  3  1  &  2  &  3  &  4  &
1 & 2  & 3 & 4  & 1   2   3   1   2   3
r l r  - l r l  - r   l   r   l   r   l

by squeezing the rests out.

The short ternary pattern can be used for hocketts, just the same as the binary hocketts


r l - r l - r l -...   hockett, binary

The full ternary pattern is often performed with a stick in the right hand because it is very energy consuming.




(Choosing the most efficient and comfortable hand pattern makes it easy to play a part. Replace an O by B or t or S for variety. Luis)

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|O       O      |O       O      | beat
|    O       O  |    O       O  | counter beat
|  O   O   O   O|  O   O   O   O| syncopated notes
|O O O O O O O O|O O O O O O O O| all the above

r l r l r l r l r l r l r l r l   alternating hand pattern

r   r l r   r l r   r l r   r l   incomplete alternating
                                  (right hand)

r l   l r l   l r l   l r l   l   incomplete alternating
                                  (left hand)

r   l r l   r l r   l r l   r l   broken alternating

r l     r l     r l     r l       binary hockett
                                  (on the beat)

    r l     r l     r l     r l   binary counter hockett

1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3
O S   O S   O S   O S             ternary hocketts
r l   r l   r l   r l

S  O S  O S  O S  O
l  r l  r l  r l  r

(As an example, here's the permutations of the broken alternating pattern. Many interesting possibilities are available among three players by choosing three of the permutations and playing, let's say, an open tone with the right hand. Luis)

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|r l r   l r l  |r l r   l r l  | 1
|  r l r   l r l|  r l r   l r l| 2
|l   r l r   l r|l   r l r   l r| 3
|r l   r l r   l|r l   r l r   l| 4
|l r l   r l r  |l r l   r l r  | 5
|  l r l   r l r|  l r l   r l r| 6
|r   l r l   r l|r   l r l   r l| 7
|l r   l r l   r|l r   l r l   r| 8

Progressive densities, common meters & beat: (over 24 pulses)

*           *           *           * beat
O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O 24
O  O  O  O  O  O  O  O  O  O  O  O  O  O  O  O  16
O   O   O   O   O   O   O   O   O   O   O   O   12
O     O     O     O     O     O     O     O     8
O       O       O       O       O       O       6
O           O           O           O           4
O               O               O               3
O                       O                       2
0                                               1

1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 & 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 &
1  &  2  &  3  &  4  &  1  &  2  &  3  &  4  &
1   2   3   4   5   6   1   2   3   4   5   6
1     &     2     &     1     &     2     &
1       2       3       4       5       6
1           2           3           4
1               2               3
1                       2




We usually do not call a series of notes occuring at random intervals a rhythm. This, of course, implies that to be called a rhythm, some type of order may be imposed upon a note sequence.

Since humans dance to rhythm, and since dancing is a repetitive operation, dancers need some indication from the rhythm itself, as to where a repetition is to occur. This repetition of something in a rhythm is the order to be treated first. The union, repeated dance step with something repeated in a rhythm, is a coincidental species of order.

This type of order, repetition, can be taken as a geometrical concept. In that case it can be a repetition of a pattern of notes, parts of a pattern of notes, a single note, a real or implied beat, or even the size of a pattern. Each is the repetition of something, and each is recognized by dancers as a repetition.

Repetition of part of a pattern:

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|O   O O   O O  |O     O     O  |

Repetition of a note:

|O t tt t t t|O t t  t t t|

Repetition of implied beat:

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|O O O O O     t|t   O   t   S  |




NOTE: This chapter addresses dance rhythms only.

Beat is the connection between rhythm and dance. If a rhythm is such that a person hearing it will hear/feel repeated points of emphasis, in an understandable order and at a pace known as "dancing speed", that rhythm is said to have a dance beat.

The main problem in producing a danceable rhythm is the failure of the composer/arrager or the performer to emphasize a main beat. Even when the main beat series is so odd as to be totally unfamiliar to the dancers, emphasizing it solves the problem.

A performer may be able to play a single rhythm with several different beat sequences. There are four methods to find a correct (danceable) one.

1. Dance or tap your foot to it.
2. The loudest note or a bass tone will often be a part of the danceable beat series.
3. A particular hand or note will repeat in a pattern similar to a beat.
4. Notating the rhythm will usually make the dance beat obvious, if it exists.
A multilinear rhythm will have only one main dance beat. Some of the individual parts may have this beat, some may have another, and others may have none at all. The main one, the dance beat, is the one that stands out from the rest. If none stands out, blame the composer/arranger.

When performing with other drummers, what you decide to play may have a different natural beat than the main one. This will create one of two situations.

1. You have to change and play the main beat because your beat would be distracting.
2. Your different beat does not matter because the main beat is so dominant and/or your "off"     beat complements it.

Sometimes, in playing a single rhythm, you will want to emphasize a different beat series than the obvious one. This usually only occurs in polymetric rhythms.

To project your beat, you must express it physically. If you don't, you can't expect people to enjoy it as much or to dance to it. You can put beat into your rhythm by playing it slowly at first and tapping your foot to the beat. You use your foot because the leg muscles will rock and influence your whole body. You will then be better able to feel the beat relationship. As you pick up speed, you will no longer be able to tap your foot, but your body will still move and influence the sound. Using notation and playing slowly at first will make this process easier.

Often, in order to be able to relate to what you are playing and accompany you, a good drummer or dancer will ask you where the beat is (if it is not obvious). If you don't know, it looks like you don't care about one of the main reasons drumming exists; dance.

On the other hand, many people are lazy and just don't want to take the time to learn the beat to what the are playing. This makes their drumming sound flat.





Don't waste your energy playing too many notes or on touches or awkward hand patterns. It junks up the sound.

People, especially dancers, occassionally would like to hear high energy rhythms. You'll drag everybody if your rhythm is so energy consuming or complex that you can't keep up. Often, a rhythm will start out slower and you'll find your pattern too dense to keep up as the speed increases.

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & |
|O O t t O O t t | A
 r l r l r l r l

|O O     O O     | B
 r l     r l

|B   t O B   O   | C
 r   r l r   r

|B     O B   O   | D
 r     l r   l

A wastes energy and muddies up the sound
B is clean and cutting
C is alright when slow, but
D will keep the rhythm driving
Also, you can "divide" a rhythm or drop notes as speed increases.

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|B   O O B   O O| med
|B   O   B   O  |
|B       B      | fast

|1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3|
|B O O B O O|B O O B O O| med
|B   O B   O|B   O B   O|
|B     B    |B     B    |
|B          |B          | fast

In most traditional drum cultures, the low drum because of its sustain, plays the lead. Low drums can also shape a rhythm. Example:

(This example is not named by Jim and I hate to say, it's a blah blah blah, so I'm leaving it untitled. It's useful enough as an example. Luis)

|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|
|X     X     X     X    |X     X     X     X    |axatse
|X   X   X X   X   X   X|X   X   X X   X   X   X|gankogui 
|  O O   O O   O O   O O|  O O   O O   O O   O O|kaganu 
|P   O P O O P   O P   O|P   O P O O P   O P   O|kloboto 
|P P P O O O P P P O O O|P P P O O O P P P O O O|kidi 
|P   O   O   P     P    |P   O   O   P     P    |sogba
|X     X     X     X    |X     X     X     X    |  1 
|P           P     P    |P           P     P    |  2 
|    O   O              |    O   O              |  3 
|O           P         O|O           P         O|  4 
|O           X     X    |X               O O O O|  5 
|O       O       O     O|O       O       O     O|  6

Atsimevu is the low drum.
1. It drives the beat X=stick on side of drum.
2. Emphasizes the press tones of the sogba.
3. Reenforces the open tones of the sogba.

(The sogba in this example may be mislabeled totodzi or vice versa. the terms really don't matter since it's the relationship between the drums that's being stressed. -Luis)

4. Broadens the beat.
5. Doubles the length of the rhythm.
6. Makes a polymetric beat and can completely change the nature of the rhythm.

The axatse is similar to a shekere. A gankogui is a double bell.

Listen to what is going on and put something in that either reinforces where it is needed or complements. But, make sure it has a different structure to add depth.

Sometimes it's tempting to start out playing a complex pattern to make a rhythm sound nice, but once the rhythm starts speeding up, don't let complexity block the flight of a rhythm taking off. If you can't play a certain rhythm with freedom, spirit and life it it, save it for practice. When the energy is high, fire up and do your best.

Lower drums usually have more sustain. Play too many notes and they'll start to run together and just sound like a rumble.





(Keeping the beat with the left hand is a very common and useful technique. Here's some examples. -Luis)

|1 2 3 4 5 6|1 2 3 4 5 6|
|B     B    |B     B    |
 l     l     l     l

|1 2 3 4 5 6|1 2 3 4 5 6|
|B O O B O O|B O O B O O|
 l r r l r r l r r l r r

|1 2 3 4 5 6|1 2 3 4 5 6|
|B   O B   O|B   O B   O|
 l   r l   r l   r l   r

|1 2 3 4 5 6|1 2 3 4 5 6|
|B   O B    |B   O B    |
 l   r l     l   r l

|1 2 3 4 5 6|1 2 3 4 5 6|
|B   O B O O|B   O B O  |
 l   r l r r l   r l r

|1 2 3 4 5 6|1 2 3 4 5 6|
|B   O B O  |B   O B O  |
 l   r l r   l   r l r

|1 2 3 4 5 6|1 2 3 4 5 6|
|B O   B   O|B   O B O  |
 l r   l   r l   r l r

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 &|
|B   O   O   B O   O   O|
 l   r   r   l r   r   r
In the following samples, the beat is played with the left, right or both hands (as indicated).

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 &|
|B   O O O   B O   O O  |
 r   l r l   r l   r l

|1 2 3 4 5 6|1 2 3 4 5 6|
|B   B O   O|B   B O   O|
 r   r l   l r   r l   l

|1 2 3 4 5 6|1 2 3 4 5 6|
|B   B O O O|B   B O O O|
 r   r l r l r   r l r l

|1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6|1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6|
|B     O     B   B   O O|B   B O   O B   B   O O|
 r     l     r   r   r l r   r l   l r   r   r l



We normally play a rhythmic pattern with a single orientation. It's like when we say a sentence, we don't start on the second or third syllable of a word.

Unlike a song, in which the order of the words tells us where a statement begins and ends, a rhythmic pattern is made up of a series notes that could start almost anywhere. If a drummer tries to join another drummer harmoniously, and he misinterprets the other, the two may end working against each other.

The problem is that, when one drummer misinterprets what another is saying, his accompaniment may be to an entirely different statement.

Drumming is intellectualy, emotionaly, and physically stimulating. But, the emotional stimulation is dependent on the other two. So, there should be a common language.


How groups of notes are turned into "words".


The linear structure of a rhythm. e.g.:

Vertical Interplay:

The 2 dimensional geometric structure of a multi-part rhythm when its pattern is interpreted as a visual image.


Identical rhythms played together.


Different rhythms, tempos, meters, etc. played together. Two or more completely different pieces played at (almost) the same time.


Combination of different rhythms and/or rhythms with differently perceived temporal starts. And/or, rhythms of different meters or tempos.

Shifted Rhythms:

When the perceived start of a rhythm is displaced less than one half cycle from the perceived start of another rhythm.


|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|O O O O O   t S|t   O   t   S  | merengue starting on 1
 r l r l r   l r l   r   l   r

|O   B     O B  |O   B     O B  | calypso starting on 2
 l   r     l r   l   r     l r

Doubled Rhythms:

Shifted identical rhythms.


|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|B     O B   O  |B     O B   O  |calypso starting on 1
 r     l r   l   r     l r   l

|O   B     O B  |O   B     O B  |calypso starting on 2
 l   r     l r   l   r     l r

Cross Rhythms:

When the perceived start of a rhythm is displaced exactly one half cycle from the perceived start of some other rhythm.


|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|O   O   S     S|O   O   S     S|  conga starting on 1
 r   r   r     l r   r   r     l

|B   O   B     O|B   O   B     O|  calypso starting on 3
 r   l   r     l r   l   r     l

Counter Rhythms:

When the perceived start of a rhythm is displaced exactly one half cycle from an identical rhythm.


|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|B     O B   O  |B     O B   O  |  calypso starting on 1
 r     l r   l   r     l r   l

|B   O   B     O|B   O   B     O|  calypso starting on 3
 r   l   r     l r   l   r     l


Identical rhtyhms made of repeated short identical elements, doubled and shifted 1 or 2 pulses.


|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|          |1 2 3 1 2 3|
|O O     O O    |          |S   O S   O|
|    O O     O O|          |O S   O S  |

Polymetric Rhythms:

Rhythms of different meters or tempos.

