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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Finger Cymbal Pattern Ideas
for Use with Egyptian 4/4 Music

 

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Table of Contents

 

 

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Introduction

This page contains more than 10 finger cymbal rhythms that are suitable for belly dancing to 4/4 music, particularly Egyptian music based on the Maqsoum rhythm (also often called Beledi in the United States or Masmoudi Saghir in Egypt). "4/4" means there are four beats to a measure and a quarter note gets one count. Not every one of these rhythms will work with every 4/4 song — listen to the music, and play rhythms that fit well with it.

Some of these patterns may also sound fine with either 2/4 music or 4/4 music from other ethnic sources, such as some Turkish music. Again, listen to the music, and if these patterns seem to fit, go ahead and use them.

Many belly dancers play only the Gallop (Threes) rhythm throughout their dance. This is very boring to listen to, and it is the mark of a dancer who is still very much a beginner in the art of using finger cymbals. To keep your cymbal playing interesting, vary the pattern that you use, but always be sure to pick patterns that work with the music.

How to Use These Patterns

So, how should you use the suggested "standard" rhythms that appear on this web page?

  • They provide something tangible that you can drill, for building dexterity and "muscle learning" into your hands
  • They can help train your ear to hear various underlying rhythms in the music.
  • If you are creating a choreography to be used by a group, then you may also want to choreograph the accompanying finger cymbal rhythms to correspond, and the rhythms on this page may help inspire your thinking.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Carol Grow Johnk, Iowa City, Iowa.

Shira

These are not the only patterns you can play to Egyptian 4/4 music. They are a sample to help you get started. Ultimately, your goal should be to quit consciously thinking about patterns, and focus on letting the music shape what you play.

Using The Rhythm Pattern Descriptions

In the following descriptions of cymbal rhythm patterns:

  • Listen To It offers you MP3 clips that you can listen to on your computer.
  • Sound Pattern is a name for the rhythm that you can use to quickly communicate which pattern you mean when talking to another dancer — for example, when teaching a class.
  • Spoken As refers to the words that describe what this rhythm would sound like if it were being played on a dumbek / tabla / darabukka (Middle Eastern drum). The syllables that appear in CAPITAL LETTERS should be accented.
  • Which Hand To Use shows you whether to use the right or the left. It is shown for both right-handed cymbal players and left-handed . Use whichever you find more comfortable for you. "L" refers to the left hand, and "R" to the right hand.
  • Musical Notation indicates how the pattern would be written using musical notes. Accompanying each are the words you would use to count the pattern, with commas inserted where pauses would be.
  • Counting Diagram shows how the musical notation would be counted, but can be used by people who have not been taught musical notation. It shows each pattern twice — the first time, for right-handed dancers, and the second time for left-handed dancers. Use whichever line you feel more comfortable with. "L" and "l" refer to the left hand, and "R" and "r" refer to the right hand. When the letter is capitalized, that means accent that note. When lower-case, it means play that note without an accent.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Shira

 

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Gallop (Also Called Threes or Longa)

Never, NEVER, NEVER call this "triplets". Please. In music, the term "triplets" means something entirely different. If your teacher called it "triplets", then she's teaching you an incorrect term. You don't need to tell her to stop, but please don't continue the error yourself.

This is the simplest finger cymbal pattern, and is sometimes called Threes because each set includes three cymbal strikes followed by a pause. It also works with most 2/4 music.

Listen to It

Music <== Click on the note to hear it.

Sound Pattern

3 3 3 3

Spoken As

In "Drum Talk" tekka DOOM, tekka DOOM, tekka DOOM, tekka DOOM
Musician-Style Counting and-a-ONE, and-a-TWO, and-a-THREE, and-a-FOUR
Non-Musician Counting one-two-three, one-two-three, one-two-three, one-two-three

In Musical Notation

Gallop

Counting Diagram

Accent the beats capitalized below.

1---+---2---+---3---+---4---+---|
R   r l R   r l R   r l R   r l |
L   l r L   l r L   l r L   l r |
1---+---2---+---3---+---4---+---|

Which Hand to Use

If You're Right-Handed RLR RLR RLR RLR
If You're Left-Handed LRL LRL LRL LRL

 

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Baladi / Maqsoum / Masmoudi Saghir

This is the classic drum rhythm used in many Egyptian songs, and it's very useful to be able to play it on your finger cymbals. The name Masmoudi Saghir means "little masmoudi" (as opposed to the slower Masmoudi Kebir which means "big masmoudi". Masmoudi Kebir is the one most people think of when they hear the word "masmoudi"). In the U.S., there is a widespread practice among both drummers and dancers of calling this rhythm baladi, even though that's not what Egyptians would say is the correct name for it. On the "three" sections, alternate between right and left, with the accented DOOM sound falling on your stronger hand (that is, on your right hand if you're right-handed, or your left hand if you're left-handed.

