This month we’ll check out some odd-time approaches to practicing a single page of rhythmic notation in 4/4.
Let’s start with some warm-ups that will help us count in a different time signature from the notation that we’re reading. Play Exercise 1 on the snare using any comfortable sticking, but count out loud in different time signatures, such as 3/4, 5/4, and 7/4.
While counting in 3/4, it will take three measures of 4/4 for both the 3/4 and 4/4 phrases to line up on beat 1. Likewise, it will take five measures when counting in 5/4 and seven measures when counting in 7/4 for those interpretations to line up on beat 1.
Once you’re comfortable with Exercise 1, count out loud in time signatures with different pulses, such as 3/8, 5/8, and 7/8. These are great mind-stretching exercises as well.
Now let’s try counting out loud in odd time signatures over 4/4 grooves, and vice versa (counting in 4/4 over odd-time grooves). Start by counting in 3/4, 5/4, 3/8, 5/8, and 7/8 over this simple pattern.
Next we’ll count in 4/4 over an odd-time pattern. Try counting in 4/4 over this 7/8 groove.
Now let’s focus on the first measure from our page of rhythm. Shorten it by one 8th note to create a 7/8 phrase, and play it with your bass drum while keeping a 4/4 groove on top with the hands. Counting in 7/8 will help you hear the bass drum pattern under the straight 4/4 groove. It takes eight 7/8 measures for the 4/4 and 7/8 patterns to resolve together on beat 1.
When comfortable with the first measure of rhythm, move on to reading the whole page while shortening each measure by one 8th note. Also try opening the hi-hat on beat 1 of the hand pattern to accentuate the 4/4 phrasing.
The next step is to play an odd-time hand pattern while reading the page with your bass drum in 4/4. We’ll try this with a 7/8 groove. To start, focus on the first measure of the page of rhythm.
Once comfortable with the first measure, play the entire page of rhythm in 4/4 with the bass drum underneath the 7/8 hand pattern. It takes seven measures for the 4/4 and 7/8 patterns to resolve together on beat 1. Also, try opening the hi-hat on beat 1 of each 7/8 phrase to accentuate the odd-time feel.
For a further challenge, try this next groove with a quarter-note click, and ask yourself the following questions.
1. How many times do I have to repeat this groove for it to resolve on a quarter note?
2. How many times do I have to play this groove until the 15/16 pattern and 4/4 metronome resolve together on beat 1?
3. After repeating the groove four times, what note value will I have to add to complete a four-bar phrase in 4/4?
Libor Hadrava is the author of the book In-Depth Rhythm Studies: Advanced Metronome Functions. He also plays with Boston metal band Nascent and is an endorsing artist for Evans, Vater, Dream, Pearl, and Ultimate Ears. For more info, visit liborhadrava.com.