Simple Polymeter:

Different meter, same tempo, same cycle time.


Abakua, Cuba

|1 2 3 4 5 6|1 2 3 4 5 6| 
|O       O  |    O      |    binary part 
|O          |O          |    ternary part 

Compound Polymeter:

Single rhythm that can be of more than one meter, depending on how it is played and/or what it is played along with.


|B O O B O O |   binary spacing of a ternary pattern 

Complex Polymeter:

Different meters, different speeds, same cycle time.

e.g.: (dots are used to show polymetric spacing)

1  &  2  &  3  &  4  & 
|  ,  .  ,  .  ,  .  ,  | 8 pulse measure 
O     O  O     O  O       cinquillo 

O       O   O   O         "1/2" bembe 
1   2   3   4   5   6     6 pulse measure 
|   .   .   .   .   .   | 

Compound Complex Polymeter:

Complex rhythms, at least one being compound.


1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 
| . . . . . . . . . . . | 
S   O S   O S   O S   O    ternary part 
B       O       O          compound complex-binary ternary 
                           3 pulses against 12 pulses 

So then you can have:

Depth by position:

Unison & Imbroglio
Polyrhythm & Shifted Rhythm
Doubled Rhythm & Hocket
Cross Rhythm & Counter Rhythm

Depth by Polymeter:

Compound Complex

Depth by density:

Compound Complex (cc)




1  &  2  &  3  &  4  &  1  &  2  &  3  &  4  &  
|: ,  .  ,  .  ,  .  ,  .  ,  .  ,  .  ,  .  , :| 
1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 
|:. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .:| 
O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O    1 
O  O  O  O  O  O  O  O  O  O  O  O  O  O  O  O     2 
O   O   O   O   O   O   O   O   O   O   O   O      3 
O     O     O     O     O     O     O     O        4
O       O       O       O       O       O          5
O           O           O           O              6
O               O               O                  7
O                       O                          8 
O                                                  9 

1. 21 straight
2. 16 binary complex
3. 12 binary simple
4. 8 straight ternary
5. 6 binary compound complex
6. 4 ternary 6
7. 3 thirds, compound complex
8. 2 measure marker
9. 1 cycle marker

You can see from the above patterns that Desity and Polymetric rhythms make a visual pattern. However, when visualized while listening, each different meter or density may occupy a separate area of dimensional space. Each pattern has a relationship to one or more separate patterns. Thus, they become a whole. Each interrelationship also occupies its own dimension. Each dimension relates to a separate aesthetic feeling, each excites and motivates patterns of neurons in the brain, patterns within patterns. The more dimensions, the more space one's mind has room to fly around in.

When putting different types of patterns in different orientations, much care must be taken so that the whole is clear and effective. The more different things the rhythm has, the more difficult it is to keep it from getting confusing.


P=pressed bass

(sounds like) Atsiagbeko Vulolo

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 &|
|X           X          |X           X          |claps   1 
|X       x       x   x  |    x       x       x  |bell    2 
|    O O     O   O   O  |    O O     O   O   O  |kaganu  3 
|M   O   O   O   M   M  |M   O   O   O   M   M  |hidi    4 
|P       O   P   O O O  |P       O   P       O  |kloboto 5 
|P       O       O      |P       M   P       M  |totodzi 6 

1. beat
2. syncopation, measure marker
3. binary, polymeter
4. shifted, melodic, divisional
5. beat, cluster, melodic
6. broad dominant, beat





This is a collection of popular small rhythm elements and their hand patterns. These elements are combined in different ways and make up most of the world's hand drum rhythms.

S = slap
B = base
P = pressed base
t = touch
O = open tone
x = open tone that may also be played with a stick. ? =
can be S, B, P or t l & r = striking hand

Three space element:

|1 2 3|        |1 2 3|
|?   O|        |? x x|
 l   r          l r r

Four space element:

|1 & 2 &|    |1 & 2 &|    |1 & 2 &|     |1 & 2 &|
|B   O  |    |O   ?  |    |?   O O|     |O O    |
 r   l        r   l        r   r l       r l

Six space element:

|1 2 3 1 2 3|     |1 2 3 1 2 3|     |1 2 3 1 2 3|
|B   B O   O|     |B   B O O O|     |?   O O O  |
 r   r l   l       r   r l r l       r   l r l

|1 2 3 1 2 3|     |1 2 3 1 2 3|     |1 2 3 1 2 3|
|O O O t t t|     |P   O   O  |     |P O O P O O|
 r l r l r l       l   r   r         l r l r l r

Eight space element:

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|   |1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|   |1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|x     x     x  |   |O   O O   O O  |   |B     O B   O  |
 r     r     r       r   r l   r l       r     l r   l 
tresillo            cinquillo           calypso

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|     |1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|O   O   ?      |     |O O ?   t t t  |
 r   r   l             r l r   l r l




Most of the world's hand drum rhythms are combinations of these. They are selected for their simplicity, usefulness and educational variety.

* = Dance beat
B = bass
P = pressed bass
O = open tone
S = slap
t = touch

1 2 3 1 2 3  do not count these numbers  
* . . * . .  go by the beat and pulse  
B   B O   O  
r   r l   l  striking hand  

Three space rhythms:

|1 2 3|   |1 2 3|   |1 2 3|  
|* . .|   |. * .|   |. . *|  
|O    |   |O P  |   |O O B|  
 r         r l       r r l  

Four space rhythms:

|1 & 2 &|   |1 & 2 &|   |1 & 2 &|  |1 & 2 &|
|* , . ,|   |* , . ,|   |. , * ,|  |* , . ,| 
|O      |   |B   O  |   |O O B  |  |O O    |
 r           r   l       r l r      r l  

Six space rhythms:

|1 2 3 4 5 6|   |6 1 2 3 4 5|   |1 2 3 1 2 3|
|* . . . . .|   |. * . . . .|   |* . . * . .| 
|B   O O O  |   |O P   O    |   |B   B O   O| 
 r   l r l       r l   r         r   r l   l  

Eight space rhythms:

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|     |1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|* , . , * , . ,|     |* , . , * , . ,|   
|B   B   O     O|     |B     O B   O  |  
 r   r   l     l       r     l r   l  

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|(cinquillo)   |1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|* , . , * , . ,|              |. , * , . , * ,|  
|O   O O   O O  |              |O O t   t t t  | 
 r   r l   r l                  r l r   l r l  

Twelve space rhythms:

|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|    |1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 4 5 6|
|* . . * . . * . . * . .|    |* . . * . . * . . . . .| 
|P   O P     P   O P O  |    |P   O P   O P   O   O  | 
 l   r l     l   r l r        l   r l   r l   r   r  
Sixteen space rhythms:
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|. , * , . , * , . , * , . , . ,|
|O O B   O O S   O O B   O O    |
 r l r   r l r   r l r   r l

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|. , * , . , * , . , * , . , * ,|
|O O O O   O P   O   P   O   P  |
 r l r l   r l   r   l   r   l



The World's Simplest Rhythms:

Basic beat keeping:

1)      -       -                       = beat
        . . . . . . . .                 = pulse
        B       B                       = low pitch
Then, adding something between the beats:
2)      -       -			
        . . . . . . . .
        B   O   B   O 	      O = higher pitch

Then, syncopating a note:
 -       -
 . . . . . . . .
 B     O B   O
 l     r l   r		= l&r hands
Building blocks:
When applied:
r rl rl 
r r l   rl  l

r l r l r l
become rhythms that can be perceived as being divided in various ways:
|1 2 3 4|1 2 3 4|1 2 3 4|1 2 3 4|
|B   O  |B   O  |B   O  |B   O  |

|1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8|1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8|
|O   O O   O O  |O   O O   O O  |

|1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6|
|O O O O O     B B   B   B   B  |

|1 2 3|1 2 3|1 2 3|1 2 3|
|O   O|O   O|O   O|O   O|

|1 2 3 4|1 2 3 4|1 2 3 4|
|  O   O|  O   O|  O   O|   

|1 2 3 4 5 6|1 2 3 4 5 6|
|O   O O O  |O   O O O  |

|1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2|
|O   O   O O   O   O   O  

|1 2 3 4 5|1 2 3 4 5|
|O   O   O|  O   O  |
|O   O O  |O   O O  |
|B        |B        |
Some components:
|123|   |1&2&|   |123456|     |1&2&3&4&|
|O  |   |O   |   |O     |     |0       |
|OO |   |OO  |   |OO    |     |OO      |
        |O O |   |O O   |     |O O     |
        |OOO |   |OOO   |     |OOO     |
                 |O  O  |     |O  O    |
                 |OO O  |     |OO O    |
                 |O OO  |     |O OO    |
                 |OOOO  |     |OOOO    |
                 |O O O |     |O   O   |
                 |OOO O |     |OO  O   |
                 |OO OO |     |O O O   |
                              |OOO O   |
                              |O  OO   |
                              |OO OO   |
                              |O OOO   |
                              |OOOOO   |
                              |O O  O  |
                              |OOO  O  |
                              |OO O O  |

|1 & 2 &|  |1 & 2 &|  |1 & 2 &|  |1 & 2 &|
|O      |  |O   O  |  |O O O  |  |O O O O|

|1 2 3 4 5 6|  |1 2 3 4 5 6|  |1 2 3 4 5 6|
|O          |  |O P   O    |  |B   B O   O|

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|  |1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|B   B   O     O|  |B     O B   O  |
 r   r   l     l    r     l r   l

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|  |1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|O   O O   O O  |  |O O t   t t t  |
 r   r l   r l      r l r   l r l

|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|
|P   O P     P   O P O  |
 l   r l     l   r l r

|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|
|P   O P   O P   O   O  |
 l   r l   r l   r   r

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|O O B   O O S   O O B   O O    |
 r l r   r l r   r l r   r l

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|O O O O   O P   O   P   O   P  |
 r l r l   r l   r   l   r   l

And, when played with others:
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|    O O     O O|    O O     O O|  high
|O       O      |O       O      |  med
|B   B   B   B  |               |  low

|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|
|O   O       O   O      |O   O       O   O      | high 
|                       |      O     O     O   O| med 
|      B   B   B   B   B|                       | low

|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|
|O   O   O       O   O  |O       O   O   O      | high
|B   B       B     B    |B   B       B   B      | low

When you put these together:

(Please take the following names with a 'sounds like' in front of them. These are designed to be played in a large drum circle by every conceivable combination of drums. -Luis)

Frame Obligo

|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|
|  O O   O O   O O   O O|  O O   O O   O O O O O| high conga 
|O   O       O   O      |O   O       O          |framedrums
|                       |      O     O     O   O| mediums 
|      O   O   O   O   O|                       | lows 
|O           O          |O           O          | basses
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|    O O     O O|    O O     O O| highs
|        O O   O|O   O   O O    | mediums
|O   O   P      |O O     P      | lows 
on the fourth repetition:
|O   O   O   O  |O   O   O O    | mediums

|O O OO  OO  OO  O O OO  OO  OO  | very highs
|  OO  OO  OO  OO  OO  OO  OO  OO| highs
|    O O     O O     O O O O O O | meds
|O     O         O     O         | lows
on the fourth repetition:
|    O O     O O     O O OO OO O | meds

|1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3|
|  O O   O O|  O O   O O| highs
|O   O O   O|O   O O   O|  meds
|M   O   O  |M     M    |  lows




Here are some simple combinations of rhythms in 2 and 3.

|1 2 3 4 5 6|1 2 3 4 5 6|
|O   t   O  |t   O   t  | high
 r   l   r   l   r   l
|O   t t   t|O   t t   t| low
 r   l r   l r   l r   l

|1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3|
|S     S    |S     S    |high
 r     l     r     l
|O   O   O  |O   O   O  |low
 l   r   l   r   l   r

If someone is playing this:  |1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
                             |B     O B   O  |  

And, you play a ternary hockett:
1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 etc.
O S   O S   O S   etc. the result is

