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I'm currently transcribing the outro section of the song "Even the Gods Must Die" by Nile and I've been trying to figure out how to approach the feel of the rhythm. It seems like the drums are syncopated but the more I try to transcribe, the more complicated it's becoming and it's making me second guess whether it is syncopated or not. The reason why its becoming more difficult is because one of the strong beats sound as though it lands on a 32 note. This means every time the drums repeat, the entire drum pattern has to shift a 32 note along in order to play in sync with the guitar. This creates for quite a messy tabulation as there are a mixture of everything between 32 to quarter notes all being carried across measures.

The other idea was to transcribe the drums by adjusting the time signature in order to accommodate the rhythm. This also proved to be tricky because I was getting lots of weird time signatures like 30/32 or 19/16 and it just seemed like there should have been a more straight forward way to solve this.

My other thought was to assume the drums and guitar had an unintentional delay that wasn't supposed to be there. This would eliminate the need for random 32 notes dotted everywhere and therefore make it more manageable to tab. However, I can't help but imagine that this was the kind of sound they were going for and don't think it was by accident.

In short: The rhythm isn't too complicated as far as the general feel goes but the slight delay between the drums and guitar are causing me some confusion. So if anyone can point me in the right direction that would be great, i.e. what the time signatures are and/or if it is syncopated or not or anything else.

Here is a link to the song, the outro starts at 7:01.

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  • Welcome, @James.
    – MS-SPO
    Jan 31, 2023 at 21:56
  • @Glorfindel what is the reason to remove the embedded YT window? Feb 1, 2023 at 18:50
  • @user1079505 no reason - I didn't realize it was embedded (the editor preview doesn't show it). I had to change the link to make sure it starts at the right time...
    – Glorfindel
    Feb 1, 2023 at 18:53

3 Answers 3

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This one is actually not that complicated, or at least it bears some similarity to the music I listen to, so I am able to figure it out easily. The method I use to figure out the rhythm is as follows:

1- Listen for an indication of where the pulse is. This is usually the drums, and more specifically, this is usually a hi-hat, cymbal, shaker, tambourine, or similar sound. We have a shaker that seems to be playing constant 16th notes. That's a start.

2- Find where the pattern repeats, if it does repeat at all. Again, it is usually the drum pattern that will repeat. One way to find this repeat is to listen for any distinct pattern that seems to occur several times throughout the song. The amount of time between the occurrences of this pattern is probably the length of the repeating pattern. In this case, that length is 15 8th notes.

3- Find a logical starting and ending point to the pattern. For me, the first drum hit at 7:01 seems to be a logical starting point.

I also sliced this song up in my DAW to verify that the drums do actually repeat every 15 8th notes:

Image of sliced audio waveform

Given this information, I would transcribe the drums in 4/4+7/8 at about 70bpm, and then transcribe all the other instruments in relation to the drum pattern.

You may find, when transcribing the other instruments, that they seem to follow patterns of their own- for example, the acoustic guitar strum seems to happen every 16 8th notes. You then have to make the decision- do we notate that as straight 4/4, as a polymeter against the drums, or do we just notate it in the same time signature as the drums?

I am firmly of the opinion that we should use the notation that correspond to what the music sounds like, and an acoustic guitar strum every 6 seconds does not have enough influence on our perception of the song's meter to warrant notating as a polymeter. I would keep everything in the same time signature as the drums when transcribing, even if the other instruments seem to not follow the pattern that the drums are banging out. The drums have the most influence on the listener's perception of meter (that is, if the listener is perceiving meter at all in this part of the song).

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  • Hi, it was quite a while since I last worked on this transcription but I remember ending up with something similar to how you explained. I ended up having the drums play in 8th notes alternating between measures of 4/4 and 7/8 with the guitar playing underneath. What caused my confusion initially was the inconsistancy of the guitar alongside the drums. Anyway, thanks for the explanation, it would definitely help for transcriptions like this in the future.
    – James
    Jul 25, 2023 at 17:18
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A few thoughts.

It‘s interesting you make the guitar the reference. Usually it‘s the drummer, who is on time. This can happen, e.g. when the guitarist just gives into the music.

Having only listened once I‘m not sure if we really have a time division of 32-th notes. Ian Paice (Deep Purple) was a master on this level and beyond, and this song doesn‘t even sound close.

IF the rhythm is like you describe, it‘s probably like described here: https://music.stackexchange.com/a/127090/88467 , a polyrhythm on accents.

If you want to literally „see“ the music, obtain an audio file of the video (e.g. via https://vid.puffyan.us) and feed it to SonicVisualizer. Pick the view, which shows the frequencies vertically, so you see root frequencies and overtones of instruments (probably the spectrogramm layer). Obtain the BPM and overlay with this raster. Then it‘s easier to follow measures. And yes, sometimes musicians aren‘t machines, i.e. deviate in tempo.

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  • Interesting, I'll have a read up on the polyrhythm thread you mentioned, I think there could be something in there that might help. I don't suppose you know what the inconsistency between the drums and guitar are just from listening? I was presuming the guitar plays once every two measures and would start on the down beat but there is a delay between the guitar and drums.
    – James
    Jan 31, 2023 at 22:07
  • Hard to tell. Install, watch and verify via SV.
    – MS-SPO
    Feb 1, 2023 at 4:01
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What I hear is:

  • A consistent, underlying 16th-note pulse in the drums.
  • A seemingly irregular pattern of accents in the drums.
  • A periodic strummed guitar
  • The solo guitar playing freely "across" the time.

Thus the drums are the reason it sounds like there's a consistent meter, but the solo guitar isn't attempting to play within that structure.

To approach transcribing the drum part, I would lay out a grid for 16th notes and mark each on that gets an accent. (I would likely also lay out the high-hat part on the same grid, for reference.) That would allow me to see whether the drum part is consistent, operating in a polymeter, or whether the accents are "random". It would also give me a grid to mark where the guitar strums happen.

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  • From what I've picked up rhythm wise is the drums alternate between 2 measures of 4/4 and 7/8 then two measures of just 4/4 in which it repeats the two again.
    – James
    Feb 1, 2023 at 19:15
  • didn't realise enter just sent the message instead of making a new line, but heres what I was meant to finish saying. I was also starting to think that the acoustic guitar was basically doing what it wants as it seems to play at odd beats within the drums. I believe the strong beats are played by the heavier sounding drums along with a tambourine in the background which is playing softer beats.
    – James
    Feb 1, 2023 at 19:22
  • As in guitar, I'm referring to acoustic. Haven't transcribed the solo guitar yet
    – James
    Feb 1, 2023 at 19:24
  • @James I think that's fair. I'm just contributing the idea that rather than trying to assign a meter, you just lay everything out on a grid. Worst case, you wind up notating without demarking measure boundaries — or you use dotted bar lines as a visual aid to delineate metric segments.
    – Aaron
    Feb 1, 2023 at 19:26
  • I think this is a good idea especially when trying to make it easier to understand. I think the main problem isn't so much the meter or time signature but more where the drums and guitar play within each other. The approach I'm going to take is to assume the drums are laying down a consistent beat and the guitars both acoustic and solo are playing around the drums.
    – James
    Feb 1, 2023 at 19:34

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