In this lesson we’ll continue exploring five-note phrases within a 16th-note subdivision. To become fluent with these groupings, you need to internalize where the five-note phrase begins and ends.

To review, let’s reinforce the ability to hear the starting point of each five-note grouping. Alternate between a simple quarter-note groove and the first two measures of a repeated five-note phrase. In the third and fourth measures of Exercise 1, only play the first partial of each five-note grouping while playing quarter notes with the hi-hat foot.

Now alternate between four measures of a quarter-note groove and four measures of the repeated five-note phrase.

Now we’ll play some challenging patterns based on these ideas. In some of these examples, the bass drum and snare pattern repeats on every fifth 8th note, while in others the phrase repeats on every fifth 16th note. However, the hi-hat or ride phrases always comprise five 16th notes. Remember to alternate each four-measure pattern with a simple four-bar groove. It often helps to play quarter notes with the hi-hat foot to reinforce the pulse and center the placement of the syncopated patterns. The goal is to develop the ability to hear the quarter-note pulse without always playing it.

Instead of playing steady quarter notes to help place the syncopated rhythms accurately, we’ll incorporate the hi-hat into the five-note phrase. This enhances the metric illusion and is much more challenging. To play these accurately, you’ll need to feel the quarter-note pulse internally.

You can create hundreds of variations of patterns or fills using 8ths, 16ths, or 8th-note triplets in any time signature, tempo, and style. Here’s an example using a jazz ride pattern while playing a five-note, 8th-note-triplet rhythm between the snare and bass drum.

These patterns can create some very interesting and complex rhythmic possibilities that will expand your ability to hear and play phrases that extend over the barline. Just be sure to use discretion when playing these types of ideas in a performance situation with other musicians. Have fun!


Marc Dicciani is the dean of the College of Performing Arts at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts. He’s played with Randy Brecker, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Jon Faddis, Pat Martino, Stanley Clarke, and Christian McBride, among others. For more information, visit dicciani.com.