Time Signatures in Electronic music

maybe I’m misunderstanding you but how about an inner and an outer loop? working on a new version of prgm that uses regions as an outer loop where the patterns can loop freely inside.

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I’m not sure I’m following exactly, but have you looked into using Bjorklund’s algorithm:


Here’s the paper that I originally read the speaks of using it in a musical context for rhythmic generation:


Or maybe I’m just not understanding the problem.

As we are on drum machines at the fringe of electronic music, I like what Robbie Avenaim does with his Semi Automated Percussion System:



No - I cheated and built an enormous lookup table, for any clock-speed from 0 to 96 & any beat division from 0 to 9! My code for that is super-mega-fugly I had a strong suspicion there had to be a better way, so thanks for the link to those two papers…

umm - well there is an additional complexity…

When you have Bjorklund’s algorithm (or giant lookup table) on hand, there’s still an issue looping sequences of length 11 quintuplets. For a quintuplet loop, the position of read-pointer (in clock-ticks relative to the start of loop) should be:

n-ticks_loop_frame_of_reference = n-ticks_global % (11 / 5 * master_clock_resolution)

so you have to modulo by a fractional number. There’s fundamentally no issue with doing that, but now the rest of the code must behave correctly when the ticks-index of a loop (which a fundamental state variable) is fractional. Think I’m handling this by using (round n-ticks_loop_frame_of_reference) to index things, but suspect that method may actually drop the odd beat. Also, now concatenating sequences becomes a right pain, because the sequences aren’t always an integer-number of clock-ticks long…

Anyway - there are bigger fish to fry on this project than this corner case, but I certainly want to handle it correctly in the end!

Sequence organisation is inspired heavily by boomerang pedal’s sync modes. To explain boomerang loop operation, you record a ‘time-master’ loop, then every subsequent loop syncs to an integer multiple of the master. the three non-master loops either play in serial or parallel, depending on a mode setting, but always synchronised to and parallel with the master loop.

Each of my ‘serial sections’ has 1 grid-sequence & 3 free-sequences. There will be a global mode switch that states the rule for the length of a section. The 3 useful rules I can think of are:

  • section ends as soon as the longest sequence ends
  • section plays until all currently-playing sequences end simultaneously
  • section ends the next time any currently-playing sequence ends

cool! hope you get it to work, will it run on Aleph?

James Holden - Inheritors album is worth checking out. Lots of analog synths and interesting meters.


forgot about this one


probably useful to mention Trigger Box for iOS for Euclidian rhythms. The interlocking is mesmerising.

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steve coleman is great for polyrhythms

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This one is in 15, hope you enjoy it


Hello, this is my first post on this forum. It seems to be nice here.

Talking about time signatures and electronic jazz makes me think about Supersilent.



I am going to have to do a track called this. Or an album.


a quote inside a quote inside a quote! to make sure it’s attributed properly: i was quoting from this pdf: http://furius.ca/santeriadb/documents/drummingthegods-1.0.pdf

which in turn was quoting somebody else:

“Entrainment may be considered vital to liturgical drumming. The Dutch scientist, Christian Huygens, published his research on the subject in 1665: “If 2 rhythms are nearly the same and their sources are in close proximity, they will always lock up, fall into synchrony, entrain.”

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Meshuggah often utilize compound meters with a 4/4 time, which is an interesting way to think about “odd times” that I’ve found works really well outside of extreme metal. The main pulse will be 4/4, but other elements will play odd riffs that eventually come back to the “1”.

Not electronic music as people normally define it, but their music is defined by the sound of high gain guitar amps.


that’s on 17/8 (8+9)

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Glad this thread popped up again. I skipped it the first time 'round as I was on vacation and knew I didn’t have the time to get properly sucked in.

My background in electronic music predates MIDI and certainly any drum machine I could have gotten my mitts on. I was using analog modular equipment to generate timing - as well as an Apple ][ with an analog interface. My musical education was also rather unconventional… and so my early music had interesting metrical structures:

I was quite fond of building up metrical patterns, more like poetry feet: [: (( 3+3+3+2+2 ) x 3 + 3+3+3 ) x 4 + 2+2+2+2+2+2+2+2 :] – I could make my synths play this. I had a sense of how one might use time signatures to notate it… but it didn’t seem to help matters much!

I wrote pieces based on change ringing (see, for example a later work Plain Changes 2). Here, changes of n bells use phrases of n+n+1 beats. These compositions overlaid changes of 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 bells - or overlaid 7, 9, 11, 13, and 15 beat structures. Polyrhythmic perhaps - but certainly not in the “conventional” sense.

I also wrote many other pieces based on various algorithms - these had a pulse, but no clear sense of metrical structure at all: For example, a work based on neuron networks had a regular neuron firing rate (the pulse) - but how many pulses per phrase was essentially stochastic.

I bring this all up to point that I’ve found it electronic music lends itself to naturally explore not just uncommon time signatures, but the whole nature of metrical expression. It is practical to build electronic systems that let one explore and perform complex structures.

Since then I’ve spent a few years studying conga drumming - and more recently making my share of 4/4 techno-ish beats. I feel like I’ve grown to feel rhythm in my body and not just in my software. And I’ve returned to those early built up patterns, only this time learning to playing them more by feel than by composition. (For example Count With Me (disquiet 0269).)


It reminds me very much of Tidal’s patterns.

I wish this way of thinking about rhythm was more common in music software.

Unrelated to metrical patterns, but very relevant to interesting thinking about rhythm, I continue to be inspired by Xronomorph.


Was thinking the same reading @mzero’s post…

And on this note, seems like getting tidal to output midi clock should be do-able (even if you had to simply write out the sequence for 24ppqn clock as a tidal pattern!). Would be fun to slave a capable midi sequencer to tidal, jam/loop along to live-coded stuff, copy & try to absorb generative rhythms etc. Also provides another means of arranging & composing with tidal…

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I’m sure if this thread is still going, but Lumisokea are an amazing Electronic duo for complex rhythms in electronic music. Check out their bio here (https://lumisokea.com/about/), it’s spot on.
And this tune is my particular favourite: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UBHLcB1y4w
Pretty sure it’s called Eleven, rather than Dotted. but they’re fully amazing!