Universal Grooves ~ Arthur’s Notes

Another fine James Asher and Arthur Hull collaborative rhythmical/musical project from Starfield Studios.

Hello My Friends,

I've been asked to post the "Drum Circle Facilitation Hints” write up for the Universal Grooves album that James Asher and I released about this time last year.

You will find a breakdown and explanation of my personal experience of each Universal Groove on the CD.

Also you will find some useful facilitation hints that you can utilize in the drum circles that you facilitate.

Album Royalties!

One of the first things that happens when I get settled at James house, (The guest room is across from the 2nd floor studio), is that James hands me an envelope with my share of this years Royalties that came from the the album projects that we have done. Usually it is enough for me to take James and his wife, Celia, out to a dinner at nice fancy restaurant.

This year he handed me a royalties envelope with substantially more $ than I am use to getting. James said that it was mostly from you purchasing, (on line), the Universal Grooves album that we released last year.

Click here to see all of the CD collaborations between Arthur and James.

Thank you all for your support. I'm glad that you find this album useful for “Play Along" purposes or for your professional development as a DCFacilitator. To keep the album “Organic,”  90% of the instruments that we played on this project were acoustically recorded in James's Starfield Studio. All of the drums that we played on the CD were made by REMO.” (You can see them on the Universal Grooves album cover)

This is the order of the tracks on the album, and it is the order I did the write-ups for each track.

Track #1  THE PULSE

Track #2  ROCKER RHYTHM

Track #3  ROLLING TO THE ONE

Track #4  CLAVE

Track #5  UPBEATS

Track #6  TO-THE-BEAT

Track #7  SIX EIGHT TRIPLETS

Track #8  MEETING THE CIRCLE

Track #9  THE HEARTBEAT

Out of any universal groove comes a world of music.

The Universal Grooves that you will find in this CD are based on patterns found in many rhythmacultures throughout the world. When used in a community drum circle, these simple and accessible patterns can empower participants of all musical levels to explore and express their rhythmical sensibility, while improvising.

James Asher and I have created these play along jams, based on some of the specific universal grooves that can be found all around the world. You can just listen to and enjoy the music created on the Universal Grooves CD, or as a drum circle facilitator you can play-along with the rhythms on your drum until you have enough “Ownership” of them to use them in you drum circles.

As a drum circle facilitator you can instigate these universal grooves into your drumming event and use them as rhythmical foundations for group improvisation. The players in your drumming circle can add their own rhythmical contributions on top of or inside the universal grooves and create beautiful, in-the-moment music together.

Drum Circle Facilitation Hints:

Hint #1
In a drum circle, a universal groove can be created by adding different drum or percussion parts, one at a time into the groove, generating a powerful musical experience.

Hint #2
Another way to use the universal grooves in your drum circle is to instigate it into the whole group of players until it is a solid groove and then invite the players to make up their own variations as they play.

To make this an easy “Play Along” CD, we have separately layered in and introduced each foundational rhythmical part and instrument on all of our musical pieces. That way you can hear the simple development of the complexity of the rhythmical and music interactions that James and I created as we as we add one groove on top of another one. Feel free to join in and play with us on your drum or percussion.

Also, to keep the album “Organic,” 90% of the instruments that we played on this project were acoustically recorded in James's Starfield Studio. As you can see by our CD album cover, all of the drums that we played on the CD were made by REMO.

Hint #3
I have actually used this CD to get rhythms started in a drum circle by playing it on a PA system as drummers enter the room and start to play along, contributing their own rhythms. “Hint”; If you do this, be sure to monitor the volume of the PA as the group finds their own expression of the universal grooves. Turn down the PA, and finally turn it off as the group takes “Ownership" of their rhythm Groove.

I have found this CD to also be good “Driving Music.” It will get you down the road.

Please enjoy.

Below you will find a breakdown and explanation of my personal experience of each Universal Groove on the CD.
Also you will find some useful facilitation hints that you can utilize in the drum circles that you facilitate.

Track #1 THE PULSE

The pulse is an evenly spaced note, spaced evenly in-between each strike on a drum. This universal foundational rhythm can be found in any music that is played on this planet. That “spot in time” where you tap your foot when you listen to music is, where you are hearing the pulse. This pulse is the beat that connects the music of the drum circle with all its different parts together in harmonious agreement. For the beginning beginner player, the pulse is the simplest and safest continuous pattern to play within a rhythm circle.

