A different way to visualize rhythm – John Varney


We usually think of rhythm
as an element of music, but it’s actually found everywhere in
the world around us, from the ocean tides
to our own heartbeats, rhythm is essentially an event repeating
regularly over time. Even the ticking of a clock itself
is a sort of rhythm. But for musical rhythm, a steady string of repeating single
beats is not enough. For that, we need at least one opposing
beat with a different sound, which can be the unstressed off beat
or the accented back beat. There are several ways to make
these beats distinct, whether by using high and low drums,
or long and short beats. Which ends up being heard as the main
beat is not a precise rule, but like the famous Rubin’s vase, can be
reversed depending on cultural perception. In standard notation, rhythm is indicated
on a musical bar line, but there are other ways. Remember that ticking clock? Just as its round face can trace the
linear passage of time, the flow of rhythm can be
traced in a circle. The continuity of a wheel can be
a more intuitive way to visualize rhythm than a linear score that requires moving
back and forth along the page. We can mark the beats at different
positions around the circle using blue dots for main beats,
orange ones for off beats, and white dots for secondary beats. Here is a basic two beat rhythm with
a main beat and an opposing off beat. Or a three beat rhythm with a main beat,
an off beat, and a secondary beat. And the spaces between each beat
can be divided into further sub-beats using multiples of either two or three. Layering multiple patterns using
concentric wheels lets us create more complex rhythms. For example, we can combine a basic
two beat rhythm with off beats to get a four beat system. This is the recognizable backbone of
many genres popular around the world, from rock, country, and jazz, to reggae and cumbia. Or we can combine a two beat
rhythm with a three beat one. Eliminating the extra main beat
and rotating the inner wheel leaves us with a rhythm whose
underlying feel is three-four. This is the basis of the music of
Whirling Dervishes, as well as a broad range of
Latin American rhythms, such as Joropo, and even Bach’s famous Chaconne. Now if we remember Rubin’s vase
and hear the off beats as the main beats, this will give us a six-eight feel, as found in genres such as Chacarera, and Quechua, Persian music and more. In an eight beat system,
we have three layered circles, each rhythm played by
a different instrument. We can then add an outermost layer consisting of an additive
rhythmic component, reinforcing the main beat
and increasing accuracy. Now let’s remove everything
except for this combined rhythm and the basic two beat on top. This rhythmic configuration is found
as the Cuban cinquillo, in the Puerto Rican bomba, and in Northern Romanian music. And rotating the outer circle
90 degrees counterclockwise gives us a pattern often found
in Middle Eastern music, as well as Brazilian choro, and Argentinian tango. In all of these examples, the underlying
rhythm reinforces the basic one-two, but in different ways depending on
arrangement and cultural context. So it turns out that the wheel method
is more than just a nifty way of visualizing complex rhythms. By freeing us from the tyranny
of the bar line, we can visualize rhythm
in terms of time, and a simple turn of the wheel can take us
on a musical journey around the world.

100 thoughts on “A different way to visualize rhythm – John Varney

  1. Eu fiquei encantado com esse Ted-Ed sobre visualizar ritmos por meio de uma viagem ao redor do mundo. 💖💖💖

  2. The software Bounce Metronome had this feat. It was amazing for visualizing insanely complex polyrhythms!

  3. I love this video it tells us that out of all the rhythm there is always a 1 and 2

  4. This seems like a very odd crutch…I'm not sure why this would be used along with standard notation, when standard notation makes perfect sense as is. Why not just learn that instead of trying to rely on something else.

  5. Who else watched this video without the faintest idea about what's going on?

  6. this is super cool, i have watched this video so many times to really learn about this

  7. this actually help more than other yutuber trying explain 1 thing for 30 mins.

  8. I'm interested in how this would be used to write music. How would different notes be annotated? Changes in rhythm? Where would words be put for singers?
    It's an interesting visual but really nothing more than a novalty. You can visualize rhythm in reference to time even on the "tyrannical" bar line by looking at the suggested BPM most arrangers include in the score.

  9. As a musician, this vastly complicates the idea rather than simplifying it.

  10. …is no one going to talk about how the rock and reggae examples are literally the same? No? Okay.

  11. Basically beat is geometrically identically or symmetrical components.Thats the music order to avoid chaos.

  12. Using a "clock" for learning the "compas" of the different Flamenco-styles is quite common for ages.
    Anyway, nicely presented and brought to the (logical?) next level.

  13. 4:13 I found my favorite: Northern Romanian music

  14. Favorite Rhythm!
    M = Main, O = Off, S = Secondary, and N = None
    M-N-S-M-N-N-O-N
    Loop it, and BANG!

  15. No reference to the #1 genre in the world Hip Hop huh? Interesting.

  16. Dear Sir, if you can read my comment, then please share some more videos on this subject and some good books for study deeply.

  17. Good one, now what about relations through time without thinking in a start point (as seen in the video) what about the symmetry of relations between just them, steve reich's work blows my mind in this terms, because most of his rythmical structures are percieved of many of this ways in a single piece. In clapping music, for example

  18. Explaining Rhythm and Polyrhythm in a beautiful way and very simple method.. Great John Varney.

  19. ║░█░█░║░█░█░█░║
    ║░█░█░║░█░█░█░║
    ║░║░║░║░║░║░║░║
    ╚═╩═╩═╩═╩═╩═╩═╝

  20. A different way to teach rhythmic notation
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFy7AYUz0-c&t=9s

  21. I'm a musician from Argentina and that doesn't sound anything like a tango! The system to visualize rhythm is nice, tho.

  22. For a drummer this was painful to Watch, specially the beat with the flute at 3:50 where the loop is slightly off. Also, the 4/4 rock sound wasn't the basic rock but a sort of reggae with electronic guitar right?
    Yet very interesting to see all the different styles in a circle

  23. Amazing.
    I love small intuitive visual geometric condensed simplified lessons that contain a lot of potential.
    This is my style of learning.

  24. Very informative and inspiring. Thank you. <3 tells me how good it will be to study different world music.

  25. Excellent video and interesting means of representing rhythms.

  26. Wow !! That just blows my mind, what a wonderful way to interpret the rhythmic pulse of music !!!

  27. Basically, take a measure and conjoin the beginning and end. But since this is rhythm, the notes don't matter

  28. Some of the musical examples are not representing the mentioned styles at all! I also wonder how your circles would work with irregular (aksak) rhythms (5/8, 7/8, etc.) or some 120-measure-long classical Turkish music rhythmic pattern.

  29. newer hardware drum sequencer-synth-sampler that operates like this circle. Zoom ARQ Aero RhythmTrak. thumbs-up if you have seen/played one

  30. This is quite similar to Indian classical music where the most popular form is teentaal. Here the circle is divided to 4 quadrants and each quadrant is further divided to 4 more parts, aggregated to 16 divisions.

  31. Standard notation is better, that's why it has been used for so long.

  32. I want people who created this video, create a whole music theory course.

  33. Seems like the writer of this video really loves latin american music.

  34. The First Commercially Available Drum Machine, The Wurlitzer Side Man (1959) used essentially a Clock Face will Electrical Contacts to do exactly this.

  35. Very interesting. Every country have their own way to visualize rhythm. Not only music sheet we used in classical music.

  36. Dude 2:13 that is NOT what a columbian cumbia sounds like at all not even a baseline resemblance

  37. Future Retro Orb and similar sequencers can work in this 'mindset' (although can't go as far as shown here)

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