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|O S   O S   O S|  O S   O S   O|S   O S   O S  | 
|B     O B   O  |B     O B   O  |B     O B   O  |
if you play the hockett by the pulse, not the beat.
|1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3|
|S   O S   O|S   O S   O|
|O O O   O O|O   O O O  | This is the binary,
                        3 notes + 1 rest = 4 (3x4=12)

|1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3|
|S   O S   O|S   O S   O|
|P   O   O  |P   O P   O|

|1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3|  |1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 &| 
|S   O S   O|S   O S   O|  |O O   O O   O O   O O  | 
|B   O   B  |O   B   O  |  |B       B       B      |

|1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6|1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6|
|X   X   X       X   X  |X       X   X   X      |bell is long
|O   O O O   O O O   O O|O   O O O   O O O   O O|binary
|B           B          |B           B          |ternary

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 1 & 2 &|3 & 4 & 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|X X   X X   X   X X   X|X   X   X X   X X   X  | bell
|X   X   X X   X   X   X|X   X   X X   X   X   X| bell

(Note that, on the following, one meter is written as the top line and the other as the bottom line. -Luis)

Complex Polymeter

|1   2   3   1   2   3|  
|P   t   S   P   O   O|
 l   l   r   l   r   r
|O  O  t     t  t  t  |
 r  l  r     l  r  l
|1  &  2  &  3  &  4 &|
Complex Polymeter
|1  &  2  &  3  &  4  &| 1  &  2  &  3  &  4  &|
|X     X     X  X     X| X     X  X     X     X|
|    X       X         | X       X           X |        
|3   4   5   6   1   2 | 3   4   5   6   1   2 |

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|B     O B   O   B     O B   O   B     O B   O  |
|S                                 O S   O S   O|
|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|

One player on two drums:
|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|

|S     S     S     S    |  l
|O   O   O   O   O   O  |  r

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 &|
|O O   O O   O O   O O  |  r
|O       O       O      |  l
(Note the different meter written as the middle line. -Luis)

Four players:

|1   2   3   1   2   3 | 1   2   3   1   2   3 |
|P   t   S   P   O   O | P   t   S   P   O   O |high
 l   l   r   l   r   r   l   l   r   l   r   r
|O  O  t     t  t  t   | O  O  t     t  t  t   |med high
 r  l  r     l  r  l     r  l  r     l  r  l
|1  &  2  &  3  &  4  &| 1  &  2  &  3  &  4  &|
|O     O  O     O  O   |                       |med
 r     r  l     r  l
|O       O   O   O     |                       |low
 r       r   l   r
|1   2   3   1   2   3 | 1   2   3   1   2   3 |




Binary means notes and rests grouped by twos and squares of twos: 2, 4, 8, 16, etc.

Ternary means notes and rests grouped by threes and squares of threes: 3, 6, 9, 12, 18, 24, etc.

Others are called "by fives", "by sevens", etc.

Duple means two beats.
Triple means three beats.
Quadruple means four beats etc.
The basic broken alternating Guaguanco beats are marked _
+ marks the start

 _       _       _       _   +
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|O   t O O   B t|t   t t t   B t|
 r   l r l   r l r   l r l   r l
(See COLUMBIAS. -Luis)

Basic Abacua

Practice the binary part while tapping the duple ternary beat with the foot.

 _           _
|1 2 3 4 5 6|1 2 3 4 5 6|
|O   t   O  |t   O   t  |  high
|O   t t   t|O   t t   t|  med
Ternary practice.

Practice the first two separately.

 _     _
|1 2 3 1 2 3|
|B   B O   O|
 r   r l   l

 _     _
|1 2 3 1 2 3|
|B   B O O O|
 r   r l r l

notice the pick up notes at the start

    |1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3|
 O O|B     O    |B   B   O O|B   B O   O|B   B   O O|
 r l r     l     r   r   r l r   r l   l r   r   r l
    |B   B O O O|B   B O O O|B   B O O O|B   B   O O|
     r   r l r l r   r l r l r   r l l l r   r   r l
 _           _
|1 2 3 4 5 6|1 2 3 4 5 6|
|B   O O O  |B O   O O  |
 r   l r l   r l   r l
 _           _     _
|1 2 3 4 5 6|1 2 3 1 2 3|
|P   O   O  |P   t P   t|
 l   r   r   l   r l   r
(To me, the following is a flight of free form academese, but here goes. Maybe it will make sense to those who understand academese. -Luis)

Note that some of the above could appear cryptic. The set to be transfered is a complete set of information (meta). The structure of said set is hierarchical. To outline the applicable hierarchy and structural and meta-structural relationships for each new structure would be laborious (like this sentence)

However, some conceptual, structural, hierarchal and relational information does have to be understood to more fully understand what is being imparted. To accomplish this, the given information is designed so that its missing elements yield either of the following:

1. The person senses the relationships and structures that provide the missing information.

2. The person has to discover the relationships and structures that provide the missing information.

For the last, the gap in information is arranged so that the options are limited to be fairly singular and logical.

For example; why is the start of the rhythm given a special notation, why is it placed differently than the measure lines. Also, translating "brkn" forces one to figure out what it has to do with the hand pattern.

1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
r l r l r l r l  alternating
r l r   r l r    incomplete alternating
  l r l   l r l  its opposite
r l r   l r l    brkn alternating
                 removing the rests yields:
                 1 2 3 4 5 6
                 r l r l r l
^       ^        (also hands syncopate with any 
                  binary beat.)



Most of the best drumming is polymetric, which means more than one meter. Usually, this is a "2 against 3" (2- 3), which refers to some multiple of 2 (2, 4, 8, or 16) against some multiple of 3 (3, 6, 9, 12, 18, or 24). The simplest standard one of these would be an Afro-Cuban Abacua:

|1 2 3 4 5 6|1 2 3 4 5 6|
|O   t   O  |t   O   t  |
|O   t t   t|O   t t   t|
This illustrates a "signature" geometry of 2-3, in this form called "unison-tri-an-gle". This refers to the unison of open tones on the 1, and the triangle of open tones near the middle of the rhythm. You can sing the triangle, using one syllable for each open tone. This figure shows up in many 2-3 rhythms.

Practicing this one with the left and right hands as shown will help you get the feel of this "signature":

(One player, two drums. -Luis)

|1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3|
|S     S    |S     S    | left hand
|O   O   O  |O   O   O  | right hand
This next one has large and small triangles:

If someone is playing this:

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|B     O B   O  | a Calypso
and you play this:
1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 ....
O S   O S   O S   .... a ternary hockett
The result is: (go by the pulse, not the beat. -Luis)
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|S   O S   O S  |O S   O S   O S|  O S   O S   O|
|B     O B   O  |B     O B   O  |B     O B   O  |
                       ^(it's easiest to catch the hockett here.  Luis)
The rhythm becomes 3 times as long. The Calypso has to be repeated 3 times and each Calypso measure sounds different. It transforms the relative flatness of the Calypso into something more mysterious and sensual.

This one is much more difficult:

|1  &  2  &  3  &  4  & |1  &  2  &  3  &  4  & |
|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|
|  O               O    |          O            | quinto
|O     t  O  t     B  t |t     t  t  t     B  t | conga
 r     l  r  l     r  l  r     l  r  l     r  l
the conga is playing a guaguanco pattern.

To do this one you must target the two B notes. One of them you unison with, the other becomes part of the triangle. You have to target your first note, concentrate on the melody (unison-tri-an-gle), and play very evenly. This type of figure is called "broad" and you would be chopping the rhythm in thirds.

Here is another, denser Abacua which shows a "W" figure:

|1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3|
|O t   O t  |O t   O t  |
|O   t   O  |t   O   t  |
The point of all this is the geometry of typical polymetric structures, and how knowing the geometry can help you use polymetrics in accompaniment.

The more natural form of polymetrics is when you have a rhythm of 12 length and you add some binary figure to it:

|1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3|
|S   O S   O|S   O S   O|
|O O O   O O|O   O O O  |  this is the binary, 
                           3 notes + 1 rest = 4 (3x4=12)
When the figure you add is binary throughout, as above, you should be careful that it doesn't dominate and change the beat. Of course, you could use a linear polymetric, something partially in binary and partially supporting the ternary beat:

|1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3|
|S   O S   O|S   O S   O|
|P   O   O  |P   O P   O|
Here are some more examples of polymetric accompaniment:
|1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3|
|S   O S   O|S   O S   O|
|B   O   B  |O   B   O  |

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 &|
|O O   O O   O O   O O  |
|B       B       B      |
bell (X) is long binary
|1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6|1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6|
|X   X   X       X   X  |X       X   X   X      |
|O   O O O   O O O   O O|O   O O O   O O O   O O| binary
|B           B          |B           B          | ternary
(Note the bottom meter line in this next example. -Luis)
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|X X   X X   X  |X X   X X   X  |X X   X X   X  |
|X   X   X X   X   X   X|X   X   X X   X   X   X|
|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|
Complex Polymetric
|1   2   3   1   2   3 |
|P   t   S   P   O   O |
 l   l   r   l   r   r
|1  &  2  &  3  &  4  &|
|O  O  t     t  t  t   |
 r  l  r     l  r  l

|1  &  2  &  3  &  4  &  1  &  2  &  3  &  4  &|
|X     X     X  X     X  X     X  X     X     X|
|3   4   5   6   1   2   3   4   5   6   1   2 |
|    X       X           X       X           X |



In the Cuban repertoire, certain rhythms are divided into the classifications claves and cascaras. The Haitians have a further division called katas. The distinguishing difference between these classes of rhythms are their densities.

Classification by density helps by grouping all rhythms of a certain density level together. Once grouped together, they are much easier to explore for similarities and differences.

For instance, there are 65,535 possible 16/8 rhythms, not counting strange accentuations, etc. Clearly too extensive a list to explore if one is just trying to find a new bell line.

Fortunately, these rhythms can be divided into subgroups by their density, what percentage of the measure the notes occupy.

A further filtering out can be accomplished by only including those rhythms that spread themselves evenly across the measure. This is easy to do with a computer, but we don't all have one as part of our "kit".

Here is how the classification scenario works. (This will address the 16/8's only. The definitions fit the 8/8's, 6/8's and 12/8's but there are fewer of them).

CLAVES: 25% to 50% of the measure. No more than one note in a row. No more than 3 rests in a row.

At the 25% level, this would be the minimum of 4 evenly spaced notes, in other words, the typical quadruple 16/8 beat. At the 50% level you would have every other note being played and this is the border of the cascaras.

Rhythms with more than 3 rests in a row would have less continuity than the beat. The use of such rhythms as one hand stick rhythms has not been found in any culture. Rhythms with more than one note in a row do not have the distinctive character of a clave.

CASCARAS: 50% to 75% density. No more than 2 notes in a row. No more than one rest in a row.

The restriction on notes in a row has to do with human dexterity. Rhythms that cover more than half the measure call for speed. If you search the world for cascaras, you will find 99% of them being played with one hand. In most cultures, if a rhythm takes two hands to play, it eventually winds up being played on a drum. (And these classifications are not about drum rhythms).

These rhythms are clearly too fast and dense to be thought of as clave rhythms. The division is for the brisk rhythms that humans play on bells, beer bottles and ride cymbals with one hand. It is not that they cannot be played with two sticks. It's just a special division to encompass what most cultures are really doing.

Whey playing briskly with one hand, two things become evident. People don't count any rests or leave room for more than one at that speed. It's a natural phenomena found in all cultures. The brain gets occupied with powering the rhythm along and just won't pause to include multiple rests. On the other hand, humans cannot execute three strokes in a row with one hand comfortably. One or two strokes is easy. On a third stroke, the muscles of the forearm tense up. Not enough bounce and recovery is left in the stick. One hand rhythms with more than three notes in a row have never been found in any long term human culture.

KATAS: 75% to 100% density. Katas are found in many cultures but it was the Haitians that made them most popular. Therefore, we use the Haitian term. The most popular kata of all is the 100%. This, of course is just like doing a continuous roll. Many Haitian rhythms are made of very few notes. When played alone, they sound fine, but somehow lack in drive. The kata fills in the background with the pulse of the rhythm. Try playing the Haitian glissade Congo without its kata. It will sound kind of bare, like most of its substance is missing. Add the kata and the rhythm leaps with fire.

