Tradeoffs Part 2 — Is a ride pattern necessary?

 
"Trafalgar Square" by Piet Mondrian.  Image via www.wikiart.org. Here, Mondrian's minimalism serves as a visual analog to Ringo Starr's musical minimalism.  We can think of the boxes as beats which are either played (the boxes filled with color)  or omitted (the boxes that are blank white).   I am indebted to Bill Slichter for sharing with me his insight about the connection between Mondrian's art and rhythm in music.

"Trafalgar Square" by Piet Mondrian.  Image via www.wikiart.org.

Here, Mondrian's minimalism serves as a visual analog to Ringo Starr's musical minimalism.  We can think of the boxes as beats which are either played (the boxes filled with color)  or omitted (the boxes that are blank white).  

I am indebted to Bill Slichter for sharing with me his insight about the connection between Mondrian's art and rhythm in music.

 

One of Ringo Starr’s many contributions to drumming is his insight as an arranger.  His parts are often minimal, leaving lots of space for the voices and other instruments.

One method he employs is omission of what drummers call a ride-pattern—the constant ticking of the hi-hat or dinging of the ride cymbal.  A ride pattern provides subdivisions of the beats.  They are like little sonar blips that keep orienting the musicians.

“Here we are.”

“Here we are.”

“Here we are.”

“Here we are.”

“Here we are.”

Ride patterns are so useful as to be part of nearly every drumbeat.  Yet they come at a cost, one most drummers might overlook.  Ride patterns occupy a lot of sonic space, space you might not know existed until you hear  what is made possible by, for example, Ringo’s omission of a ride pattern in the verses of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

 

 

Notice that the aural space conveyed by the absence of hi-hat or ride cymbal suggests physical space.  And the absence creates a vital contrast with the choruses, during which Ringo smashes away on his cymbals.  It’s as if we hear the verses from our seats in the theater and are then thrust up on stage for the choruses.

In my experience, too few drummers consider leaving such holes in their parts.   It’s an unconscious decision on their part.  They enter a song assuming that some form of ride pattern is necessary.  But what about all of the space they are trading away by way o that assumption?   

They might take note of what Ringo and the Beatles were able to accomplish when the drum parts let the space do the talking. 


Thank you for reading.