Polyrhythm 5:2

A photo of Jeff Queen.

In the third and final installment on polyrhythms, we will discuss the 5 over 2 polyrhythm.

Polyrhythm is defined by “The New Harvard Dictionary of Music” as “the simultaneous use of two or more conflicting rhythms that are not readily perceived as deriving from one another or as simple manifestations of the same meter.”

We typically see the 5 over 2 polyrhythm as 5 eighth notes over 2 quarter notes.

Jeff Queen explains polyrythms.

If you have never seen a fivelet before, here is another way to play the same thing, only in 5/4.

Jeff Queen explains polyrythms.

No fancy phrase can help you express this one, just real-time counting of “1 2 3 & 4 5.”

Jeff Queen explains polyrythms.

In the next example, you can see how this polyrhythm would fall if played out in 5/4 and accenting the eighth notes to get a true feel of how it lays out.

You will notice that you are playing two fivelets, comprised of straight eighth notes with accents at the beginning of each, resulting in accenting beat 1 and the & of 3.

As always, you should work to understand both the 5 side and the 2 side. I would suggest being able to count either side (counting the 5 while playing either rhythm or counting just the 2 while playing the whole thing).

Happy polyrhythm-ing!

About author

Jeff Queen

Jeff Queen has been involved in drum corps since 1989 as a member, technician, caption head, and now judge. Jeff is an original cast member of the award-winning Broadway Show “BLAST!” and is currently the percussion coordinator for Carmel (Indiana) High School, the five-time Bands of America champion. He is also the author of “The Next Level: Rudimental Drum Techniques” and the “Playing with Sticks” instructional DVD.

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