16/8 Cascaras

Density: 50% to 75%
Notes: 8 to 10; no more than 2 in a row
Rests: 8 to 6; no more than 1 in a row

1.  X-X-X-X-X-X-X-X-
2.  XX-X-X-XX-X-X-X-
3.  XX-X-XX-X-X-X-X-
4.  XX-XX-X-X-X-X-X-
5.  XX-XX-X-XX-XX-X-
6.  XX-XX-XX-X-XX-X-
7.  XX-XX-XX-XX-X-X-
16/8 Katas

Density: 75% to 100%

Notes: 12 to 16

Rests: 4 to 0; no more than 1 in a row





I first learned to play the Conga rhythm as a conguero in a Cuban comparsa. Comparsa is a Spanish term that refered to the group of extras in a play. In time, it also came to mean the dancers that accompany musicians and, finally, the dancers and musici ans as a troupe.

In Cuba, the conga drums became an important part of comparsa music.

The Conga is what is known as a dance "step" rhythm. The step is on the & after 2 in the 2nd measure.

Here is a typical example of a Conga:

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|x   x   X     x|  x     X   X  | bell (x=closed X=open)
|    S S     O O|    S S     O O| high
     r l     r l     r l     r l
|B   t   B   t  |B   t O     t  | conga
 r   l   r   l   r   l r     l
The bass tones set up the usual pattern of regular beats. The open tone forces the next beat to occur earlier. It is triple accented, dynamic (louder), tonic (higher pitched) and agogic (in rhythms this means it sounds louder because it has a lot of spa ce around it) This accent also causes the dance step.

Here are some common variations of the basic Conga pattern:

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|B   B   B   B  |B     O        |

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|B   B       B  |B   B O        |

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|O O O O O O O O|O O O B        |

In modern salsa and in some comparsas, a rhythm called a Mozambique is sometimes added to give the Conga more melodic content. A Mozambique is a "melody dominant" rhythm. It's melody consists of 3 quarter notes in a row in a 16/8. In the example shown below, the three notes are low, high, low; starting on the 3 in the second measure and ending on the one in the first measure. To further balance this melody, I've added double accented open tones starting at the 4 of the first measure. Flam these occas ionaly, this will increase its agogic.

Note that this is my own variation. There are other variations, but this is the one I enjoy the most.

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|x   x   X     x|  x     X   X  | bell
|B   S S     O O|    S S B   O  | high
 r   r l     r l     r l r   r
|B   t   B   t  |B   t O     t  | conga
 r   l   r   l   r   l r     l




The "mambo" technique of playing has a cultural evolution tied to a certain problem with playing double congas from a seated position. Because of their width, only one conga can be held directly in front of the player and be accessed by both hands. The other drum, usually on the right side and lower pitched, can only be easily reached by the right hand. The left hand would have to reach across the player's body and the left drum.

What signifies a "mambo" is the combination of:

1. The doubled (occasionally a single) open tones on the "4 &" of the measure.
2. That there are no true rests.
3. The use of doubled hand strokes (heel-toe).

It is primarily the lack of rests that give it its characteristic sound along with the sound of the heel-toe stroke. This lack of rests is also the identifying sound of rhythms called "latin american style" or "puerto rican style" (tumbao). However, by all means; not all l.a. or p.r. rhythms are withing this style.

Since it has no true rests, it is not very energy efficient and does not lend itself to flexibility in timing. For these reasons, it is normally used with melodic instruments and takes an accompanying role. So, it is not found in rhythm ensembles which require a cleaner sound (more rests) and greater playing flexibility.

The following are examples of single measure foundation "mambos" (tumbaos) using double congas. Remember to start on the last "4":

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|h-t S t t t    |  conga
|            O O|  tumba
 l   r l r l r r

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|h-t S t t t   O|  conga
|            O  |  tumba
 l   r l r l r r

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|h-t S   h-t   O|  conga
|      O     O  |  tumba
 l   r r l   r r

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|h-t S     t   O|  conga
|      O O   O  |  tumba
 l   r r r l r r

Double measure foundations:
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|h-t S     t   O|h-t S   h-t   O|  conga
|      O O   O  |      O     O  |  tumba
 l   r r r l r r l   r r l   r r

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|h-t S t t t   O|O t O   h-t   O|  conga
|            O  |      O     O  |  tumba
 l   r l r l r r r l r r l   r r

There are many variations possible, just remember that there should be an open tone on the 4 (either high or low drum) at least 75% of the time (and it doesn't have to be doubled). In playing with a band, the drums should be tuned to the bass c-d or c-g at least a whole step apart.



COLUMBIAS (Rumba Columbia)

Various footprints for Columbias:

(Note: These can be played by a single drummer on two drums or two drummers. -Luis)


|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|            O O|            O O| high 
|O              |O              | low

|1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3|
|        O O|        O O| high
|O          |O          | low
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|O              |O              | high
|            O O|            O O| low
doubled 2nd note
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|            O O|            O O| high 
|O O            |O O            | low
Two drummers
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|B     B B   O O|B     B B   O O|  high
 r     l r   r l r     lr    r l
|O O t   t t t  |O O t   t t t  |  low
 r l r   l r l   r l r   l r l

Jim's Doubled Columbia
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|t   t t t   O O|t   t   t   O O| med
|                      O        | lowest (B if there's not
 r   l r l   r l r   l r l   r l      another drum.  Luis)
|O O t   t t t  |O O t   t t t  | low
 r l r   l r l   r l r   l r l
One drummer 2 drums(common)

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|    h t t t O O|    h t t t O O| high
|O O            |O O            | low
 r r l l r l r l r r l l r l r l
One drummer 2 drums (12/8)
|1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3|
|  t t t O O|  t t t O O| high
|O          |O          | low
 r l r l r l r l r l r l
Two drummers (polymetric) (Note the 2nd meter line at the bottom. -Luis)

|1  &  2  &  3  &  4  &| 1  &  2  &  3  &  4  &|
|t  t     t  t     O  O| t  t     t  t     O  O|
 r  l     r  l     r  l  r  l     r  l     r  l
|O   O   B   t   S   B | O   O   B   t   S   B |
 r   r   l   l   r   l   r   r   l   l   r   l
|1   2   3   1   2   3 | 1   2   3   1   2   3 |
Jim's tres-dos one drummer (Note the shift on the 12/8 count. -Luis)
|1  &  2  &  3  &  4  &| 1  &  2  &  3  &  4  &|
|1   2   3   1   2   3 | 1   2   3   1   2   3 | 
| B    t  t  t    O   O | B    t  t  t    O   O|
  r    l  r  l    r   l   r    l  r  l    r   l




Usually, the second drum is used as a measure marker; that is, one note per measure is played on it, and there are numerous variations. More interesting is when the second drum is integrated into counterpoint with the first. The following rhythms are of this type.

This first one is a Samba rhythm for congas and is based on the common Samba ago-go bell pattern:

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|x   x   X X   x|  x   X X   X  | bell x=high X=low 
|O t O t     t O|t O t     t   t| high 
|        O O    |      O O   O  | low
 r l r l r r l r l r l r r l r l
This variation uses a slap for emphasis.
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|x   x   X X   x|  x   X X   X  | bell x=high X=low 
|O t S t     t O|t S t     t   t| high 
|        O O    |      O O   O  | low
 r l r l r r l r l r l r r l r l

This third example uses many open tones, but is too cluttered for use as a foundation rhythm and should be mixed in with other variations.

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|x   x   X X   x|  x   X X   X  | bell x=high X=low 
|O t S t     t O|t S O     O   O| high 
|        O O    |      O O   O  | low
 r l r l r r l r l r l r r l r l
There are several practical variations and, in use, one would mix several to create longer phrasing. The key figures to include in the variations are open tones on the "1" and "4 &" of the first measure. This gives it its syncopation.

The fourth example is a particularly energetic one for use when the drums are on stands. In this case, the left hand can be brought over to the right drum. The example uses almost all open tones, but, in use, one would mix it with variations having one or more additional touches and/or slaps.

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|x   x   X X   x|  x   X X   X  |  bell x=high X=low 
|O O O O       O|t O O O       O|  high 
|        O O O  |        O O O  |  low
 r l r l r l r l r l r l r l r l

The critical notes for merengue on congas are five open tones at the beginning:

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|O O O O O   t S|t       t   S  |high
|               |    O          |low
 r l r l r   l r l   r   l   r
on stands and full blown:
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|            O S|S       S O S O| high
|O O O O O      |    O          | low
 r l r l r   l r l   r   r l r l

Combining rhythms that are normally played by separate drummers:

(Please add "sounds like" to the names of all of these. They are not ethnographic transcriptions. -Luis)


separate drummers:

|1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3|
|P   O P OOO|P   O P   O| high
|t O O O t t|t O O O t t| low

one drummer:
|1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3|
|P   O P  O |P   O P   O| high l hand
|        O O|           | high r hand
|  O   O    |  O   O t  | low r hand

separate drummers:

|1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3|
|O   t   O  |t   O   t  | high
|O   t t   t|O   t t   t| low
one drummer:

|1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3|
|O   t   O  |t   O   t  | high r hand
|O     t    |O     t    | low  l hand  (drums are reversed)
|1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3|
|  t t S   t|t S   P O O| high r hand
|O       O  |    O      |  low l hand
 r l r l r l r l r l r l (drums are reversed)

one drummer:

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|O   t O t     t|t   t t t     t|  high
|            O  |            O  |  low
 r   l r l   r l r   l r l   r l

Bata rhythms

one drummer:

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|S       S      |S       S      | high l hand
|        O   O  |      O     O  | high r hand
|O   O          |  O            | low r hand
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|    t   O     t|    O   t     O| high l hand
|t     O     t  |O     t     O  | low r hand
 r   l r l   r l r   l r l   r l
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|    t   O     O|    t   O     O| high l hand
|B     O     O  |O     O     O  | low r hand
|r   l r l   r l r   l r l   r l




(Please add "sounds like" before all the rhythm names.

These rhythms were arranged for large (10+) drum circles in which dancers formed as important a part as the drummers. The instruments ranged from traditional djembes to trash cans and plastic 5 gallon jugs.

They are meant to be easy to learn and easy to play and do not require a lot of drumming experience to master.

They ARE NOT traditional in playing technique, in performance, or in transcription. The "feel" of each rhythm does relate to its name.

The information in all the previous "Jim's Notes" are applicable to these rhythms. They can easily be adapted for a single drummer on multiple drum. -Luis)


|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|    O O     O O|    O O     O O| high
|O O     O O    |O O     O O    | med high
|B       B      |B       B      | med
|B   B   B   B  |               | low

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 &|
|      O   O       O   O|      O   O       O   O| high 
|  O O   O O   O O   O O|  O O   O O   O O   O O| med high
|O     O     O     O    |                       | med 
|                       |B   B   B   B   B      | low

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|B   O   B   O  |B   O   B   O  | high
|        O O   O|O   O   O O    | med
|B       B      |B       B      | low

|1 & 2 & 1 & 2 & 1 & 2 &|
|O O   O O   O O   O O  | high
|B       B       B      | low

|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|
|  O O   O O   O O   O O| high
|O   O O   O O   O O   O| med
|M   O   O   M     M    | low

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|    O O     O O|    O O     O O| high
|O O S   S   O O|O O   S S   O O| med
|B       O   B  |B       O   B  | low

|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|
|O O O   O O O   O O O  | high
|S   O S   O S   O S   O| med
|B                      | low

ADZI (fast)
|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|
|t O O t O O t O O t O O| high
 l r r l r r.....and/or hocketts
|O O O O O O O O O O O O| low
 r l r l.....
|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|
|O O t O O t O O t O O t| high
 r r l
|O O O O O O O O O O O O| low
 r l r l.....
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 &|
|O   O O   O O   O O   O|O   O O   O O   O O   O| high
|O   O O   O O   O   O O|  O O   O   O O   O O  | med
 r   r l   r l.....
|B                      |                       | low
|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|
|O O t O O t O O t O O t| high
 r r l
|O O O O                | low
 r l r l
|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|
|S   O S   O S   O S   O| high
|O O O O                | med
|                      O| low (1st measure)
|                O     O| (2nd measure)
|              O O O O O| (3rd measure)
|          O O O   O O O| (4th measure)

