Using Triplets to Imply Faster Tempos

Metrically Modulated Drum n Bass 1Over the past decade, the drum ’n’ bass style of drumming has taken off in a big way. Many drummers tend to emulate this style by simply playing in double time. For example, if your band is grooving along at 85 bpm, you could just jump to 170 bpm. That’s a very logical and easy method, but I’d like to present another option for transitioning into a drum ’n’ bass feel that’s a bit less natural but sounds amazing.

We’re going to use the three-over-two polyrhythm as the basic structure for these patterns. By accenting every other triplet partial, you can imply a new quarter-note pulse. Think of the triplet partials as 8th notes, and play any drum ’n’ bass groove to create a crazy polyrhythmic feel that still locks in with the original pulse. This technique allows you to make a groove feel as if it’s speeding up, without actually changing the tempo. For example, if you’re originally playing at 110 bpm, when you modulate to the triplet-based 8th note, it will sound like you’re playing at around 160 bpm.

Here are a dozen drum ’n’ bass grooves that use the three-against-two polyrhythm as the pulse. The examples are written in 12/8 for clarity, but you could think of each three-note grouping as a triplet in 4/4.

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Andy Shoniker is a professional musician living in Toronto. He’s a graduate of the Berklee College of Music and endorses SJC drums, Paiste cymbals, Vater sticks, and Evans heads. He is also the creator of the Rhythm Trainer app. For more information, visit