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Summary - short rhythm patterns for imitation task
Back in May I queried the list about short rhythm patterns
that could be used in a rhythm-imitation task with children.
It looks my colleague who is leading this project has decided to
put it on hold, so I am not proceeding with further
test development right now.
However, I got some very helpful responses from several Auditory list
These are copied below.
Original query (May 21, 2009):
Can anyone suggest a set of short rhythm patterns of varying
complexity for use in a rhythm imitation task with children?
Ideally the patterns would be about 4-7 elements long
and at 2 or 3 levels of rhythmic complexity. They would
hear one pattern at a time and imitate it by tapping
with a drum stick.
If anyone knows of suitable stimuli, especially
batteries that have some published data associated with them,
I would be most grateful.
From Richard Parncutt
Maybe the six cyclic patterns I used in the following paper would be
at least for the lower level of complexity
Parncutt, R. (1994 a). A perceptual model of pulse salience and metrical
accent in musical rhythms. Music Perception, 11, 409-464.
For slightly higher complexity you could add 16-unit cycles e.g.
From Lola Cuddy
I have a very old study--Smith, Cuddy, and Upitis, Psychology of
Music 1994 (22)117-135. It was focused on the Bamberger
figural/metric distinction as opposed to reporting in detail stimulus
specific responses. Both adults and kiddies drew and reproduced the
patterns. The patterns are given in Fig 2 and some data on accuracy are
The stimuli may be too long...at 9 or 10 notes... for your
purposes. And these were the days before pdfs and other
From Marcus Pearce
You could try following the method of Povel and Essens (1985) which has
been well-tested and formalised into a model of rhythmic complexity by
Shmulevich and Povel (2000). For example, Grahn and Brett (2007) use this
approach to generate a set of rhythmic patterns varying in perceptual
complexity for use in a neuroimaging study; see Table 1, which shows the
rhythmic sequences containing 5-7 intervals at three levels of complexity
(metric simple, metric complex and non-metric).
Strictly speaking, though, this is metrical complexity which may not be
the kind of rhythmic complexity you are after.
Grahn, J. A. and Brett, M. (2007). Rhythm and beat perception in motor
areas of the brain. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 19(5),
Povel, D. J., & Essens, P. J. (1985). Perception of temporal
Music Perception, 2, 411?440.
Shmulevich, I. and Povel, D. J. (2000). Measures of Temporal Pattern
Complexity. Journal of New Music Research, 29(1), 61-69.
From Eliot Handelman
The question is, what's rhythmic complexity -- what's rhythm, for
Consider Gary Marcus' work with 7-month olds discerning simple
grammars like AAB, ABA, and ABB. It would be extremely interesting
try complicating grammars like this & seeing to what extent
could still recognize them. Grammars of this sort form at least one
component of rhythm.
For the purposes of rhythmic production you could view a rhythm as
pattern of transformations of an underlying beat.
AB -> q (ee) q (ee) ... where q = quarter & e =
ABA -> q (ee) q
AABA -> q q (ee) q
ABAC -> q (ee) q (j) where j is a jagged rhythm like 3::1 or
In devising such a grammar it is important to remember the sorts of
results associated with Gentner's analogical experiments, where
"structure" rather than "feature" can dominate (in
reference to which
Marcus' "Algebraic Mind" might also help). What Gentner is
"structure" seems to include something I call "place
pattern" -- a
variation that occurs in the same place in a repeated pattern, for
The pattern consists of 4 terms, of which all are the same except
third. These are analogues in some sense irrespective of what B &
stand for. They are in a structural sense sense simpler than
ABAA AAAC, in which the variation here does not come in the same
place. (Or create a finer segmentation: AB AA AA AC: let a
rule be "the 2nd term is diferent from the first". The rule
satisfied in the pattern 1001, whereas in the first case the rule
3rd term is different" is satisfied in the pattern 11, which
obviously simpler than 1001.)
The schema of the pattern is AAxA. The x could stand for a simple
pattern that is deployed one term at a time per repetition of the
schema. It could be "BCBC," giving
Would 7-month olds recognize this a grammar (especially because of
recursion)? My guess is yes. It would probably not be too hard to
some limits on what sorts of complications would still be
but as far as I know no such work has been carried out.