Even when the pulse is not physically present in the music, because it is not being played by any particular instrument, it is implied in the musical relationship being created between players. When the players in a rhythm circle are listening to each other, a magical thing happens between the different parts. The pulse is the glue to that magical musical relationship.

Hint #4
As the most basic and simple universal rhythm, the pulse is often used first in a rhythmical event to bring the rhythmical sensibilities of the group into synergistic agreement.
Have your "Jun Jun Shills” play simple interactive pulse orientated patterns, then you, as the Drum Circle Facilitator, can instigate more sophisticated rhythms as foundations for jamming and improvisation.

Track #2 ROCKER RHYTHM

What I call the Rocker Rhythm is a call and response melody line that can be found in many culturally-specific rhythms throughout the world. Sometimes the pitch moves from high to low, or low to high, but it will always be an evenly-spaced back and forth movement in the bodies of the players and in the sound of the fundamental Rocker Rhythm rhythms on the drums. One player can play a complete rocker all by themselves on their drum, or a rocker rhythm can be created by a number of players while drumming in dialogue.

The Rocker Rhythm universal groove played on this CD is a composition that begins using three simple Nigerian highlife parts to play a version of a basic Shiko rhythm. Based on the different pitches of the drums, from low to high, we layer them in, one at a time. The simplicity of the parts empower participants to improvise within the composition. This freedom supports their rhythmical and musical exploration. As the piece evolves, it can also be represented in the teeter totter movements of the drummers.

When you see someone playing the low pitched bottom drum part to the Shiko rhythm, you can actually see their body rock back and forth. They move their hands back and forth, in and out of the drum as they access the tones and the bass notes. So the Rocker Rhythm is not just the teeter totter dialogue between sounds and drummers, it is also represented in the teeter totter movements of the drummers.

This type of rocking rhythm sets up a foundation for safe rhythmical exploration. If a player gets rhythmically lost, it is easy for them to find their way back to the rocker rhythm.

Hint #5 
I sometimes set up the rocker rhythm simply by having two players sit across from each other in the circle with differently pitched djun-djuns. I ask them to create a rhythm that has a teeter totter dialogue between them.

Track #3 ROLLING TO THE ONE

The Rolling To The One rhythm universal groove is a widely used rhythm found all over the world, from Japanese Taiko drumming to the caribbean Merengue ( spellcheck) rhythms. There is an opening pattern that starts before the first pulse of a rhythmical cycle and ends on that first pulse. The Rolling-To-The-One pattern starts on the fourth pulse of the preceding rhythmic cycle and hits every sixteenth note between the fourth pulse of that cycle and the first pulse of the next cycle. The opening phrase of this rhythm rolls to the first pulse, suggesting the name of the rhythm, Rolling To The One. The patterns, after the first five notes, vary widely in many culturally-specific rhythms, but the introductory melody of this universal rhythm is always the same. It is constantly rolling to the “beginning” of a continuous rhythmic musical cycle.

This rhythm can be recognized as the Merengue rhythm from Puerto Rico, but it can also be found in many Polynesian log drum rhythms as well as in the Congo, South Africa, and Nigeria.

On this track you can hear the Rolling-To -The -One rhythm being introduced on the first conga drum part being played.

Track #4 CLAVE

The three-two clavé is a universal rhythmical expression of call and response in music. It represents the push and pull of the never ending rhythmical question and answer. Clavé is a Spanish word meaning keystone. A keystone is the foundational stone used in the construction of a building. It is a basic reference point in relation to the placement of the other building elements. In Afro-Cuban music, the clavé serves the same purpose. It is a basic rhythmical reference point in relation to the placement of the other notes played in the music.

In Cuba the 3/2 clavé that is the foundation for the Clavé groove on this CD is called the Son Clavé. There are other clavés, but this is the most universal of them all and can be found in music all over the world.

Track #5 UPBEATS

Up beats are the exact opposites of down beats or the pulse notes. When up beats are played in any rhythm pattern they create a sense of floating through a groove. Up Beats also can create syncopated patterns inside a rhythm groove.

You can hear in the beginning of this CD track that all the parts are up beat oriented. Before you we could play upbeat oriented rhythm parts, we had to first establish where the down beat with a shaker. The bright wood sound you hear being layered on top of the shaker and played next is played on the 2nd - 3rd - and 4th - up beat of a four measure rhythm cycle.

