This is an excerpt from my e-book, Essential Polymeter Studies in 4/4 for the Improvising Musician. In this etude I use very simple and familiar diatonic melodic patterns (major and melodic minor), adding rhythmic tension and interest by organizing them assymetrically to imply various odd meters. Take a look at the example below:
In this four-measure melodic pattern, I organize the C major scale in ascending secondary seventh chords, starting on A min7, moving to G7. It is a four-note pattern, implying a 2/4 (or 4/4) metric organization and pulse. But in the second measure, I alter the pattern by repeating the last two notes of the F maj7 arpeggio, thus creating a 3/4 subdivision. I follow this by returning to the 2/4 subdivision (E min7 arpeggio), then immediately return to the 3/4 subdivision on on the 2nd beat of the third measure (D min7 arpeggio), and finish the line by returning again to the 2/4 subdivision (C maj7 arpeggio).
This simple technique of repeating elements of the four-note pattern”turns the time around” and creates a beautiful and powerful rhythmic tension, really embodying the swing feeling in jazz. It is a technique used by jazz artists as diverse as Lester Young, Stan Getz , Thelonious Monk and Mark Turner, to name just a few.
In this particular etude, I offer twelve different melodic patterns, each four bars in length, following the circle of keys, but going from major to minor. (C major, to F minor, to Bb major, to Eb minor, etc.) The melodic shapes of the patterns are simple, based on seconds and thirds. I’ve put in accent marks to make it visually more clear where the rhythmic subdivisions are. Practice the patterns with your metronome clicking first on beats one and three, and then again on beats two and four, in order get a sense of the rhythmic tension and release. If you’d like to explore this and other kinds of polymeter in jazz improvisation, please consider my highly comprehensive and methodical e-book, Essential Polymeter Studies in 4/4 for the Improvising Musician. Click the link below to get a free downloadable pdf of this etude: