As is the case for all drummers, for me, it's a great fun to find weird rhythmic patterns and to practice over basic beats to create some tension in the straight sections of various songs. However, due to their sick nature it's difficult for me to read these short pieces of tricky beats while playing. If I try to memorize them my trick bag becomes very limited during the heat of the song. Moreover I would like to have access to those things in the rehersals etc.

So I was trying to find ways of shortening my writing or finding better notational shortcuts. After 15 years or so I've re-remembered Steve Vai's Tempo Mental page and it's great to see that it's not aging a bit. No matter what you play, I would really recommend that you digest that short but very rich text.

On that page ( Here is the link ), there is this rare gem

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which is mind-boggling at first since the triplets are tied from the middle but after some time you can figure it out (it took some time for me to get it and I still remember after so many years how I did it) that it's actually two triplet beats followed by two eighteenths (which again takes some to time to switch to and from comfortably). So the lengths are 1/12, 1/12, 1/18, 1/18, 1/8,1/8...

So after this, I would like to ask if there are any other sources that can teach more of these notational cleverness or new signs or even some software (similar to Ear Master etc.) that can generate these unconventional shortcuts. I would really appreciate if you can direct me to sources that concentrate on such aspects of notation or sight reading. I've written down many of these for myself but it's always good to seek out for smarter people out there.

The only thing I've managed to find so far is a bunch of software that detach and place orphan triplet beats here and there towards the end of the beat such that you have to keep track of that missing beat over the whole bar.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those if it is difficult it should be better type of people. But experience shows that the better I get at these, the quicker I can switch on polyrhythms, subdivisions etc. so this is for my personal development kit.

I think this is not a duplicate of How To Improve My Sightreading? hence the question but feel-free to mark it CW if this is too broad.

  • I hope to write a full reply with an actual answer, but I don't agree with your interpretation of the notation. I think that there are lots of very interesting cases like this but this particular one is actually unnecessarily ambiguous to the performer. Can you "use it in a sentence?" (put it into a full measure of, say, 4/4)? Using elided bracketing like that is something that composers learn to avoid for fear of misinterpretation. We percussionists like it for the challenge. Also, when you explain the values I see 7 notes in the ex. but you only list 6 note values. But cheers overall! Jan 18, 2013 at 17:37
  • @jordanconductor Thanks! I'll be waiting for your opinion on this. And you are right I'm missing another 1/18th in that group. But I'll fix it whenever there is an answer to avoid a pointless bump to the main page. But I can indeed use this in a sentence. I can't say for all of them but this particular one has some use cases for me especially when another player is ending their solo part in a fast pace.
    – user1306
    Jan 19, 2013 at 11:50
  • This question has close votes because it asks for resources. As usual, there could be valid related questions, but I choose not to edit because 1) the alteration would be significant, 2) the question "What alternate or shorthand rhythmic notation systems are there" lends itself to list-answers, and 3), should the OP be listening... if we're looking for novel, invented shorthand systems, you'll be best served by inviting your own personal one. Oct 24, 2021 at 15:52

1 Answer 1


I would advise you to take a look at konokol, it's a big part of carnatic music, and can be use in ours to comprehend and use rythms more easily. It's very efficient, and frankly, quite simple. Famous drummers but also guitarits such as Mc Laughlin use it.

  • Thank you. Unfortunately, I'm already into it and my problem is using a compact notation not coming up with complex polyrhythms.
    – user1306
    Jul 22, 2013 at 7:23