Uses and benefits of the Rhythm Scale (Vinnie and the Unreel Drum Book)


Silver Member
For those familiar with both or either, I am currently practicing the Rhythm Scale exercises from Mark Atkinson's Unreel Drum Book, based around the drumming of Vinnie on the Unreel album.

In the rhythm scale section, mark presents the scale over one, two and four beats, and recommends practicing it with various stickings, as well as hand and foot phrases, claiming that doing so will greatly reduce the learning curve of the transcriptions of Vinnie's phrases later in the book.

Now I am sure that knowing the scale so intimately as to be able to paradiddle or hand-foot phrase through it has many benefits, but this is a new concept to me, and I was hoping some of you with more experience or knowledge of it might shed a bit of light.

In what ways will practicing this help; how does Vinnie apply it, and how will it help with learning the transcriptions?

I'm aware this sounds ignorant of me, but I've just never encountered it before. In the transcriptions, Vinnie isn't explicitly playing sept-tuplets and "nine"-tuplets etc., so perhaps he's phrasing in 5's, 7's and 9's poly-rhythmically, and the rhythm scale will help me do the same?

Any input would be great,



Pioneer Member
Yes, the point of the rhythm scale is to get you fluent in playing odd note groupings and to get you moving between them with ease. Getting this down over four beats as single strokes is bad enough, what the Atkinson demands is another level of expertise, but then that's required if you're going to think about attempting the transcriptions.

Look through the pieces; there are plenty of examples of Vinnie throwing in a quick group odd notes over a beat or bar. It requires huge dexterity to play these kind of figures naturally and with even note spacing. I remember reading stories about Vinnie eating this material up in Gary Chaffee's lessons whilst Steve Smith was left labouring.

Spend all your time at first working on the groups over one beat as single strokes. It's critical to get the note spacing totally even. It's amazing how many drummers neglect this with triplets, let alone 7s and 9s. If you intend to spend many hours working on these odd groups with different stickings make sure you're getting full value out of your practice time. You're lucky if you have other musicians to play with that understand and can cope with you playing that kind of thing.
In my experience, Chaffee's book (rhythm and meter patterns?) on odd note groupings is a far better resource to learn from. The Unreel Drum Book is a pain in the arse IMO :)