In this example we explore three techniques for drum programming in Numerology. The first
is an extension of the "multiple patterns of mutually interesting lengths" used in
Techniques #2, in this case applied within a single set of drum
kit parts. That is pretty nice, but the second technique is where things start to get really interesting;
when automation, via Numerology's Parameter Modulation technique is applied
to a compositionally interesting parameter, in this case, the length of a high-hat pattern.
References in musical literature of using systematic ways to vary melodic pattern lengths can be found here
and there. Philip Glass used the technique as one of his primary compositional
devices in "Music in Fifths". But as applied to drum programming, official references are
a bit harder to find. Certainly real drummers do all sorts of pattern manipulation while
playing. In his book This Is Your Brain On Music,
Daniel Levitin describes some effective pattern manipulation by Stevie Wonder:
One element that gives "Superstition" its great groove is Stevie Wonder's drumming.
In the opening few seconds of "Superstition", when Stevie's high-hat cymbal is playing
alone, you can hear part of the secret to the song's groove. Drummers consider the
high-hat to be their time keeper. Even if listeners can't hear it in a loud passage,
the drummer uses it as a point of reference for himself. The beat Stevie plays on
the high-hat is never exactly the same way twice; he throws in little extra taps,
hits, and rests. Moreover, every note that he plays on the cymbal has a slightly
different volume --nuances in his performance that add to the sense of tension.
...The genius of his playing is that he keeps us on our mental toes by changing
aspects of the pattern every time he plays it, holding just enough of it the same to
keep us grounded and oriented. (p.171)
Using modulation on the length of a pattern can
be a very effective way to introduce variation, particularly when the length is changed
to be a bit longer or shorter than a beat. This can cause an interesting alternation of
rightside-up, upside-down variations.
The last technique shown in the video is how to use the GrooveClock module to
add groove timings to your patterns. The GrooveClock module lives in the Clock
stack and allows you to warp the timing signal sent to the sequencer modules. It
can be used to add anything from a subtle swing feel to way-off a-metrical stumbling
The groove pattern can be up to 16 steps long and has a resolution of a sixteenth
note per step.
An option worth pursuing that is not shown
in the video is to modulate the "Groove Amount" slider on the GrooveClock module,
which allows you to subtly vary the amount of groove applied to a pattern -- a
technique very much in keeping with Levitin's description of Stevie Wonder's drumming
Also, this video was recorded before the 2.0 release of Numerology, so there are few
differences you may notice. For instance, the default number of tracks for the DrumSeq in this video
is four, though it is now eight.