This is a sample from my eBook, Essential Polymeter Studies In 4/4 For The Improvising Musician. In this etude I create a pattern based upon a slight inversion of the secondary 7th chords from melodic minor scales. This particular pattern is a five-beat pattern (5/4) that is played and written over 4/4. In essence, I’ve put two 5/8 patterns back to back to create a 5/4 pattern. See the example below:
I start on the tonic, inverting the chord (C – Maj7) in a 1-3-7-5 pattern for five two and half counts (including the eighth rest). The next chord (D-7) also takes up two and a half counts. Then the pattern continues, displacing itself throughout the rest of the measures until the end. The pattern has a beautiful, angular contour and has some challenging intervallic leaps. Make sure you practice this with a metronome in 4/4 (clicking on beats one and three, or beat one only) to get you to hear and feel the polymeter.
The goal is to be able to always know where “one” is in each measure as you feel the odd time pattern. I’ve written it out in all 12 keys. Feel free to reverse the pattern (descending from high to low) when you know this one well. If you like the sound of this particular pattern and would like to delve more deeply into melodic minor scale work, take a look at my book, Melodic Minor Scale Jazz Studies: Tonal Organizations and Applications Over Dominant 7th Chords.
Working in polymeter will not only strengthen your sense of time and form, but also, will improve and expand your improvisational vocabulary by getting you to think of new ways to organize and express the harmonic/melodic material you already know.
Click the links below to download the pdf of this etude and to hear a midi version of it: