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I was struck by the unusual rhythm in this song that played in a Spotify playlist. A friend mentioned it as well and we couldn't figure out what was going on in terms of rhythmic pattern. I played the drums when I was young but here I'm totally stuck.

It's very syncopic, I have a feeling it uses triplets but can't figure it out exactly.

Are there online tools with which one could turn the rhythm quickly into a sheet pattern that one can reason about?

This is a link to the song: Le Youth - Colour

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    Welcome! I'm afraid we don't cover recommending specific tools or software (and I doubt there is one that could do what you're looking for quickly and simply), but I encourage you to edit your question to focus more on how you can figure it out yourself. One tip: there's a bit of a delay-echo on the upper voice that gives the effect of repeating some notes; to simplify the rhythm, try to ignoring it. Nov 8, 2021 at 14:45
  • Oh, and I should add, questions looking to identify a certain element of a song (e.g. "what's going on in the rhythm here") are also off-topic. An example of an on-topic question might be "What strategies can I use to decipher complex interlocking rhythms?" Nov 8, 2021 at 18:15
  • the best "tool" to help transcribe the rhythm would be the "0.5x" button on youtube, and a desk to tap along to to find out what the placement of the beats is. I agree that it's an interesting rhythm, it reminds me of some samba/bossa guitar rhythms where things that are syncopated with some groups of 3 16ths (dotted 8ths) begin to have a sort of tuplet feel to them, especially if you begin to let the 3s cross the barline.
    – Some_Guy
    Nov 8, 2021 at 20:29

1 Answer 1

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The trick here is that you can fudge a sort of "pseudo polyrhythm" by using groups of 3 16ths with the occasional tactically placed 2 to make it "join up" at convenient points

If you have a true 3:4 polyrhythm in 4/4 with groups of 3 16ths, it looks like this:

X:1
T:Rhythm example: true true polyrhyhm
M:4/4
Q:1/4=120
L:1/16
%%score (Sn Ba) 
V:Sn           clef=treble  name="Snare"   snm="Sn"
V:Ba           clef=treble  name="Bass"    snm="Ba"
K:C
%            End of header, start of tune body:
% 1
[V:Sn]  |c3 c3 c3 c3 c3 c1-|c2 c3 c3 c3 c3 c2-|c1 c3 c3 c3 c3 c3 | c3
[V:Ba]  |C4 C4 C4C4  |C4 C4 C4C4  |C4 C4 C4C4  | C4

3 4s are 12, (and 4 3s are 12) so every 3 quarter notes, the rhythm lines up. That's not always very musical in 4.4, or at least is a little disorienting in 4/4. That's sometimes an effect you want of course.

Also notice that, in terms of bars, the pattern syncs at the beginning of the bar every 3 bars (4 12s is 48 which is also 3 16s; i.e. 4 repeats of the polyrhthm is 3 bars). Just like having a rhythm land on the fourth beat, the rhythm syncing at the end of the 3rd bar is not usually what you're going for in 4/4, we're usually grouping music in even numbers of bars, so again this doesn't necessarily work so well in a conventional piece of music in 4/4

Because of this, what you commonly do for a lot of rhythms is "fudge" it with an occasional group of 2 or 4, to make it fit into a neat pattern that repeats in a way that lines up to the overall rhythm of the music.

A common way of doing this is to add a group of 4 (or 2 2s) at the end of the bar, to get this common repeating patter:

X:1
T:Rhythm example: one bar pattern: tuplet-like
M:4/4
Q:1/4=120
L:1/16
%%score (Sn Ba) 
V:Sn           clef=treble  name="Snare"   snm="Sn"
V:Ba           clef=treble  name="Bass"    snm="Ba"
K:C
%            End of header, start of tune body:
% 1
[V:Sn]  |c3 c3 c3 c3 c2c2|c3 c3 c3 c3 c2c2|c3 c3 c3 c3 c2c2|c3 c3 c3 c3 c2c2
[V:Ba]  |C4 C4 C4 C4               |C4 C4 C4C4   |C4 C4 C4C4  |C4 C4 C4C4  |

Or, if you want it to be a bit more "polyrhthmy" than that, you can let the pattern slide over the first barline, and then tidy it up at the end of the second, giving a sort of "polyrhythm feel" than then 2resyncs" with the music.

