A 3:2 polyrhythm, often referred to as a hemiola, occurs when you play three equal beats in the space normally occupied by two equal beats. These beats can also occur simultaneously, creating a distinct sound on drums. This simple polyrhythm is shown here:
The 3:2 polyrhythm can be an effective fill in many styles of drumming. This next musical example demonstrates one way to move around the kit while playing the polyrhythm.
Once you master the 3:2 polyrhythm, you can begin to add a variety of rhythm combinations based on the 3:2 structure. The next example demonstrates eighth-note, triplet, and sixteenth-note based polyrhythms. Using the previous example as a model, substitute each measure below as the fill in measure four.
Finally, mixing up the various rhythm combinations provides numerous possibilities for fills. Each measure in the following musical example can be played as a separate fill, or the example can be performed as a whole for an interesting solo. Note that the last two measures lose the steady four beats and the bass drum becomes part of the linear fill for added variety.
Obviously, this is just the start of options regarding use of a simple polyrhythm within a drum set fill context. Hopefully this article sparks an interest for readers to create their own rhythmic ideas, voicings, and applications. Happy drumming!
Andrew Lindroth is a percussionist from Tulsa, Oklahoma. He performs regularly as the house drummer for The River City Players in Tahlequah, Oklahoma and drummer for the pop-punk band Goodfella, who are signed to Here Goes Nothing Records. He earned his BA degree at Northeastern State University in Corporate Communications and a minor in Music Performance. He is employed as a sports writer for Black and Gold Sports, and enjoys a healthy drum studio teaching schedule. Andrew is also in his third year of teaching elementary and middle school percussion at Grandview Public Schools.