5/4 Polyrhythm

In this lesson, I’m going to show you how to play the 5/4 Polyrhythm. In case you’re at the beginning of your journey with Polyrhythms, I recommend first sitting with the 3/2 Polyrhythm and the 3/4 Polyrhythm to first get used to the idea of two numbers that are easier to count alongside one another – which is exactly what a polyrhythm is: it’s two numbers that count alongside each other, starting and finishing at the same time.

I’m going to present a few exercises in this lesson, each of which will help you unlock the feel of this polyrhythm.

Why is this useful? The purpose of learning this is to discover the rhythm that the 5/4 polyrhythm presents – and to get that rhythm to a point where you no longer need to think ‘I’m counting a four and I’m counting a 5’… it’s just a rhythm and a tool we can use in our compositions, within our grooves and drum fills.

Exercise 1 – 16th notes with 5-stroke accents

For the first exercise, I’d like you to keep a straight single-stroke count, accenting every fifth note:

Exercise 2 – Keep the quarter-note count

Now, add in a beat with one of your feet that plays on the beat with the metronome:

Exercise 3 – Just play the accents

Now, take the ghost notes out and just play the snare drum accents while keeping that quarter-note count down:

Exercise 4 – Play it across multiple limbs

Now for a limb independence and timing challenge. We’re going to play the 5/4 Polyrhythm and for every bar, we’re going to change one limb so that it’s on another limb/instrument. Try to incorporate all of your limbs in this exercise. As the tempo increases, this becomes a more and more challenging exercise as we have less time to think about the upcoming transition.

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