Rock Rhythms on 1-4-7

Twelve-bat music is a good style for practicing two-handed syncopated patterns because you can happily use the same pattern right the way round a chord sequence of just three chords..

The last beat pattern in the previous module has a classic rock’n’roll rhythm in the left hand (bass). Here is the original beat map.

For now, concentrate just on the bass (left hand):

Practise counting and clapping the rhythm.

We discover more about this catchy and useful rhythm if we count eight quavers to a bar instead of four crotchets. Our count will then look like this:

Count this out loud (just recite numbers 1 to 8, repeating), stressing the counts with taps on them.

This is how he rhythm gets its ‘1–4–7’ title. Clap along, and tap you foot an even four to the bar if you possibly can.

The rhythm might be clearer still if you count how many quavers each beat is worth:

The classic rock’n’roll version of this beat and rhythm pattern is as follows.

If you think that sounds a bit heavy, drop the right hand quaver chord where the left hand is playing and play to this beat map.

You ‘apply the beat and rhythm pattern’ to the ‘raw material’ and get this.

The left hand notes are the chord tones of a simple root position triad (a 'Basic Music-making Position' chord).

A new chord sequence

We will be coming back to twelve-bar riffs in due course, but for now ‘apply the pattern’ to this new harmonic ‘raw material’  – a typical pop chord sequence.

You break up the left hand chords and play the bottom, middle, top notes of the chords on the quaver counts:

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8 

You can also count the left hand note lengths.

1  2  3  1  2  3  1  8 

You can play the right hand chord on all eight quaver counts, or, for a lighter texture, only on the quaver counts where the left hand isn’t playing. You should get a performance like the on-page audio.

The music is at bottom of the page but try to play the riff without it first.

Filling the quaver eight slot

In rock'n'roll riffs, quavers seven and eight in the left hand are often filled with little tunes that approach the next bass note.

Now listen to this audio of a lighter-textured study designed to help you get the bass line.

After the bass-line intro, the whole riff plays to this rhythm.

Note that:

  • The left hand (bass) always arrives at the new bass note via two semitone steps;
  • The right hand plays the same chords as in the previous riff but an octave higher

Use the descriptions, MS, beat map and on-page audio to learn the riff.

The left hand starts to sound like a bass guitar part. Beat patterns often suggest arrangements for rock band or similar combo. As the keyboard player in a group, you do quite a bit less than a solo player.

The familiar-sounding groups of chords in the last two examples are chords ‘I-vi-IV-V’ (“One, Six, Four, Five”) and ‘I-vi-ii-V’ (“One, Six, Two, Five”). If you would like to learn more about harmony in popular music and naming chords with Roman numerals, take a look at the Musicarta Key Chords lesson series.

Filling the quaver six slot

The last riff in this module is the most advanced. Follow the build-up method, tapping each hand separately, counting out loud and using the TLR analysis.

Rehearse the right hand first. Tap out the following pattern:

Next, rehearse the left hand (below). Note that the left hand pattern is not the same as the right hand above.

We are going to make a New Orleans-style piano riff by combining the left and right hands, as follows:

Your tapping needs to be very secure before you add in the notes.

The harmonic ‘raw material’ for this 12-bar in D is this.

The slash-and-dot sign tells you to play the same material as in the previous bar, so you repeat the D pattern three times until you get to the G chord (bar 5), where you ‘play the pattern in G’ twice, and so on.

Here’s the audio file, but note that slowed-down practice segments follow.

Here is the pattern in D, with a slowed-down audio for practising.

You see how the four notes in the left hand chord are played to the rhythm. This is part of 'the pattern', as before - one of the things you 'apply to the material'.

The slash-and-dot sign says to repeat that, then back to D for two patterns. When you get to bar 9, you play the pattern in A.

...then back for the final two patterns in D.

Here is the 12-bar chord sequence in a table.

These examples show how effective a rhythm-pattern approach to popular music is.

Rhythmic patterns, which are easy to generate, often suggest attractive riffs. You can ‘apply’ a rhythmic pattern to a hand position and chord sequence to get a ready-made performance.


Here is the MS of the riff referred to earlier.

That concludes the 'tapping' series of pages in Musicarta's Bet and Rhythm school. Now click up to the series home page to see what you can tackle next.

Thanks for studying with MUSICARTA!
- Come again soon! -

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Syncopation and Anticipation

Tapping Exercises

Snake Dance

Snake Dance Variations

Beat & Rhythm


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