Tiger Bill’s Polyrhythmic & Metric Modulations Made Easy

Tiger Bill Lesson: Pro Tricks of the Trade - Polyrhythmic & Metric Modulations Made Easy

In this lesson we get our feet wet with polyrhythms and metric modulations. A polyrhythm is the simultaneous use of two or more conflicting rhythms. A metric modulation is anything you play that sounds as though you are shifting tempo and/or playing in a different time signature from that in which you started.

Watch the video demonstration and you'll hear that, although I'm playing in 4/4 time with my feet, my hands sound like they are playing in various time signatures and tempos.


Video Lesson

If you are unfamiliar with the polyrhythms used in this exercise, study the video for instructions on proper execution. Start by practicing each polyrhythm separately and very slowly so you can build each one into your muscle memory. Then gradually increase the speed before you try playing the entire exercise all the way through.

It takes both polyrhythmic coordination and chops to execute the entire exercise up to speed. If you start it too fast, you won't be able to execute the fourth and sixth drills. Use a metronome to make sure you are not varying your tempo from drill to drill.

Refer to the first drill in the music notation below. It uses a series of continuous eighth-note triplets where you play the traditional jazz time ride cymbal pattern in your right hand while your left hand fills in the remaining eighth-note triplets.

In the second drill, we're playing a polyrhythm known as 2 against 3 where your bass drum plays 2 against 3 notes played between your hands.

In drill four we play a 2 against 9 polyrhythm, with our bass drum playing 2 against 9 played between our hands.

In the sixth drill, we play a relatively simple 1 against 6 polyrhythm where our bass drum plays the one against 6 played between our hands.

Polyrhythmic & Metric Modulations
Practice Makes Perfect!

If you find it difficult to move smoothly and precisely between each of the written exercises, try practicing them with both hands on your snare drum first. Once you perfect the transitions on a single sound source, you'll find it easier to split the hands up and play them between the ride cymbal and snare drum as shown in the video.

If you have questions on this month's lesson, visit Tension Free Drumming.

Until next time, have fun and stay loose!

Tiger Bill