Vocabulary for the mathematics of drumming
Multicultural Mathematics
Dr. Rachel Hall

Below are musical and mathematical terms we have used in class.  I'll update this periodically as we discuss more terms.

 Term Definition and examples periodic occuring repeatedly at a fixed time interval.  For example, the beginning of Fall, a heatbeat, and the tides are all periodic. frequency The number of times a periodic event occurs relative to some unit of time.  For example, Fall begins once a year and the tides change twice a day.  Frequency is always relative to the unit of time--``twice a day'' is the same as ``once every twelve hours.''  The frequency of a beat is measured in beats per minute. period Period is the length of one cycle of a periodic occurence.  Period and frequency are inverses of each other, meaning that period = 1 / (frequency)  and frequency = 1 / (period).  For example, if a beat occurs 60 times a minute, then its period is 1/60 of a minute, or one second. beat A unit of time that is fixed throughout a musical piece. tempo The speed of the beat, measured in number of beats per minute.  Tempo is equivalent to frequency in a musical context. note A musical sound that begins with a drumhit or attack.  In abcdrums, the beginning of a note is marked with a d.  A note will be written in the form dzzz or d4. rest A beat on which no drumhit is sounded.  In abcdrums, a rest is marked with a z.  In abcdrums, we will not distinguish between a drumhit of duration 4 (d4) and a drumhit followed by three rests (dzzz), since both are made by hitting the drum on the first beat, then waiting out three beats until the next note. volume The loudness or softness of a note.  In abcdrums, volume is a number from 0 to 127, with 127 being the loudest and 0 meaning no sound. duration The length of a note or pattern, measured in beats.  For example, the notes dzzz and d4 both have duration 4.  The pattern dzdzdzz has duration 7 and can also be written d2 d2 d3. measure (cycle) A unit of time formed by grouping together a set number of beats.  Often, the beginning of each measure is marked by an accent or by striking a bass drum. time signature The number of notes in a measure.  For example, if seven beats are consistently grouped together, then we say the time signature is 7 beats per measure, and that the composition is ``in 7.''  Here is a short composition in 7: Snare:       dzzdzdz ddddzdz zzdzdzd Bass Drum:  (dzzzzzz)3 rhythm pattern Any succession of notes and rests.  For example, dzzdzdz is a rhythm pattern of duration 7. rhythm cycle A rhythm pattern that is repeated a number of times in succession.  For example,  (dzdzzzz)3 is a rhythm cycle of duration 7 that is repeated 3 times.  Generally, the rhythm cycle is repeated throughout the entire composition, with perhaps some slight variation.  A rhythm cycle can also be called an accompaniment (``comp'') if it is quieter and less prominent than a solo instrument. solo A prominent rhythm pattern or melody performed by one instrument or group of instruments.  Typically, solos are not repeated and are at a higher volume than the accompaniment. complement The complement to a rhythm pattern is another pattern that has rests on the first pattern's drumhits, and hits on the first pattern's rests.  In the following example, the Low Woodblock and High Woodblock have complementary parts. Low Woodblock:   dzzdzdz High Woodblock:  zddzdzd