A Way to Think About Rhythm


Worth it just for the line “By freeing us from the tyranny of the bar line, …”

Always great to see reminders that standard notation is neither universal nor the best mechanism for conveying things like this.

A circular rhythm system is actually not uncommon in musical tools either; for example, I have a trance gate envelope filter sequencer that is set up that way.


Cool concept, but they were only visualizing single bars in the entire video. They basically freed themselves from the bar line by restricting themselves to one bar (or less). I’d be curious to see how this works for grooves spanning multiple bars, for example where beat 4 ties into the & of 1 in the following bar, or something similar. I guess one circle would then have to represent two bars (or however long the phrase is). Would probably get messy real quick.

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Would probably be fine for drums. Most songs only have a few drum patterns for the entire song. Some only have one.

Charles Mingus had a concept of “rotary perception” where you could play the note around the beat.

His exact words:

“There once was a word used–swing. Swing went in one direction, it was linear, and everything had to be played with an obvious pulse and that’s very restrictive. If you get a mental picture of the beat existing within a circle, you’re more free to improvise. People used to think the notes had to fall on the center of the beats in the bar at intervals like a metronome, with three or four men in the rhythm section accenting the same pulse. That’s like parade music or dance music. But imagine a circle surrounding each beat–each guy can play his notes anywhere in that circle and it gives him a feeling he has more space. The notes fall anywhere inside the circle but the original feeling for the beat isn’t changed.”


I guess video related to the topic on hand

Shows why Bonzo sounded always so good and tight with the rest of the band.