Polyrhythms

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by flavaham, Feb 2, 2012.

  1. flavaham

    flavaham Member

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    I'm trying to wrap my head around the idea of polyrhythms as they relate to playing guitar. I've been looking at some lines by Zappa and Page and although I can look at a transcription and match it to a recording, I can't seem to integrate it into my own playing yet. I'm looking for some practice techniques to get better at this.

    I'm starting to be able to hear a 5:2 kind of thing but still, this is very basic and hard to tastefully throw into some improv. I have been reading up on Steve Vai's site a bit but that just proved to me that the guy is in fact a total freak of nature!

    Anyhow, I'm sure some people on here have experience in this area so I'd love to hear your thoughts onthe topic.
    Thanks!
     
  2. flavaham

    flavaham Member

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    Really? No one has studied polyrhythms? C'mon....haha. I know, it's a weird study, but I'd really like to figure out how to make these "feel" natural.

    There's another part of this that I think is intriguing, and that is when you change time to match triplets. example - playing in standard time and play a passage using 8th note trips. The next bar, 8th notes = what the triplets were in the last measure, so now, the first two triplets are straight eights and the third starts the second beat. I can "feel" this one and play it but can't notate it properly.

    Anyhow, if someone wants to chime in with some thoughts, please do.
     
  3. flavaham

    flavaham Member

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    58 views, 0 replies. haha
     
  4. TheOtherDave

    TheOtherDave Member

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    I recently saw a ZZ Top tribute band, and was able to experience both polytonal and polyrhythmical aspects of ZZ Top's music that were previously unknown to me. That's about as far as I've gotten into it, sorry.
     
  5. kape

    kape Member

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    First step is to learn the sound of the rhythms summed: 2 against 3 sounds like one two and three etc. The Bounce metronome http://bouncemetronome.com/ is perfect for this.Next, try shifting focus from one rhythm to the other.Finally, learn to listen to (and feel) both rhythms at the same time.
    For a guitar-oriented approach, look into this book: http://www.amazon.com/Time-Future-P...=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1328256365&sr=1-2
    If you're into polymetrics in the style of Miles 60's group (Tony Williams/Hancock/Carter), these http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_1?_encoding=UTF8&sort=relevancerank&search-alias=books&ie=UTF8&field-author=Ari%20Hoenig%20%26%20Johannes%20Weidenmueller are good introductions.
    Good luck!
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2012
  6. flavaham

    flavaham Member

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    Nice, I'll look into those tools. For now, I opened up Guitar Pro and put together a few tracks with a constant hi-hat or bass drum on the straight quarter note and another tone playing the other rhythm. I gets pretty weird man!! 11 1/16 notes in the place of 8 (11:8) is really stretching it for me! haha!

    I just think it would be cool to really get familiar with these timings and be able to throw them into some solos with purpose. Maybe repeat these rhythms within an improv section so it is known that you are trying to screw with the rhythm and have a firm grasp of it. I figure that if you can feel and hear two rhythms at the same time, you're probably all set when it is just being played straight up!

    So far, I can do 5's pretty well. Although, that's just playing one note with the 5:X timing. Put a scale or arpeggio in there and it might sink the ship. We'll see.
     
  7. jhumber

    jhumber Member

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    Interesting topic, and something I'm currently digging into. Upon the advice of others here I bought the Peter Magadini book (linked above) as well as the Gavin Harrison's Rhythmic Illusions. The latter is a drum-centric book but contains lots of useful info, the former is just crazy....I don't ever remember getting stuck on page 4 of a book before! Need more time with this one :)
    I'm comfortable now with counting (and devising) polyrhythms, but haven't yet made the link of how to transfer this onto the guitar as useable knowledge. I can see it being useful in fingerstyle guitar, but again need to spend more time on it. I'll probably look into the 'Time for the Future' book linked above, as that seems more harmony-based than the existing material I've been through.
    Keep the replies coming please....I'd be interested to hear how people have used this stuff for composing/improvising on guitar.
    Cheers
    Jordan
     
  8. Mandoboy

    Mandoboy Member

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    Gavin Harrison has a couple of books and DVDs that are helpful. It's great fun, especially if you have a very strong sense of pulse to begin with- otherwise, as Zappa observed, 'you are just swimming in a sea of rubato'...

    The subdividing thing is amazing to me, but pretty simple- to get 5 over 2, you take two groups of 5 over 1 and play every other attack of the 5, so it's " 1 3 5 2 4" over the 2.
     
  9. flavaham

    flavaham Member

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    I'm not trying to play both rhythms on the guitar but rather play the "oddness" over a normal beat. If I'm in a standard 4/4 time with straight 8ths, i would play some sort of 7:3 thing (for example) over the steady drum beat, thus creating a polyrhythm between the drums and guitar. There's really a lot of places that this could be used.
     
  10. GovernorSilver

    GovernorSilver Member

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    Sorry, I was waiting for someone with more experience to post.

    I attended a polyrhythm class taught by Rufus Cappadocia at the New Directions Cello Festival. He divided the class into three groups, then had each group play a simple repeating line in its own time signature. It was a challenge to focus on one's own part and not be distracted by the two other groups.

    Rufus said he would practice polyrhythms at least 45 min. just to go into a trance-like state - it took him 45 min. to enter that state, then he'd keep on playing. He spent quite a bit of time studying with somebody in West Africa.

