How To Create Independent Polyrhythms

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Polyrhythm is that device that can invoke two different rhythms at the same time in order to create some tension and they create some compelling sounds with music genres such as rock, metal and some other classical music.

When creating polyrhythms, guitarists will often focus mainly on chops or harmony. With the increasing popularity of polyrhythms in the modern music, they are certainly worth learning or creating as a developing guitarist.

Polyrhythms will require that you play two contrasting rhythms concurrently, and by doing so, you will not derive one rhythm from the other, but you merge the two to derive an entirely new rhythm.

Independent polyrhythm is simply the simultaneous use of two conflicting rhythms that allows you generate an entirely new rhythm. If handled properly, the polyrhythms generated can be used to generate a new music entirely.

You may also use these polyrhythms as momentary disruption to your music, there seem to be no limitation to what you can use them for because of their distinctive sound.

One of the best possible way of learning to create independent polyrhythms is to learn how you can play layered rhythms simultaneously because it helps you feel the rhythms and then weave in and out while improvise your music composition.

Here are some of the best possible tricks to help you unlock independent polyrhythms on your guitar.

Step #1

In Figure 1 below, this is the preliminary warm up that can get your started. You will notice that it starts with a ¾ bass line, then you can add the comping phrase at the top of 4/4. You must notice the area where the beat lands on the superimposed rhythm that is displaced. While on the fourth measure , the upper rhythm will simply land on the lower one.

One of the best tricks you can use in detecting where the two rhythms will end up is to discover the common multiple between the two signatures. You need to ensure that the two rhythms have the same sub-division( for instance both the ¾ and 4/4 , are based on quarter notes).

Keep in mind that the common multiple between 3 and 4 is 12, this simply means it will take up to 12 quarter notes or three measures of the 4/4 to meet on a single beat . Simply try and play out the description aloud , in order to create your independent polyrhythms. You can make use of either the ¾ or 4/4 as your base rhythm, in this situation .


Figure 2 below , shows the comping rhythm within the 4/4 while the ¾ , and this figure represent the final rhythm you will generate from the warm up step .


Step #2

You can take a step further with the addition of an anticipation to the bass note , as shown in figure 3 below. This will create a form of “bossa nova” feel , with the superimposing of ¾ on top. The addition of this bass line anticipation to the melody of your chord, will help create a wonderful illusion of two different independent lines.


Step #3


Take the bass line from figure 2 above, and then view it as a quarter note. In figure 4 below, The phrase at the top comprises of quarter note triplets, thus giving you an exercise of 3:2. Try as much as possible to count the quarter notes loud .

Step #4

You can create an extra challenge by adding another layer (third layer). You can start this on the fifth measure (figure 5). This means you need to accent every of the fifth eight-note in your melody line. This will eventually generate a 5:3:2 rhythm .

This is quite fun, but at the stage you should first isolate the 5 eight –note phrase , first , against the quarter-note triplet, before you isolate it against the quarter note pulse, to generate your three-way Polyrhythm.

You can achieve this by using your right hand picking hand to pluck the high “A” , on your first string. The kind of rhythms you will generate with this technique are super awesome.


Step #5

Creating independent polyrhythm can be a complex but it will be a great benefit once you get the logic immediately. Improvising different melodic lines against a moving bass line will ensure that the whole process becomes much easier .

There are numerous benefits of practicing these various forms of independent polyrhythm especially the fact that there are numerous ideas you can superimpose and combine , in order to get the best result.

The lessons above are the basic, and it is possible to expand on them to generate more complex Polyrhythms. You should try and pick one or two different rhythms, and superimpose them to generate new rhythms entirely.

You don’t have to be a guitar expert in order to create independent polyrhythm. there are guitar beginners who stumble on different polyrhythms by tapping on different chords and superimposing them . once you are able to generate these polyrhythms, you should endeavor to incorporate them into different genres of music , to see how they fit in.

There are some obscure polyrhythms combinations you can save for your private gigs, because they are unique and they cannot be generate easily.

Cross rhythm is a form of polyrhythm whereby the regular accent pattern of the prevailing meter will directly contradict another pattern that results in a momentary displacement of the prevailing meter . This phenomenon can best be described as an interference .

Polyrhythms are combinations that can facilitate your learning of guitar in order to become a professional , the more experiments you make the more dexterous you become, however polyrhythms must not be abuse , and they are best used sparingly. Over-using or over-creating polyrhythms can result in meaningless combinations.

If you are ready to start creating your Polyrhythm tunes, you may want to start with your solo guitar and then listen or watch your favourite guitarist and try to create your own unique blend.

Tony Robbin

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