Finger Cymbal Patterns for Beginners, continued
Video PLAYLIST of "how to play" Finger Cymbals Patterns for Beginners: YouTube.com/DanceEternal


How To Understand Playing Finger Cymbals with Drum Beats

Learn How the Patterns fit Together

Zaghareet! Magazine, "For Beginners" (Mar/Apr. 2009)
by Anthea Kawakib Poole

Finger Cymbal PATTERNS for Beginners (part 4, continued)

We’re picking up again with complex cymbal patterns (“complex” just means combining a couple of simple foundation patterns). To recap: the previous several articles covered Singles, Doubles, Rolls, and Triples; then combined them into the 3-3-7 and the 2-2-5 patterns. There are short video clips on my YouTube channel demonstrating all of them in drills, and while using belly dance steps or movements.

Speaking of which, I received a great question from Marcia T. via YouTube recently about how various drum rhythms impact which cymbal patterns to use. I realize my bias is Egyptian so to me the “basic rhythm” for playing cymbals is the 4-beat rhythm we call “Beledi” (Masmoudi Seghir); and sometimes the “light beledi” Maqsun. However, in American belly dance, or even Greek and Turkish styles, there’s a wider variety of rhythms where playing cymbals is appropriate, so let’s delve into this topic a bit with the cymbal patterns we’ve already covered.

Geek Speak

The biggest difference in the rhythms we’ll be talking about this issue will be how many beats in each measure. We’ve been working in 4/4 rhythms (4 beats per measure), now we’ll look at the most popular 2-beat and 8-beat rhythms, Ayub and Chifti-telli respectively.

However, because of variables in music like tempo, melody, and feeling, it’s impossible to pin specific cymbal patterns to specific rhythms - we can’t say “always play this cymbal pattern with this drum rhythm”. So it makes more sense to be able to mentally break down your cymbal patterns like we did in the beginning of this article series, into the foundations of Singles, Doubles, etc. Then you can play what you feel matches the music at any particular moment - that means following the melody as well as the rhythm and tempo! But having said that, let’s go ahead and make a few wild generalizations anyway, just to get you started. 

Ayub (2 beat rhythm)

If your music is a medium-fast* 2/4 like Ayub, then simple Triples or Rolls fit - in terms of sound - better than a complex pattern like 3-3-7 or 2-2-5. Check Amazon’s mp3 downloads by rhythm name if you want to add a piece to your music collection. There are some songs that don’t seem to fit the melody they’re supposed to represent though, so I’ll mention a couple that you can trust.

For a song where the melody goes in 4-measure phrases (2+2+2+2 = total of 8 counts), a good example is “Muhabet” by Melissa and Carmine. You could play a simple, straight pattern like Doubles from count 1 to count 7. That would be the "Cymbals Strokes" in Figure 1 (below):

finger cymbal doubles rolls patterns

*Try this pattern at 120 bpm at metronomeonline.com (remember each click is a number in the illustration).
I know it looks crazy-complicated, but I’ve underlined the first count in each rhythm so you can find it easier. If you dance to live music, this is something musicians want you to know!

If the song’s melody goes in 2-measure phrases (2+2 = 4-counts total), you want to change your cymbal pattern to match it. Try the 2-2-5 cymbal pattern to Melissa and Carmine’s “Uskadara”. (Your 2-2-5 pattern covers 4 counts--2 measures of Ayub!)    

But, in this song the melody is also following a longer pattern over 4 sections, where the 4th one is very different - and the 4th section is where you should change up your cymbal pattern to follow it. So in other words, you could play your 2-2-5 pattern three times, then finish up the last section playing Doubles (similar to Figure 1)!

If you were a more advanced cymbal player, then this concept would work with Rolls instead of Doubles - but remember that Rolls are twice as fast as Doubles, and beginners usually don’t have enough finger strength or control to play Rolls well at a fast tempo (for instance, 132 bpm). So why not leave the fast tempos until later when you’re ready for it?

Rhythm is a big subject isn’t it? I was going to include Chifti-telli here too but I think this is enough right now! We’ll delve into the beautiful chifti-telli rhythm in the next article.

Complete list of articles on Learning Finger Cymbals Patterns, for Belly Dancers