Best Way to Learn Polyrhythms


Junior Member
Hi all- I'm looking to expand my rhythmic knowledge. Anyone else embarked upon polyrhythmic stuff?

What books?



I want to make this my 2020 resolution.

I have been playing for many years, and play jazz and improvised music, but have mainly been the in the straight ahead realm.

I want to learn some of the bits Bill Stewart uses, and have been listening and transcribing some of that.

But want to see if there are any supplemental things I could check out.



"Uncle Larry"
FWIW, from my own struggle with independence stuff....if I am doing 2 way coordination for instance and if the 3rd limb when added throws me off...what I do is play the 2 way stuff and attempt to just sing the problem part, not play it.. This throws me off just as much as trying to play it. But I can't play it until I'm able to sing it first. So it's easier for me to get the part through singing than trying to jump right in playing it.

That's my lame contribution.


Platinum Member
3:2 and 4:3 are the only ones I use, and I use them a lot, in various forms. Beyond that, I haven't really found an application. I've written a lot of materials about them here.

John Riley's Beyond Bop Drumming covers some common metric modulations. Jack Dejohnette & Charlie Perry's book covers meter-within-meter playing in jazz-- mostly 3/4 within 4/4. Pete Magadini has written a lot, but I haven't found his stuff to be real useful. Ari Hoenig also has a book you can work through with your bass player.


Platinum Member
Hi all- I'm looking to expand my rhythmic knowledge. Anyone else embarked upon polyrhythmic stuff?
Quick question:

Where are you, in terms of understanding and ability, with polyrhythms?

Most people can grasp three over four (and vice versa) somewhat intuitively, and with a modest amount of practice, perform them well enough to entertain people.

It's stuff like VC/Sting's "Seven Days" where most find their feral/intuition is surpassed and need to do real/academic work.
Last edited:


Silver Member
Hi dwdjmu. If you can find Mel Bays Presents The Key to Drum Polyrhythms this where I started. This book shows the formula that works for all polyrhthms and shows how the subdivisions are played on the kit using all four limbs. 2 against 7, 3 against 5, 4 against 9, 5 against 9, 9 against 7 any a lot more. The book was written by Chuck Kerrigan who holds a B.S. in Mathematics and has a minor in Music. He has other drum related books published by Mel Bay.


Junior Member
Thanks all.

Yep- I'm trying to get good at switching in and out of 2:3 and 3:4, 4:3- just to give me different "gears" when trading or in bridge sections, stuff like that.


Platinum Member
Most Music Theory Books I have seen referring to the playing of a whole number of 'pulses' against a different whole number of 'counts' calls it "Artificial Grouping".(Hopefully that will assist with finding educational materials).

I started out with a basic triple on various divisions(3:2) - read as 3 to 2, then (3:1) ...then opposites...2:3 and 1:3 - simple seeming but it gave me the mental feel for one note over a triplet feel....something I had always been able to do but not with the sharp intention I wanted and later developed by being VERY mindful of 'feeling' both the 'pulses' and the 'counts' distinctly and unified...starting with either.

I then started getting a feel for 5's...aka quintuplets...over 2 through 10 pulses(and the inverse- really a mental training game) and then got really into it....playing {1 thru 10}:{1 thru 10} as an exercise...moving through different whole number combinations and ALWAYS working to develop a feeling for each as independent then as unified in my thinking.

I didn't do much else the summer of my junior year in High School...and kept up the development of feeling each whole number TO the next pulse on the list....then on to the next whole number combos.

I have never approached Fractional Artificial Grouping...and probably won't...i just 'transpose' the 'pulse' and 'count' to what is a whole number congruent ratio via Least Common Multiple or Greatest Common Divider .

In the end, your desire to learn Artificial Grouping will most likely be a unique exploration you design for yourself...or you will be looking at college training as few non-tenured teachers I have met can approach the subject with authority...or even cursory competence even though they have a strong grasp of triplets and, less frequently, quints.

A Couple of my favorite Drum parts that use what can be called Artificial Grouping(as we can conceptualize the same juxtaposed rhythmic values in infinite ways-literally) is Lethean by Katatonia from the 'album' Dead End Kings and a section in Anesthetize by Porcupine Tree from the 'album' Fear Of A Blank Planet

As a suggestion, try to avoid practicing just one rhythmic approach to the artificial with different sub-divisions...then try to 'see' how 2:3 is much the same as 4:6 by switching from Crochet(quarter note) to Quaver(eighth note) Pulse...then work with changing how you mentally 'see' a grouping though you are playing the same thing.

Oh, and Gavin, if you are about, you should do an instructional video/material set on artificial would fit in nicely with your other wonderful materials. I know you have approached it as 'Over-Riding' but I think there is a deeper understanding that you can lead folks to that explores the bi-directional nature (really, any number of directions) you can couple different whole number feels over different whole number pulses.
Last edited:


Junior Member
I am currently working on something similar. I wanted to work on a 5:3 polyrhythm. First I multiplied 5 by 3 to get 15. Next I counted to 15 out loud. Afterwards I would play one limb on 1, 4, 7, 10, 13 and the other on 1, 6, 11. Once you've practiced while counting out loud and got the feel for it, give it a go without counting. From there you can spice it up! Hope that helps!


Gold Member
I would start with the aesthetic or aesthetics. Why are polyrhythms beautiful? Who has used polyrhythms in the past. Maybe also look at the equipment best fit to expressing ones self in polyrhythm. For example, I have found that the Mayan culture has a well developed sense of polyrhythm with much hemiola. They express these on sharp and precise instruments such as turtle shells and tongue drums. It seems that compound rhythms were highly interesting in Mayan culture, and were representations of life events such as calendars and seasons.



Gold Member
My former teacher Peter Magadini has long been a proponent on polyrhythms and has write a couple books on the subject . He was Paul Delong’s teacher as well .
oeter has a way of explaining polyrhythms in a logical and easy to understand manner . I highly recommend his books