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I am reading a book about music for digital artists, and am reading through an intro to drumming. This is the part I am confused with:

''The ride element can be placed on the quarters, eighths, or sixteenths. Placed on the quarters, the ride can add emphasis to the primary hits, a common technique used in dance music. Eighths give a nice flowing sense to the drums. Sixteenths are more intricate and give a greater sense of pace, motion, and energy''.

Credit goes to Michael Hewitt - Composition for computer musicians

Now I know what values notes can have and what they look like and all that, but what I don't get is how you can place somthing... on them? See, I thought the note values represented the beats, not the other way round.

The only thing I can think of is that he is talking about quantization. So, if the grid is quantised to represent a resolution of 16, with 4 beats representing 1 quarter (4 of which represents a bar), then the beats can be snapped, or placed, on any of the sixteenth rests (because really that's what they are before the beat is used to fill that rest), where a quantisation of 32 means beats can be placed upto a 32'nd rest.

So here, I would have a beat on every quarter, or every 4 sixteenths:

enter image description here

And hear I guess I have a ride on a 32'nd, coloured blue.

enter image description here

If this is the case, I would further presume that you can't place a beat on say, both a sixteenth and a 32nd, but that you could place it on the 32'nd that comes before or after the 16'th. Though, placing it on the 2nd 32nd would be said to be placing it on the 16th, I think. As you can tell, am obviously an expert :D

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Now I know what values notes can have and what they look like and all that, but what I don't get is how you can place somthing... on them?

The author is saying "place a sound every X": as in every quarter, or every eight, or every sixteenth. Here are some examples of one measure in 4/4. The grid is divided in sixteenths.

Every quarter:

Placed on the quarters, the ride can add emphasis to the primary hits, a common technique used in dance music. Piano Roll Quarters Quarters

Every eighth:

Eighths give a nice flowing sense to the drums. Piano Roll Eighths Eighths

Every sixteenth:

Sixteenths are more intricate and give a greater sense of pace, motion, and energy''. Piano Roll Eighteenths Eighteenths

All these are common ride, cymbals, and hi hat rhythms. This is what the lesson is introducing you to. Perhaps you are over-thinking it?

Basically, the author is saying "do what they are doing on this video, but paint it on the piano roll instead of performing it".


As a side note, as Greg Jackson pointed out in the comments, in music theory beat normally refers to the basic unit of time. From your question and context we can deduce that you are using beat to refer to a sound rather than a time unit, but being aware of that distinction is important to avoid confusion from you and/or the people you are chatting with.

  • I know I just asked the question, and all, but are you really sure? I really don't think that's what he means. I mean, who places a beat every sixteenth? – user108262 May 12 '15 at 6:50
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    @user108262 I'm pretty sure. It's a very common lesson in DAWs, rhythm, and drum machines. "Place a ride on the quarters" means "put a ride sound on every quarter". "Play in sixteenths" (when playing an instrument) and "put something in sixteenths" (in a piano roll) both mean the third example in the answer. What makes you think he is referring to something else? – Jamm May 12 '15 at 6:53
  • Mostly my lack of experience, so to me this could mean many things, my main confusion was thinking it could be flexible, and I guess it can. In other words, I didn't know it meant every single value, but looking through the examples provided by the author your certainly correct, thank you very much for clearing that up :) – user108262 May 12 '15 at 7:01
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    @user108262 It isn't flexible in the sense that the author is introducing you to very specific rhythms, but it is flexible in the sense that you can do whatever you want when composing and producing. If you want to place the ride in 32nds go for it. The author is introducing you to these three basic (and important) rhythms, but there are many more possibilities. – Jamm May 12 '15 at 7:10
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    I'd go further and say that even if you're not working with a grid, you would use this language. "I'm going to put a kick drum on every beat, and I'm going to put a snare on the twos and fours" is something a live drummer might say (OK, I've said "put" not "place" but these are the same) – slim May 12 '15 at 8:52
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The beat exists without any notes being played. Imagine the bandleader saying "and ah one, and ah two and ah one two three four" - the next "one" is the downbeat marking (nominally) the beginning of the piece. Time passes, the pulse continues, but there need not be any notes "placed" or "put" on any of those "beats." I think you need an understanding of time signatures before this question can have a meaningful answer. In Common Time, aka 4/4 There are 4 beats per measure, and the quarter-note is the primary beat. In Cut-Time (2/4) there are still four beats to the measure, if you count each beat is an eigth-note. This happens as time passes, regardless of any sound being produced by any instrument or voice. The tempo and time signature determine the "beats" regardless of anything else. See John Cage's infamous 4′33″.

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