MusicNovatory/Introduction/Reference/Comments and Questions/Rhythm/Little Drummer Boy

I need help in finding Level 0 of the "Little Drummer Boy." Can you give me the numbers of notes in the pick-up and first off-beat of level 0?

The answer to your question is 0 notes pick-up, 5 notes in the first rise (off-beat). The "rum pum pum pum"s are all what we call REBOUNDS, and are similar to the "boom-di-ay" in Ta-ra-ra Boom-di-ay. When rebounds occur at the end of a phrase, they are also known as "feminine endings". Rebounds occur frequently in the other examples given on the Rhythm and Level 0 pages. For instance the words "little lamb" from Mary Had A Little Lamb, and the words "kettle on" from Polly Put the Kettle On. These are all rebounds. What makes Little Drummer Boy different from the above examples is that in Little Drummer Boy, even the last phrase ends with a rebound, whereas the majority of melodies close with a final masculine ending. (More on the symmetry and balance of the rhythmic structure of melodies, including masculine and feminine endings, will be included in an upcoming section of the site.)

Another feature of Little Drummer Boy to note is that at the attack of the level 0 rise there is a rest in the melody at the beginning of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th phrases. The first note of these phrases has been displaced from where it would "normally" occur. A similar displacement occurs in some renditions of "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" at the beginning of the second level 0 cell, and also in the 4/4 version of "La Cucaracha," again at the beginning of the second level 0 cell.

Yet another interesting feature of LDB is that the first three level 0 cells are binary, whereas the last two are ternary. Ternary structure is discussed on the site in terms of ternary subdivision, and also in the section on Changing Meters. It is relatively rare to find ternary structure at the 0 level, but it does happen. A ternary rhythmic cell consists of rise, super-rise, fall (or off-beat, off-off-beat, beat).

So, to put all this in perspective, here are the five phrases of Little Drummer Boy. The slash / is used to separate off-beats from the beats at level 0. The back slash \ is used to separate the off-beats from the off-off-beats of a ternary cell.
Come they told me pa / rum pum pum pum
A new born King to see pa / rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring pa / rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King pa \ rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum / rum pum pum pum
So to honor him pa \ rum pum pum pum / when we come

Thanks for the help with Little Drummer Boy. Could you show me also the greater levels of LDB (level 1, level 2) and level -1? (I'd like to have a "beat" on the last "pum" of each phrase in level -1.)

Since you are the same questioner who has asked about "The Little Drummer Boy," let's look at some examples using the first 8 quarter note beats of that song - the words "Come they told me pa-". We will use "h" for half note, "h." for dotted half, "q" for quarter. The original is:
h. q \ h q q /

We will start with ablations at the small level (fusion of level -3 and -2).

If the second beat of each 4-beat measure is removed, we end up with a group of 6 (3+3):
h q \ q q q / (a 3/4 time feel)

If the second beat of only the first 4-beat measure is removed, we end up with a group of 7 (3+4):
h q \ h q q / ( a 7/4 time feel)

If the second beat of only the second 4-beat measure is removed, we end up with a group of 7 (4+3):
h. q \ q q q / ( a 7/4 time feel)

Ablation at the middle level (fusion of level -2 and -1):

The first two bars of this melody could be seen as one large bar of 4/2 consisting of four half notes. Removal of the second quarter of this larger level bar, in this case the second half note, yields a group of 6 (2+2+2):
h \ h \ q q /

The word "they" is missing. We could put it back in by compressing it into the first half note beat, thus:
q q \ h \ q q / (a 3/2 time feel)

Ablation at both levels simultaneously:

Removal at both the small and middle level simultaneously will produce a group of 5 (2+3):
q q \ q q q (a 5/4 time feel) (fusion of level -123)

Those who are interested in these discussions concerning the rhythmic structure of "The Little Drummer Boy," may want to see the graphics of all the levels.

Graphics of Little Drummer Boy