Single-Hand Improvising with Polyrhythms – 5:3

When I was a kid, the drum solo in “Wipeout” was mandatory to learn and master. I used to play it with one hand on the edge of the school lunch table, and my friends would put their ears to the tables and find it fairly entertaining.

Playing the 16th note patterns were really easy between the thumb and four other fingers. Many years later, I use this same practice technique to explore polyrhythms, and in this case, 5:3. As mentioned in previous posts, I’ve used Wolfram Winkel’s Polyrhythm app to conceive of how to create this basic polyrhythm.

I play the 3 with the left hand, and go through three variations with the right hand. The basic 5:3 is an exercise we’ve explored in previous blogs. Now we can discuss some advanced practice ideas.

First, I double the 5, with eighth notes. Next, I make it eighth note triplets. Finally, I play four sixteenth notes for each of the five basic pulses.

The value of this practice approach is that using the right hand (rotating between the thumb and four fingers) lets you work up a fair amount of speed. You can use these method to experience the sensation of polyrhythms and then apply the 5 portion between both hands while playing the 3 portion with the kick drum.

Once you master this, switch hands. Play the 3 pulses with the right and the 5 pulses with the left.

It takes a little practice to get the hang of things, but once you, try doing the same double, triple, quadruple approach with the 5 pulse between the right hand and right foot while playing the 3 pulse with the hi-hat. Then, left hand/left foot eiht the 5 pulses and kick drum with the 3 pulses.

If you can focus for about 2 weeks of practicing this, you will be amazed at the doors that open. And you need a fun warm-up for the wrists, there’s always “Wipeout.” Some classics never lose their value.

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