Rock ‘N’ Jazz Clinic

Groove Construction

Part 11: Perceiving the Click as Triplets

by Jost Nickel

In this ear-training workshop, we’ll work on hearing a metronome on different partials of 8th-note triplets. Working on these exercises will improve your ability to internalize different rhythms before you start playing them. Plus, these exercises will definitely improve your timing.

Let’s use a triplet-based shuffle groove to play along with the click. Here’s an example, but feel free to try any triplet-based groove that you like.

Turn on a quarter-note click at 70 bpm, and get used to the tempo by playing the shuffle along with the metronome for a few measures.

Now try to hear the metronome as the last triplet partial of each beat. If you’re having difficulties shifting your focus, start by going back to Exercise 1. Play a few bars until you’ve gotten used to the tempo, and then stop the click and keep playing. Then start the click on the last triplet partial while still playing.

Once you’re comfortable with the previous example, try hearing the click as the second triplet partial of each beat. This can be harder than Exercise 3, so try turning the click on while playing if you’re having trouble.

Once you can play to the click on each partial at 70 bpm, bump up the tempo. In the accompanying video on moderndrummer.com, I play the exercises at 110 bpm.

Now we’ll try to hear the metronome as a six-over-four polyrhythm, which can also be thought of as quarter-note triplets. Start with a tempo around 100 bpm, which makes it easier for you to perceive the click as quarter-note triplets.

In Exercise 6 we’ll shift the position of the quarter-note triplets by trying to hear the polyrhythm starting on the second triplet partial of beat 1.

Once you have the previous two exercises down, increase the tempo. In the accompanying video lesson I play these exercises at 170 bpm.

Next we’ll push ourselves by trying to hear the metronome as a three-over-four polyrhythm, which can also be viewed as a half-note triplet. Try starting around 50 bpm. Using an 8th-note displacement, we can hear the three-over-four polyrhythm start on four different positions in the measure. Here’s the first position.

In Exercise 8, we’ll try to hear the polyrhythm starting on the second 8th-note-triplet partial.

Now we’ll start the half-note triplet on the third partial of beat 1.

And finally, here’s the fourth position.

Take your time with these exercises—this material can take weeks or even months to develop. Work on one exercise at a time, and eventually you’ll learn to hear the click in different positions.

Each time you practice, take a few minutes to work on one of these exercises. You’ll become a much better player by training your ears and improving your internal pulse with these concepts. For more, check out my book Jost Nickel’s Groove Book.


Jost Nickel is a top session and touring drummer in Germany, as well as an international clinician endorsing Sonor, Meinl, Aquarian, Vic Firth, and Beyerdynamic.