Part 1: The Basics
by Bill Bachman
Some may think of quintuplets—groups of five notes in the space of a quarter note—as an unusual rhythm reserved for the technical folks playing math music. But quintuplets aren’t that different from triplets (which weren’t always commonplace), and it’s possible for us to use them in musical ways to increase our vocabulary.
There are resources that dig deep into using the partials of quintuplets to create polyrhythms and such, but I want to focus on some practical applications of this rhythmic grouping. We will get better acquainted with quintuplets through accent patterns, and then we’ll play them with familiar rhythms, so we’ll learn to feel the transition into and out of quintuplets. After you work through these exercises, you should find that the quintuplet becomes part of your vocabulary, coming out naturally in different musical contexts.
First we’ll play quintuplets and move around some accents within them. This is as much an accent/tap technique builder as it is a chance to get comfortable with the feel of the five-note rhythm. The four basic strokes (full, down, tap, and up) are notated above each note with an F, D, T, or U, respectively. Start very slowly with each individual pattern, making sure that the stroke types are played correctly; the accents should be played at a nearly vertical stick height, and the taps should be played about 4″ from the drum. Once each pattern is feeling comfortable, you can then string them together. Be sure to use your metronome or play along with music you like at an appropriate tempo, and tap your foot.
The first quintuplet accent/tap exercise adds a second accent that moves back one partial at a time.
The second exercise adds accents one partial at a time until all are accented.
Now try some exercises that put the quintuplets into a rhythmic context so you can develop the feel of transitioning into and out of them. Listen very carefully to the metronome, and make sure you’re right with it. Play each phrase over and over until it feels completely comfortable, and then string the phrases together. Don’t just practice until you get the exercise right once; practice until you can’t get it wrong!
Bill Bachman is an international drum clinician, the author of Stick Technique (Modern Drummer Publications), and the founder of drumworkout.com. For more information, including how to sign up for online lessons, visit billbachman.net.