Afro-Cuban 9/8 ?

Tom C.

Junior Member
Jazz is ordinarily written and played in 4/4, with the players giving it a swing interpretation-- the interpretation is usually only written out as triplets or sometimes 12/8 when writing drum patterns. The triplets or compound 8ths are incidental-- they just happen to line up with the swing interpretation sometimes-- the music is natively in 4/4, with quarter notes and 8th notes as the major note values.

I'm not sure a five note subdivision would be called a compound pulse, a theory person might have an answer for that. Normally a 5/8 measure or grouping would be broken down further into 2+3 or 3+2-- a combination of simple (two notes) and compound (three notes) subdivisions.
I get the breaking down of a 5/8 measure into 2+3 or 3+2 and thinking of it as a combination of simple and compound subdivisions, but there's some grooves built out of quintuplet subdivisions where a quarter note still gets the beat, and to me that seems logical to be considered a compound meter. I guess in this case you would still refer to the time signature as 3 rather than 15/8?

Once we get into layered polyrhythms, it's always seemed to me like western music notation gets kind of clunky. I usually chart things out on graph paper instead when it gets to that kind of groove.

I get what you mean about the 'interpretation' of the swing sometimes lining up with triplets. So it seems logical to me that other interpretations would still be considered a compound meter, but maybe I'm misunderstanding the definitions.
 

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toddbishop

Platinum Member
I get the breaking down of a 5/8 measure into 2+3 or 3+2 and thinking of it as a combination of simple and compound subdivisions, but there's some grooves built out of quintuplet subdivisions where a quarter note still gets the beat, and to me that seems logical to be considered a compound meter. I guess in this case you would still refer to the time signature as 3 rather than 15/8?

Those examples are demonstrating the actual played rhythms of some possible swing interpretations-- but those rhythms are still considered to be swing 8th notes, and the time signature 4/4.

A tune is only 15/8 if it was written or arranged in 15/8, or if the players agreed to play it in 15/8. One player doing a swing interpretation based on quintuplets doesn't make it 15/8.

I get what you mean about the 'interpretation' of the swing sometimes lining up with triplets. So it seems logical to me that other interpretations would still be considered a compound meter, but maybe I'm misunderstanding the definitions.

Swing interpretation is typically done with simple meters-- most often 4/4 or 3/4. Playing triplety swing 8th notes in 4/4 doesn't turn it into a compound meter-- it's still "simple quadruple" time.
 

Tom C.

Junior Member
Maybe there is something I didn't get, but it sounds like he just plays some random stuff over this so called 9/8 pattern.
Here's my notation of the rhythm he's playing on the bell:

(*)=hit
(-)=rest

-*-*-*-*-
You could think of it in 3/4 with triplets as this:
(-*-)(*-*)(-*-)

I suppose you could make the case that it functions in a clave like way because the first half moves against the feel of the triplets while the 2nd half starts on the beat, so it's 2 notes of tension followed by 2 notes of release before the next measure...

It's truly a very weird rhythm structure. I wish he had more of an explanation on his channel. The video is a few years old now. That's why I was looking to discuss these kinds of rhythms here because I can't find much about them anywhere and many of the previous links provided in this thread have disappeared. I had a drum teacher who lived in Puerto Rico for a while who used to occasionally talk about odd time clave and Mozambique type grooves. He was kind of elusive about it. He never demonstrated them.

I thought there was a brief mention of them in the Ed Eribe book (Afro-Cuban Percussion and Drum Set) but now I can't find it.
 

Tom C.

Junior Member
Conor just makes a bunch of things up and tries to cram "clave" into odd meters, etc. There's nothing fundamental about it.
That seems to be the consensus from other players who are well versed in afro Cuban and folkloric drumming too. That there's no lineage to find for any traditional odd time claves. And that the clave rhythm is actually something very specific, immutable and ancient.

Perhaps the idea of secret odd time clave and groove patterns handed down to a select few is a mix of urban legend and fusion players taking the traditional ideas and applying them to new applications...

I still think it's a good exercise to take clave-esq patterns and place them in the context of odd time meters to build grooves. It just seems like a good way to structure interesting drum grooves with a built in feel of tension and release. Surely there's much more to clave than that, but it's a good starting point for bringing odd time grooves to life.

Even if I can't get anyone else interested in the idea I'll keep experimenting with it.
 

Alain Rieder

Silver Member
Listen to the part he plays on the cowbell with his foot. That's the rhythm that he's improvising over. I certainly wouldn't call his improvisation 'random stuff', but I don't think you meant it that way. It's not really a clave because it's only 4 notes but it still functions under the beat in a similar way. The way those 4 notes fit within the 9/8 pattern creates a tension and release every measure.
I have to admit that I don't take it too seriously, based on what I heard.

This isn't authentic afro-cuban I guess, but Dave Weckl made up a 7/8 Songo rhythm for this tune called Tombo in 7/4.


He used the same rhythm for his own tune Island Magic as released in his Contemporary Drummer +1 package, in which you can hear what would be a 2-3 clave pattern in 7, but it is missing the last stroke actually.
 

Tom C.

Junior Member
Here I'm improvising over a 2-3 clave, but I could also do it in 7/8

Yeah that Dave Weckl tune is magic. It really works quite well to leave off the last 8th note of a 2-3 son clave pattern to put it into 7. And of course his phrasing makes it musical, as does the rest of the composition with the other players. I think Pat Metheny has done some similar kinds of things. It definitely has a Metheny kind of vibe, especially with the scat vocals which come in later.

I've seen your 2-3 clave improv session on your YouTube channel, along with alot of other great stuff. It seems like you could apply alot of your time manipulation exercises over top of a clave pattern with the foot. I suppose the possibilities are only limited to one's independence and control. I got interested in metric modulation when I watched the Neil Peart Anatomy of a Drum Solo video as a teenager and then spent a whole summer learning how to do the 7/8 over 3/4 which he made a prominent part of his drum solo. Later, I got into Gavin Harrison and other drummers in that sphere. And then I studied some afro cuban/ latin percussion and world music in college which showed me a whole new way of thinking about groove. And recently I've found your work with the time manipulation concepts. It seems like your approach could unlock alot of awesome possibilities for me.
 
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