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Monday, June 29, 2015

The secret to groovy drumming may be math

"People have long known that professional musicians don’t keep time with the dogged precision of a metronome. However, in deviating from a perfectly steady beat, one professional drummer makes patterns in his timing and loudness that have a particular mathematical form—a fractal—a new study shows. Previous research has shown that the fractal nature of time deviations makes music sound distinctly human." reports , science reporter. 

Photo: Science Now

A fractal is a pattern that looks "self-similar" on many different scales. For example, statistically, a coastline may look just as jagged on the scale of 10 kilometers as it does on the scale of 1000 kilometers. Fractals can emerge in temporal patterns, too, and researchers have observed rhythmic fractal patterns in many controlled musical experiments. Such work sheds light on the unique signatures that musicians impart into their work, and it could help researchers make the rhythmically perfect music generated by computers and drum machines sound more human.

Holger Hennig, a physicist at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen, Germany, and colleagues decided to analyze the technique of prolific drummer Jeff Porcaro, one of the more famous musicians most people have never heard of. For more than a decade he drummed for the band Toto, and as a session musician he kept time for an extensive list of musical icons including Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, Michael Jackson, and Madonna. Porcaro died of a heart attack in 1992. Hennig and his colleagues chose to study Porcaro’s technique because the paper’s lead author, physicist Esa Räsänen of the Tampere University of Technology in Finland, is himself a drummer and admires Porcaro’s work.

Source: Science Now