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I have a very difficult time picking out the best way to syncopate meter when composing for the double bass drum (I'm not a drummer, but I usually need to sequence some scratch parts to write the music over.)

Take for instance the beat on the track below:

At roughly timecode 1:34, it becomes virtually impossible for me to identify the subdivisions between notes on the kick. The time signature is very obviously 4/4, but the way the notes are subdivided on the double bass pedal sounds as if it alternates between triplets and straight 16ths. I follow the ride cymbal on the quarter notes and the snare on 2 and 4, but the kick is very difficult to identify compositionally, especially when the meter is split like this (4/4 counted aloud but triplets on one rhythm instrument). Is there any good method to figuring out these kinds of subdivisions, something like a mnemonic a drummer might employ when approaching session material like this? Thanks for any guidance.

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Have you tried slowing the track down to get a better listen to the kick? –  Alex Basson Jul 6 '12 at 2:13
2  
Am I missing something? I hear plain 16th notes on the bass drum at 1:34, nothing else... –  groovingandi Jul 8 '12 at 8:47
    
You do have a better version of the track than the audio of this video? The sound quality appears to be degraded heavily by some lossy codec, that's obviously not good if you want to figure out fast figures correctly. But I honestly can't hear anything really complicated at all, certainly not at 1:34 where it's indeed just plain 16ths. The whole groove is just played a little laid-back, which is of course rather unusual for a double bass drum passage. –  leftaroundabout Jul 8 '12 at 15:01
    
video no longer available because account terminated for copyright infringement. –  gurney alex Aug 8 '12 at 7:03
    
@gurneyalex: the track is called "A Prophet in the Forest" by Atlantean Kodek. There are other versions on Youtube, and I'd hazard a guess it's available on other music sites as well. –  naught101 Sep 16 '12 at 7:08
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1 Answer

One thing I've found really useful for figuring out drum parts is to look at the spectrogram of the song.

The free an open source audio editor, Audacity, can do this.

  • Download and install the program, then open your song in it.
  • Once the song is loaded, you'll see the track header on the left. At the top is the track name. Click the track title, and select "spectrogram (log)" (the log version is useful for the bassier parts).
  • You should now see the spectrogram. Zoom right in to the part you're interested in. (Drag the bottom of the track to expand it vertically).

Audacity spectrogram

  • If the track is fairly clean, and the drum beats aren't too close together, you should be able to see the drum beats fairly well.
  • If not, there's a few things that you can do to improve the spectrogram: Go to Edit > Preferences > Spectrograms, and fiddle with the options there. If you increase the window size, you'll get a higher resolution spectrogram. If you reduce the maximum frequency, you'll get better resolution at the bass level. You might get better readability if you mess with gain settings too.

Unfortunately, With the particular section of the track you're interested in, there's a really deep, distorted bass-line, which is visually overpowering the drum beat, so you can't really see much. You might get better results in parts where there is no bass. But I'd recommend just counting the beats - it's not so fast that you can't. I agree with leftaroundabout that it sounds most like straight 16ths at 1:34.

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