Theoretically, there is no limit to how many rhythmic patterns that can be created. But how far do you actually need to go before you have a base strong enough to handle the worst of what CM's laya can throw at you?
The short answer is -- 512 is enough. 2816 is absolutely good enough. For the long answer, keep reading...
Let's take the ultimate scenario that could be tossed in your direction - Sankeerna naDai at 2x speed. 18 counts a beat.
If you take that as an upper limit, using the binary nature of rhythm (0 = pause and 1 = stroke), the maximum possible total number of rhythmic patterns from 0 to 18 counts (cumulative total) is 2^18 = 262144 patterns. Should take a seasoned practitioner about 10 years to master them all. It's over 4000 pages of printed material.
The list starts like this
t , , and so on...
It ends with -- t t t t t t t t t t t t t t t t t t
But wait a minute, is it really that many?
Well, if you can count the beats and the pauses and estimate the counts towards your landing point at any speed, in reality, all you need is 2 rhythmic patters. The , and the t. And everything else is built on that. Simple, right?
In practical reality, it is not like that. Every pattern has a distinct organic identity that can be instantly recognized without any need to count. Try 3 counts rather fast and see what it sounds like...
t,,| tt, |t,t |tt, |t,t| tt, |ttt | ttt |ttt| - You know where you've heard these
Plus counting long pauses isn't intuitive. Unlike beats, counting pauses requires some special practice. Laya terrorists ( for want of a better term) know this all too well. You will find many a percussionist, as they age, getting cleverer and cleverer at using the pauses while they'd have played with fireworks in their youth and prime.
So what is the bare minimum number that will help you cover nearly 99% of what you hear in the world of rhythm?
Ans : 512. All the patterns from 0 to 9 counts. . This will cover nearly all of it. Up to the sankeernams - jAti, chApu and naDai
A week's worth of work, at most a month to cover the list.
Virtually everything that is tossed at you is mix of what's within this. It is the eduppu, tALA, degree of speed, naDai, kaLai and landing patterns that make it difficult.
But what will you do in the rare occasion some laya terrorist tosses a 1+14+3 at you? Wait, when did that last happen? Did anyone ever, EVER play sankeerna naDai with such a pattern? I have only ever seen 5+4 or 3+3+3 or 2+2+2+2+1 or something like that.
Often the trick to fireworks is either to play a simple pattern at 2x or 4x speeds, or use double or quadruple tapping (for tdgnt --> tkkTgnt - if you listen you can easily read the base pattern on which it is built). Quite neat if you know those 512 patterns right?
Even 2x khanDa naDai is basically this only. The speed buries everything under the firework effect, but slowing down the audio speed shows what they're really up to.
Ok, there is an occasion where you might encounter a pattern like 12+4+2 - when someone, in the name of making tough calculations, or someone with a grudge against his accompanist, uses long pauses, almost always at slower speeds.
For this part, you mainly only need to bother about the patterns that contain longer pauses > 9 units. How many patterns like that exist up to 18 counts? Picking them from the list of 262144 patterns is a horrendous piece of work, right?
Not quite. There is a process called kalita (from the tAlaprasthAra thread), that will tell how many times you encounter an element of a certain length. Keep in mind that since we are going from zero to 18 counts, as soon as you encounter an element of > 9 counts, it can only appear once in the pattern. Therefore the number of appearances = no. of patterns.
Using a formula for the kalita for numbers which someone put up in the talaprasthara thread, and doing it for 10 counts patterns to 18 count patterns, it turns out there are only 2304 patterns containing units of 10 counts or more.
Therefore, the total maximum number of patterns you really need to know is : 2304+512 = 2816. This is all you'll ever need.
About 10 months of work if you're slow, 1 month of work if you're dead serious.
You can try to experiment on the other patterns in the set of 262144, but frankly it's a waste after this. Cause you'll realize everything in the rhythm world is basically a mix and mash of this framework. Everything.
In fact apart from these 2304 special patterns, everything else in that set of 262144 is only a khichdi of the first 512 patterns. So all you really need to know after this is to develop the skill of counting within and across the beats in various chandas, tALAs, kaLais, eduppus, speeds and naDais, and you're good to go for anything.
Which brings us to another fact. It is so difficult to count even a long series of pauses that no matter what you'll do, you WILL split it for your convenience. Even when a laya terrorist pauses randomly for an unspecified duration, counting the pauses becomes much simpler if you can split it across the beats and count at the beginning and end, noting the eduppus where it starts and ends. Even pauses like 23 notes long can be split into 4*5+3 for example in chatushra naDai, which turns them into simpler fragments. And that IS how it is done.
You therefore can pick and choose some patterns from that list from time to time to practice and play it, but at the end of the day you do not need to know more than the first 512 rhythmic patterns to manage your laya life.
I conclude by adding that the term 'laya terrorist' was made it good humor only and hope that no one will take it too seriously ...
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