In this etude I take a common melodic pattern and organize it into a 7/8 pattern which fits into four measures of 4/4. The melody is constructed of eighth notes and sixteenths:
Each 7/8 cycle contains two secondary triads in a major key (C major, above). The rhythmic pattern here is five eighth notes, followed by two sixteenth notes, followed by one eighth note. After transposing the pattern into F major, I then transpose the pattern again into Bb major, but displace the sixteenth notes, moving them a half beat earlier in each measure:
Now, the rhythmic pattern of each 7/8 cycle is comprised of four eighth notes, followed by two sixteenths, followed by two eighth notes. I continue this displacement every other key (moving through all twelve keys) bringing the sixteenth notes a half beat earlier in the pattern each time.
Make sure you use a metronome clicking in 4/4 as you practice this exercise. Play with a straight feel several times to begin, then play with a swing feel. The aim is to learn to feel the metric tension between 7/8 and 4/4 as you remain aware of where the downbeat of beat one is in each measure. Practicing exercises such as this one will strengthen your sense of time and form, as well as significantly expand your rhythmic imagination and vocabulary. If you’d like to explore polymeter more thoroughly, please consider my book, Essential Polymeter Studies in 4/4 for the Improvising Musician.
Click the links below to download the pdf of this etude and to hear a midi version of it: