The Compositional Drummer

The Compositional Drummer

Information for the career minded drummer and musician

Music composition basics

Effective Music composition (Part 2.) The Basics, Rhythmic subdivision 


For those who have a bit of talent in the area of creative art it requires cultivating. Just like a newly planted seedling you must cultivate your mind. Feeding it the right information, practicing, writing, studying and revising are par for the course. The average musician approaches their craft as though it is not necessary to go through these deep levels of prep to display their talent. However, if you want longevity and meaning to what you are doing you must study, practice and study and practice more. So where does that take us? To more remediation. I know what you’re thinking, let’s get to the meat and potatoes. We will. I promise. But now I need to bottle feed the basics.


It’s my belief that anyone who wants to excel in music, be it performance or composing must have foundational musicianship skills. That is, you already know what a time signature is, you know the value a quarter note receives in 2/4 and 4/4 time.  You have a basic understanding of functional harmony & you can subdivide a whole note to at least the eighth note value. All of this and much more will be covered in the future. For now, we will cover rhythm.  


All composed music is linear. It has a beginning a middle and an end.  The movement of the melody within a composition is time based and dictated by the time signature.  You can use any combination of notes to move through time as long as it obeys the beats dictated by the time signature. For example in 4/4 time there are four beats (top number) to a measure and the quarter note (bottom number) receives one of those beats.  Now the quarter note can be further subdivided. You remember your grade school fractions right? When you learned fractions you used the pie example.  With that understood, you should know that the mathematical principles are the same in music when it comes to common time ( 4/4 ).


That whole pie can represent a whole note in music which receives ALL four beats. You can cut the pie in half with the pie now receiving two beats. You can take both of those halves and cut them in two to represent the four quarters of the pie. You can take one of those quarters and cut them in two and now you have eighths and so on. That is what is known as subdividing. With each piece cut into two the number of pieces representing the whole doubles. The knowledge of this is very necessary; especially as a rhythm player (drummer / bassist).  Chances are as a Rhythm composer your compositions will be groove oriented. Also, lyricists need this information as well. It is of utmost importance to correctly syllablize the words of their compositions. 


See, now was that bad? Take time to review the attachment below. You are definitely on your way to a deeper understanding of music and writing more effectively



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