December 2012
Around the World
More Indian Rhythms for Drumset

Counting Backward to the Downbeat

by Pete Lockett

I was quite far along in my studies of Indian music when I was shown the ideas we’re exploring this month. The concept may seem unlikely and surprising at first, but it’s actually very logical.

We are used to counting forward (1, 2, 3, 4) when dealing with time signatures. But that approach has a disadvantage: It doesn’t allow you to create rhythmic formulas and calculations using the numbers you’re already counting. If, on the contrary, you count backward (4, 3, 2, 1), then you’re leading toward the destination (the downbeat), and opportunities to create many calculations to arrive at the downbeat become possible.

Backward counting is a method used by some South Indian rhythmic scholars, and it’s a framework with which they create endless formulas. Part of the value of this concept is that once you have a formula, it will work in any time signature that’s based on the quarter note.

For transcriptions and additional insight into this technique, check out the December 2012 issue of Modern Drummer.