African Percussion Resource - Notation

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The best way to get a real good look at a rhythm is to "freeze" its motion so that its structure and relationship to other rhythms can be examined. While we can not take a photograph of a rhythm, we can create a graphic representation. This is done by using symbols to represent the strokes and evenly marking these onto a time scale. - James H. VanDenAkker
Click here to learn about the Four Most Common Methods of Notating Hand Drum Rhythms -Djembe-L FAQ
Staff Method
The Gun Go Do Pa Ta Method
Box Notation (TUBS - Time Unit Box System)
The Larry Morris Method
Find and contribute rhythms at the S.H.A.R.E. Notation Website by Lennart Hallstrom
ADR (African Drum Rhythms)
Larry Morris Rhythm Catalog
WAP by Paul Nas
YAPP (Yet Another Percussion Page)
Notation Playback Rhythm Exchange
J&V Percussion Generator
Djembe Boom
Groove Archive

Mnemonics, Phonetics, Vocables, "PhoNums", or Onomatopes are syllables that can be used to help learn and remember rhythmic patterns.
To learn a djembe rhythm it is first helpful to verbalize a pattern with the Gun Go Pa Method. "If you can say it, you can play it! " -Baba Olatunji One of the great elders of the African drum community in America, Babatunde Olatunji has developed a remarkable teaching style based on singing the drum parts using vocalizations that he says are consonants of the Yoruba language, from his native Nigeria. - Doug Kane
Verbalizing rhythms is a valid way of practicing. As the old saying goes, "If you can say it, you can play it." Some cultures (India comes to mind) even require that the student learn to "speak" the rhythms before touching a drum. Many teachers of Jembe and Ashiko are adopting the system popularized by Baba Olatunji. He uses syllables which resemble the Bass, tone, and slap sounds of african jembes and ashikos.Gun, dun (Goon, Doon) for bass, go, do for tones, and pa, ta for slaps. - Getting Started from Rhythmweb
Learning Rhythms - By assigning to each different stroke a syllable that sounds like the note on the drum (onomatopes), the rhythm can be made into a song that is easier to remember. In most cultures, the syllables are those already common in the language and are easy to say rapidly. Here are sounds that can be used in the American English drum language (a variation of Go Do Pa Ta). - James H. VanDenAkker
Percussive Hand Drumming Independence - In my workshops and circles I teach "PhoNums", which are playing by the sound of the note and space. This Phonic Number technique is useful for novices, to eliminate the need for counting, but retain a spacial reference. It is also useful for seasoned professionals, to verbalize a pattern. Non-western cultures, who haven't, or hadn't, adopted strict notational systems, have been using oral forms of pattern transmission for centuries. - Kenne Thomas
Bird Song Mnemonics & Phonetics - Technically, mnemonics are gimmicks we use to remember songs and calls, while phonetics are actually what the bird is saying. For example, pewees say "pewee" and Phoebes say "phoebe" so those are phonetics. Barred owls say "who cooks for you", but not really. That's a mnemonic. I think that we all use the two interchangeably. There are also comparative sounds, i.e., when we compare a song or call to something. For example, a red-breasted nuthatch sounds like a tin horn or a common grackle sounds like a rusty pump handle. Of course, all of this takes a great deal of imagination and creativity, but that's the fun of it, right?
Here's a case where instead of comparing a bird call to some other sound to remember the bird call, we are comparing a drum rhythm to the sound of a bird to help us remember the drum rhythm. This is a good example of a comparative mnemonic device.
The "Woodpecker" - the middle drum part to a Nigerian drum rhythm called Shiko contributed by Richard Darsie to the Larry Morris Rhythm Catalog.

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