This is the method presented by Terry Bozzio in many of his clinics. Once you can play all 15 measures above against ANY rhythm possible from repeated combinations of the above measures (so-called “ostinatos“), then you’ve played every sixteenth note-based subdivision possible. There are, of course, actually 16 measures, the first being the one with nothing played (the easiest to master for most rhythms). The importance of this null case will be important in later sections. Note that the above is for sixteenth notes in 1/4. The game is played differently for 1/4 with triplets, quintuplets, etc. The mechanism is the same, however. If you feel inclined, the other possible combinations are easy to write down using the Pascal Triangle to keep track.
How to use…
Here’s an easy coordination exercise sure to frustrate. Pick 3 limbs (or 4, if you want to use your voice as another instrument). Assign each of those limbs to a particular measure in the above list. Get that rhythm playing so you have some idea of what it will sound like and to try to internalize it for the next step. Finally, with the unselected limb, play through all 15 measures above (or 16, though you’ll have played the null case to death getting the feel for the rhythm). Don’t try to play through the exercise until you’ve internalized where the notes of every measure fall in the rhythm you’re holding steady with the other limbs. That’s the point of an ostinato. The rhythm over which you solo should be fixed and unwavering and something playable in your sleep. Soloing is secondary to locking down the groove.
Once you’ve played through all 15 (err… 16) measures, either make the “soloing” limb a fixed limb and solo with something else (a killer exercise for getting your hi-hat foot conditioned, for instance) or select another set of measures to hold constant and play the same 15 (err… 16) measures over that new rhythm.
A note to the ambitious: You’ve 16 measures to pick from and 3 (or 4) limbs to make rhythms out of. Therefore, the possible number of rhythms you can generate from the above are, including the null case, (16) x (16) x (16), or 4096. A lot of rhythms to try. Throw in a fifth soloing limb (your voice, for instance), and the number of possible “fixed” combinations to play against goes up to (4096) x (16), or 65536. Granted, some of these are quarter notes and the like and are easy to play, but many are completely uncharted (so to speak).
If you don’t feel like thinking up the combinations yourself, here’s a little script to get you started.