Tip #53 – 8 Pulse Asymmetric Time-Line Patterns and Practice

If you ask anyone about the origins of the blues genre, more than likely you will get “Africa” as a response.  And while you can most certainly trace origins of blues from early African culture – ponder this:

“Why do blues, which is ‘African’ in origin, have a lack of the percussive rhythms that are typically more associated with African music?”

That is more up to a historian to answer that question, but I want to talk today about these asymmetric time-line patterns.

Asymmetric time-line patterns are these rhythmic patterns commonly found in Central and Western Africa.  They are intended for percussion parts of one single pitch (or at most two – we’ll discuss more of this soon).  A time-line pattern is distinguished by the number of pulses within the cyclical pattern, the number of hits, and the asymmetric grouping.

Below is the 8 pulse cycle broken in a 3+5 asymmetry.  The measures on the left show the 5 strike pattern, while the left shows the 3 strike pattern.  Notice how they complement each other.  While these patterns are intended for a single instrument, a percussion part of two distinct pitches can play these opposing patterns.

In addition, these patterns can be phased into different variations.

While these patterns are not common at all in blues music, I do challenge the creative composer to use these patterns creatively in conjunction with different stylistic combinations.


Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Author: Bryan M. Waring

Bryan Waring is a graduate of USM's School of Music with a B.M. in Performance – Composition and is now attending Belmont University for a M.M. in Commercial Media – Composition & Arranging. During his time at USM, he studied violin with Dino Liva and composition with Dr. Daniel Sonenberg, as well as has premiered several pieces during the semiannual Composer's Ensemble concert series. In 2017, Bryan was a writer for the original musical theater work of "Molded By The Flow," directed by Paul Dresher and Rinde Eckert. Outside of school, Bryan has been involved with writing music for videogame developers at Portland's CI2 Lab, collaborating with the King Tide Party, and studying with Larry Groupé (Straw Dogs) in San Diego. Now living in Nashville. Along with composing, Bryan teaches music to children, receiving the Master Teacher Award for his work at ESF Camps; and does audio engineering for live ensembles. Besides talents in music, Bryan is a team-player in any competitive work environment; equipped with skills in leadership, organization, mathematics, creativity, communication, and managing. On the side, Bryan has worked as a model for several skilled artists in the New England area. Among his other accomplishments include obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout in April 2013 with a project of building a side parking area with guide rails for Webb Mountain Park in Monroe, CT.

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