To realize this rhythmically, eg: AABA AACA => (ee) (ee) q (ee) /
(ee) (triplet) (ee). But note that the terms could represent
sounds played at constant beat: the result would still be
differented. The sounds could be a ratttle & a bell, eg.
How to rate complexity? The above rhythm is probably simpler than
q (ee) (ee) (ee) (ee) (triplet) (ee). You could rate this using the
sorts of metrics devised by Chomsky &Halle, Leeuwenberg, etc:
count symbols once the pattern has been reduced via a pattern
reduction grammar. Intuitively, AB is simpler than ABA. But it is
certain that ABA is simpler than AABA, which permits a duple
structural division where the first does not, so that the whole, in
some sense, is reducible to AB, or this is what the pattern
grammar should do. Notice that without considering place patterns,
it's not likely that the metric can have much predictive utility.
I've worked extensively on this, but my results are not published.
At any rate, following these suggestions it should be rather easy
devise a test rhythmic set with more or less controlled degree of
From Daniele Schon
There is a paper by Fries and Swihart, I think 1990, using a simple
rhythmic battery of increasing difficulty.
I have a midi version of that, as well as a test on simple rhythm
reproduction I developed
You can find it here
[ www.incm.cnrs-mrs.fr/pperso/attach/schon/schon_battery.zip ]
From Georgios Papadelis
We developed a rhythm copying test in collaboration with Katie
?Rhythmologos?: A test battery and related software tools for the
assessment of basic musical skills in children
?Rhythmologos? is a test battery of musical aptitude adapted from the
MATs (see Overy et al., 2003). It consists of simplified tests of the
MATs developed by Dr Overy (Edinburgh University ? UK) and Dr. Papadelis
(Aristotle University of Thessaloniki ? Greece), which were piloted and
decided as being suitable for children with learning disabilities, who
may have difficulties concentrating for long periods at a time. Those
tests are mainly focused on the assessment of musical timing skills
Analysis of already collected data has shown that the test functions well
with typically developing children between 5 and 10 years old, which
reveals that it can provide reliable measures of children's musical
timing performance through the elaboration of simple rhythm reproduction
and rhythm discrimination tasks.
A description of a web-based version of ?Rhythmologos? (Papadelis et al.,
2006) was first presented at the Conference on Rhythm, Time and Temporal
Organization (Institute for Music in Human and Social Development, June
2006, Edinburgh, Scotland). A current Windows-based offline version of
the battery is available to researchers who conduct research on
children's musical development and has already been used in a couple of
related projects around the world (Boston, Germany, Greece, Hong-Kong).
Further description of the tests, together with related research data are
also reported in Krommyda et al. 2008 (see references below).
For further details please contact Dr. Georgios Papadelis
1) Krommyda, M., Papadelis, G., Chatzikallia, K., Pastiadis, K. &
Kardaras, P. (2008). Does awareness of musical structure relate to
general cognitive and literacy profile in children with learning
disabilities? Proceedings of the Fourth conference on Interdisciplinary
Musicology (CIM 08). Thessaloniki, Greece.
2) Overy, K.; Nicolson, R.; Fawcett, A. and Clarke, E. (2003). Dyslexia
and Music: Measuring Musical Timing Skills. DYSLEXIA, 9, 18-36.
3) Papadelis, G., Pastiadis, K., Georgiopoulos, P., Fouloulis, A. &
Overy, K. (2006). ?Rhythmológos?: A web-based environment for musical
timing test procedures. (poster presentation). Conference on Rhythm, Time
and Temporal Organization. Institute for Music in Human and Social
Development, Edinburgh, Scotland.
From Ted Moallem
One method that has been suggested to me for assessing rhythm following
is "reiterant speech", where the child attempts to reproduce a
prosodic/rhythmic pattern by repeating a predetermined monosyllable
--- kind of like a directed form of babbling.
Aniruddh D. Patel, Ph.D.
Esther J. Burnham Senior Fellow
The Neurosciences Institute
10640 John Jay Hopkins Drive
San Diego, CA 92121