Strictly Technique

Chops Builders

Hemiolas, Part 2

by Bill Bachman

In part two of our hemiola series, we’re going to add another accent to the half-note-triplet patterns we covered last month. To review, a hemiola is defined as a two-against-three (2:3) or three-against-two (3:2) pattern. A half-note triplet is defined as three half notes taking the place of two half notes, so there will be three half-note triplets within a bar of 4/4 time. If you compare the half-note triplet to the quarter note, you’ll see that there are three half notes in the same amount of time as four quarter notes. This creates a 3:4 polyrhythm.
To better understand exactly how this half-note triplet sits in 4/4, play a bar of 8th-note triplets (twelve notes) and accent every fourth note. The accents will form a half-note triplet.

Last month we accented one note within three groupings of four 8th-note triplets, and then we shifted the accent to each of the four different positions. This time we’re going to accent two adjacent notes within each set of four and then shift those to the four different positions.

I can’t stress enough just how important it is to understand the relation of the quarter-note pulse to these accent patterns. Don’t detach from the pulse and simply hope that you land on the next downbeat. Keep track of where you are in the measure at all times, so that these ideas can become a part of your vocabulary.

On a technical note, the four basic strokes (full, down, tap, and up) must be implemented for you to get good dynamic contrast between the accents and taps. The stroke types are indicated above the notes (F = full, D = down, T = tap, and U = up). Be sure to control the rebound on the downstrokes so that the sticks stop low to the drum and point down. This ensures that you’re ready to play the following low and relaxed taps or upstrokes with some fi nger control. Be sure to squeeze the sticks on the downstrokes for only a split second after hitting the drum, and make sure the other three stroke types are played in a relaxed manner, with the sticks feeling heavy and resonating freely within your hands. Practice these exercises along with a metronome or music, and make sure you can comfortably tap your foot and count the quarter notes aloud while playing through the exercises.

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Now we’re going to add roll variations to the exercise. First we’ll add diddles to the accents, and then we’ll roll all of the low taps.

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These rhythms, once you’re comfortable with them, should spawn all kinds of ideas. If you have to think, count, or do any math while playing the hemiolas, then they’re not ingrained in your rhythmic vocabulary well enough to spontaneously flow into your creative process. After many perfect repetitions, they will start to feel more natural. Have fun!

Bill Bachman is an international drum clinician, the author of Stick Technique (Modern Drummer Publications), and the founder of For more information, including how to sign up for online lessons, visit