Rhythmic Harmony

Guest Blog By Finn

Music Geek Stuff

Lets use the example of a bass drum and a kick drum part. Lets say I decide to match each note of the bass and the kick drum. This would be an example of Rhythmic Unison.

Now lets say I decide to add kick drum only to those bass notes that need extra weight (anchoring) or extra movement (momentum). This would be an example of Rhythmic Harmony.

The point is that unison can be useful at times, but in my work, Rhythmic Harmony usually gives me more bang for the buck.

If I overdo it, a bad harmony is created; the notes do not complement each other. If I use too few notes, it may lack energy.

Must The Kick Drum Notes Always Be Married To The Bass?

If my bass line covers only a measure and a half of a two bar phrase, does that mean the bass drum has to stop?

All of this is very simple , but it is best to start from a place of total clarity if the concept is to work.

I recently finished a composition that uses a two measure kick drum pattern like this: 1; ‘and’ of 2; 4; ‘and’ of 1, and 3 (some of you may recognize this poly-rhythm). The ‘feel’ or through-line of the piece was a hi-hat of eighth notes accenting downbeats 1, 2, 3, and 4. So, how did I get these patterns, hi-hat and kick drum, to connect with each other?

After trying many ideas, I noticed that opening the hat on ‘and’ of 2 and closing on beat 3 gave me what I needed. The kick drum was already giving me all the beats in question; it was just a question of a balanced connection between the two.

I could have accented those beats on the hat, but the feel I wanted would have been compromised. Better in this case to use other instruments, including the bass, to create harmony. For me, the kick drum by itself did not do it. By putting the ‘and’ of 2 on the open hi-hat, the first measure was now connecting on 1; ‘and’ of 2, and 4, thus creating enough of a Rhythmic Harmony to connect the two patterns.

It comes down to avoiding two things: overstatement and understatement, and this varies from one harmony to the next.

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