Listen to It

Music <== Click on the note to hear it.

Sound Pattern

3 1 3 1 3

Spoken As

In "Drum Talk" tekka DOOM DOOM tekka tek DOOM tekka tek
Musician-Style Counting and-a ONE AND two-ee-and, THREE and-a-FOUR
Non-Musician Counting 123 1 123 1 123

In Musical Notation

Maqsoum

Counting Diagram

Accent the beats capitalized below.

1---+---2---+---3---+---4---+---|
R   R   r l r   R   r l r   r l |
L   L   l r l   L   l r l   l r |
1---+---2---+---3---+---4---+---|

Which Hand to Use

If You're Right-Handed RLR R RLR R RLR
If You're Left-Handed LRL L LRL L LRL

 

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Maqsoum with Rest

An interesting variation of the maqsoum rhythm is to omit some of the standard notes that would normally appear in it. In this variation, the third DOOM is replaced with silence. Another variation you could try is to replace all three of the DOOMs with silence. Alternate between right and left hands as described above under "Baladi / Maqsoum / Masmoudi Saghir".

Listen to It

Music <== Click on the note to hear it.

Sound Pattern

3 1 3 Silence 3

Spoken As

In "Drum Talk" tekka DOOM DOOM tekka tek [Silent] tekka tek
Musician-Style Counting and-a ONE AND TWO-ee-and, [silent three], and-a-FOUR
Non-Musician Counting 123, 1, 123, [silent] 123

In Musical Notation

Maqsoum with Rest

Counting Diagram

Accent the beats capitalized below.

1---+---2---+---3---+---4---+---|
R   R   r l r       r l r   r l |
L   L   l r l       l r l   l r |
1---+---2---+---3---+---4---+---|

Which Hand to Use

If You're Right-Handed RLR R RLR (silence) RLR
If You're Left-Handed LRL L LRL (silence) LRL

 

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Eight-Count

Alternate evenly between your right and left hand throughout.

Listen to It

Music <== Click on the note to hear it.

Sound Pattern

8 Even

Spoken As

In "Drum Talk" TEK-ka TEK-ka TEK-ka TEK-ka
Musician-Style Counting ONE and TWO and THREE and FOUR and
Non-Musician Counting 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

In Musical Notation

8-Count

Counting Diagram

Accent the beats capitalized below.

1---+---2---+---3---+---4---+---|
R   l   R   l   R   l   R   l   |
L   r   L   r   L   r   L   r   |
1---+---2---+---3---+---4---+---|

Which Hand to Use

If You're Right-Handed RL RL RL RL
If You're Left-Handed LR LR LR LR

 

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3-3-7

Listen to It

Music <== Click on the note to hear it.

Sound Pattern

3 3 7

Spoken As

In "Drum Talk" tekka TEK tekka TEK tekka tekka tekka TEK
Musician-Style Counting and-a-ONE and-a-TWO and-a-THREE-ee-and-a-FOUR
Non-Musician Counting 123 123 1234567

In Musical Notation

3-3-7

Counting Diagram

Accent the beats capitalized below.

1---+---2---+---3---+---4---+---|
R   r l R   r l r l r l R   r l |
L   l r L   l r l r l r L   l r |

1---+---2---+---3---+---4---+---|

Which Hand to Use

If You're Right-Handed RLR RLR RLRLRLR
If You're Left-Handed LRL LRL LRLRLRL

 

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3-7-3

Listen to It

Music <== Click on the note to hear it.

Sound Pattern

3 7 3

Spoken As

In "Drum Talk" tekka TEK tekka tekka tekka TEK tekka TEK
Musician-Style Counting and-a-ONE, and-a-TWO-ee-and-a-THREE, and-a-FOUR
Non-Musician Counting 123 1234567 123

In Musical Notation

3-7-3

Counting Diagram

Accent the beats capitalized below.

1---+---2---+---3---+---4---+---|
R   r l r l r l R   r l R   r l |
L   l r l r l r L   l r L   l r |
1---+---2---+---3---+---4---+---|

Which Hand to Use

If You're Right-Handed RLR RLRLRLR RLR
If You're Left-Handed LRL LRLRLRL LRL

 

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3-5-5

Listen to It

Music <== Click on the note to hear it.

Sound Pattern

3 5 5

Spoken As

In "Drum Talk" tekka TEK, tekka tekka TEK, tekka tekka TEK
Musician-Style Counting and-a-ONE, and-a-TWO-ee-and, THREE-ee-and-a-FOUR
Non-Musician Counting 123 12345 12345

In Musical Notation

3-5-5

Counting Diagram

Accent the beats capitalized below.