    I have some simple ideas for a composition that involve playing a guitar part in one time signature against a sequenced beat in another time signature but I haven't gotten around to recording anything yet.
     
  11. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Supporting Member

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    So much of what I do uses polyrhythms, but I can't say I've really studied it. I think the trick is to hear musical phrases rather than try and think in terms of numbers. Short answer; learn the melody to the song Straight, No Chaser.
     
  12. gomez1856

    gomez1856 Member

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    I know he did an interview where he talked quite a bit about not only how he incorporates polyrhythms into their arrangements but how he practiced them but I can't seem to find it right now. Anyways, Jake Cinninger of Umphrey's McGee incorporates them quite often not only in their studio stuff but on the fly in their improvs.

    I'd recommend listening to some of their live stuff to try to pick up on what he's doing.


    Rick
     
  13. rob2001

    rob2001 Member

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    Me too. If I could describe it, maybe something like dancing or skipping around the main beat. I think I got it from a love of Funk music and what a simple guitar line can do as far as jazzing up a static beat.

    I think it's about placing accents, ahead or behind the beat. Or maybe i'm talking about something different.
     
  14. gomez1856

    gomez1856 Member

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    Also, Scott Henderson gives some good tips in his video, Melodic Phrasing.

    One that I remember and use quite a bit is to play a short phrase that doesn't match the underlying rhythm exactly (easy example is a triplet pattern over 4/4) and that does not end at the end of a measure (so a 5 beat triplet pattern if using the example above). Repeat the phrase a few times while accenting the first note of the phrase every time. This will create a cool counterpoint to the underlying rhythm as your first accented note will land in a different spot every time you hit it. In the example above, it would be on the 1 the first time, on the 2 the second, and on the 3 the third time, etc.

    You can get as silly as you want by varying all aspects of the phrase (rhythm, tone, melody, etc.).


    Just something I remembered from that video that was really easy to digest but sounds great when played in context.

    Rick
     
  15. willyboy

    willyboy Member

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    From wikipedidea





    [​IMG]




    Polyrhythm is 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.

    Try just like the above example: set up a metronome as it's giving you straight 8ths and practice playing triplet 8ths against it or vice versa as a starter. Once you master this move on to more complex ones like 4:3, 5:2, 5:3, etc. You may have to first begin even simpler by solidifying just the concept of subdividing say 8ths, triplets 8ths, sixteenths, triplet sixteenths, groups of 5, etc. I practice this occasionally to a metronome and just move back and forth between bars of the various groupings at random. If you can do that successfully then you'll have a good understanding of the feel of those rhythms internalized which is what you're aiming for. I'll get my students to put their guitar down and just get them to tap the rhythms - if you can't do that then there is no way you're going to play it correctly on the instrument. I have gotten a lot of those ideas from being able to pick the brains of drummers like Danny Gottlieb and Pat Mastelotto, and going to the International Drum Festivals and clinics and listening to Bozzio, Horacio Hernandez and others talk about these concepts. Sometimes I feel the best way to get better on our instrument is to look at the approaches of bass players, drummers, horn players, etc, instead of the way we as guitarists always approach our instrument.

    Cheers!
     
  16. willyboy

    willyboy Member

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    Agreed this is an amazingly cool concept. It's known as metric modulation, but may perhaps have some other moniker. I first became aware of this concept in classical studies as it was pioneered in Elliot Carter's String Quartets if I'm remembering correctly. Many drummers utilize this concept, one of my favorites is Virgil Donati - he's a master at this stuff. He just blows my mind sometimes. Check out anything from his solo record "Serious Young Insects" for some really intense instrumental Progressive Metal/Fusion.
     
  17. sixesandsevens

    sixesandsevens Member

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    Keep listening to tunes that use them. You'll soon be able to hear them - or perhaps feel them - in lines in your mind.

    At that point playing them will seem like the most natural thing in the world.
     
  18. theblackcat

    theblackcat Member

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    I can tell what worked for me, as I felt it was very easy to understand and apply polyrythms because of two things:


    1) Being exposed to odd time signatures relatively early (Native Folk Songs in 7/8 & 9/8)



    2) Having studied the Flamenco Compas (Different rythmic layouts of accents on 12 beat cycles)


    It was after I had nailed these two things that I was exposed to polyrythms via Tosin Abasi’s ideas in Animals As Leaders, so it took me no time to adapt. The same might work for you, studying odd time signatures gives you the ability to know which beat you are on & what will/won’t come on the next, and studying flamenco enables you to follow different accentuations on different beat cycles. If you can do these two, the progression to hearing multiple rythms at the same time & picking the one you want to play on will feel very natural.
     
  19. jb70

    jb70 Supporting Member

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    most of which he got from meshuggah
     
  20. guitarjazz

    guitarjazz Member

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    Always important to keep the sage advice of Nigel Tufnal when dealing with polyrhythms:" There is a fine line between clever and stupid".
    Just because it seems complicated doesn't always merit a higher status artistically. Personally I would rather play with people with good time and good feel than a human Tri-nome (an old metronome that did polyrhthms).
    My rock star drummer friend pointed out that the beauty of Elvin Jones is that he was playing polyrhythms, but it was before everyone worked them out with a protractor.
     

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