Euclidean rhythms are pretty much everywhere in nowadays music and pretty much everyone’s been experiencing them… what are they? An Euclidean rhythm is such when the greatest common divisor of two numbers is used to generate rhythmical patterns and the beats in the resulting rhythms are as equidistant as possible, regardless of the offset their counting starts with. Their nature is pretty simple but can easily grow into some complex experimental mess when it comes to electronic music, so… handle with care!
The physicality of drum machines and hardware gears is most likely going to lead to reserach some escamotages to approximate the measure divisions, whilst these issues are overcome by digital devices, which allow a precise mathematical distribution of the notes. In the field of trigger sequencers, ESQ is probably one of the most flexible Max For Live devices, allowing the user to tweak every possible detail of up to 8 simultaneous patterns, each of them interacting with its 1-2 counterpart, with a chance range to automatically sweep between the twos. Its massive amount of customizable parameters gives ESQ a one-of-a-kind identity and makes it suitable for creating intricate polyrhythms quite easily.
In order to proceed, we should keep the Ratio of the patterns equal (1.0 in this tutorial), so that all of them are going to be running following the same common divisor. Let’s consider a simple four-on-four Kick/Hat sequence. It might sound simple, but this pattern falls into the Euclidean rhythm category as well: both of these sounds are played on a 4/4 basis (meaning we have 4 beats to distribute on 4 measures per track), the only difference is that we’re playing the Hat with a Shift value of 25% (which generates no swing but an offset of half a measure).
Now we can move slightly deeper: let’s add a 3/4 Snare pattern. ESQ is going to distribute our 3 triggers throughout our 4 measures. Let’s play with the velocity a bit, to make it a bit more interesting. Let’s do the same with a 6/4 shaker pattern as well: this helps to understand properly how “triplets” sound. Triplets are Euclidean rhythms too. Note that, until this point, we haven’t touched neither the delay of the single triggers nor the 1-2 chance number, in order to make the straight effect of the Euclidean division more evident (it’s important to always keep the instruments present; switching drum sounds randomly would tear the regularity apart).
At this point, we have a functional euclidean polyrhythm sequence and we can easily go wild by adding other odd patterns. We can use the remaining triggers to perform more melodic sounds, setting 1-2 subtle variations with samples from the same timbre (chords, plucks, tuned percussions and so on…): this way we’re adding harmonical dynamic without losing the feeling of exact proportions.
ESQ makes so simple and fun to create inspiring patterns in few moments. We could’ve gone messy and experimental pretty quickly from here, risking to lose the euclidean feeling, but still, the nature of the relationship between patterns with a common divisor, would’ve brought all of the tracks to sound cohese, regardless of how weird the numbers would’ve gotten.
From here on, we could just go over and tweak different parameters, in order to polish our sequences and make even longer beat divisions, taking a while to intersecate and keep the progressions evolving without losing their weaving.