The 5:4 Polymetric Relationship, An Exercise.

I get a lot of messages about creating exercises that will highlight, expose, or bring to light concepts having to do with coordination about polyrhythms and polymeters.

I decided to start making some mini-lessons on these topics so everyone could have some things to work on without being too overwhelming.

What we are going to work on today is a "polymeter," not a "polyrhythm," and we are going to focus on fives.


For starters, I love polymeters and I only mildly like polyrhythms. Ha! That's not entirely true, but I will say that to me, polymeters are much more accessible coordination-wise, they have a deeper groove, and they are more practical & functional (again, to me) than polyrhythms.

Secondly, fives can pose some interesting challenges to the untrained ear. Whereas a three-note grouping resolves inside the quarter note, the five-note grouping resolves outside the quarter note.  This "outside" resolution can take some getting used to and today's exercise will get you started on the journey**

What is the difference between a polyrhythm and a polymeter? 

I'm not going to go into tremendous detail right now, but here is the quick answer:

Polyrhythms are groupings of notes with different subdivisions that all share the same resolution time. (2 quarter notes resolve in the same amount of time as three quarter note triplets).

Polymeters are different groupings of notes that share the same subdivision but different resolution points. (4 sixteenth notes & 5 sixteenth notes.) 

The reason I think polymeters groove more is because subdivision is a big part of groove and polymeters share the same subdivision.

Ok, so let's get to this.

I will present a series of exercises for building into the final warm-up. (Really, each step is an exercise in itself.)

Have fun!



** for a deeper dive into five-note groupings and the 5:4 polymetric relationship I would suggest checking out the following materials:

1 comment

  • Gary Evans

    Excellent stuff Rich.
    I’m going to have to try this one out :-)

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