Hidden Rhythms

Part 2: Odd Groupings

by Mike Johnston

Last month we explored the endless rhythmic and textural ideas hiding inside a measure of 16th notes, including clave and cascara patterns, partido alto phrases, and more.

This time we’re looking for hidden groupings within our measure of 16th notes. Most often a bar of 16th notes in 4/4 is felt as four groupings of four notes. However, it doesn’t have to be felt that way. The subdivision can remain intact while you accent other groupings. We have sixteen total notes to group however we’d like. For example, you can play two groups of three notes and two groups of five notes in any order, and they will always take up the space of sixteen 16th notes. The same is true for any combination of four groups of three and one group of four. Let’s try it out.

Start with a 3-3-3-3-4 grouping. First, accent the first note of each grouping while playing alternating strokes on the snare.

Hidden Rhythms Odd Groupings 1

Now move your right hand to the ride cymbal, and keep your left hand on the snare. The last four 16th notes are played with an alternating sticking to accommodate faster tempos.

Hidden Rhythms Odd Groupings 2

Now move your right hand to the hi-hat, keep the left hand on the snare, and replace the last note of each grouping with a bass drum stroke to create a linear pattern.

Hidden Rhythms Odd Groupings 3

The next three examples utilize a 3-3-5-5 grouping. The same rules apply. Learn the pattern with an alternating sticking, try it with the right hand on the ride and the left hand on the snare, and then try it as a linear idea.

Hidden Rhythms Odd Groupings 4

Hidden Rhythms Odd Groupings 5

Finally, practice the three variations with a 3-5-3-5 grouping.

Hidden Rhythms Odd Groupings 7

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.