Syncopation Revisited 5/4 Applications 1We continue this month with more ways to interpret Ted Reed’s classic book Progressive Steps to Syncopation for the Modern Drummer. This time we’ll be converting the written manuscript from its original 4/4 form to 5/4 time. The following applications can be used with any of the seventy-two repetitive one-measure examples from pages 29, 30, and 33–36, or from the thirty-two-measure rhythmic melodies from pages 37–44 (in the original printing).

Let’s begin by exploring Example 1 from page 29.

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Now convert the phrase to 5/4. It takes five measures from the original manuscript to equal a four-measure phrase in 5/4.

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As with the 3/4 applications from last month, there are several ways of approaching this conversion in your practice. Begin by reading the original manuscript and omitting the barlines. Another approach is to write in new 5/4 barlines with a red pen so you can clearly see each measure in the new time signature. You can also rewrite the entire example on manuscript paper in 5/4.

Once you have a grasp of the conversion, the next step is to play the patterns on the snare with the following four bass drum and hi-hat ostinatos.

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Now let’s apply alternating 8th-note triplets over the written lines in 5/4. Here’s converted Example 5 from page 29.

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Once you have this application under control, try leading the 8th-note triplets with your left hand. Here’s converted Example 17 from page 30. For an extra coordination challenge, try adding the four bass drum and hi-hat ostinatos underneath.

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Next, experiment with applying different triplet stickings to each converted line in 5/4, such as RLL, LRR, RRL, LLR, RLR-RLR, LRL-LRL, RRL-LRR, and LLR-RLL. Here’s the RLL sticking applied to Example 1 from page 33 in 5/4.

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Swing Coordination
To develop coordination in 5/4, return to the previous four bass drum and hi-hat ostinatos and apply the following ride cymbal rhythms to each.

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The next step is to read the rhythms from Syncopation in 5/4 on the snare drum. Here’s Example 17 from page 34 using the first ride cymbal rhythm and the fourth bass drum and hi-hat ostinato.

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You should also practice reading the rhythms with the bass drum while substituting the snare for any of the previous four bass drum ostinatos. Our final pattern has the snare playing the third ostinato while the bass drum plays Example 3 from page 29.

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Next time we’ll explore Brazilian variations.

Steve Fidyk has performed with Terell Stafford, Tim Warfield, Dick Oatts, Doc Severinsen, Wayne Bergeron, Phil Wilson, and Maureen McGovern, and he’s a member of the jazz studies faculty at Temple University in Philadelphia. For more info, including how to sign up for lessons via Skype, visit