Polyrhythm lesson

This lessons groove is built upon a ‘4 over 5’ polyrhythm in 5/4 timing. It’s good to note that the first number, in this case 4 is called the “Secondary” and the following number is the “Primary”. Throughout this lesson we will take a polyrhythmic skeleton (Ex .1), and build upon it step by step to achieve a really fun, impressive sounding groove that can be used in a multitude of situations.


As previously mentioned, exercise 1 is the polyrhythmic skeleton of this groove, and the first step is to become comfortable and confident playing through this initial idea.

Ex .1skeliton

Next were going to split the groove into semi-quavers and achieve 4 groups of 5 by using the sticking L-R-L-R-R. Make sure to pay particular attention to the cowbell using the left hand on the 1st and 3rd semi-quaver of each group.

Ex .2Groove split to groups

This next exercise displays the addition of a bass drum played on each crochet beat.

Ex .3groups withh bass drum

We then take away the snare strokes, leaving the bass drum on each crochet beat and the cowbell still playing on the 1st and 3rd semi-quaver of each group.

Ex .4cow bell and bass drum

When successful with the previous exercises the next step is to familiarise yourself with this quaver based idea. This is played only using the bass drum and right hand, leaving the left hand free for the future addition of the cowbell. Note that the pattern takes 2 bars to resolve; playing this way gives the listener the illusion of a 4/4 time signature.

Ex. 5hi hat grrove

Finally, we take our 2 bar pattern from exercise 5 and add the cowbell using our left hand strokes covered earlier (Ex .4).

Ex .6finshed groove

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this lesson and have learned some valuable skills, not only the final groove but also utilising this process to create your own polyrhythmic patterns. Remember to start slowly, gradually building speed and always practise to a metronome.

See you next time, Happy Drumming!

PDF: 4 over 5 polyrhythm