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A Novel Approach to Teaching and Learning Rhythm

In the first two articles, I introduced a unique method for teaching rhythm and described a series of related exercises. In this article, I will demonstrate how a mathematical approach to rhythm applies to combining eighth notes and 16th notes within one beat.

From my teaching experience, I know that putting a name to a concept can be a powerful learning tool. An abstraction somehow becomes less intimidating. "Mixture," a familiar word used in such fields as art and science, refers to three different combinations of eighth and 16th notes.

Here is the First Mixture with the corresponding candy bar underneath. This rhythm can be described as an eighth note (followed by an eighth-note space) connected to two 16th notes (each 16th note followed by a 16th-note space).

Note: Space is defined as the distance between one notehead and the next notehead. Using the method as described in Part 1, count out loud all 16th-note positions, including the locations that are in parentheses.


Students often get confused with the musical notation of Mixtures. Here are three
strategies to help teach this.

1. Write four 16th notes directly above each mixture. Discover which 16th note is missing.
2. Cover up the eighth note with your thumb. See what you have left.
3. Look at the candy bar. Correlate the pieces of the candy bar to the notes and spaces between the notes.

The Second Mixture can be described as two 16th notes (each 16th note followed by a 16th-note space) connected to an eighth note (followed by an eighth-note space).

The Third Mixture can be defined as a 16th note (followed by a 16th-note space) connected to an eighth note (followed by an eighth-note space) connected to a 16th note (followed by a 16th-note space).

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Note: Students often ask about what sticking (R or L) they should use when playing Mixtures. Some students will be ready for a discussion on logical sticking (this is covered in detail in Drumscapes). Others will need to keep their focus on learning rhythm. For these students, alternate sticking (the right and left sticks alternate, one after the other) is a good starting point.


Andy Ziker

Andy Ziker is a teacher and professional drummer in the San Jose, California area. He has authored several instructional books, including Drum Aerobics, Daily Drum Warm-Ups, and Drumset for Preschoolers, and The Jazz Waltz.