Long-range correlated temporal fluctuations in the beats of musical rhythms are an inevitable consequence of human action. According to recent studies, such fluctuations also lead to a favored listening experience. The scaling laws of amplitude variations in rhythms, however, are widely unknown. Here we use highly sensitive onset detection and time series analysis to study the amplitude and temporal fluctuations of Jeff Porcaro’s one-handed hi-hat pattern in “I Keep Forgettin’”—one of the most renowned 16th note patterns in modern drumming. We show that fluctuations of hi-hat amplitudes and interbeat intervals (times between hits) have clear long-range correlations and short-range anticorrelations separated by a characteristic time scale. In addition, we detect subtle features in Porcaro’s drumming such as small drifts in the 16th note pulse and non-trivial periodic two-bar patterns in both hi-hat amplitudes and intervals. Through this investigation we introduce a step towards statistical studies of the 20th and 21st century music recordings in the framework of complex systems. Our analysis has direct applications to the development of drum machines and to drumming pedagogy.
The file contains all the detected onsets in “I Keep Forgettin”’. The onset times (in seconds) and the corresponding amplitudes (in arbitrary units) are given in the first and second column, respectively.