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TEDYouth 2013

Clayton Cameron: A-rhythm-etic. The math behind the beats

Filmed:

Ready to dance in your seat? Drummer Clayton Cameron breaks down different genres of music—from R&B to Latin to pop—by their beats. A talk that proves hip hop and jazz aren't cooler than math—they simply rely on it.

- Drummer
A pioneer in brush technique, drummer Clayton Cameron has toured with Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Bennett and jazz legend Kenny Burrell. Full bio

How many of you love rhythm?
00:12
Oh yeah, oh yeah. Oh yeah. (Cheers)
00:16
(Drumming)
00:18
I mean, I love all kinds of rhythm.
00:27
I like to play jazz,
00:31
a little funk,
00:33
and hip hop,
00:36
a little pop, a little R&B,
00:40
a little Latin,
00:47
African.
00:54
And this groove right here,
01:05
comes from the Crescent City,
01:13
the old second line.
01:16
(Cheers)
01:18
Now, one thing all those rhythms have in common
01:25
is math,
01:31
and I call it a-rhythm-etic.
01:32
Can you repeat after me? A-rhythm-etic.
Audience: A-rhythm-etic.
01:35
Clayton Cameron: A-rhythm-etic.
Audience: A-rhythm-etic.
01:40
CC: A-rhythm a-rhythm.
Audience: A-rhythm a-rhythm.
01:42
CC: A-rhythm-etic.
Audience: A-rhythm-etic.
01:44
CC: Yeah.
01:46
Now all those styles of rhythm
01:50
are all counted in four
01:55
and then subdivided by three.
01:59
What?
02:02
Yeah. Three is a magic number.
02:04
Three is a groovin' number.
02:08
Three is a hip-hop kind of number.
02:10
But what does subdividing by three mean?
02:14
And counting off by four?
02:17
Well, look, think of it this way.
02:19
A measure of music as a dollar.
02:21
Now a dollar has four quarters, right?
02:25
And so does a 4/4 measure of music.
02:31
It has four quarter notes.
02:34
Now, how do you subdivide?
02:38
Now let's envision this:
02:40
three dollars' worth of quarters.
02:45
You would have three groups of four,
02:48
and you would count it,
02:52
a-one-two-three-four, one-two-three-four,
02:54
one-two-three-four. Together.
02:56
All: A-one-two-three-four,
one-two-three-four, one-two-three-four.
02:58
CC: Okay, now you feel that?
03:01
Now let's take those three groups of four
03:04
and make them four groups of three.
03:09
And listen to this.
03:13
A-one-two-three-four, one-two-three-four,
03:15
one-two-three-four, with me.
03:17
One-two-three-four, one-two-three, come on, y'all!
03:19
All: One-two-three-four,
one-two-three-four, one-two-three-four, ah.
03:22
CC: There you go.
03:27
All right, second line.
03:28
One-two-three-four, one-two-three.
03:34
One-two-three-four, one-two-three.
03:38
One-two-three-four, one-two-three.
03:41
One-two-three-four, one-two-three. Yeah.
03:44
Now, that's what I call a-rhythm-etic.
03:48
Can you say it? A-rhythm-etic.
Audience: A-rhythm-etic.
03:51
CC: A-rhythm-etic.
Audience: A-rhythm-etic.
03:53
CC: A-rhythm a-rhythm.
Audience: A-rhythm a-rhythm.
03:55
CC: A-rhythm-etic.
Audience: A-rhythm-etic.
03:57
CC: Yeah. Now pick the swing
beat, and do the same thing.
03:59
One, two, one, two, a-one-two-three-four.
04:02
Yeah. Mm.
04:12
One-two-three, one-two-three,
one-two-three, one-two-three. Whoo.
04:16
So I want to take the second line beat
04:21
and the swing beat and put them together,
04:25
and it sounds something like this.
04:27
Aha.
04:43
A-rhythm-etic.
Audience: A-rhythm-etic.
04:44
CC: A-rhythm-etic.
Audience: A-rhythm-etic.
04:46
CC: A-rhythm a-rhythm.
Audience: A-rhythm a-rhythm.
04:48
CC: A-rhythm-etic.
Audience: A-rhythm-etic.
04:50
CC: Yeah. Hip-hop.
04:52
Now it's using a faster group of three
04:56
we call a triplet.
04:59
Triplet-triplet. Say it with me.
05:01
All: Triplet-triplet.
05:03
CC: Triplet-triplet. Triplet-triplet.
05:06
CC: So I'll take all the rhythms
that you heard earlier,
05:12
we'll put them together, and they sound like this.
05:16
A-rhythm-etic.
05:43
(Applause)
05:45

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About the Speaker:

Clayton Cameron - Drummer
A pioneer in brush technique, drummer Clayton Cameron has toured with Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Bennett and jazz legend Kenny Burrell.

Why you should listen

Clayton Cameron holds a unique title: Brush Master. That's because this percussionist prefers brushes to sticks, and has spent his career perfecting the art of brush technique. Cameron grew up in Los Angeles and started drumming at a young age on empty oatmeal boxes. After college, he moved to Las Vegas, where he was hired as the drummer for Sammy Davis Jr.'s big band. "It would be Sammy's tap dancing night after night that would inspire my brush playing," says Cameron.

During his tenure with Sammy Davis Jr., Cameron played with Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. And, after moving to New York, he struck up a longterm friendship with Tony Bennett, and spent 15 years touring with the master. Cameron recorded 15 albums with Bennett, including his Grammy-winning Tony Bennett Unplugged.

Cameron has also worked with jazz legend Kenny Burrell, who encouraged him to teach at UCLA's Herb Alpert School of Music. In addition, Cameron released his debut album in 2012, Here's to the Messengers: Tribute to Art Blakey, and formed his own group, Jazz eXplosion. Cameron has also released several DVDs over the years as well as a book, Brushworks

More profile about the speaker
Clayton Cameron | Speaker | TED.com