BUMPA (moderate)
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|B   O   B   O  |B   O   B   O  | low
 l   r   l   r.......
|        O O   O|O   O   O O    | med. (repeat x3)
         r l   r l......
|O   O   O   O  |O   O   O O    | med. (play once)
 r   l   r   l   r   l   r l
|O   O   O   O  |               | med. (repeat x8)
 r   l   r   l
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|B   O   B   O  |B   O   B   O  | low
 l   r   l   r.......
|        O O   O|O   O   O O    | med. (repeat x3)
         r l   r l......
|O   O   O   O  |O   O   O O    | med. (play once)
 r   l   r   l   r   l   r l
|    O O     O O|    O O     O O| med high (continuous)
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|B   O   B   O  |B   O   B   O  | high
|        O O   O|O   O   O O    | med
|B       B      |B       B      | low

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|B     O B   O  | high
 r     l r   l
|O   B     O B  | low
 l   r     l r
THREE BEAT (moderate, 2 drums)
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 &|
|      O     O     O    | high l hand
|B       B       B      | low  r hand

|1 & 2 & 1 & 2 & 1 & 2 &|
|O O   O O   O O   O O  |
|B       B       B      |
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 &|
|X           X          |X           X          | clap 
|  O S   O S   O S   O S|  O S   O S   O S   O S| high 
|      O           O   O|      O           O   O| med 
|O     O     O   O      |B   B   B   B   B      | low
                                           ^ start here
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 &|
|X           X          |X           X          | clap 
|  O S   O S   O S   O S|  O S   O S   O S   O S| high 
|B   B O   O B   B O   O|B   B O   O B   B O   O| med 
|O     O     O   O      |B   B   B   B   B      | low
                                           ^ start here
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|O   t O t   B t|t   t t t   B t| high
 r   l r l   r l r   l r l   r l
                             ^ start here
|B t O   t O t  |B t t   t t t  | low
 r l r   l r l   r l r   l r l
 ^ start here
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|S   O   S   O  |
|S   B B S   B B|
|S   B B S B   B|
|S   O   S O    |
|S   B B S B B  |
|B   B   B      |
|S   O   S O    |
|S   O   S      |
|S   O   O   O  |

|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|
|O O     O O     O O    | high
|O O   S S   O O   S S  | med
 r l   r l
|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|
|      O O O       O O O| high
|O O O       O O O      | med
 r l r
|B   O   O   B   S B   S| low
 l   r   r   l   r l   r
|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|
|O O   O O   O O   O O  | high
|O   O O   O O   O O   O| med
|O         O O         O| low
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 &|
|O O   O O   O O   O O  | high
|O       O       O      | low
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 &|
|O   t   O   t   O   t  |O   t   O   t   O   t  | high
 r   l
|O   t t   t O   t t   t|O   t t   t O   t t   t| med
 r   l r                                       l
|B                      |S                      | low
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 &|
|O   t O   t O   t O   t|O   t O   t O   t O   t| high
|O   t   O   t   O   t  |O   t   O   t   O   t  | med 
|B       O   B       O  |B       O   B       O  | low 
|B                      |t                      | low

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|    O O     O O|    O O     O O| high
|O O     O O    |O O     O O    | med high
|B       B      |B       B      | med
|B   B   B   B  |               | low
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|x x x x x x x x| triangle
|X   X          | bell
|O   O   O     S|
 r   r   r     l

ATSIAGBEKO P=pressed base
|X   X   X X   X   X   X| bell
|  O O   O O   O O   O O| high
   r l
|P   O P OOO P   O P   O| med high
 l   r l rlr l   r l   r
|t O O O t t t O O O t t| med
   r l r l r l
|P   O   O   P   O P   O| low
 l   r   r   l   r l   r
|x     x     x     x    | shaker
|d   d u d d u d u d u d| shaker (u=up, d=down)
|X   X   X X   X   X   X| bell
|  OO  O O O   OO  O O O| high
|M O O O M M M O O O M M| high
|P   O P OOO P   O P   O| med
|P   O   O   P   M P   M| med
|            M OO    O O| low
|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|
|x     x     x     x    | shaker
|  O O   S S   O O   S S| high
|P   O   O   P   O P   O| low
|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|
|x     x     x     x    | shaker
|t O O O t t t O O O t t| high
|P   O   O   P   O P   O| low
YANVALOU (very fast, x=strike with stick, m=stick muffled by left hand)
|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|
|x x     x x     x x    |x x     x x     x x    | high
|x x t m m t x x t m m t|x x t m m t x x t m m t| med 
|x           O     O    |x           x          | low
|1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3|
|x     x    |x          | shaker
|x x   x   x|x   x   x  | bell
|B O O B O O|B O O B O O| high
|           |O          | low
|1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3|
|x          |x     x    | shaker
|x   x   x  |x x   x   x| bell
|  O O   O O|  O O   O O| high
|B B B   S  |O B     S  | med
|O       S  |O       S  | low
|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|
|t x x t x x t x x t x x| high
|x   m   m   x   m   m  | med
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|x     x     x  |x     x     x  | bell
|x   x x   x x  |x   x x   x x  | high (with sticks) 
|O   O   P      |O O     P      | med 
|        P      |O O     P      | low
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|x     x     x  |x     x     x  | bell
|O   O O   O O  |O   O O   O O  | high
|O O     B      |O   O   B      | low
MINIMAL RHUMBA (very fast)
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|O   t   S   t  |
 r   l   r   l
COMPARSA (medium)
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|O   t   S   t  |O   t   S   t  | med high
|O O t   t t t  |O O t   t t t  | med high
|    S S     O O|    S S     O O| med high
|O              |        O      | med
|B   t   B   t  |B   t O     t  | low
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|O   S   O   S  |O   S   O   S  | high
|      O S   O S|      O S   O S| med
|O              |S              | low
|1 2 3 4 5 6|1 2 3 4 5 6|
|S   O S   O|S   O S   O| high
|O S   O S  |O S   O S  | med
|O   S S S  |O   S S S  | low
BEMBE (med fast)
|1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3|
|S   O O O  |S   O O O  | high
|B   O     B|B   O     B| med
GOHU (medium)
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|x     x     x  |    x       x  | bell
|    O O     O O|    O O     O O| high
|O O S S     O O|O O S   S   O O| med high
 r l r l     r l r l r   l   r l
|B       O   B  |B       O   B  | med
         r   l   l
|O O   O O      |M       M      | low
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|B   O   B   O  |B   O   B   O  | high
|        O O   O|O   O   O O    | med
|B       B      |B       B      | low
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|    O O     O O|    O O     O O| high
|O O     O O    |O O     O O    | med high
|B       B      |B       B      | med
|B   B   B   B  |               | low
|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|
|  O O   O O   O O   O O|  O O   O O   O O   O O| high 
|      O   O       O   O|      O   O       O   O| med high
|O   O       O   O      |O   O       O   O      | med 
|O     O     O   O      |                       | low 
|O           O          |O           O          | lowest

start with:

|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|
|O O O   O O O   O O O  |
|B   O   O   B   O   O  |
then add:
|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|
|O O   O   O O          |
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|x   x x     x x| sticks
|x   x x   x x  | sticks on drum
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|x   x   x      |x   x   x      | sticks
|x   x   x x   x|x   x   x x   x| bell
|O O O O O O O O|O O O O O O O O| high
|M   O   M      |M       M      | low
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|O O   O        |            O  | high
 r l   r                     r
|               |O   O   M      | low
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|x     x     x  |x     x     x  | bell
|O   O O   O O  |O   O O   O O  | high
|        O O O  |        O O O  | med
or (tiroro)
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|x   x x     x  |x   x x     x  | bell
|O   O O   O O  |O   O O   O O  | high
|O O O O M      |O   O O M      | med
|        O   O  |        O      | low
|               |O   O       O  | lowest
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|x   x   x x   x|x   x   x x    | bell
|O O O O O O O O|O O O O O O O O| high
|O       O      |O       O      | med
or (tiroro)
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|x       x      |x       x      | shaker
|x   x   x   x  |x   x   x x   x| bell
|O O O O O O O O|O O O O O O O O| high
|O              |O              | med
|        O O    |        O O    | med
|O   O          |O   O          | low
|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|
|x           x     x    | shaker
|x   x   x   x x   x   x| bell
|  O O   O O   O O   O O| high
|O       B   B B        | med
|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|
|x   x   x   x x   x   x| bell
|  O O   O O   O O   O O| high
|O     O B B O     O B B| med
|S   O O     S   O O    | low
|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|
|x   x   x   x x   x   x| bell
|O O O O O O O O O O O O| high
|B   B   S S   B   S   S| med
|B     O   O B     O   O| low
|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|
|x   x   x   x x   x   x|x   x   x   x x   x   x| bell 
|  O O   O O   O O   O O|  O O   O O   O O   O O| high 
|S   O   S   S   O   S  |S   O   S   S   O   B  | med 
|B   B   B   B   B   B  |B   B   B   B   B O B  | low
|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3|
|x   x   x   x x   x   x|x   x   x   x x   x   x| bell 
|  O O   O O   O O   O O|  O O   O O   O O   O O| high 
|O   S   S   O   S   S  |O S   O S   O S   O S  | med 
|    B   B   B   B   B  |B     O     O     O   B| low
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 &|
|B       O       O      | high
|B     O B   O   B O    | low



Ecstatic drumming can be used for recreational and high energy ritual drumming. It is not to be confused with the term "sacred rhythm", which may be either high energy or subdued.

Associative Qualities: Volume and speed.

Requirements: Dominance and clarity of main patterns and beat.

In large group drumming, many things are added instinctively, but if things get too spacey, it gets boring and confusing, especially for dancers. It becomes just a jumble of rhythm. Players and dancers can be elevated to the highest levels if, amongst the confusion, three things stand out:

1. A beat for the physical part of the dance.
2. At least two notes that occur with some regularity to give it shape.
3. Lead patterns that move it along.

Humans do not instinctively know much of either dance or drumming. Children have a very difficult time at first trying to coordinate rhythm and dance.

Males especially, although they play with much energy, tend to play rather flat 4/4 rhythms. Like adolescent birds or whales, it takes some practice and learning to be able to sing their best. Humans have the ability to achieve great wizardry with rhythm. Although the levels common in most American drum groups are often thought of as great, what the mind is really capable of is an order of magnitude higher. How high do you want to go?

It is good to have untrained children play in a drum circle. This can provide a spacious, shifting background of randomness. Untrained adult drummers will also react instinctively to their environment and produce a directionless mixture of patterns that form a web of rhythms.

Hangups in the drum circle are usually caused by student drummers who, instead of reacting to the environment, take the broad patterns they've learnt and insert them into the rhythm. This can result in the following problems:

1. These patterns are fixed. They are inserted into the rhythm rather than grown out of them. Since they come from someplace else, they usually cannot move with the rhythm.

2. Many student drummers have the ability to play very loudly and their patterns dominate and obscure the flow of subtler, more fluid rhythms. The externally produced patterns sit like bricks in the flow and tend to drag. Adding sufficient beat, shape and movement can elevate and motivate the most directionless drum circle. Although the lead drummer could do all three, such a task is extremely exhausting.

These three things take at least two or three people to do. They should have empathic relationship with the others present. Beat and shape are as one with at least the lead drummer and the dancers. The lead drummer is one with the total environment.

Note that, if all the drummers and dancers are totally linked, the result is usually too high. How high is too high? Past a level where you have drummers falling over and dancers collapsing, ending the rhythm. Lead drummers get skilled in working at a level where they hear and sense the totality of the drum/dance circle. They dominate and shape this totality and are usually immune to motor lock-up, confusion, and ecstatic blowout. This is also why these drummers are never bothered by unwanted spirits while drumming.

Drummers who can add beat and depth to a rhythm are always welcomed by lead drummers and dancers. (And ecstatic drumming has little value without ecstatic dancers) the task is strenuous and determined, and the result moves the rhythm to higher energy levels.




(Jim used to give out handouts at his drum circles so that everyone would have an idea of what to expect and what rules applied to the particular circle. This is a fairly comprehensive example. -Luis)


Since many of the drummers have only classroom skills, the following is an explanation of the setting for the free drum dance.


1. For drummers AND dancers to have a good time. Drummers enjoy both;

a. Free responsive rhythms that interact with dancers and

b. Rehearsed rhythms that don't need dancers.

