Rhythm notation and the oral tradition

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In Worldwide research papers, there are many different approaches to passing on rhythmic phrases and patterns, as they exist in traditional music, from generation to generation.

African music

In the Griot tradition of Africa everything related to music has been passed on orally. Babatunde Olatunji (1927–2003), a Nigerian drummer who lived and worked in the United States, developed a simple series of spoken sounds for teaching the rhythms of the hand drum. He used six vocal sounds: Goon Doon Go Do Pa Ta. There are three basic sounds on the drum, but each can be played with either the left or the right hand. This simple system is now used worldwide, particularly by Djembe players.

Indian music

Indian music has also been passed on orally. Tabla players would learn to speak complex rhythm patterns and phrases before attempting to play them. Sheila Chandra, an English pop singer of Indian descent, made performances based around her singing these patterns. In Indian Classical music, the Tala of a composition is the rhythmic pattern over which the whole piece is structured.

Western music

Standard music notation contains rhythmic information and is adapted specifically for drums and percussion instruments. The drums are generally used to keep other instruments in 'time'. They do this by supplying beats/strikes in time at a certain pace, i.e. 70 beats per minute (bpm). In Rock music, a drum beat is used to keep a bass/guitar line in time.


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