UPTEMPO HEMIOLAS

One interesting way that jazz drummers develop a personal style is in their approach to repetition. For example, Bill Stewart’s comping style employs lots of repeated patterns, often strung together into longer phrases or hemiolas, where the repeated pattern bears some kind of “odd” relationship to time. Regardless of how often one likes to deploy these kinds of looping, consistent repetitions, developing an arsenal of hemiolas is useful not only for building vocabulary, but also for breaking up the standard timekeeping pattern. This can be particularly helpful (and groovy) at higher tempos, where our endurance is tested. Breaking up the ride cymbal gives you a bit of a rest, while also pushing the music in new directions, building tension or creating a sense of abstract space.

Below I’ve typed up a series of hemiolas that sound good at a faster clip, along with some suggestions for practicing. The exercises fall into and are representative of two broad categories: the first are comping patterns that take place while the ride cymbal continues keeping time. The second are more like “fills” that interrupt the ride cymbal. The challenge with the latter category is to hear the odd groupings and to “come out” of the pattern back on beat, returning to the ride cymbal without getting lost. All of the exercises can be put through various permutations, or mixed and matched together.

Check them out here:

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