It was while having a, comparatively coordinated, slap on my drums that the other day I was struck with a thought.
This thought, or theory if you will, related, or pertained if you like, to the number of existing drum beats in the world, versus the potential number of drum beats in the world; because logically, it is a finite number.
Sticking with rock music – really the only remaining genre with proper drum beats anyway – a basic drum kit comprises one bass drum, three toms, one snare, and two or three cymbals, including the hi-hat, crash, and the splash cymbals.
That’s seven or eight music-making components within a basic kit; let’s say it’s seven. Now, using a standard, four-beat chord, given that 4 by 7 by 7 is 196, if you were the most boring drummer in the world who only ever beat one of seven drums four times within each chord, there would be a maximum of 196 different beats that you could create.
If however, you were a typical drummer who thrived on making the most creative, mind-blowing beats imaginable, you might wish to introduce into your standard four-beat chord the odd half-beat, drum-roll or, and this is getting pretty technical – particularly for the most boring drummer in the world – a sound overlap or audio-amalgamation, where drums are struck more or less concurrently to produce a blended, or elongated sound.
This kind of irregularity makes my arithmetic suddenly very difficult as timing now becomes a factor; for example, that standard seven component drum kit playing that standard four-beat chord – 4 by 7 by 7 – now becomes 4 by 7 by 7 by as many as 16 (I’m not going to explain that one; you’ll just have to trust me).
Nevertheless that still equals a finite number; a big finite number (and I actually think I should’ve gone 4 by 7 by 7 by 16 then by 16 again, which would have made an even bigger number and anyway, given that I don’t have a calculating device handy hence am doing all this arithmetic in my head as I sit writing this, perhaps you shouldn’t have trusted me after all and instead should have pushed for that explanation) yes, but still a finite number.
That’s the point; that’s the theory. In this world of rock music there in fact is, or are, a finite number of potential drum beats. While I am certain that that number has yet to be reached – it is pretty big after all – I am just as certain that drum beat plagiarism does already exist in the world of rock music.
Curious then that I can claim to have developed, or created – on my standard seven component drum kit no less – as many as five original drum beats.
Article by Tim Walker
Edited by Fie Knight
Photography by Audie O Beet