Extracting the underlying rhythm

Extracting the underlying rhythm

By Mattie O'Boyle

Use rhythm to improve composition and improvisation

Extracting the underlying rhythm from your favorite musical melodies or chord progressions is a powerful tool to expand your musical vocabulary and to drive your compositional and improvisational creativity.

Furthermore, it is a technique that is actually really easy to do, at least, compared to other techniques for those same purposes. So, let us get into it.

Diddley Daddy

What we are going to do is we are going to take a short musical phrase and we are going to extract the underlying rhythm, and then we use that rhythm to create something new. What I have today is Bo Diddley’s Diddley Daddy. First have a listen to the song. If it’s not your style of music, don’t worry, we are only using the song for it’s underlying rhythm. Once you have the rhythm, you can bring it into your own style of music – which is exactly what we are going to right now!

Here’s the phrase we are going to work on, just played on one guitar

Let's get that rhythm

You can extract the underlying rhythm with a phrase that is melody, but you can also do it with a phrase that is just made up of chords. It doesn’t really matter. What we want to do is we want to sing the rhythm back, and don’t worry about the melody notes. We are not interested in reproducing the melody; we want the rhythm.

If you take our TaDiTa Course (members only, but there is a 15 day free trial), then you have some rhythmic syllables with which you can extract that rhythm.

If you have not taken that course yet, then just use any syllable you want. You need to focus on where the beat is and where the rhythmic points, in this case, the melodic notes fall in relation to that beat, and in this phrase, you are going to have notes that fall on the beat and off the beat:

Here it is in the TaDiTa syllables:

Applying that rhythm to chords

Once you have that underlying rhythm, then you can apply that, either to some chords or to a different set of melody notes and you get something new.

So, here is it applied to chords. First, we will use the E, the A7 and the B7:

Those are chords that are sitting, pretty squarely, within almost, the original melodic idea. But what we can do is we can take that same extracted rhythm and apply it to the set of chords that will help it sound different. So, let us try a G, a C and a D:

So, you can hear that I used our rhythm, when I was playing the G and the C chords and then I varied it simply, when I played the D chord. It created something that sounded a little bit more like a mini-song, so I already am creating mini-songs with that rhythm.

Go on and give that a try yourself. Apply it to some chords typical of the style of music that you play.

Transforming the rhythm into a new melody

Now, let us take it into the melody. I’m just going to create a little phrase; I’m going totally improvise it:

Isn´t that cool? So, that hopefully, will get you going on that technique to help you expand your compositional and your improvisational skills by extracting the underlying rhythm from anything that you hear and that you like, and then applying it to your own music. So, have fun with that and good luck.

Do you want access to all of our ear training apps and courses? Grab a 15 free trial now and accelerate your music learning journey.