Vinnie Colaiuta’s playing on the jazz fusion group Jing Chi’s self-titled 2002 record features a feast of amazing phrases and outstanding rhythms. Recently I was listening to the album’s second cut, “Stan Key,” and a figure Colaiuta played on his China cymbal at the 4:23 mark caught my ear. He plays a four-over-five polyrhythm while keeping a steady 4/4 beat with his other limbs. I loved the sound of this rhythm and felt that I could build on it to develop some bass drum coordination. The examples in this lesson are based on Colaiuta’s polyrhythmic phrasing, and I highly recommend checking out the track.
To start exploring this concept, let’s play a four-against-three grouping between the kick and hi-hat.
By playing the snare on every second beat, we can create an interesting 6/4 groove. This phrase might give you a hard time at first, so remember to practice it slowly. Pay attention to your bass drum and snare placement, as you don’t want to play any flams between the two voices.
Once this pattern feels comfortable, try playing double strokes on the bass drum to exercise your foot. Let’s start with the same four-against-three pattern while incorporating doubles on the kick.
When this example feels solid, play the snare on every other beat, again creating a 6/4 groove. At faster tempos, I find that this exercise is a good muscle workout for your bass drum foot.
Now that we’ve established the concept, we’ll apply it to other polyrhythms, such as Colaiuta’s four-against-five rhythm from “Stan Key.” Let’s try this new grouping with the bass drum and hi-hat first.
Now let’s add a snare backbeat.
In Exercise 7, we’ll play the same four-over-five polyrhythm between the hi-hat and bass drum while incorporating double strokes on the kick.
Now let’s add the snare.
Let’s also apply this concept to a four-over-seven polyrhythm. First we’ll play this grouping on the hi-hat and bass drum.
Here’s the pattern with a snare accent on every other beat.
Let’s incorporate double strokes on the bass drum, first with isolated 8th notes on the hi-hat.
And finally we’ll add in the snare-drum backbeat.
One you’re comfortable with the previous exercises, try playing each pattern on the ride cymbal with the following hi-hat foot patterns.
As you can see, we can develop a lot of interesting rhythms and exercises using polyrhythms. And because the concepts in this lesson were first inspired by a briefVinnie Colaiuta excerpt, remember that you never know where inspiration might come from—you should always keep your ears open.
Daniel Bédard is a Montreal-based drummer, educator, and clinician. For more information, visit danielbedarddrums.com.