Fun Advanced Polyrhythm Exercises

Fun Advanced Polyrhythm Exercises

Poly-rhythms is what happens when 2 or more musicians play completely different time signatures simultaneously.
For example: one person plays a 3/4 rhythm while another person plays a 4/4 rhythm.

This is something you really want to get good at if you love progressive rock or fusion.
It’s a good skill to have. It’s also a great brain exercise.

Here are some pretty cool polyrhythms.

Waltz Rhythm Pattern Over 4/4 Groove

Here are some 3/4 strum patterns




3 bars of 4/4 (3 times 4 beats) has the same duration like 4 bars of 3/4 (4 times 3 beats).
Both are 12 beats long.

In other words: a 3/4 measure is played 4 times for every 3 bars of 4/4 drum groove.
After that both the guitar and drums hit beat 1 together and the cycle just starts over again from there.

Of course since the above 3/4 strum patterns are 2-bar rhythms, you would have to play that 2-bar rhythm 2 times to get 4 bars.

After you played the 2-bar 3/4 rhythm twice, adding up to 4 bars total, your 4-bar 3/4 cycle and the drum’s 3-bar 4/4 cycle will both finish together and start over again after that both, hitting beat 1 again.


5/4 “Take Five” Rhythm Over 4/4 Groove

“Take Five” is the name of a jazz standard. The song is in 5/4 time signature.
Paul Desmond composed “Take Five”. The song became a hit when Dave Brubeck recorded it.

Here’s the rhythm:

The math:

The smallest denominator is 20.

4 bars of 5/4 strum pattern = 5 bars of 4/4 drum groove.
What this means, is that 4 bars of 5/4 (which adds up to 20 beats) has the same duration like 5 bars of 4/4 (adding up to 20 beats as well).

After that, both cycles (the 5/4 and the 4/4 one) just start over again both hitting beat 1 together.

Here’s how this polyrhythm sounds like


4/4 Rhythm Pattern over 5/4 Groove

We can use the most commonly used 4/4 guitar strum pattern:

Refer to everything I discussed earlier about playing a 5/4 strum pattern over a 4/4 drum groove.
Everything discussed there, applies here.

This is basically exactly the same thing, BUT with the two instruments swapping time-signatures.


5/4 “Take Five” Rhythm Over Waltz

Another interesting polyrhythm, is strumming a 5/4 rhythm over a 3/4 waltz groove.
3 bars of 5/4 – 5 bars of 3/4. (The smallest denominator is 15 beats)

This means that every 15 beats, or in other words every 5 bars (of 3/4), both the guitar strum pattern and the groove will align again with beat 1 falling together in both rhythms.

You can use the above 5/4 rhythm for this.

You can hear this here:


5/8 Rhythm Over 4/4 Groove

5/8 is basically 5/4 twice as fast.
Another way of looking at this: 5/8 takes half the amount of time that 5/4 takes.

Why?
Answer: because 1/8th is half of a quarter (1/4)
Hence: 5/8 is half as long as 5/4

Or in other words:
5/8 = 2.5/4
This means that 2 bars of 5/8 = 2 x 2.5/4 = 5/4 (5 beats of a quarter)

The smallest denominator between 5/4 and 4/4 is 20 beats.
Meaning: 4 bars of 5/4 has the same number of beats as 5 bars of 4/4: 20 beats.

In other words: every 5 bars of 4/4 groove = 4 bars of 5/4 guitar strum rhythm
This means that after you played a 5/4 rhythm 4 times, you come back together again with the start of a 4/4 bar (beat 1), when you start the next bar of 5/4

But, since we’re strumming 5/8, which is half the length of 5/4, we would have to double that number of repetitions.
Hence: 8 x 5/8 strum rhythm = 5 bars of 4/4

For this to make sense, again remember that 5/8 has half the length of 5/4.
Hence; when you play a 5/8 rhythm twice, what you played has the same duration as 1 measure of 5/4.
Taken into account that we need 4 measures of 5/4 to come back around on beat 1 with a 4/4 groove, and that 5/8 is half of 5/4, that means that we need twice as many measures of 5/8 to fill the same amount of space, which is 8 measures of 5/8.

8 x 5/8 = 40/8 = 20/4 = 5 bars of 4/4

Here’s the above 5/4 pattern, written as 5/8

Here’s how this sounds like:


7/4 Rhythm Pattern over 3/4 Groove

Here are a couple of 7/4 rhythms you can strum



and this one.

I’ll use the first 7/4 strum pattern in the below video.

Every 7 bars of 3/4 groove = 3 bars of 7/4 strum rhythm

Here’s the video where you can hear this:


7/4 Rhythm over 4/4 groove

Let’s use this 7/4 rhythm pattern

Every 7 bars of 4/4 = 4 bars of 7/4 (28 beats is the smallest denominator)

What this means is that your 7/4 rhythm and the 4/4 drum groove are going to hit beat 1 together again after you played the 7/4 strum pattern 4 times.

You can hear this here:


7/8 Rhythm Pattern over 4/4 Groove

If you understood the whole above explanation of how 5/8 is twice the speed of 5/4, and that you need 2 bars of 5/8 to get the same duration as 1 bar of 5/4, then you will understand that the same applies to 7/4 and 7/8

When you play the above 7/4 strum rhythm twice as fast over a groove, then you are playing a 7/8 rhythm

Notice how following 7/8 rhythm pattern is exactly the same as one of the above 7/4 patterns.
The only difference is that each beat is written as an 8th duration instead of a quarter duration.

Since we need 4 bars of 7/4 to match the same number of beats as 7 bars of 4/4, then we need 8 bars of 7/8, to match the same number of beats as 7 bars of 4/4. (Again 7/8 is half as long in duration as 7/4, so we need twice as many 7/8 bars to fill the same length of time as 7/4 bars)

The math:

8 bars x 7/8 = 56/8 (56 beats with value of an 8th)= 28/4 (28 beats with value of a quarter) = 4 x 7/4 (4 bars with 7 beats) = 7 bars x 4/4 (7 bars with 4 beats)

I’m sure these guys use these concepts in their writing šŸ™‚


Conclusion

Hit me up anytime at [email protected] if you have any questions, or if you would like to book a lesson.

These free lessons are cool, but you will never experience the progress and results that my students experience in lessons, learning from blogs and videos.

That is why people take lessons: way better results and progress, much more complete information, exposed to way more creative ideas, than you can get from a blog.
There is only so much that self-study can accomplish.

Keep me informed on your progress. You can hit me up in the comments section below.
If you like this blog: give it a rating and feel free to give me any feedback.
I believe everything can always improve. I’d gladly implement your suggestions and ideas.

Be on the look out for more blogs about guitar, music, songwriting and music education.
You’re on your way to becoming a great guitar player.
Have fun! šŸ™‚


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