The Rhythm Book-Crossrhythms on 4/4 by Rory Stuart Review

Today, I am reviewing “The Rhythm Book-Crossrhythms on 4/4” by Rory Stuart that is published by Rhythm & Dues.  Rory Stuart has written a great beginning book for those of you who want to understand rhythm and notation in a deeper way that I reviewed as well as an intermediate book of more advanced concepts that I also have reviewed in the past.  Today,  I will be writing about THE RHYTHM BOOK – Crossrhythms on 4/4.

I just spent the last couple of weeks working through this book and am very excited and impressed with the amount of information and work that Rory has put into this great book on crossrhythms.  In my mind, this book is where the rubber meets the road and some truly amazing things can start happening involving crossrhythms in your playing.

“A crossrhythm is defined as a repeated rhythmic pattern that is not an even division or multiple of the underlying meter. It therefore crosses bar lines, as it begins at a different place in the measure each time it repeats”-Page 2 of The Rhythm Book-Crossrhythms on 4/4

If you have listened to modern jazz improvisers, you have probably heard crossrhythms being played at some point. These rhythmic lines and patterns lay on top of the 4/4 meter creating an interesting and sometimes confusing rhythmic puzzle for the listener.  I remember listening to a Brad Mehldau recording many years ago where he was playing in 4/4 but I had no idea what rhythm he was playing over the 4/4 meter.  I listened over and over while I tried to count and figure out exactly what was going on rhythmically.  This was an example of a crossrhythm.

THE RHYTHM BOOK – Crossrhythms on 4/4

Rory Stuart’s Rhythm Book website has this page about who the book would be good for which I thought would be great to include here also: (There is also an extensive preview of the book here that you can check out)

THE RHYTHM BOOK – Crossrhythms on 4/4

This book is for you if:

• You have completed THE RHYTHM BOOK—Beginning Notation and Sight-Reading and THE RHYTHM BOOK— Intermediate Notation and Sight-Reading; or you have enough command of rhythmic notation that it is not an obstacle. You have completed THE RHYTHM BOOK—Rhythmic Development and Performance in 4/4, or are already experienced and comfortable performing in 4/4.

• You want to learn all about crossrhythms and how to apply them in performance. • You are any age, an adult or young learner.

• You are a vocalist, or play any instrument (including horns, piano, guitar, bass, strings—NOT just drums and percussion instruments!). This book, and the following books in the series, are unusual in showing how rhythmic ideas connect to harmony and song form.

• You are taking music classes, studying with a private instructor, or are teaching yourself. • You are a music teacher, who wants to teach rhythmic ideas to your students.

• You compose or would like to compose music, or write arrangements for others, and would like to incorporate crossrhythms in 4/4 in your writing.

• You play or want to play any style of music. Although crossrhythms are found less commonly in some styles than others, and the examples used in this volume have somewhat of an orientation towards jazz and contemporary music (funk, pop, rock, hip-hop, Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, modern classical), a musician in any style can benefit from the study of crossrhythms on 4/4.

Please note: once you have completed this book, you will be ready for two other books in THE RHYTHM BOOK series: THE RHYTHM BOOK—Odd Meters and Changing Meters; and THE RHYTHM BOOK—Superimposition and Subdivision, Metric Modulation, Feel Modulation and Displacement.

The RHYTHM BOOK: Complete Series

After working with this book for a few weeks, I can honestly say that I am incredibly excited about this book.   Although some of these rhythmic patterns can be learned by ear, I believe many of these patterns will only come to mastery through a  committed and focused attention to them.  Crossrhythms in 4/4 does just that!  It is a 214 page book that just focuses on this one subject as it applies to 4/4 time signatures.

The Rhythm Book-Crossrhythms on 4/4 comes with a whopping 272 audio samples of the exercises in the book that are invaluable and essential to a student studying this material in my opinion. There are some examples in the book that don’t have audio files but the majority of the book is exercises with audio files.  Hearing these audio files as you look at the rhythms on the page or clap along, is extremely important in connecting the mind with the ear and what it is hearing. All of these audio samples and worksheets are available on the website for download after you purchase the book.

THE RHYTHM BOOK – Crossrhythms on 4/4

The Rhythm Book-Crossrhythms on 4/4 start with an explanation of what a crossrhythm is and then quickly starts exploring exercises and examples of 3/4 crossrhythms used over 4/4 time.  Rory does a great job of explaining and using the examples to illustrate his words.  He works some of the crossrhythms through common chord progressions like a 12 bar blues,  All the Things You Are and Giant Steps to start.

