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    A Different Approach to Odd Time
    ..or, skinning a cat the "other" way.



      Drum educators often refer to Indian rhythms (you know, the ta-ka-di-mi's) to teach odd time. While I think this is a great idea, I also think it scares some well-intentioned (but not as brave) souls away. To coin an old phrase, "There is more than one way to skin a cat". We didn't learn the rest of drumming with Indian rhythms right, so why do we have to learn odd time with Indian rhythms?

    When I was younger, I attended a Vinnie Colaiuta clinic and someone raised their hand to ask, "Hey Vinnie, what's your approach to odd time?" Boy, you should have heard the silence in the room. We were all expecting an hour long dissertation on advanced Indian tabla and its polyrhythmic applications to underlying meters (or something). I mean after all, this was Vinnie talking! - Berklee alumni, Zappa guru, ...the master of time manipulation!

    Vinnie paused for a moment, took a drag of his cigarette and replied in his very "cool" manner, "I dunno man… I just like … I just like play in 7 for an hour or two."

    Man, you should have heard the applause in the room. The place fell out! It seemed everybody "got it" at the same time and were blown away by his answer. Anyone that's played long enough realizes that one of the best ways to understand (or get good at) anything is to just do it a lot. A whole helluva lot!

    So, I just wanted to share this with other drummers out there and say to them; don't worry about the odd time stuff. Dive right in head first and just "play". Learn one odd time beat and just play it for an hour. This will build your confidence overnight. Then you can learn a couple more. Start with the time signatures that you're most likely going to be called upon to play first (3/4, 5/4, 7/8, 9/8) and get those down real good. Then study the Indian rhythms and all the insight and infinite possibilities it provides. Work with a qualified teacher that has experience in odd times and listen to drummers and recordings so you can internalize it. - Good luck, and most importantly, ..have fun!

    - Mike Donovan


    Odd Time Tips

    1 . Buy recorded music with odd time songs and play along with them. You're more likely to hear odd time with progressive bands, world music or jazz groups.

    2. Take it out of the practice room and play live with other musicians. This is extremely important.

    3. Being that you won't play odd times as frequently, you need to practice them more often to stay comfortable.

    4. Try not to crash a cymbal on "one" too much. Drummers have a tendency to do this with odd time but if feels unnatural. Remember, we don't do this with 4/4, so we shouldn't do it with 7/8.

    5. Tap into all resources for odd time including books, "Even in the Odds" by Ralph Humphrey, "Odd Time Reading Text" by Louie Bellson, etc. Visit this link in our drum database for great websites on odd time signatures.

     

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