2. Since we have dancers and the dancers wish to freely interact with the drummers, we will play rhythms that are free and interactive. This type of drumming is traditional with dancers but, unfortunately, is currently not taught much in drum classes or practiced by drum groups. Furthermore, if only certain groups or drum classes were allowed to play, many of you would not be playing tonight.

3. If we had about 8 highly skilled great master drummers, there would be no problem. We don't. Since classroom rhythms lack the flexibility the dancers want, we must call on the community of drumming instinct and drummers of varying skill levels.

4. For everyone to feel free to drum or dance, extra drums have been provided and considerations have been made to accommodate drummers and dancers of varying ability levels.

5. It is traditional for drummers to be grouped by skill level, function and volume so that the less skilled drummers do not dominate, the quieter drummers are heard and the drum circle has focus.

6. Many will be novices. Often skilled drummers ignore the novices and just do their own thing. This leads to separation and confusion. You have to learn to deal with novice drummers; they are here. You can't ignore them. Part of your skill should be the ability to influence less skilled drummers through your playing. Drummers who don't get this ability will never master rhythm. Remember that the dancers don't want just formal rehearsed classroom rhythms.

7. For the benefit of all, occasionally there may be a space for a selected set of drummers to set up and demonstrate some special rhythm. Please be cooperative.

8. Dancers very much enjoy the special rhythmic style of novice women drummers and complain that novice male drummers drown them out. Senior drummers agree. Lest some think this is sexist; women do have a larger corpus calosum, score higher on manual dexterity tests and learn drumming much faster. This applies to novices only. Classroom trained drummers tend to all play the same.


1. Watch the skilled drummers. If you can't hear what they are doing, you should play more quietly. Use fewer notes.

2. Don't just alternate from right to left hand. Leave spaces. Using fewer notes will help you keep up with the dancers and be more creative.

3. Use your eyes as well as your ears to understand what's happening. Pay attention. Look and listen before and while you play.

4. Drummers who play badly and quietly are no problem. If you don't really know what you're doing, feel free to fake it. The better drummers will drown out any mistakes if you don't play too loud.

5. Usually, you should not ask someone for the drum they are playing or their seat. It is distracting and intimidates the less experienced drummers. If you didn't bring a drum, you will have to wait in turn for a drum that is not being played. If someone just asks you for the drum you are playing, ask them if they own it. If they don't, ignore them.

Exceptions: If you own the drum you are asking for, you always have the right to play it. Likewise, if someone tells you it's their drum, give up the drum and the seat without hesitation. Also, you can ask to trade drums with someone.

6. The more skilled drummers should sit nearer the center of the group. Do not remove a drum from the center unless it is yours. If a central drummer quits playing, do not remove that drum from the center and do not play that drum if you are not one of the better skilled drummers. Drums and seats in the center are reserved for the best drummers since this will give the drumming more focus.

7. Don't take someone's drum or seat if they are just stopping temporarily to get a drink or something. It may be hard to tell what someone's intentions are when they get up and leave their drum, so, if you've taken a seat and the previous drummer returns, get up immediately and give the drum back. Some drummers cover their drums or put something on top of it or lay it on its side to inform others that they will be right back.

8. Some drummers don't want other people to play their drums because the drum may be delicate or have to be played in a certain way so that they won't detune. These drums should be kept covered with something so that no one will ask to play them.

Drum class teachers, senior drummers and students:

1. You will sit between the groups of male and female novices for two reasons;

a. So the men novices, who play louder, won't drown out the women novices.

b. Grouping together will give the rhythms focus and cut down on distractions. This will help all the drummers to play together.

2. Be creative and don't play so many 4/4 rhythms.

Unskilled drummers mostly play in 4/4. Therefore, the better drummers should try to play more 12/8 rhythms. This way, the group won't be stuck in a 4/4 rut. Less skilled drummers should pay attention to what the lead drummers are setting up.

Emphasis will be on instictive/ inspirational rhythms rather than rehearsed or formal rhythms.

3. Be responsible. Don't separate. Work with the whole group of drummers and dancers. Playing with a well rehearsed group is easy. Playing with a mixed crowd brings out the best in you and the results are much more natural and whole.

4. People who take drum classes and teachers who teach by giving people "parts" to play, should not get hung up in playing one of their class rhythms. Keep your ears open and play with the whole group. Don't clump together and fall into a subgroup.

5. Drum teachers: Do not give out parts for people to play. We want drummers to respond to other drummers and the dancers creatively, instinctively and inspirationally. We don't need any parrots.

Novice women drummers:

1. You may sit where you wish. However, a place is provided for you so that you are less likely to be drowned out by the louder male novices and the dancers will be better able to feel your contribution. Since the senior master drummers are best able to feel, appreciate and support your rhythms, women novices are encouraged to group near them.

The set up:

The set up:

                  DANCERS           1
     4                             1
      4                           1
        4                        1

1. male novices
2. drumming teachers, drum students, master drummers
3. women novices
4. ritual masters, senior master drummers, drummers skilled in working responsively with dancers.

No long scale instruments, like guitars, flutes, keyboards, etc are allowed. Melodic instruments confine the rhythm instruments to the span of their melody.

No loud bells or claves. Everyone knows how to bang on a bell. Unrestrained bell playing may even lead to physiological hearing damage in your fellow drummers. Novice drummers cannot follow bells and claves well, which causes further chaos.

Because of their volume and high pitch, cowbells tend to dominate. Unfortunately, a person playing one will usually play only one handed patterns. Conga (hand) drummers mostly play denser, more flexible, two handed patterns). Only master bell players can play with enough creativity so that the bell doesn't drag everything. If you are not an expert, play quietly!

No drumsets.




(Notes on belief, magickal physics, magickal ethics and business practices as they relate to rituals. It's relevant to those who want to organize ritual circles.- Luis.)


Following up on our discussion of the philosophies, physics and business of ritual phenomena and practice.

What I have drived from my somewhat hurried conversations with you so far, and from Jim Haskins' book, is that you are a historian and a practitioner of and believer in Voodoo conjure and ritual.

I would put Voodoo belief or philosophy into 4 categories.

1. Belief that Voodoo phenomena result from communicating with real spirits and that the power of conjure is total.

2. Some practitioners, rather than believing in the power of conjure, regard their practice as being a "con". They feel that their task is to convince people that they have conjure powers that they themselves feel they do not have. Some do have some belief in conjure power but occasionally have self-doubts that they really have some mastery of it.

3. Many modern believers additionaly believe, as quoted in the Haskins book; "As in all belief, the power of suggestion is the most potent ingredient." and "As in all remedies, the force of positive thinking is the great healer. And, as in all magic, it is the magical powers of the mind which accomplish true sorcery."

4. Belief in a modern version of Kammerer's Seriality that takes into account that space-time is curved (Einstein's Special Relativity, the Lorentz Metric and Riemannian Geometry)and reality is non-local (Bell's Theorem).

For people who have little experience in quantum physics, this last one is very difficult to intuit. However deep it is, though, it is certainly not some deep philosophical mumbo-jumbo. Space-time is curved. And, the conclusions of Bell's Theorem (reality is non-local) has been tested and proven in different ways by senior phisicists from CERN to Livermore since its discovery in the 1960's. There are no senior quantum physicists who believe otherwise. Call one at Tulane and you'll see.

When both spacetime and non-local geometries are applied to Kammerer's Seriality, the result, known as "interconnectivity", is the explanation for all real "paranormal" phenomena. (Which I guess makes them, technically speaking, not so "paranormal" anymore.) This includes the psychic phenomena; telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, the spiritual phenomena; visitations, ghosts, Jesus Christ, and various combinations of the two; conjure, tarot, healing, astrology, etc. (This is not meant to discount the effects of the power of suggestion, as mentioned in 3. above, which is more psychologic than paranormal.)

In plain language, all "things", objects, words, thoughts, qualities, numbers, etc. are connected to all other things that have any similarities. All things red, or numbered 24, or divisable by 3, or named Joseph, or large or small, or spelled similar like Hoodoo and Voodoo, or synonyms, antonyms, homonyms, or happened to be at one time in a certain location, or born under the same astrologic signs, or thought of by different persons, etc. are connected together. And since there are miriad connections, all things are connected to all things through other things! (The mathematical model for this interconnectivity is called Hilbert Space, a multidimensional construct.)

Kammerer hypothesized that all similarly related things attracted each other with a force proportional to their similarities. If Mary is thinking about telephoning you, you may think of her shortly before the phone rings. This was before the introduction of Special Relativity and Kammerer, a biophysicist, could not prove his theory since it was hard to see how things separated by distances could attract each other by similarity. We now know that distance and time are not separable, but attached to one another. Kammerer's Seriality, working according to the laws of modern physics, is the first law of interconnectivity.

That this also explains Voodoo, conjure, psychic and spiritual phenomena (hereinafter, "craft") was not the primary goal of physicists; it just resulted from investigation into why the universe works the way it does.

All this puts modern "craft" in new perspective, and the modern practitioner now has access to better "tools".

One of the reasons conjure work does not work sometimes is that other similarities conflict or prevail. Obviously, no one has ever been able to get a spirit of goodwill to cause ill will. On a subtler level, since all things are connected, there are an infinite number of influences. The best way to conjure is to make sure all details connected to the conjure are as one with the motive. Obviously, the best way to do this is to keep details at a minimum. (Direct action is the absolute minimum; you want to lose weight, go on a diet.) Another example is the use of symbols in the Tarot. A picture of 5 coins does not have much connectivity as a sentence explaining what that picture represents. A green candle does not have as much connectivity as a green candle with a dollar bill taped to it.

Since so many cultures try to achieve the same goals with so many different rituals, it is obvious that one could scientifically synthesize rituals that would focus directly on the selected goal.

This brings us to the subject of good versus evil in "craft". Obviously, if one wishes to practice good, the less they have to do with evil, the more effective they become. But things can get more serious than this.

For centuries, people have noted that, "Those that live by the sword, etc.", "What goes around, etc." With interconnectivity, it is easy to see why this is. Haskins, pg 213, (1990), mentions the effect of practicing evil conjure in talking about the vil lage of Oyotunji, "And strange ills had begun to beffall the village - animals died, people got sick...and there was strife among the villagers."

I have witnessed this result on several occasions when drummers had innocently gotten involved with Chango, who they believed was the god of drummers. In actuality, he is more involved with crime and death. Thousands have died at the hands of his followers. The inevitable result was that they began to have "bad luck", became heroin addicts, drunks or convicted of felonies.

Many people who practice Voodoo think that their broken down car, problems in business, or health problems are just the result of bad luck, when a more realistic view may be that they have just seen too many chickens killed. You really can't separate a cruel deed from the reality of your part in it and its connection to other ill fortunes. Each time you participate in a sacrifice, the connection to the ritual knife gets a little closer to your own neck.

"Never open the door to a lesser evil, for other and greater ones invariably slink in." -Baltasar Gracian.

"Good is that which makes for unity; evil is that which makes for separateness."
-Aldous Huxley.

I got some impression in my conversations with you that you may think it may be necessary to have some content of sacrifice or appeal to malevolent, bloody or warlike spirits to have a complete, historically authentic Voodoo. My reply:

a. If intent to include malevolent rites is designed to attract more interest from tourists, it fails in two ways.

1. Once your reputation is established in benevolent rites, people will feel more welcome and safer in the more open environment.

2. Malevolent practice hurts itself and all those around it; as a consequence, there is less repeat business.

b. Malevolent content is not, historically, part of the origins of Voodoo. This is easily shown in the historical anthropological record, if you want evidence, just ask.

c. Although later Voodoo did include such things as human sacrifice, surely no one claims that it is essential. Practitioners have always usually had some self imposed limitations on what they will and will not do. Practitioners who rely on no malevole nt spirits are within the normal range of Voodoo practice, and although not as notorious, generaly are regarded more highly.

d. Although malevolent acts in the physical realm may destroy whole countries, in the spiritual realm, benevolent practice is more effective. Malevolent rites may be impressive, but rarely do they exhibit more than feeble power. Usually, any effect the y have is purely psychological. Any malevolent spell can be broken almost casually. Benevolent practice produces all the great miracles.

e. Benevolent practice is much more likely to attract favorable public and private support.

f. Malevolent content is bad for business. It is not professional spiritualism and it is not professional business. It is an aberration. Like crooked business is to real business or sickness is to good health, or bad scholarship is to good scholarship .

g. Perhaps, as quoted earlier from the Haskins book, you may believe only that suggestion, positive thinking and the mind are responsible for paranormal phenomena. Even so, sound business practice, ethics, politics and good taste suggests that one shoul d stay away from animal sacrifice and appeals to malevolent spirits.

