What is R.K.?

Mike designed Rhythm Knowledge as a behavioral change system to help himself learn to be a better player and teacher. He based it in cognitive science, software engineering and natural laws. He tested it on himself, his students and anyone willing try out learning something they previously did not know. It is based on prototypical Mike Mangini philosophies, lessons, methods and unique ideas and techniques.

If you want the short version of what R. K. is, then understand Volume I as an outline of how people and environments work per natural laws and Volume II as the “what to do” with exercises systems that wire up a persons limbs and mind.

Although these books are mainly written for drummers, the thinking can be applied to any musical instrument, hand-eye coordination activity, sports skill development, personal change, or academic discipline. To Mike, everything can be structured using the same shapes. 

One thing to know is what the books are not. They are not collections of Mike’s the weekly drum lessons that he would assign. The proper way to use R. K. is to construct one’s own exercises specific to their interests. This makes Volume II have a bit of manual feel to it. However, the 5 main systems in Volume II are the roots of building any pattern on the drum kit from the mind, through the body, through the sticks and pedals and into the instrument.

The entire point of Mike’s learning system is for himself and others to become that thing that Aquinas referred to as “a potentiality.”

Mike’s approach was to simply to find any way possible to attain his calling on the drums. He knew that his undeveloped skills were limiting his ability to fully express how he felt as a musician. He knew that he didn’t even know what there was as a player to know or not. He needed a way to unlock his skills and use his imagination to create expressions and then execute them. He knew something about the drums was driving him to work at it.


Where are ‘we’ in our bodies if we are still ‘us’ when we lose an arm, get our heart replaced, or even have parts of the brain removed? 

As musicians, which is only a part of what we each are, we each have individual callings. Not everybody needs to attain all of the possible human attributes, or all of the possible skills needed to express every musical expression, or play every position on a sports team and some people do need to have all they can get. No matter where we all fall in that spectrum, we all do work a similar, (or even exactly the same) way as human beings.

Mike used a “Scientific method” approach to validating his finds on how to practice something by constantly testing it on his entire student base over years of teaching. Ultimately, his systems worked 100% of the time for 100% of those that followed the directions correctly. 

Eventually, Mike was able to perfect his teaching skills to include showing students how to figure out complex things in general by drawing simple pictures on a giant dry erase board. Pictures like this are in Volume I. Most students ‘light bulbs’ went off when he drew pictures. Some entered the professional realm very quickly, some got gigs with artists more popular than who Mike had worked with and some pursued non-drumming interests. Most of them found out who they were and what they wanted for themselves.

                              The Universe works how it works.



                                 Our bodies follow laws too.

Volume I doesn’t ever take more than two pages to examine and one human attribute, how the mechanics of various aspects of different environments work, or with how everything relates.

Most importantly, Volume I outlines how a person inputs, stores and recalls information via a very specific use of the five senses. For without retaining the information a person is trying to learn, what is the point of practicing, or trying to learn anything? Think back about a class you took that you did not like, or want to be in, or a practice that you thought was boring. How much information did you retain, really know and successfully use? We all get bored when we are not actually retaining information because we do not care enough. We would care more if we understood how what we’re supposed to be working on fits into the bigger picture and is affecting us, or not.

Volume I shows how to gain meaning from what one is attempting to improve by learning how it fits into a real picture of everything that needs to be learned. How can a team get on the same page if nobody makes the page? How can an individual have an inspired purpose if they don’t really know where what they’re doing fits into the whole scheme of things? Even the smallest role in a play should be carried out with a full effort.

To make all this easier, there are techniques that can allow us to picture plays, or rhythmic, or melodic patterns while we process what is in front of us and while we improvise a situation. The mind can layer images and audio in a way. Our minds and brains are powerful. It is empoweing to really start to believe in yourself and in a system. The mind can change a heart and visa versa. The whole point is to improve.


We’re defined by what we do and not what we look like, especially when our looks are covered.

It is more than just possible for a musician to play a perfect string of shows and for a professional sports team to be unbeatable. With the proper picture, all the players can easily get on the same page and buy into the system with belief (even if it is not perfect.) With specific approaches to layering images in the mind, a player can  keep the vision of all plays in their minds, recognize the plays in front of them and if trained, can physically react and execute their tasks. After all, they’re already in the group of the best in the world at something. They already have enough talent. They usually have enough physical skill at their position. If not, they would not have made it into the top group of people alive that do what they do. A band can achieve this too. Any group can really.

No matter what we do, it can be organized and learned in certain ways that are better than other ways because they don’t try to trump natural laws for convenience, agenda or false ways.

This, is Rhythm Knowledge Volume I in essence. It presents ‘hope’ in concrete terms.


Volume II contains five systems to train a human person’s pattern recognition skills from the inside out and not the outside in. For example, attraction gets us to notice things. After attraction has done its job, the real work starts with creating, maintaining and growing the relationship. It could be with a person, an instrument, or in getting better at a kind of music, or skill set.

The bottom line is that one does not best learn to play an instrument simply by trying to mimic the music they’re attracted to, but to learn what it takes to play it from the inner mind, through the brain, the body and out to the instrument (last.) Most musicians learn the other way around by trying to just play music, or primarily rehash what they already know while jamming mostly.

A musician cannot be “musical” with something that they cannot play. A person that cannot execute a physical move cannot do so because they do not know what it feels like. They don’t know which thoughts and muscles are supposed to do what and when they’re supposed to do it. A person will never know what something feels like until they go through the steps necessary in developing the mind and body via a certain way to wire it up. 

Volume II begins with wiring the human mind’s vision and audio layering capabilities from seeing images while using the voice to keep track of the base rhythm, or feel in a musical expression. It then wires up, or physically connects the voice with the four limbs (two hands and two feet,) then uses a binary based system to train on the odd numbered groupings from 1-19 notes, then it mixes up all odd and even groups from 1-20 notes and finally, it lists all permutations of every binary (1 & 0) possibility that occurs in the basic groups of 1-8 notes.

The categorization of things is not as easy as it may seem. Mike’s system applied to sports would be like categorizing a team’s playbook by listing every possible permutation of five differents types of plays by nature. This makes more plays easier to memorize by the nature of the play and not the type of play. And then, the physical work of feeling all the combinations is a lifetime away. 

Check out Mike’s “The Grid” DVD where he outlines every possible thing that ever was played, ever is played and ever could be played - on just one page! His point is to get everyone on the same page by making the page. He has outlined different sports this way and shared it with a few students. He related to them in this way.

Oppositely, too many influential musicians misdirect would-be musicians by telling them that “it’s all about the feel” and to “just feel it.” Well, nobody can feel what they cannot feel, so this is a clearly wrong thing to say to someone who needs concrete information about what to see, hear AND feel and isn’t completely void of the use of their arms and legs. Students are told to just “go practice.” This can be so dangerous when the students starts repeating a faulty technique and makes it even harder to break later on.

In the end, our wills determine all things. Will can create electrochemically charged connections from nothing but will. Will can change with perspective. What we learn can profoundly change our choices and actions.

Rhythm Knowledge, Volume Three is an exercise system using the base systems found in Volume Two, along with the “inner game” cognitive methods found in Volume One. It is example of how to combine Volumes One & Two in a laid out, step by step, easy to manage work out. One could liken the exercise system to drills in a sports team’s playbook.

© Mike Mangini 2015