"Discipline" pattern


Silver Member

Can someone help me break down the hand pattern Bill Bruford plays in King Crimson's "Discipline"? I've seen on some YouTube tutorials that it's something like R R L R L R R L R L R R L R L R L (17-note pattern), but it looks in this video that the left hand plays a double every couple of notes? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vHEZJg4i44
You are right, there's a double every group of 3 that's being played, like this

R R(L) L R L R R(L) L R L R R(L) L R L R L

almost like playing swiss triplets on those 3s

Hope that helps!


Silver Member
I thought that was the breakdown too, but after watching it a few times and playing along, my hands weren't matching. Sound-wise they were and what you wrote out works, but it seems to be this (at least first, on the snare):

R(r)LLRL / R(r)LLRL / R(r)LLRLRL, where (r) or (l) would be a grace note and R or L would be an accent or another drum.

It's a 17 beat pattern, like you said, broken into a group of 5-5-7. Getting that pattern to feel natural takes time and keeping the double strokes open as if they were two single strokes is key. In fact you may want to come up with a check pattern of alternating single strokes to make sure you don't rush those doubles. To me, that's more important than the exact sticking and you should eventually be able to mix it up with any combination of sticking. The grace notes may have been part of the creative process when Bill came up with the idea, but they aren't all that important to my ears, especially when he plays with the band where they seem to be washed out in the video.

From what I see, Hedge hog is right; it's a variation of Swiss Army Triplets in there. So instead of a flammed double on the first note of the grouping followed by a tap, it's a tap followed by a flammed double. And they're all left handed. Getting the 17 beat pattern memorized may or may not be that hard, but I would work on it in smaller groupings and then join them together. I'm not planning on joining a Crimson cover band, but this is how I'd work on it, for what it's worth:

First a 5 note group broken into a 3 and 2 subdivision: 12312. Starting with singles, accenting the first note. RLRLR/LRLRL. Then, the first note of each subdivision (12312/12312): RLRLR/LRLRL, with the first note of each 5 heavily accented and the next accented note a little lighter. Then, I'd play the actual rhythm that 5 note part of the pattern (not sticking), accent the 4th beat: RLRLR/LRLRL. When I'm comfortable with that rhythm, I'll play the "correct" sticking: RLLRL/RLLRL, minus the grace notes. Then I'll add the grace notes: R(r)LLRL/R(r)LLRL. Again, trying to make sure that I don't crush the doubles.

After all of that, I'd do the same thing to the 7 beat section: R(r)LLRLRL. It's a pattern of 3 and 2 and 2 and I'll run it through the same process as the 5 beat pattern. Once I get comfortable, I'll join them together. It may seem like overkill, but it will start to become part of my muscle memory. I'll need that when trying to play it over 4/4. And I believe you will too, if you go through this process.

And even though you may be comfortable with playing 17 at this point, once you add the feet, I would still break it down into practices of 5 over 4 until it's smooth. Then follow it by 7 over 4 the same way and then join them into the full, 17 note cycle. For me, the 2nd and 4th cycle of each odd grouping are the trickiest to layer over the feet as they start with the 2nd and 4th "16th" note of the bass & hi-hat pattern.
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