Rock Perspectives

Odd Subdivision Offbeats

Ten- and Fourteen-Note Groupings

by Aaron Edgar

When examining 32nd notes, we see that they’re twice as fast as 16th notes. Similarly, we can take this idea of doubling subdivisions and apply it to any grouping. In this lesson we’re going to explore ten- and fourteen-note subdivisions, which can be viewed as the doubled equivalent of quintuplets and septuplets. When playing ten-note groupings as single strokes, your lead hand will play standard quintuplets while the opposite hand plays between them.

Exercises 1–6 outline a hand workout that you can use as a speed and endurance drill, and they’ll also help you develop the placement of each partial in five- and ten-note groupings.

In Exercise 1, play two beats of quintuplets with your right hand followed by two beats of quintuplets with the left. Count the subdivision out loud using the syllables “ta-ka-din-ah-gah,” use your metronome, and make sure all notes are even and relaxed. Exercise 1 lays the foundation for the next five examples.

Examples 2–6 fill in all the offbeat partials of the quintuplets one at a time so that you can focus on how each note of the subdivision feels. You should still be able to feel Exercise 1 while adding the extra partials. Go slowly at first, and make sure to count out loud and focus on even and consistent spacing. Notice that the additional notes fall in between your counting.

Once you’re comfortable with the previous exercises, run them in sequence. Play each one until the rhythm feels comfortable before moving on. Once you have the quintuplet version down, try the same exercises with a septuplet subdivision. Use the syllables “ta-ka-din-ah-ge-na-gah” to count septuplets.

These drills can be a lot of fun when you take them beyond the practice pad.Exercise 7alternates the single-stroke sticking by doubling the last two partials of each ten-note grouping, and Exercise 8 applies this pattern to the drumset. The accents in these two examples outline 8th notes.

Exercise 9 utilizes septuplets to expand on Exercise 8 while incorporating a double bass pattern. Count out loud using the septuplet syllables. The counts align with the right hand on the ride cymbal during the first half of the bar and with the left hand on the hi-hat during the second half.

Exercises 10 and 11 apply short bursts of quintuplet offbeats to grooves.

Also try using individual offbeat notes to create polyrhythmic feels. Example 12 is a quintuplet interpretation of a four-on-the-floor 16th-note hi-hat groove in which the bass drum plays 8th notes in the second half of the bar. The “&” of each beat falls in between the third and fourth quintuplet partial, or “din” and “ah.”

To practice this exercise, isolate the second half of the bar with the additional bass drum notes. When you have the hang of it, play the whole measure. Focus on making the quintuplets feel consistent, and make sure your bass drum sounds solid and even underneath.

Exercise 13 places quintuplets on the bass drum and straight 8th notes on a stack or China.

Playing notes on every third partial of each ten-note grouping creates an interesting effect. In Exercise 14, we’ll try this by playing a ten-over-three polyrhythm with ten equally spaced notes on the bass drum across a bar of 3/4. Our right hand plays quintuplets on the hi-hats while accenting a stack on the first and fourth partials of the quintuplet (“ta” and “ah”). The first left-hand note is meant for a floor tom or gong drum.

We can expand on the polyrhythmic possibilities of this idea by creating rhythms that are entirely on the offbeats. If we take a rhythm like the seven side of a seven-over-four polyrhythm and move it to the offbeats, we end up with a polyrhythmic element that occupies a unique rhythmic space.

In Exercise 15 the first, fourth, and fifth notes of a septuplet are played with the right hand between a cymbal stack and snare. The bass drum plays septuplets while the left hand plays the seven-over-four polyrhythm starting on the first septuplet offbeat. The left-hand rhythm is notated for a floor tom or gong drum, but experiment with its placement and move it around the toms to create melodies.

These ideas may not be the kind of rhythmic tools that you’re going to pull out every single day, but they’re an incredibly fun and effective way to work on your technique while also engaging your brain. If you happen to have a group of musicians willing to grit their teeth through this rhythmic storm, you’ll be able to create some unique music.


Aaron Edgar plays with the Canadian prog-metal band Third Ion and is a session drummer, clinician, and author. He teaches weekly live lessons on Drumeo.com. You can find his book, Boom!!, as well as information on how to sign up for private lessons, at aaronedgardrum.com.