The Troupe
This drummer's journey with other drummers.

Separation of Senses

“Separation of Senses” is essentially the ability to play different rhythm parts with the left and the right hand simultaneously.  When done confidently it gives a very distinctive feel to a rhythm, and really brings out a lot of dynamics in a groove.  Middle eastern doumbek playing is literally filled with this and it is an important part of the overall sound of those rhythms.

It is not as difficult as it seems at first.  Even in the most basic of rhythms drummers are constantly playing different parts with each hand.  Doing it deliberately is the tricky part.

Let me give you a simple example and some exercises using the Beledi.

(Notation Notes: I have the Off Hand on the top of the notation as a way to remind myself (and others) that the off hand tends to play the “top” parts while the main hand tends to hold down the “bottom” of a rhythm.  Nothing is true all of the time, but that is a good rule of thumb.

Count it as, “One E and A Two E and A Three E and A Four E and A”.  And as always, only practice and play to a speed where you are not making mistakes.  Deliberate practice is far more valuable then simply learning something quickly by rote repetition.)

Beledi (4/4)

Basic (Doom and Tek)

Play the Beledi, but substitute Off Hand Kas for the Teks.

Beledi (4/4)

Basic (Doum and Ka)

Obviously what is happening is your dominant hand is playing:

While the off hand is playing:

No biggie, right?  Happens all the time!

Here is a mental exercise for you to try: Play only the Kas with your off hand.  Don’t play the Doums at all.

Now add the Doums back in.   Play the Beledi with Doums three times and then with no Doums once.  Repeat that pattern for a bit to get comfortable with it.

Now add a bit more syncopation.

Playing the Doum and the Ka at the same time on the 1 is surprisingly tough at first.  Not that any one beat within the rhythm is difficult, but combining them all without mistakes is challenging.

What this syncopation, or Separation of Senses, does for the rhythm is give it an extra dynamic.  Adds a bit of texture to it, and freshens it up.

Practice playing the Beledi like this for a while, and see what you think.

I will give you a few variants to work on as well.  Getting these down really adds a lot to your ability to bring dynamics into a performance, or drum circle.  Most of the variants work well within any of the Beledi family (Saiidi, Maqsum, Sombati, etc…)

This is played with a main hand beat on each 8th note.  This variant of Beledi is by far the most common I have heard.  I am not terribly fond of it, especially for tribal drumming, because it is very busy on the bottom.  Still, you hear it everywhere, so you might as well know what is happening with it.

So that it doesn’t get muddy beyond all recognition you want to make that Tek on the 4 REALLY sharp.

The Tek and Ka on the “& a” off the last pair of 16th notes is called a “pick up”, and is meant to add some more dynamic and give the whole rhythm a rolling feel from measure to measure.

This variation is very dramatic, but hitting the three Doums at the front takes a good bit of practice.  The feel of this Beledi is stark and when done within the framework of a solid groove and steady power seems almost warlike to me.

The simultaneous Tek and Ka is a sort of two hand flange technique.  If there is just a slight, miniscule, separation of those two tones it produces a sharp echoing sound and adds a tremendous dynamic.  Play those nice and loud.

The triple Doum and stark flanges really get people to lean forward in their seats, and put the dancers into dramatic framing very well.

(Drum geek note: The first time I played this my dancer wife came into the room and said, “Oooh!”.  That is a winner.)

More of a drill than an actual rhythm you would play for any length of time to be honest.   That said I do use this from time to time to help drummers that get a little off tempo during a performance to find their way back into the groove.

And, it is a VERY good practice exercise for the “Separation of Senses”.


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