Hidden Rhythms

Part 1: Cookin’ With 16th

by Mike Johnston

The concept of discovering hidden rhythms within common subdivisions reminds me of the first time I removed the back of my boom box when I was about twelve years old. I knew that this simple device must have something fascinating inside it to reproduce radio waves and play cassette tapes, but it wasn’t until I popped off the back that I discovered the wealth of technology hiding in there.

In this article we are going to explore a single measure of unaltered 16th notes. On the surface, it looks mundane. But a plethora of patterns—from world rhythms to odd groupings—is waiting to be found inside those notes.

Hidden Rhythms 1

Now let’s explore. Imagine that the 16th notes are broth for a soup. We’ll play them on the snare at mezzo piano (moderately soft) and add a few vegetables (accents). The soup also needs some protein, so we’ll add some chicken (odd groupings like threes, fives, and sevens). The soup is still bland, so we’ll spice it up with flams, buzz strokes, and diddles. Although we started with a dull broth of flat 16ths, it was the perfect base for us to build upon.

This lesson focuses on seven common Cuban and Brazilian rhythms. The exercises use alternating single strokes, but I encourage you to try different sticking patterns after you’ve mastered them as written.

Hidden Rhythms 2

Hidden Rhythms 3

Once the exercises are comfortable on a practice pad or a snare drum, add some four-way independence. Try playing each hand pattern over samba, baiaó, and tumbaó foot ostinatos.

Hidden Rhythms 4

Mike Johnston runs the educational website, where he offers prerecorded videos as well as real-time online lessons. He also hosts weeklong drum camps at the facility each year.