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Metal Rhythm (part 2)

Rating: 1 user(s) have rated this lesson Average rating: 5.0 Posted by: josippesut, on Feb 19,2010, in category Music Styles Views: this lesson has been read 3202 times
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This article explains several things about note lenghts, and how to apply them into metal rhythm.

The basic thing you should have in mind while building rhythm chops while exploring note lenghts is the beat. Everything rhythmic should stick to the beat. Try just counting aloud: 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &... While you do that, try imagining a riff you could play on that beat, and have the note on each beat. After you that for awhile, let the metronome take the counting role. I suggest you start with 50 bpms. But you have to soak the beat. It is essential for what we'll do next.

The carnatic syllabic counting system

Each note you play is (or at least should be) countable. There is a carnatic syllabic counting system, that helps you count what you play. Instead of numbers, you use syllables.

If you play quarter notes (a note on each beat), you get to count them as 'Ta'.

quarter notes (a note on each beat)

You count eight notes as 'Ta ka'.

eight notes (2 notes per beat)

Triplets (3 notes per beat) as 'Ta ki ta'. Just pronounce those syllables several times without stopping, and you'll get the picture. You'll hear those note lenghts very often. They usually form groovy and strong riffs.

Triplets (3 notes per beat)

Sixteenth notes (4 notes per beat) as 'Ta ka di mi'. They are usually forming fast riffs, but if you organize the drums in the way that they play in quarter notes, you can get pretty nasty grooves.

Sixteenth notes (4 notes per beat)

Kvintoli (5 notes per beat) as 'Ta di gi na ka'. Those are quite unusual, and may be easily misinterpreted as eights in 5/8 measure. It may take some practice to get them in your ears and fingers, but they're worth it! They can be also subdivided (as all the others can be), for the sake of accentuation. You can look at them as 3 + 2 groove, so you count them as 'Ta ki ta na ka'. You will notice the difference if you count aloud. 'Ta di gi na ka' will probably carry you to 2 + 3 counting, though it's all in your head. What you hear inside, that will come out.

Kvintoli (5 notes per beat)

Sixtoli (6 notes per beat) may be a sequence of two 'Ta ki ta' counts – 'Ta ki ta Ta ki ta'. It may seem like the same thing, but you have to keep your ears on the flow of pronounciation of sixtolis, because they musn't sound like sequence of two triplets.

Sixtoli (6 notes per beat)

Septoli (7 notes per beat) have various options on how are they counted. 'Ta ki ta ta ka di mi', which stands for 3 + 4, and 'Ta ka di mi ta ki ta', which stands for 4 + 3 are easiest ones to overcome.

Septoli (7 notes per beat)

Be sure to practice all of those along with metronome. When you overcome each individually, combine them! See which one go well one after another. There are countless options available.


It is very important to accentuate the subdivision of n-tolis properly. You can do that in several ways.

  1. Use downpicking on beginning of new subdivision. But this won't be that effective unless you have a downpick on last note of previous subdivision. Here is an example:

  2. Use harmonic difference on beginning of new subdivision. Meaning, if you have only one note through whole riff, add a power chord, or other type of chord, at beginning of subdivision. If you have all chords, use only one note.

  3. Use rest instead of second note of new subdivision.

  4. Make drum accentuate the new subdivision. This is more songwriting tip, but it helps a lot, especially if you're working on odd rhythms with a drummer. It's worth having this in mind.
  5. Change melodic pattern on new subdivision. If you have a riff based around one note, you can add a melodic pattern to it with other notes. And opposite, of course. Implement various scales and modes. The more you seek, the more you'll get.

Never stop exploring. This should be only a hint of what you can do with counting. And get in the feeling. If you really feel the groove, you will more easily transfer it into music you're making.

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