The Path to Polyrhythmic Proficiency
Building Grooves That Train You to Hear Two Things at Once
The main challenge with any polyrhythm is being able to hear and feel it as it relates to the pulse. The best way to attack this challenge is by designing your practice so that your ear has something definitive to latch onto. In polyrhythms, one side of the rhythm is the pulse, or something that directly relates to it, like 8th notes in a quarter-note meter. The other side of the polyrhythm is a contrasting layer with a different numerical value. For example, in four-over-three there are four equally spaced notes over three beats of the pulse.
Let’s start with this simple four-over-three polyrhythm on its own. Then we will design grooves around that polyrhythm that reinforce the quarter-note pulse. In Example 1, four over three is phrased with the bass drum playing three quarter notes while the snare plays four dotted 8ths.