The Polyrhythm challenge
Want to add an element of surprise or another level of complexity to your solo or composition? Then you should check out polyrhythms. We all are familiar with simple cross-rhythms like 2 against 3 and 3 against 4. Even in pop music they are quite common. And there is a lot you can do with only these two polyrhythms before things start to get boring. Nevertheless, they can be quite a challenge to execute well. Especially, when picking more complex ones like 5 against 6 or 23 against 4. The risk of losing the "one" and not being able to dissolve your cross-rhythm gracefully is always present. "Winging it" becomes a sure way to messing things up.
The Secret Sauce
In the "Top 3 Polyrhythm Hacks" I show you my three favourite methods to playing polyrhythms with confidence. Each of these approaches brings you one step closer to mastering polyrhythms.
About Mischa Marcks
Hey Basshacker, my name is Mischa Marcks and I'm the founder of MMEducation. A place where I share my personal experiences and the lessons I learnt from players like Victor Wooten, Marcus Miller and Gary Willis. Read more...
The first hack is ignoring the underlying meter and pretending you are playing a riff with an uneven time signature. It's how I started and most of my students seem to take this approach naturally. It's a great hack to get started, but it has a couple of disadvantages. For one, if we are not aware of the underlying pulse, our phrasing will change. this will often (depending on what you are aiming for) result in making the groove and feel suffer. Another problem is that this method works great if you play the cross-rhythm on your own or with the original song. But the moment you play it with a metronome or just a drummer, you will be completely lost.
The second hack is about awareness. Charting a cross-rhythm out over chord changes let's you see where the cycle ends and starts repeating itself. you'll also see which chords are anticipated according to the pattern and which chords are slightly delayed, if any. This way you have a few signposts throughout. Which makes it a lot easier to keep track of the song structure. And in case you mess up, you stand a good chance of finding your way back into the groove at any point.
The third hack is not only the most useful for more complex polyrhythms, it's also a great exercise to strengthening your time feel in general. One way I like to approach complex cross-rhythms is learning them measure by measure and putting them back together once I can execute every measure on its own. Practicing this way gets you used to how every shift feels, rather than counting cycles, beats or measures.
You can also use this technique to tighten up any groove or lick in 4/4. Just shift it one subdivision at a time and see if you can execute all the variations perfectly.
In this video you'll learn:
- The getting started with polyrhythms hack
- How to approach polyrhythms when played over chord changes
- How to master complex cross-rhythms
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