You hear this kind of stuff (and much more complex variations than this) in all kinds of latin music (cuban musicians do crazy things with polyrhythms involving, freestyling brazilian guitarists often flit between pseudo polyrhythms with little nips and tucks to make them line up pleasingly)

You can also achieve a similar effect by making the rhythm enter slightly late (by 1 or 4 8ths), so that it ends up ending on a neat beat.

T:Rhythm example: 1 bar pattern, starting shifted M:4/4 Q:1/4=120 L:1/16 %%score (Sn Ba) V:Sn clef=treble name="Snare" snm="Sn" V:Ba clef=treble name="Bass" snm="Ba" K:C % End of header, start of tune body: % 1 [V:Sn] |z4 c3 c3 c3 c3 |z1 c3 c3 c3 c3 c3 | [V:Ba] |C4 C4 C4 C4 |C4 C4 C4 C4 |

You can stick these together, starting late and ending with a 4 or a 2, so that you get a polyrhythm which starts to drift into a "true polyrhythm" feel over 2 bars, but lands on the downbeat after an even number of bars.

X:1
T:Rhythm example: 2 bar pattern, polyrhythmic aspect
M:4/4
Q:1/4=120
L:1/16
%%score (Sn Ba) 
V:Sn           clef=treble  name="Snare"   snm="Sn"
V:Ba           clef=treble  name="Bass"    snm="Ba"
K:C
%            End of header, start of tune body\:
% 1
[V:Sn]  |c4 c3 c3 c3 c3    |c3 c3 c3 c3 c2 c2    | c4  
[V:Ba]  |C4 C4 C4 C4       |C4 C4 C4 C4          | C4

There are all kind of sneaky tricks like this you can use when improvising around these rhythms. Take this samba rhythm that drifts into a polyrhythm and comes back (by fading the end of a rhythm into a polyrhythm that starts to drag, but then is brought back into focus by a group of 2s at the end of the bar

X:1
T:Rhythm example: samba pattern fading in and out of polyrhythm
M:4/4
Q:1/4=120
L:1/16
%%score (Sn Ba) 
V:Sn           clef=treble  name="Snare"   snm="Sn"
V:Ba           clef=treble  name="Bass"    snm="Ba"
K:C
%            End of header, start of tune body\:
% 1
[V:Sn]  |c2 c3 c2 c2 c2 c3 c2| c2 c3 c2 c2 c2 c3 c2-|c1 c3 c3 c3 c3 c3   | c3 c3 c3 c3 c2c2 
[V:Ba]  |C4 C4 C4 C4         | C4 C4 C4 C4          |C4 C4 C4 C4         | C4 C4 C4 C4          |
%5
 

What this band you linked is doing is something similar, a polyrhythm-like pattern with groups of 3s, with sneaky 2s put in there to make it loop across 2 bars neatly.

However whereas all the previous examples focussed on putting the 2s or 4s in a place so as to make the rhythm land on a strong beat, and maintain a more "rhythmic" less "disoriented" feel, this band does exactly the opposite; the 2s are put in places that make sure the rhythm doesn't hit a strong beat. A single group of 2 is unassumingly put in the middle of bar 1, meaning that the rhythm 1) doesn't land on beat 4 as it usually would and 2) because there's only one group of 1, means that the second bar also starts syncopated. A similar thing is done in bar 2, the rhythm would land on beat 2, so instead a 2 is snuck in so that the rhythm misses every downbeat for the rest of the bar too.

The cumulative effect is a sort of "pseudo-polyrhyhm" that is adjusted just enough to make sure it doesn't hit any beat within the bar, except the downbeat every 2 bars. This gives a sort of "spacey" "floaty" feel as the notes keep missing every strong beat, and have a pseudo-polyhythmic feel to them.

X:1
T:Rhythm from clip
M:4/4
Q:1/4=120
L:1/16
%%score (Sn Ba) 
V:Sn           clef=treble  name="Snare"   snm="Sn"
V:Ba           clef=treble  name="Bass"    snm="Ba"
K:C
%            End of header, start of tune body:
% 1
[V:Sn]  |c3 c3 c3 c2 c3 c2-|c1 c2 c3 c3 c2 c3 c2  | c3 
[V:Ba]  |C4 C4 C4C4  |C4 C4 C4C4  |C4 

I find these scores of these types of rhythms a bit of a pain to read, and not particularly intuitive, so here it is in a sequencer (a few bars of the song) which, for me anyway, is much easier to visualise and generally grok.

https://onlinesequencer.net/2372942

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