Rhythm of prime numbers

I had been reading about music theory on Wikipedia and was fascinated with the amount of mathematics involved in it. After going into the rabbit hole of the circle of fifths, the duodecimal number system, and this crazy clock face, I finally decided to go to bed. Having read so much (and understood so little), I started to wonder where prime numbers fit in.

As I understand rhythm better than harmony and melody, I decided to map the first few prime numbers to a beat. Since most prime numbers below fifty are either one more, or one less than a multiple of six, I knew it’ll lead to interesting results.


The rock beat has a hi-hat on every eighth note, and I am counting every eighth note for mapping the prime numbers. There is a snare and the bass drum on 1 and 3, and 2 and 4 respectively to make a basic rock beat, a clap for every prime number, and a cow bell for multiples of six.

The accentuation is on the 6th eighth note of the first bar, the 4th eighth note of the second bar and so on, because of prime numbers lying adjacent to multiples of six. I feel this gives the beat some swing.


Because of Jazz’s triplet beat structure, it lends itself better to multiples of six. I counted every triplet to map the prime numbers. Its the most basic jazz beat with the low tom playing for prime numbers.

Both beats sound alright and not as random as prime numbers are, mostly because we stuck to those below fifty. If you want to count along with the beat, here are slowed down versions of both:

The band Tool is known to have used the Fibonacci sequence in Lateralus, I wonder if they or someone else used prime numbers too.

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