Polyrhythm 3:2 or 2:3

A photo of Jeff Queen.

Polyrhythm is defined by “The New Harvard Dictionary of Music” as “the simultaneous use of two or more conflicting rhythms that are not readily perceived as deriving from one another or as simple manifestations of the same meter.”

For the next few columns, I will delve into the world of polyrhythms. In this first installment, I will deal with the 3 over 2, or 2 over 3, polyrhythm. What is “over” what depends on the meter. See the examples below:


Composite Count and Sticking

To effectively learn how to play these and also feel the correct pulse, you can say either of the following phrases: “1, 2, & 3” or “Not Diff-i-cult.” Note that the sticking has the 2 side in the left hand and the 3 side in the right hand.

Pulse on Each Side

After you can play the rhythm with the given sticking as well as say the phrase, you should learn to count either side of the polyrhythm while playing the composite rhythm. Practice counting “1, 2” or “1, 2, 3” while playing the entire rhythm. This counting will allow you to “live” in either pulse, so when you encounter the rhythm in any meter, you will be comfortable with how to interpret it.

In the next issue, we will learn how to “Pass the Bread and Butter” to learn the 4 over 3 polyrhythm!

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