Axe of Creation: At Odd and Unpredictable Times (Part 4)…


What’s going on everybody!? Welcome for another installment of Axe of Creation here at Gear Snobs. Throughout the month of February, we will be taking a look at some Odd Time basics. In this, our fourth part, we will finally learn the difference between Polyrhythms and Polymeters.

Hey Now! Sneaky, sneaky

So last week in Part 3 we looked at combining multiple meters, so let’s to that again but place it against 4/4 to create a “Polymeter”.  As you can see below, I’ve written this riff in 4/4 but take a closer look. You’ll notice that this “phrase” repeats itself beginning on the last eighth note of the first measure. I’ve written in above the music where the exact change is.




This is a classic polymetric idea and you’ve heard it before if you’ve listened to Meshuggah (or watched many of my lessons!) So what’s going on? Simple, I wrote a riff that lasts 7 eighth notes (7/8) then repeat the riff but add to extra notes at the end of the phrase (9/8). Now I’ve successfully combined 7/8 + 9/8 over 4/4. Woohoo, Polymeters! To get the most out of this idea, it usually helps if other band memember or instruments help this rhythmical nonsense. A lot of the time (in Metal music), the kick drum will echo the guitar riff while playing a hard four on a cymbol. This way you can “feel” the syncpoation against a pulse. I’ve written this exampe out in 7/8 + 9/8 so you can visually see it. feb_oddtime_part4_3

Pass The God Damn Butter

So wait, what’s the difference between a polymeter and a polyrhythm? Drumroll……a Polymeter crosses the bar line. It takes more than one measure to fall “back on one” again. Conversely, a polyrhythm is contained within one measure. It’s usually tuplet based or dividing time up equally. Here is the infamous phrase “Pass the God Damn Butter”, which help us see and hear this polyrhythm easily. And what is this Polyrhythm? 4 over 3!


Remember, polyrhythms are two “rhythms” combined. The simplest example is a triplet over eighth notes. I highly recommend counting and clapping that if you’re unfamiliar. If you look closely, you can see the top voice (note) is three Quarter notes and if we play a note every three sixteenth notes (see below), you can see that I have four evenly spaced out hits over the 3/4 quarter pulse. Brillant!  Next step, separate your riffs across your bandmates and have at it.

Till Next Week

Well, that wraps up monthly odd adventure! Hopefully, you now have a deeper understanding of how to play in odd times, combine meters, and delve deep into imagination land with polymeters and polyrhtyhms. I will see you next month as we take on more musical concepts and mold them into usualable chunks of information. Thanks so much and as always, let me know what you come up with!


Gregory Arthur is Axe of Creation, a Gear Snob, and a Father of Two. He challenges you to become uncomfortable with yourself in attempts to gain a new perspective. Never give your energy away to what you’re not. Focus on what resonates within you and bring forth in creation. 

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