On page 30 of the book he goes to great lengths to describe some effective ways to practice crossrhythms so that you fully understand the rhythms as you perform them but also don’t get lost in the form of the tune.  Studying this subject matter can be overwhelming at first but Rory gives many valuable tips in this section of the book to make the process easier.

The book deals with a multitude of crossrhythms over 4/4.  3/4, 3/8, 5/8, 7/8, 9/8, 6/4 and many more…..(I didn’t add the 21/8 and 35/8 ones because I didn’t want to scare you…….)

One of the most useful elements of the book are the list of rhythmic possibilities for each meter.  For example, on page 63-64, Rory writes out all of the eighth note based 3/4 rhythms and the possible variations of each (he calls these rhythm necklaces).  These are incredibly useful because you have a complete list of the rhythmic options to practice from.  He has provided each of these sections for many of the crossrhythm meters listed above.

I will let you know that Rory doesn’t do all the work for you though. Although he provides rhythmic examples of many of the variations in these crossrhythm meters, they are only one bar examples.  As I started to practice some of these I realized that playing them across the barline was not as simple as just repeating the rhythm over and over.  These rhythms fall on different parts of the beats and I found myself getting confused pretty quickly.  What I found that helps (and I think Rory mentions it in the book although I can’t find the page right now) is to write out the crossrhythm until it loops back around to the downbeat of one.  So for example, a crossrhythm in 3/4 will fit over 3 measures of 4/4 before it starts again on beat one. A 5/8 crossrhythm would take 5 measures of 4/4 time to get back to starting on beat one again. (example on page 70 at bottom of page)

Honestly, this part of the practice of these lines I find a bit taxing on my 50+ year old brain.  I feel like I am working on algebra equations again back in high school.   The reality though, is that the better you understand the intellectual aspects of these exercises, the quicker you can meld these lines and rhythms into your playing and mix them with the emotional side of your improvisations.  Right now, figuring out how many times a 5/8 rhythm has to loop in order for it to come back around and land on one again is hard!  But so was trying to play the diminished scale in all keys when I first learned that.  Everything you learn at first seems hard but I guess that is the whole point.  To practice and think about it enough so that what seems hard at first…….becomes easy!

Honestly, the second half of this book gets even more advanced.  I haven’t made it to that section yet and am not sure how long it will take me to get there.  Just flipping through the pages in the second half of the book as I write this review I see words like: 17 triplet crossrhythm on 4/4, 35/8 crossrhythm on 4/4, 28/8 (14/4) crossrhythm on 4/4, 7 quintuplet 16th crossrhythm on 4/4…….)   These are certainly more advanced rhythmic concepts but if I can just get the first half of the book down, I will be one happy camper……I’ll worry about the second half when I get there……..

THE RHYTHM BOOK – Crossrhythms on 4/4

Great job by Rory Stuart and Rhythm & Dues in creating “The Rhythm Book-Crossrhythms on 4/4”.  It does cover many rhythmic crossrhythms so that the student has a firm foundation on which to build further rhythmic studies.  The addition of the exercise clips on the website are a huge bonus that makes this book so much more useful and valuable.

On a personal note, I wish I had a book like this to work out of back in my college days.  I remember hearing more advanced players playing in crossrhythms over jazz standards and getting totally lost while listening.  Not only did I not know what they were doing, but I was totally lost to where they were in the form of the tune or even where beat one was.  What made this even more humbling is when the whole band started doing it and then they would all come back together on one like it was the most obvious thing in the world.  Studying from Rory Stuart’s THE RHYTHM BOOK – Crossrhythms on 4/4 would have helped a ton in getting me further down that rhythmic path that is for sure.

If you end up getting the The Rhythm Book-Crossrhythms in 4/4 by Rory Stuart  please feel free to come back and share your thoughts and comments with all of us below.  Thanks to Rory Stuart for writing such an in-depth and complete study on crossrhythms.  Looking forward to the next book in the series to review……….


Disclosure: I received the book mentioned above for free from Rory Stuart in the hope that I would perhaps review it here on my blog. If you purchase the book from any of the Amazon links above I will make a small commission that I will use to support this site (or maybe buy half a saxophone reed….hahaha!).  Regardless, I only review saxophone related products that I enjoy and believe will be good for other saxophone players to try also. Steve
Steve About Steve

Steve Neff has been playing and teaching saxophone and jazz improvisation around the New England area for the last 30 years. He is the author of many effective jazz improvisation methods as well as founding the popular jazz video lesson site

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