Timing and Rhythm in Music

Katie Ronsivalle

Attentiveness to timing is arguably one of the most integral aspects of drumming. I am fascinated by the seemingly limitless number of ways one can shift timing to produce a completely different “feel,” whether one is playing a particular style of music, a specific song, or even a few notes in a single measure that differs in an unexpected way from the reliably consistent pulse holding a song together.

To play the bodhran, an Irish percussion instrument, the basic rhythm that continues throughout the song is a “triplet” which is what is sounds like- a “ONE-two-three ONE-two-three” cyclic, pattern. There can be variations; sometimes extra hits are thrown in an instant before or after one of the three main hits, or rolls, or slight changes in speed; but one always returns to the same constant, circular, gently swinging rhythm.

A different effect is produced by the timing of the drums in Scottish bagpipe and drum music; there is still a partial lilting, almost relaxed feel that comes from the “off-beat” hits, which is caused by slight hesitations in the middle of a measure. However, each hit on the beat is usually staccato, (more clipped,) and the sharp sound of these notes which terminates the even buzz of the rolls gives a sense of finality after every interval of a few seconds.

If measure after measure played on the bodhran could be drawn on a timeline, it would look like a continually looping line; in contrast, measures played in a Scottish band would appear more like squares placed adjacent to each other and spaced evenly apart. Each of these rhythms is so distinctive and specific to its respective style of music that if I played a typical bodhran rhythm on a drum set, or even a ‘pipe and drum music rhythm on a triangle, one would be able to identify the style that it corresponds to.

Time Heals All Wounds

“Time heals all wounds” is a common phrase used in western culture to describe the process of overcoming pain- both physical and emotional. As discussed in class yesterday, while pain can be severe during its foundation, its strength diminishes with the passage of time. A broken bone is healed when it is given time to mend. Sore legs become stronger as lactic acid disappears. The death of a loved one is easier to grasp with more time to process emotions. With the onset of pain, health is hard to picture; however, time ushers in emotional and physical healing.

This passed weekend, I competed at LaSalle University in Philadelphia, PA. Unfortunately, I slipped and injured my shin. As I watch this wound heal, I am aware of the passage of time. I am unable to practice until the scrape heals, so I have a lot of time to think while I am working out on my own. Instead of occupying my time with training, I find myself watching my teammates progress while I sit on the sidelines. As time heals my wound, I know I am getting closer to training again. While I am unhappy with how I have to spend my time right now, I will be on the diving boards soon enough.

Additionally, I am reminded of all the scars I carry from previous injuries. The marks on my shin will fade, but scars leave lasting expressions of passed pain. My scars, from multiple knee surgeries that ended my gymnastics career, remind me of a difficult time in my life. As time takes care of my physical ailments, time also serves to elevate the emotional trauma endured through countless surgeries. I am not a huge fan of clichés; however, as I reflect on my life and various injuries, I may have to agree that time does heal all wounds.