Polyrhythms happen when two different meters or patterns are combined to make a more complex pattern. It’s an old technique, used in traditions all over the world, but West Africa is one of the hotbeds of polyrhythms. You can hear it in most Djembe music, including this modern take below with Nigerian master drummer Baba Ayo Adeyemi.
One way to understand polyrhythms is to mess around with the Polyrhythm Beat Generator. There are lots of pre-sets, but I really like the combination of 1, 3, 4, and 10.
Spice up your practice by creating a polyrhythm, and practicing your scales and scale patterns over it. You’ll be amazed at how much more fun that is than scales alone. Try it!
Before you go mess around, check out this modern interpretation of West African Polyrhythms dating back over 1,000 years. Arranged by Don Swanson and featuring Nigerian master drummer Baba Ayo Adeyemi.
And here’s a great explanation and super playing that goes deeper into polyrhythms from CK Ladzekpo, a teacher (UC Berkeley) and musician from Ghana. If nothing else,check out the crazy interesting bell rhythms they get going at the beginning of video 2.
Thanks to blog.dubspot for the graphic at the top of the post.