DRUMMER MAGAZINE ISSUE 108
Polyrhythmic Grooves – Part I
In this lesson we will create some grooves whilst we will look at playing a polyrhythm of 3 over 5. This will take some initial co-ordination skills that will open a lot of doors before we can apply it in several different ways. Whilst these ideas may be a little advanced to be thrown in halfway through ‘Mustang Sally’ at the Dog and Duck on a Saturday evening, nailing the ‘semi-shuffle’ that groups of 5 can imply can direct you along the route of that New Orleans feel of Stanton Moore, Zigaboo Modeliste et al and that wonky J-Dilla hip hop feel that Chris ‘Daddy’ Dave is so great at replicating.
Here is the basic 3 over 5 polyrhythm. This rhythm can be written out as 15/16, 5/4 or in this case here, 3/4. The top 15 notes are split into 3 groups of 5 notes at the top (so the ‘3’ of 3 over 5) and the bottom 15 notes are grouped into 5 lots of 3 notes (so the ‘5’ of 3 over 5). Essentially the first note of each grouping denotes the polyrhythm.
Example 1 AUDIO This example is the 3 over 5 polyrhythm – the first note of each grouping.
Now we are going to play that polyrhythm between the limbs – the hands and feet play the same rate of notes as each other but the feet play sticking 3 (RLL) and the hands play sticking 5 (RLRLL). This can take some time to master but it will become the center pin of a few examples that we will be looking at over the next few months.
Once you are comfortable with the RLRLL sticking, try taking out the left hand part. It’s really critical that you maintain the ‘missing’ left hand spaces. It should sound like a slightly wonky shuffle pattern. Add back beats with the left hand on the snare at the start of every other grouping.
When example 3 is locked down, add the RLL footing underneath it – again, it will take some time to get these going and it may help to go back to playing example 2 a few times to help you out, before dropping the left hand ‘filler’ and applying the back beat.
This is the same pattern but with an adjusted foot sticking – RLL become RLR. This, again, has a shuffle feel but at a different rate to the hands.
Finally here’s a musical version using the meter changing ideas with drum on:
And without drums: