Mini-lesson: Tip on counting polyrhythms

One of the most interesting musical concepts – at least to me personally – is the polyrhythm, perhaps because of its strongly mathematical nature. Now mathematics was never my strong suit, although the fact that I had a decent understanding of odd time signatures from a fairly young age may indicate otherwise.

Anyway, in today’s mini-lesson, I’m going to share a tip on counting polyrhythms.

Let’s take a 5:3 polyrhythm as an example. Now, how would you approach counting this polyrhythm, or for that matter, any polyrhythm at all? I discovered a method the other night – while practicing the 5:3 polyrthythm myself, no less – that you might find rather useful.

First, set a metronome to click at a tempo of your choice. Also, if possible, set it to accent every 3rd beat – this will be our quarter note. Then, by multiplying the 3 (since we accent every 3rd beat) by 2, you get 6. While the metronome is still clicking, count to 6 out loud in eighth notes, as visualized in the picture below.

polyrhythm1.png

Now this is where it gets a tiny bit tricky – the idea is to drop the “six” and slow down your own counting so that your “one” aligns with the accented beat of the metronome, all the while keeping an equal space between each note you count out loud. Once again, a vlsualization is given in the picture below.

polyrhythm2

If you manage to pull it off, though, you’ll be counting a 5:3 polyrhythm.

This method may sound difficult, and it’s not necessarily even the most practical one, but I felt like sharing it either way. If at least one person gets something out of this, it’s a win in my book.

That’s it for today. Bye!

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