Improvising using odd rhythmic groupings or accent patterns while not getting turned around (loosing the harmonic rhythm) has always been something I enjoy working on and I’ve found that many of my students share this experience. This is a simple hand drumming exercise that has helped me to begin to hear and incorporate triplets grouped in 4’s into my improvising and composing without getting lost in the form when I hear it “organically” or deliberately try to apply it. By tapping on a table, drum or your legs you can effectively work out a lot of rhythmic ideas and concepts which, by simply learning to hear and feel them first, become much easier to apply on your instrument.
In this lesson we start by becoming comfortable tapping triplets (grouped in a normal 3) with our hands just accenting the 1st triplet of each beat while counting out-loud in 4/4. After this becomes easier, we shift the accent pattern to the 2nd triplet of each beat (still grouped in a normal 3), and lastly we accent the 3rd triplet of each beat. Once this is fairly easy to do while counting out-loud, “1, 2, 3, 4” we begin to accent every 4th triplet while counting out-loud in 4/4.
Accenting every 4th triplet and counting out-loud in 4/4 is much harder, especially for non-drummer, and it may take daily work for sometime do be able to do well, I’m certainly still working on it but it’s become easier as time goes on. The counting out loud part is the hardest part of the equation, but the most valuable in that it will give you the mental clarity needed to keep the form (harmonic rhythm) while you improvise with the groupings. A similar yet vastly more complex piano exercise (Polymetric Ostinatos) can be found on Leonard Thompson’s website.
Below is a PDF and video so you can look at the exercise and see it practiced.
Download the PDF using the link below: