All posts by Rachel

Tāla in Carnatic Classical Music

Carnatic classical music from south India uses a collection of rhythmic structures called tālas.  Each tāla is cyclic and organizes time in a particular way, including the number of beats per cycle.  In this video, the performer’s hand gestures indicate the tāla. These same gestures could accompany any piece using this tāla. Compare also the hand gestures used in the American tradition of shape-note singing and this over-the-top classical conductor.

Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”

The guitar and drums play what’s called a 3-against-4 polyrhythm in Led Zeppelin’s 1975 song “Kashmir.”  To practice it, count “ONE TWO three” with the guitar while a friend counts “one two THREE four” with the drums. The upper case letters indicate claps and the lower case letters indicate taps or silence. The resulting pattern repeats after twelve beats. (Variation – add an extra clap between beats ONE and TWO in every other repeat of the first pattern, so you’re clapping ONE-AND-TWO three FOUR FIVE six.)

Clapping Music

Steve Reich’s “Clapping Music” uses a single repeated rhythm pattern.  The two players start by clapping the 12-beat pattern together in unison.  After eight measures, one performer shifts the pattern forward by one beat and they clap the new pattern for eight measures.  This process is continued until the two patterns align again. Here’s a visualization Reich says that the piece was inspired by the clapping patterns in traditional flamenco music of the Roma people in Andalusia, Spain.