My reputation as the greatest ritual drummer to have ever walked the planet (Jim was not known for his modesty. Luis) results from my being a serious and independent scholar. There is a reason why I'm so far ahead of other drummers and it will tend to e xplain a lot about how I can see beyond the veil. Einstein had an IQ of between 150 and 170, depending on the test. I've been found to be between 160 and 190. Some say one would have to be at least a 150 to pierce the fog of reality.

It would be almost trivial to convince various tourist and heritage foundations that they should support (and fund) an organization that will highlight the benevolent aspects of Voodoo as a way of combating its evil stereotyping. Throwing all support to one side of the issue would have some historical impact.

What else can I say?

If you sell potions intended to harm people, this must also influence your life, there is no escaping it. If you actually use these things yourself in ritual, the influence is that much greater.

When one contemplates the life of Marie Laveau, does one see a beautiful woman with a benevolent existence, or turmoil and sadness. All Voodoo does not have to be this way.

Authentic Voodoo ritual does not have to have animal sacrifice or call negative spirits. Historically, the most powerful ritualists resorted to neither. And never has a practitioner of the dark side that won in battle against a practitioner of light. T his is because the dark side is weakened by its own darkness while the light side is strengthened by its light. It's obvious.

I do intend, as far as I become involved in New Orleans Voodoo, to clean house. I have long ignored negative conjurers; their incantations have absolutely no effect on my well being. I spiritual battle on neutral ground, they have proved weak.

What eventually happens to these people, I don't know, unless it's reported in the news. On the other hand, there are ritualists who concentrate on doing good, like certain nuns, for instance, who became known as saints.




(This letter deals with the mechanics of drumming in rituals, whether for an audience, or as part of a magickal practice.-Luis)

Dear (deleted):

Following up on our brief conversation about ritual drumming:

This is not necessarily relevant since there are two different scenarios. One would be where one wants a maximum of biophysical, psychological and, according to generally accepted theory, spiritual phenoma. The other being limitied by a few practical cultural and/or business necessities.

The first is preferable but the second is usually the best most cultures have achieved. The following addresses the first case but is also applicable to the second.

New Orleans ritual rhythms are typically combined from several of the following origins:

1. Composed by the group.
2. From another New Orleans group.
3. From a New Orleans Afro/Cultural group.
4. From authentic Haitian ritual rhythms (fairly rare).

The combinations and sources not only illustrate the looseness of interpretation of the rhythms that can be used, but also indicates that such a mix can still be as effective as most "more authentic" rhythms used by other drumming cultures. New Orleans ritual drumming is just as "authentic" and, really, not much different in its sources than the drumming of other cultures.

However, cultural authenticity and tradition has never meant "best way". The most important "tradition" of ritual drumming is its effectiveness. This effectiveness is controlled by:

a. The base composition of the rhythms.
b. The lead drummer/s.
c. The biomechanical methods of performing the rhythms and
d. The general overall setting.

A. Base composition of effective rhythms: The most effective rhythms are combinations of the following:

1. It should stimulate dance. A person hearing it would instinctively respond by dancing. This requires content that is within a danceable speed and repetition to reenforce and dominate any potentially misleading contents (counter beats, etc.)

2. Structural and/or aesthetic depth. Individual patterns can be classified by their density, meter and horizontal structure. Having all patterns of similar structure in a composition would lack depth.

Having too many patterns of similar, but slightly different structure, would also produce a conflicting message.

A composition of well chosen different structures can appear to have a multidimensional depth that transcends ordinary experience, therefore aiding trance states.

However, as you increase a composition's dimensionality, you lose some metrical and aesthetic focus. To remedy this, you must choose to use few dimensions, but use "prime" patterns to increase the "spaciousness" of the chosen dimensions. Prime patterns are the most mathematically pure examples of a particular structure.

Aestheric depth in place of structural depth is an intense form that promotes and requires the listener to create depth internally. Such rhythms often appear plain and may be done on a single drum. However, the sparseness allows focus and control. Totality is created by the influence of the lead accompaniment. Skill at this is rarely seen (and therefore the use of this type of composition is rare).

3. Tempo and volume. The louder the sound is, the more it dominates the environment. The faster it is, the more intensely it dominates the motor cortex. Problems; the louder it is, the more reverberations it creates and the muddier it sounds. Too fast, and the thythm loses intelligibility and both the dancers and the drummers will become distracted by energy demands. These problems are remedied by varying tempos and volumes. However, one must be careful to not reduce the "spiritual" energy level when one reduces tempo and volume. The level can be plateaued by several different methods. Like: dividing the meter and/or aesthetic reference. Dividing the meter is also essential for the drummer biophysically.

B. The lead drummer/s. The most critical component of a drumming ritual is the dominant lead drummer/s. Almost all of the dancer/participant's environment is the drum rhythms. Even their eyes are unfocused or closed while dancing, so the visual environment is minimal. The sense of smell still functions normally, which is why incense is so often used.

For a priest to have any effect, he/she must do so spiritually or he/she must interrupt an individual dancer or the entire proceedings to get their attention. In most cultures, the priest has little function during the drumming. Since the drumming is usually the most intense spiritual experience of a religion, one might expect the lead drummer to be the highest priest and, occasionally, this is true. However, because the drumming is so spiritually dominating, a lead drummer's mind usually becomes so conditioned that expressions of spirituality in other forms just do not bring him/her anywhere near the same level. (The high priest has other functions in a religion, such as healing, non-drum ritual, etc.)

Beyond adding his own aesthetic message to the rhythms, a lead drummer:

Influences all the other drummers. Senses and plays within the total rhythmic and psycho/spiritual environment created by the combination of all of the rhythms and all emotional / spiritual / phenomenological emanations of the environment. Is the dominant influence on the total spiritual environment.

(Also note that a priest can also influence an environment while this is occurring. This influence becomes part of the lead drummer's environment. It usually just nudges the environment in some required direction, causes no disruption and is accepted by the lead drummer as the normal content of the environment. -Luis)

When the lead drummer is very proficient at his work, his/her influence is great. This proficiency comes from a combination of skills.

a. Mastery of the culture's ritual rhythms, or, even better, mastery of ritual rhythm itself. The second requires knowledge of all aesthetic structures and logics that can be used and knowledge of all vertical and horizontal "architectural" micro- and macro-structures that result from combining rhythms.

b. Ability to "sense", "exist", and "operate" within the total psycho/spiritual environment. If one only senses the drummers to the immediate right and left, one could not be said to be at one with the entire environment. If one does not sense or feel the dancers, you would not be as one with them.

The area of sense should extend to just outside the dancers and drummers and form a dome shape over them, usually to a height of several feet above the dancers near the center. This area above the dancers contains swirling densities of convection currents and also seems to contain other energetic constructs. Some feel these constructs are manifestations of spirits. The area would normally be limited by the presence of walls or low ceilings.

c. Ability to manipulate the things in the sensed area. Beyond the normal influencing of dancers and drummers, it is also possible to manipulate the entire shape of the area. The goal is to coalesce the convection currents and spiritual energies into a whirlwind type vortex. This concentrated structure somehow increases the overall energy content of the area and is about as "high" as a drum ritual can get. Beyond this, there are the rumors of astrophysical manifestations, earthquakes, ascensions into heaven, etc. (Note: areas can be deliberately "punctured", disturbed or disrupted by witch doctors, spiritists, etc. However, they can not completely control the environment without having the attention of the drummers and the dancers.)

C. Biomechanics of performance. Using the most efficient ways of producing rhythms. Some cultures are held back in their effectiveness by their lack of understanding of how to drum efficiently. The (deleted) lead drummers are an example. They've become trapped into beat keeping with their left hand and playing the lead only with their right. Basically, the resultant rhythms are what you would expect from a one handed drummer. Half the energy and less than half the variety and flexibility. (The beat is already being played by the supporting drummers, so it isn't necessary.)

D. The general overall setting. Food, incense, good people, etc.




(Jim wrote several versions of ritual notes at the request of drummers that wanted a semi-traditional ritual structure and at the request of tour guides that wanted to put on a voodoo show for their clients. This is not a description of a formal ritual nor is it ethnographically or liturgically correct for any tradition...except maybe New Orleans :-)- Luis)

(All of the rhythms presented here are Jim's adaptations and should not be taken as ethnographically correct. -Luis)

Preliminary Notes on Ritual

The ritual to be conducted is a petitioners' ritual in which one or more persons is seeking assistance from the deities.

To accomplish this, the aid and guidance of several deities are required. Since the deities have favorite drum rhythms and dances, the drumming and dancing is continuous and changing throughout the ritual and increases in intensity. Presiding over the ritual will be the Voodoo Queen.

The guardian of the barrier between heaven and earth, Papa Legba (Elegua. Luis) will be asked to smooth the road and protect the participants from malevolent spirits. Since he favors drums and drumming, his veve, or symbol, is drawn on the ground in front of the drummers so that he is in a favored position to be entertained. His favorite drink in drum circles is dark rum and the drummers share a drink in his honor and play his rhythm.

Gator Guede, the master of the swamp and the first deity one would encounter on a spiritual journey at this location (New Orleans. Luis) is honored and thanked for the use of his land for the ritual. A blessed potion of red wine and rum is offered to him and is served to all observers at the ritual. The drummers play his favorite rhythm, Banda.

The spiritual requests of the petitioners is sent to heaven aboard Papa Agwe's boat;for he is the guardian of ships. Erzulie, the Queen of Heaven and a powerful force for good, guides Agwe's boat. The symbols for Erzulie and Damballah, the King of Heaven, is drawn on the ground and a small wooden boat is placed in the center.

Each petitioner is brought forward and the priestess blesses them, instructing them to "wish" their spiritual request into the boat. She transfers this blessing to the boat to impress a part of that person's spirit as a passenger. While this continues, the drummers play and the dancers dance Zepaule.

When all the petitioners' spiritual representatives are in the boat, it is set in the fire so that it may ascend into heaven with the flames.

As the spirits direct, certain observers may be selected by the priestess to receive a special ritual blessing in front of the fire.

A python, Damballah's representative on earth, is annointed with sweet oil and a dancer dances with the snake while the drummers play Yanvalu.

A special ritual will be conducted to consecrate a sufficient number of gris-gris bags to be given to the observers, during which a trance rhythm, an Abacua, is played.


On the altar:

Top Level: a Damballah cross raised in the center. Unlit white, light blue and pink candles in holders on the left and right. Large 7 day candles on the left and right. Statues of St. Christopher on the left and Our Lady of Guadalupe on the right. Scattered among the candles and images are power stones, keys and cut flowers.

Second Level: Half white/half red Voodoo doll. Wrapped bottle of vodka. Empty cup. Wooden boat. Pearl necklace and lipstick. Herbs.

Bottom Level: Hoe. Machete. Peanuts. Cigars. Iron cross. Unlit incense. Cowbell. Small drum. Wrapped bottle of rum. Empty cup.

In front of the altar: Bread. Eggs. Vegetables. Fruit. Cake. Jug of red wine. Empty cup. Bowl of water with flowers in it. A fire should burn before the altar. The snake's house is to the left.


The drummers are the only ones present who are depended on to not flip out. Therefore, the chief drummer and his assigns are also responsible for the more material aspects of a ritual (under the instructions of the priestess) such as arranging benches, cleaning the area, and moving equipment.

The chief drummer also has the duty of performing preparation rituals to welcome the priestess to the ritual circle; sweeping the floor, blessing the four corners, etc. The priestess prefers to be welcomed onto hallowed ground.

The drummers' main duty is to provide for the priestess and the dancers.

Drummers' costume: street clothes. Hats should be worn to symbolize authority.

The setting: The drums should be on the right wing of a semi circular area. They should be arranged by size with the largest on the end.

The Ritual

1. Horn fanfare (two horns. a conch shell would be nice) with banging on drums to warn the evil spirits away. (30- 45sec)

2. Chief drummer sweeps to prepare the ground for the ritual, the dancers, priestess and spirits. This should take place in total silence to contrast with the riot of the fanfare and solemnize the seriousness of the proceedings. (1-2 mins.)