Track #6 TO-THE-BEAT

When the To-The-Beat rhythm is played on a drum, using three basic tones, it creates a melody line that can be heard in the rhythms, songs, and musical parts of many cultures throughout the world. As a drumming style we drummers collectively call it highlife bottom. This is frequently found as a bottom drum part when played in the context of a multi-part, culturally-specific drum ensemble.

The To-The-Beat rhythm is related to the Rolling-To-The-One rhythm in the sense that there is an opening pattern that preceeds the first note of each rhythm cycle. The first two notes are played just before the first pulse in a rhythm cycle, and the third note in the series is played on that first pulse. Thus the name of the rhythm: To-The-Beat. Sometimes it is called the To The One rhythm. The musicians call it the “Pick Up Notes"

After the first three "To The One" notes the patterns vary widely in many culturally-specific rhythms, but the introductory melody of this universal rhythm is always the same. It constantly reinforces the beginning of a continuous musical cycle.

This rhythm encourages the drum-circle players to take risks in exploring their rhythmical improvisations, because if they fall off the beat, it is easy to find where to get back into the rhythm. The beginning beginner drummers call it “Where’s The One?” or “To The One.” Then they play it as they say it. "To The One - To The One - To The One."

Track #7 SIX EIGHT TRIPLETS

The patterns that most people call 6/8 are based on 12 triplet-eighth notes or 12/8. They are commonly found in the music and rhythms of most African cultures, and are the foundations for polyrhythmic music heard throughout the world.

This piece on the CD is based on a 6/8 rhythmical cycle: it is, what I call, the only “round" triplet-form rhythm on this album. All the other rhythms are played in the 4/4 time signature, or what I call the "square rhythms”.

Track #8 MEETING THE CIRCLE

Neatly all universal grooves work well together:

On all the other cuts on this CD, the pieces are based on one particular universal rhythm. On creating the Meeting The Circle jam, James and I enjoyed locking together a number of the basic universal grooves.

We layered on to this track one by one:

  • Pulse on the shaker bells and shaker seeds
  • Clave on the Cow Bell
  • To-The-One on the low pitched Conga
  • Up Beats on the middle pitched Conga
  • Double Spaced Heartbeat on the Taiko Drum

Hint #6
There has been many a drum circle where I have sculpted the circle into 2, 3 or 4 sections and passed out a different universal groove to each section as foundations for rhythmical improvisation and as a way to create interactive rhythm and music dialogue.

Hint #7
Passing out universal grooves by pitch. Many times I have passed out different universal grooves to the groups players scattered around the drum circle who are playing low pitched, medium pitched and high pitched drums.

James and I had so much fun layering in universal rhythm parts on this track that we couldn’t help but add some musical elements onto this great rhythmical alchemy piece.

The usual result of universal rhythm parts passed out by drum circle section or by drum type and or pitch, is that you are able to create amongst the players, one of the basic elements found in culturally specific ensembles. That is Inner active dialogue amongst players.

Enjoy the musical result.

Track #9 THE HEARTBEAT

This is the most universal pattern of all. You can find it beating inside all of us. I have found this rhythm somewhere in the music of almost every culture that I have studied or visited. It is widely used as a call to community, or within a community context in drumming circles.
This simple two-note pattern leaves a lot of space for group interpretation and expression, The Heartbeat rhythm, played in the drum circle, connects the participants in that timeless place where the never-ending search for the one has brought us together as one.

Hint #8
I sometimes use the Heartbeat Rhythm as a closing rhythm for community drum circles. But instead of first instigating the rhythm by playing it for them I would take them on a visualization Journey.

  • I would have them get in touch with their heartbeat pulse by feeling with their fingertips of one hand, their Medial Artery on the underside wrist of their other hand.
  • I would then have them close theirs eyes, as I took them on a verbal journey inviting them to get in touch and meditate on their own Heartbeat.
  • As they paid attention to their Heartbeat, I would let them know that it wasn’t just their heartbeat, but their mother’s heartbeat as well. She was the one who gave it to them and taught it to them while they were in her womb.
  • Then I would let them know that it wasn’t just their mother's heartbeat but their mother’s-mother’s-mother’s-mother’s-mother’s heart beat that went back to the very first mother.
  • As I added the last audio-visual suggestion above, and with their eyes still closed, I would have my Jun Jun support player gently start a Heartbeat rhythm.
  • Then I would invite the group to slowly open their eyes and I would invite them join into the groove “ At their leisure”.

And away we go. {]]’;-)

See all collobrations with Arthur and James here.

Experience the Uplifting Power of Rhythm!