1---+---2---+---3---+---4---+---|
R   r l r l R   r l r l R   r l |
L   l r l r L   l r l r L   l r |
1---+---2---+---3---+---4---+---|

Which Hand to Use

If You're Right-Handed RLR RLRLR RLRLR
If You're Left-Handed LRL LRLRL LRLRL

 

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Sevens

Listen to It

Music <== Click on the note to hear it.

Sound Pattern

7 7 7 7

Spoken As

In "Drum Talk" tekka tekka tekka TEK tekka tekka tekka TEK
Musician-Style Counting and-a-ONE-ee-and-a-TWO, and-a-THREE-ee-and-a-FOUR
Non-Musician Counting 1234567 1234567

In Musical Notation

Sevens

Counting Diagram

Accent the beats capitalized below.

1---+---2---+---3---+---4---+---|
R   r l r l r l R   r l r l r l |
L   l r l r l r L   l r l r l r |
1---+---2---+---3---+---4---+---|

Which Hand to Use

If You're Right-Handed RLRLRLR RLRLRLR
If You're Left-Handed LRLRLRL LRLRLRL

 

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Roll of 15

Listen to It

Music <== Click on the note to hear it.

Sound Pattern

Constant roll

Spoken As

In "Drum Talk" tekka TEK-ka tekka TEK-ka tekka TEK-ka tekka TEK
Musician-Style Counting and-a-ONE-ee-and-a-TWO-ee-and-a-THREE-ee-and-a-FOUR
Non-Musician Counting 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

In Musical Notation

Roll of 15

Counting Diagram

Accent the beats capitalized below.

1---+---2---+---3---+---4---+---|
R l r l R l r l R l r l R   r l |
L r l r L r l r L r l r L   l r |
1---+---2---+---3---+---4---+---|

Which Hand to Use

If You're Right-Handed RL RLRL RLRL RLRLR
If You're Left-Handed LR LRLR LRLR LRLRL

 

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5-5-13

Listen to It

Music <== Click on the note to hear it.

Sound Pattern

5 5 13

Spoken As

In "Drum Talk" tekka tekka TEK tekka tekka TEK tekka tekka tekka tekka tekka tekka TEK
Musician-Style Counting four-ee-and-a-ONE, two-ee-and-a-THREE, four-ee-and-a-ONE-ee-and-a-TWO-ee-and-a-THREE
Non-Musician Counting 12345 12345 123456789 10 11 12 13

In Musical Notation

5-5-13

Counting Diagram

Accent the beats capitalized below.

1---+---2---+---3---+---4---+---1---+---2---+---3---+---4---+---|
R       r l r l R       r l r l r l r l r l r l R       r l r l |
L       l r l r L       l r l r l r l r l r l r L       l r l r |
1---+---2---+---3---+---4---+---1---+---2---+---3---+---4---+---|

Which Hand to Use

If You're Right-Handed RLRLR RLRLR RLRLRLRLRLRLR
If You're Left-Handed LRLRL LRLRL LRLRLRLRLRLRL

 

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3-5-1-3

Listen to It

Music <== Click on the note to hear it.

Sound Pattern

3 5 1 3

Spoken As

In "Drum Talk" tekka TEK, tekka tekka TEK, TEK, tekka TEK
Musician-Style Counting and-a-ONE, and-a-TWO-ee-and, THREE, and-a-FOUR
Non-Musician Counting 123 12345 1 123

In Musical Notation

3-5-1-3

Counting Diagram

Accent the beats capitalized below.

1---+---2---+---3---+---4---+---|
R   r l r l r   R   r l R   r l |
L   l r l r l   L   l r L   l r |
1---+---2---+---3---+---4---+---|

Which Hand to Use

If You're Right-Handed RLR RLRLR R RLR
If You're Left-Handed LRL LRLRL L LRL

 

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Now, Have Fun With It!

Now it's time to experiment. Here are some exercises:

Try making up your own combinations that work well with 4/4 music.

Try combining some of these patterns with each other. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started:

  • 7-7-15
  • 3-3-3-3-15
  • Insert a rest (silence) in the place of a "3" or a "1". For example, try maqsoum as follows: 3-1-silence-1-3.
  • 3-1-5-3
Music <==Click on the note to download an MP3 file of a drum playing baladi / maqsoum / masmoudi saghir. Load it onto your MP3 player and set it to auto-repeat. Then practice the various cymbal patterns on this page along with it.

Put some Arabic music on your sound system, and listen for the maqsoum rhythm. Suggested song titles include "Bint El Sultan" by Ahmed Adaweyya or "Taht il-Shabbak" by Fatme Serhan. If you don't hear the rhythm, maybe you chose a song that doesn't use it. Try another. Once you find one that does have this rhythm, practice all the various rhythms on this page in time to it. Then move to doing your own improvisations to it.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Shira

 

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