1. #1

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    Hi all,

    Polyrhythms are something I worked on a lot in the past, and recently I've started to experiment with them more and incorporate them in melodic playing. I've encountered a stumbling block in that once the metronome gets to around 225bpm, I can no longer 'feel' them against the pulse, particularly 5 against 4, and to a lesser extent 3 against 4. I realised that even when playing at slower tempos, I'm relying on the pulse to interact with what I'm playing- the two rhythms are bouncing off of each other, if that makes sense. At 225bpm that breaks down for me and it is much more of a mess of sounds, the interaction between to the becomes less discernible. This exposed a larger issue in that I need a clear audible pulse or a physical reference to accurately play them at slower tempos, which tells me I haven't got an inherent feel for them. For example, Jonathon Kreisberg's solo redition of Caravan, he is using metric modulation at 250bpm, switching over the space of the B Section going from 3 against 4, quarter notes, 5 against 4 and finally quarter note triplets - all grouped in four. I would love to reach this level of comfort to accurately modulate at such a fast tempo without needing a physical or audible reference.

    Has anyone encountered this? How do you approach polyrhythms and getting them to a level where you are comfortable, particularly at fast tempos?

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  3. #2

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    I haven’t heard the Kreisberg in question. Could you link it?

    if I understand you right...

    as you get faster everything gets amalgamated into larger macrobeats. So that tempo is about where I switch over to feeling in half time (tapping on 1 and 3.)

    so that shouldn’t be a prob at least in the sense of timing the 1. If you are doing quarters with odd number ratios, you just time beat 3 (or the second foot tap) to come on the ‘and’ between the n/2+1 of the grouping, where n is the length of the quarter not grouping.

    So in 5, the foot tap goes on 3+ and 3 on 2+. You probably worked on that already.

    I actually wrote an arrangement like this. it wasn’t that hard to play.

    The 5 over 4 has a nice swing to it. I was practicing phrasing like this for a bit but haven’t done it for a while. It’s fun to do it in Gypsy jazz where you have a very strict 4/4 rhythm sort of vibe with the 2/4 half time feel, and the tension beats (2 and 4) kind of come in a fun place relative to the line.

    Last edited by christianm77; 04-22-2020 at 10:12 AM.

  4. #3

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    Rereading your post, I think feeling the pulse in half time is the key thing.

    That helps anyway when playing up, because feeling every beat leads to a jerky, tense feel.

    That is, don’t tap your foot on 2 and 4. Tap on 1 and 3.

    The polyrhythm thing is fairly easy to feel when you do this. You prob know the maths already I’m guessing.
    Last edited by christianm77; 04-22-2020 at 10:05 AM.

  5. #4

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    +1 with the tapping on 2 & 4

    And about polyrhythm ... look at music from Steve Coleman ... A group in which I play the bass once had the idea to play some of his pieces. I still remember that one in which music was based on a weird 6 bar rythm loop in 4/4, every rhythm player (3 percussion instruments, bass, drums, piano) playing something different along these .. Took me a while to play that without counting and tapping my foot cos' it was really hard to rely on the other player rhythm.

  6. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    I haven’t heard the Kreisberg in question. Could you link it?

    if I understand you right...

    as you get faster everything gets amalgamated into larger macrobeats. So that tempo is about where I switch over to feeling in half time (tapping on 1 and 3.)

    so that shouldn’t be a prob at least in the sense of timing the 1. If you are doing quarters with odd number ratios, you just time beat 3 (or the second foot tap) to come on the ‘and’ between the n/2+1 of the grouping, where n is the length of the quarter not grouping.

    So in 5, the foot tap goes on 3+ and 3 on 2+. You probably worked on that already.

    I actually wrote an arrangement like this. it wasn’t that hard to play.

    The 5 over 4 has a nice swing to it. I was practicing phrasing like this for a bit but haven’t done it for a while. It’s fun to do it in Gypsy jazz where you have a very strict 4/4 rhythm sort of vibe with the 2/4 half time feel, and the tension beats (2 and 4) kind of come in a fun place relative to the line.

    Wow thanks so much! I rather stupidly never considered 1 and 3. I had worked on them a bit on 2 and 4, just to get used to hearing them in a swing feel. But that helps loads, thanks.



    Here's JK, I think he's even tapping on 1 and 3!

    Genuinely, that instantly solved the problem. Thanks again.
    Last edited by acidskiffle; 04-22-2020 at 03:57 PM.

  7. #6

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    Kiko Frietas has an apple phone app which, I believe, addresses skills in this area. I don't have apple, so I haven't used the app. I have studied a bit with Kiko though, and he's terrific.

    I'd add one other thing. It's about learning to juggle. There was a neuroscience class at UC Berkeley in which the students were told to learn to juggle. The point of the exercise was to experience the following. When you first try to juggle it seems impossible. Then, it turns out, that on the third day of trying most students found they could do it. The neuroscience lesson was that it takes about that long for the brain to develop the new connections to accommodate the skill.

    Back to music.

    When I first tried to play in 7/4 (Tombo in 7/4) it seemed impossible. I put the song on my Walkman (it was a while back) and listened to it for hours. At some point, I could suddenly play in 7/4 and I've never lost the skill.

    So, one implication is that hours of listening, ad nauseum, might actually be helpful.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by acidskiffle
    Wow thanks so much! I rather stupidly never considered 1 and 3. I had worked on them a bit on 2 and 4, just to get used to hearing them in a swing feel. But that helps loads, thanks.



    Here's JK, I think he's even tapping on 1 and 3!

    Genuinely, that instantly solved the problem. Thanks again.
    Fab! Glad it helped.

    I'll have to get back to this sort of thing.

    Great clip BTW