3. Drumming begins.

Abacua Rhythm, med speed

|1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6|1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6|
|O   t   O   t   O   t  |O   t   O   t   O   t  | highs
|O   t t   t O   t t   t|O   t t   t O   t t   t| meds
|B                      |S                      | lows
Priestess enters and lights candles.

Rhythm for Elegua/Eshu (the guardian of the crossroads, entrances. The trickster. Played first to allow the doors to the spirits to open.) (5-10 min)

Rhythm to Elegua

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|O   S   O   S  |O   S   O   S  |  highs
|      O S   O S|      O S   O S|  meds
|O              |S              |  lows
        Elegua go
        Elegua go   nya nya
    Ah  la ya ma  go santi oh
        Elegua go   nya nya
(Jim's sources for these chants seems to be "Voodoo in New Orleans" by Robert Tallant, 1974, 7th printing. -Luis)

Priestess lights incense while singing.

After the incense is lit, she pours some rum in a cup and says, "By the power of St. Anthony of Padua, Legba Atibon, guardian of the crossroads, Legba, guardian of the bush, Legba, guardian of the gouse, Ago, Ago, si, Ago la." Then, she sips some of the rum and pours a bit into the fire. Shehands the bottle to each drummer in turn. Each drummer stops to drink.

The priestess draws the drummers' veve.

Rythm for Gator Guede. Draw the Guede veve. The dance is erotic with lascivious pelvic thrusts. (5-10 min)

Banda, medium speed

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|O   O O   O O  |O   O O   O O  | highs 
 r   r l   r l
|O   O   P      |O O     P      | lows
 r   r   l       r l     l

Gator Bata

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|
|O   S   O   S  |O   S   O   S  | highs
 r   l
|t   t O S   O S|t   t O S   O S| meds
 r   l r l   r l r   l r l   r l
|S   O   S   M  |S O   M S   O  | lows
 l   r   l   r   l r   r l   r
The priestess pours rum in an empty cup for Gator Guede saying, "Gator Guede, le bon ton roulette, ye ye ye." and sips some herself. She pours a bit into the fire.

She empties the rest of the bottle into a punchbowl of red wine which the dancers ladle into cups for the observers.

Rythm for Erzulie, Goddess of Love. Dance involves rapid contraction and release of shoulder blades. (5-10 min)

Zepaule, brisk speed

|1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3|
|  O O   O O|  O O   O O|  highs
   r l   r l
|P   O   O  |P   O   O  |  meds
 l   r   r
|X     M    |X          |  lows (stick in r hand)
 r     r     r
The priestess pours vodka into a cup saying, "By the power of mistress Erzulie, mamou lade, mamou vodoun, Erzulie Frieda Dahomey, Ago, Ago si, Ago la." then sips some and gives some to the fire.

As she sings, the initiates, petitioners and dancers are given the bottle in turn to drink from.

She draws Erzulie's, Agwe's and Damballah's veves, takes the wooden boat and places it in the center of the veve. She blessses the petitioners and the boat.

The boat is placed in the fire.

(There is no song in this note. This is taken from another of Jim's documents about rituals. -Luis)

Aaiee go-go (rising pitch on the last "go")

(Chorus repeats)

Mambo-o, Frieda Dahomee... Ago...

(Chorus follow priestess:)

Mamou lade vie en cane Creole, Mamou lade vie
f f   a a  c   c  g    a  g    d d   c a  g
                                                (Repeat  2x)
Mamou lade vie en cane Creole 
f f   g g  a   g  e    g  gf

Zulie Frieda Oh...   Zulie Frieda Oh...          (Repeat 2x)
c c   c   f  fc      f f   f   a  af
Mambo Zulie Frieda Dahomee Cotay O ye O 
f  f  a a   c   c  a#a g   d d   c d  c
                                  (Repeat whole phrase 2x)
Mambo Zulie Frieda Cotay O...
f  f  g g   a   g  e g   g f

Priestess releases a white dove.

Rhythm to Damballah, the Serpent/Rainbow. Danced with the body bent forward. The hands on knees and the legs in a squatting position. The back is made to ripple with undulations spreading down from the shoulders. (5-10 min)

Yanvalu, fast

|1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3|
|O O O O O O|O O O O O O| highs
|O O     O O|    O O    | med
|O O t M M t|O O t M M t| lows  
 r r l r r l
(There is no song in this note. This is taken from another of Jim's documents about rituals. -Luis)

The priestess signals the snake dancer to remove the snake and then annoints it with sweet oil saying, "In the name of Damballah Wedo, Damballah the great, Damballah Lele, Ayida Wedo, Ago, Ago si, Ago la."

The dancer dances with the snake.

The priestess faces front and thrusts both arms up. The drumming and singing stops. The priestess sings the first invocation loudly.

turns slightly to right	"Damballah Wedo,  (pause)
                          f  g  f   c c
turns slightly to left	 Damballah Lele,   (pause
                         c  d  a   c a#
facing center            Ago si, Ago la...."
        (retard)         fg  a   ff  f   (hold the note)
Dambal  lah  o...   Dambal  lah  ye....
g  g    g    b      a  a    a    g

Le  grand  serpan...  Alon  roulay...
b   d      b  d       ab    a  g

Le  voudo  tambou  yanva  lou...
b   d  d   b  d    a  a   a
                                           (Repeat 2x) 
Et beaucoup  gri-gri  ap  pel  vou....
b  d     d   b   d    g   g    g
Closing Rhythm. The dance is frenzied and erotic. (5-10 min)

Atsiagbeko, very fast

|1 2 3 1 2 3|1 2 3 1 2 3|
|X X X P P P|X X X P P P|  highs (2 sticks)
 r l r
|  O O   S S|  O O   S S|  meds
   r l   r l
|P   O   O  |P   O P   O|  lows  (stick in r hand)
 l   r   r   l   r l   r
Repeat Abacua (5-10 min)

The priestess blesses the basket of gris-gris. She circles the fire with the baske and blesses it again. The she gives the basket for the dancers to distribute the gris-gris.




The initial drumming experience.

Take what is already known (rhythms picked up when drumming on tables, etc.) These are the rhythms people do most naturally and, although they may lack clarity, it gives them the opportunity to experience drumming instinctively.

Encourage lead drumming by example.

At this juncture students will have experienced the full round of a simple drumming environment. Since the source rhythms are limited to the students' exposure to drumming, the student will soon become ready to move on.

The first lessons.

Comfortable drum playing posture. People enjoy drumming most instinctively when the drum is most comfortable. Introduce drum tuning and maintenance; drum belts, proper height of chairs and hand care.

Explore, explain, clarify and expand on the rhythms used in the jam sessions. Show the instinctive concepts behind them. Reference them to identical traditional rhythms. Show improvements that make them simpler to play. Show variations.

Show drum tones that will enable them to get more clarity from their rhythms. Emphasize that they should not dwell too much on getting the tone exactly right at this point; dwelling too much on refinement is counterproductive to instinctive experience.

Initiate experience with other rhythms.

Start with simple solo rhythms. This allows one to experience new rhythms without the distraction of trying to align with others.

Introduce rhythms that allow for and encourage variations and creativity. Special open pattern rhythms that maintain momentum with few notes and allow additional space for other notes to be added creatively.

Arrange various learned rhythms into a group piece. Allows group playing experience without the distraction of trying to learn a new rhythm at the same time.

Lead drumming. Since lead drumming is spontaneously creating new rhythm in the midst of other rhythms and is not easy for the beginner, the following method is used: Have each drummer in turn stop and listen. Point out and/or sing the most distinctive pattern of the rhythms or combination of rhythms being played by the group. Play a simple figure that works with the pattern several times and have the student imitate it. Do variations.

Introduce the foundations of the principles of rhythm.

One cannot expect students to play traditional rhythms as comfortably as the rhythms they have instinctively made up. New rhythms require new ways of thinking about rhythms. Since most rhythms share basic fundamental principles, it is best to start by outlining these as new rhythms are introduced.

Basic notation. Rhythmic ideas that can be seen as well as heard are easier to comprehend. Written ideas can also be taken home and explored at leisure. Talk about drum languages.

The underlying structures of rhythms. Pulse, beat, iteration, length and meter.

The terms used to describe the structure of a rhythm. Binary, ternary, duple, triple, etc.

The comparison of rhythm to speech. A rhythm can have letters (tones), words (measured by beat), phrases (rhythmic statements within a cycle), sentences (the whole cycle of the rhythm), and paragraphs (when the lead figure covers several cycles).

Projecting different rhythm orientations. Communicating the nature of a rhythm clearly. Projecting beat, syncronicity, fluidity, and/or depth.

Hand patterns. How different hand patterns may increase creativity, beat, efficiency, etc.

Part alignment. How rhythms can have different orientations when played together. Shifted, doubled, crossed, counter, hockett, etc.

Distinctive whole rhythm structures. Brisk simple, fast complex, hypnotic, switching polymetric, switching statement, slow evolving, tempo switch, multi polymetric, etc.

The different types of lead drumming.

By teaching the geometries and nomenclatures of rhythm while introducing new rhythms, each new rhythm becomes easier to learn until the student can pick up on new rhythms as naturally as understanding a new sentence.

Additional topics to include while teaching.

Distinctive drum types; big, two headed, frame, variable toned, etc.

Practice techniques.

Odd time, anthropologic and geometric rhythms.

Techniques of creative composition.

The concept of rhythmic patterns as geometric patterns.

(I would say that the majority of the above topics have been touched upon in various postings. I'm still looking for the completed manuscript. Luis)

Course Outline.

• care of instruments
• creative recreational rhythm
• rhythm notation, drum languages and study techniques
• beginning composition anthropologic rhythms and hand
• patterns geometric rhythms and hand patterns beginning
• lead drumming dancer perception basic polymetrics
• popular world rhythms intermediate composition
• intermediate lead drumming basic rhythm classification
• basic transformation odd meters distinctive drum types
• deep polymetrics advanced world rhythm advanced lead
• drumming advanced composition the classification group
• applied combinations the transformation group




What rhythms are practical for teaching at jam sessions?

People learn more by experience in a jam session. Teaching methods used in the classroom take more patience and lack of interruption. In a jam session, it is usually desired that the energy level be kept quite high and that rhythms flow from one to the next.

Obviously, the less time it takes to teach a new rhythm, the less interruption there will be to the flow and all the players can maintain a high state of drumming.

The primary characteristics of such rhythms is their simplicity. Of course, when you take away their complexities, many rhythms become the same. Therefore, the simple rhythms chosen for introduction in jam sessions must have different distinctive base melodies, and/or timings (meters or polymeters).

Fortunately, these simple rhythms (known as prime rhythms) are also the world's most honored. They can be very distinctive and direct. For example, a 5 pointed star is more recongizable than a 19 pointed one. An equal triangle is more "triangle like" than an unequal one.

Most of the world's best, most distinctive prime rhythms are simple and direct in structure, very easy to play and can be learned in less than 30 seconds.

(Examples can be found in the SIMPLE RHYTHM CONSTRUCTION SETS.- Luis)

95% of the world's drum rhythms are made up primarily of two sections.

1. A base section; rhythms or combinations of rhythms that produce a clear distinctive pattern know as a footprint pattern or the melody. The notes of the melody are made up of tones or combinations of tones that stand out. The number of tones in the base pattern that make up the melody could be as few as 1 or very many. This pattern usually repeats with little change.

2. Lead accompaniment; this is added to the base to produce variety. It always has some relationship to the tones in the base melody. The relationship could involve many different rhythmic concepts and some may be very complex. Or the relationship may be very simple. Also, the number of tones in the base pattern that the lead relates to could be as few as 1, or very many.

Cosmologists, physicists, mathematicians and others whose discipline involves the search for universal truths use the theory that all real truths are simple and elegant. They call this theory "beauty".

For instance; the single note classic rhumba is more "rhumba like" than the tres dos double columbia rhumba. The simple Abacua is more direct and clean than the rezo Abacua. The Double Calypso is more excitiong than any kind of Samba. Each pair of the compared rhythms give above have the same type of sound and structure, but the simpler ones are clearer, more distinctive and direct and can be learned very quickly.