Unconventional Beats Keep Rolling on Triangular Wheels!



I saw something on Discovery once that blew me away. They had a triangular object that could work exactly like a wheel. They placed two of these rounded triangles on a table spaced apart with a flat board laid on top. To my amazement the board could be pulled back and forth on top of the rolling triangles and had no up or down movement. These ‘wheels’ are inefficient compared to wheels of circular design, but they do deliver the same end result. To my further astonishment they said there were other shapes which could do the same job but there was no time to show them. . . .To this day I try and imagine what the other shapes were? I think they were probably other angles of triangles, but I’m no engineer.

I often think of these triangular wheels when designing beats. There is the circular wheel, the round beat. 137 beats per minute, on the dot, like the tick of a clock. Your standard boom boom boom. This is the top of the two audio tracks posted here. Working with these straight beats is fun, and there is an endless amount of work you can do on the different rhythms drawn overtop, but in the end its a bit like using a coloured canvas. Sure you can draw a masterpiece on it, but it will have the same blue background everyone else is using.

The real challenging beats are the ones with the odd patterns. Especially when both kick and snare elements are keeping off the steady meter. The lower track is the same song, but with a triangular wheel. I actually wrote this odder lower version first, but then wanted to make the track more commercial. I scraped all my hard work making the odd timing work, and slapped down a steady straight kick- a process that takes all of about 3 seconds and is the creative equivalent of wearing socks. – “oh look, you’re wearing socks again. . ..how creative”.

When the beat is straight, its easier to fit the music in, but when the beat is odd you’ve got to tweek the timing of things to the highest precision. The bad spacing of a sound in an oddly timed loop by even the smallest microsecond can totally screw up the coolness. When working with straight beats, the blue background manages to smooth out your work making things close enough to work. This is why there is so much mediocre straight beat music out there being made by amateurs- its easy, and it smoothes out rough edges. For me, the more interesting beats are the ones that are odd, but end result in something so cool that you can bob your head along as though it were a steady meter. The complexity of the triangle with the easy flow of the circle.

Although in this case it looks like the blue canvas worked out better. The bottom track was a fairly early attempt at samples music, a bit far off the beaten path of whats music though i think. The top one is one of my favourites, makes me think of horse racing for some reason?.

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4 Responses to “Unconventional Beats Keep Rolling on Triangular Wheels!”

  1. Jules Cosby Says:

    I was having a conversation of a similar sort with a person the other day. We were talking about how much they liked Tool, or more generally, the sort of music that wasn’t necessarily your “circle”. I said I had nothing but respect for Maynard and the boys, or my friends’ bands who emulated the sound, but there was a very salient reason why I never really got into it: it doesn’t make for good jamming. With 4/4, at least you have the basics laid down. The musicians can just play, without having to devote too much energy to counting. Whereas when you’re all on the same page you can have an open musical conversation, when you start playing with the rhythm, what you really have is actors reading lines from a play.

    Of course I’m talking about live music. Recorded music is another world, one where the triangular song can be king.

  2. remistevens Says:

    oh boy, 4/4 is god, i don’t think i can agree. There is no reason why a musical conversation cannot occur over a more awkward coffee table. If anything, invite some odd guests to your party and things are libel to get quite interesting. If everyone is on the same page, whatever that strange page may be- no counting is required.

    A bluegrass band can easily tick along to 3/4. Tool can surely improvise now that they are so comfortable with their songs.

    Although i will admit arrangement abnormalities are pretty much impossible for jamming, odd timing surely is not; so long as the rhythm is consistent and everyone is well versed in the pattern. much in the same way we all know what will happens next in a 4/4 timing. Remember, im not talking about changes, i know that those cannot be spontaneous. just odd timing

    4/4 is certainly the most predictable timing and is the easiest to follow for four strangers picking up instruments. but there isn’t really anything magical or special about it. It’s no more “the basics” than any other timing. I suspect its easiness stems more from familiarity than from some sort of special perceptive character.

    In the same way that the 12 bar blues is the easiest structure to follow tonally; because its been used alot, not because its magic. A jam band in 1651 would have had a hell of a time trying to cover the Stones.

  3. exuvia Says:

    Odd patterns eliminate boredom but may also produce strangeness.

    I guess it is the difference between working out on a single machine in the gym and doing a triathlon in Nature. It’s about the width and breath of the experience.

    A continuous single rhythmic beat wears the three neurons out used to perceive the pattern. The energy potential of the neuron is depleted and exhausted and what follows is a trance or schizoid state; a dysfunctional brain experienced as a non ordinary state of consciousness.

    Some people cultivate this disaster; they go for a down and ‘out’ experience.

    I enjoy the more sophisticated brain experience; the artsy awakening of slumbering neurons in my brain bunker by a sensitive human talent on an instrument talking where I could or would not go by myself; walking the tightrope of tune as he evokes the soundscape of a part of the electromagnetic spectrum within my mind otherwise untouched; its dialogue; story telling by notes, therapy and sharing; it’s poetry on a string or in a tube.

    The caffeinated beat is ok with me though; tune me up Scotty… I need to go to Hollywood.

  4. remistevens Says:

    Of course, i don’t know why i hadn’t thought of the physical perception angle for beats. Its the same process that goes on in the retina. Look at the same object and it will eventually disappear. Photo receptor sees blue, fires out its pulse by exhausting its store of chemicals. I want to start doing some perception posts, i find the whole process of the human chemical computer very interesting.

    Sometimes that non ordinary state is highly useful for meditative purposes, but probably not if you’re cracked out on drugs in the bathroom of a dance club.

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