Polyrhythmic Groove – Part 1

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.

 

Example 1

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.

 

Example 2

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.

 

 

 

Example 2 AUDIO

 

Example 3

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.

 

 

 

Example 3 AUDIO

 

Example 4

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.

 

 

 

Example 4 AUDIO (slow)

Example 4 AUDIO (fast)

 

Example 5

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.

 

 

 

Example 5 AUDIO (slow)

Example 5 AUDIO (fast)

 

Finally here’s a musical version using the meter changing ideas with drum on:

Track with drums

And without drums:

Backing Track – No Drums