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♪ Little Notes ♪

The ictus is the Moment of Music, the vertical dimension, the instant of the beat, the flick of a conductor’s hand.

The flam is an ictus split into two.
Drag over the noteheads to hear a flam of snare drum rimshots.

In Percussionese, the flam is pronounced “Plah!”.

Now try it at home: Exectue a flam on the membranophones of your own body. Take your hands, and use them to hit your left and right calves as if at the same time, but right before the ictus, hit your right first.

Audiences are flammy. Listen to this 4/4 stomp & clap beat from Queen’s “We’ll We’ll Rockya.” Click on the score to PLAY/STOP.

Here’s a snapshot of 3 waveforms all meeting up on the ictus.

The top waveform is a little late, the middle, a little early, and the bottom, a little later than the top. All human music is naturally flammy, as even the tightest drummers are always a split-second early or late. Thus, the ictus is always flammed.

As a musical ornament, the flam concept is conveyed by the appoggiatura -- or the added little note that precedes a note in a melody.

The appoggiatura above is a little D note, quickly played before the whole note E.

Appoggiatura’s in Karnov

Check out this melody from the NES game Karnov. Click on the score to PLAY/STOP.

Now, hear this ornamented Karnov with appoggiaturas up the wazoo. These little notes add so much character to the original phrase.

I wish I could speak with appoggiaturas -- little grace words preceding what I’m about to say.

As a child, I suffered from glossolalia, or “speaking in tongues”. Later, as a drummer, a new kind of percussalalia would overtake me, that is “speaking in drums”. For as long as I’ve played, the flammy beat below has been on the tip of my mind’s tongue. Like picking at a wound, I love to sound this little beat out again & again. It feels more immediate and readily usable than my human speech.

In Percussionese, it’s pronounced “Plah! Boom! Psaz! Boom! Bloomph! Boom! Ptang!”.


  1. Nick says:

    I know this is an old post and it’s weird to reply to, but try playing the two Karnov samples one measure apart!

  2. Los Doggies says:

    Hey that is good! A Karnov fugue seems inevitable.