A polyrhythm is when 2 time signatures are played simultaneously. This might mean playing 3 evenly spaced notes at the same time as 2 evenly spaced notes. Or playing 4 evenly spaced notes at the same as 5 evenly spaced notes.
In this lesson I demonstrate 3 interesting polyrhythms:
3’s over 2’s – how to play 3 evenly spaced notes in the right hand, over 2 evenly spaced notes in the left hand. This rhythm was adopted heavily by the minimalist composer Philip Glass.
4’s over 3’s – how to play 4 evenly spaced notes in the right hand, over 3 evenly spaced notes in the left hand. This rhythm is featured in dance music (house, trance, etc). Often the synth plays chords to a dotted eigth note rhythm, over a 4/4 beat, which creates this 4’s over 3’s polyrhythm.
5’s over 4’s – how to play 5 evenly spaced notes in the right hand, over 4 evenly spaced notes in the left hand. At this point, things start to sound abstract and become hard for the human brain to grasp… kind of like looking at a computer simulation of 4, 5, & 6 dimensional objects. However, this makes for an awesome party trick if you can master it and pull it off!
The way to learn these polyrhythms is by listening to them, and tapping along with them. Each pattern is a distinctive rhythm which you can learn to tap just by listening to it repeatedly, as you would any other simple rhythm.
In this video I apply these rhythms to chord progressions, creating short improvised compositions. You can use these rhythms in your own compositions, as I’ve done, applying them to chords, and melodies.