2.4 Using Slashes to Mark Rhythm

Before we talk about why you should care about all this stuff, I have one more set of notation things to introduce: the slash and the dash. When I am writing out a rhythm, I write the beats of the “time signature” at the top, and then write a slash wherever I want the hands to be clapped, the drum to be struck, the guitar to be strummed, etc. For example, if I were to write out the standard rhythm for rock-n-roll drums, I would do so as follows:

         | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |
Hi-Hat:  | / / / / / / / / | / / / / / / / / |
Snare:   |     /       /   |     /       /   |
Kick:    | /       /       | /       /       |

This says, “hit the hi-hat on every downbeat and upbeat. Hit the snare on the second and fourth beats of each group of 4 (beats 2 and 4 of each ‘measure’), and hit the bass drum/kick on the first and third beats of each group of 4 (beats 1 and 3 of each ‘measure’).

This type of rhythm on the drums is called a “backbeat,” for some reason. To make it more interesting, drummers will do things like this (particularly if the hi-hat is played open):

         | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |
Hi-Hat:  | / / / / / / / / | / / / / / / / / |
Snare:   |     /       /   |     /       /   |
Kick:    | /     / /       | /     / /       |

or this:

         | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |
Hi-Hat:  |   /   /   /   / |   /   /   /   / |
Snare:   |     /       /   |     /       /   |
Kick:    | /       /       | /       /       |

or even this:

         | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |
Hi-Hat:  | /   /   /   /   | /   /   /   /   |
Snare:   |   /         /   |   /         /   |
Kick:    | /               | /               |

But the basic idea is the same: bass on the main downbeats, snare in between, hi-hat or other cymbal filling in the gaps or keeping “steady time.”

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Featured image by sonnenbrunnen

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