Essential Polymeter Studies In 4/4


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“I’d been frustrated with how predictable my phrasing had become when I played a solo, always seeming to start and stop in the same places over a set of changes, no matter what tune I was blowing over. I knew that I needed to do something to break out of this, but didn’t know what that would be, or where to even start. Then I came across Bill Plake’s Essential Polymeter Studies in 4/4. I could immediately see how it could help me. It neatly lays out the work I need to do in a logical order. The exercises are fun, and melodic, and really get into my ear! I’m already beginning to feel and hear my phrases in whole new ways. It’s like my playing is being reborn. It’s a lot of work, and I have a ways to go, but it is so worth the effort!”

– Kevin Fetts, Trumpet, San Jose, CA

“After years of looking online for interesting and inspiring ways to advance as a musician I finally found a great resource in Bill Plake’s books (I have three of them). My favourite so far is the Essential Polymeter Studies in 4/4 – this book is the only resource I have found that effectively and methodically teaches how to work on polymetric playing.”

– Nicolas Hernandez, Flamenco Guitarist, Maple, Ontario, Canada

“When you listen to the jazz greats, their harmonic styles can be completely different from each other.  One element they have in common is their mastery of rhythm.  Essential Polymeter Studies in 4/4 is a book that deals with rhythm as it relates to musical form.  It starts at a basic level, helping you to hear 3/4 and 4/4 simultaneously. But it gets much more complex and challenging.  These techniques have been fundamental components of the music of players as diverse as Lester Young and Steve Coleman.  I would consider this book essential for anyone serious about improving their improvising.”

Steve Peterson, Multi-instrumentalist, Salt Lake City, Utah

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For all treble clef instruments. Downloadable in pdf format, 165 pages. Price: $14.00

Here is a jazz method book that deals directly and extensively with rhythm and time, and with a specific skill that is too often overlooked in studying jazz improvisation.

Both polyrhythm and polymeter have been part of the jazz language from the beginning. Whearas polyrhythm involves playing (or implying) two or more distinct beats simultaneously (e.g., three beats against two, as in the case of an eighth note triplet being played against two regular eighth notes), polymeter involves implying two or more metric subdivisions at the same time (e.g., 5/4 over 4/4).

One of the staples of the jazz sound is this juxtaposition of meter, as it enhances the feeling of syncopation that is at the heart of the swing feel. It creates a friction, sort of an energy and tension that invites resolution. From the very beginning of the jazz tradition, through the bebop revolution and all the way to the most sophisticated artists improvising today, polymeter is interwoven into the jazz language.

This book is a methodical approach to the most common polymetric subdivisions in 4/4 time, as they apply to improvisation: 3/4 (and 3/8); 5/8 (and 5/4); 7/8 (and 7/4). It is filled with nearly 150 pages of notated practical exercises, along with clearly written instructions. With this book you’ll:

  • Establish a clear understanding of basic odd-metered subdivision cycles over 4/4, and how these cycles return to their starting point.
  • Increase your confidence and improve your ability to improvise in odd meters.
  • Deepen your sense of structure and form as you improvise over chord changes (and other closed-ended forms).
  • Develop more tools to create tension and release as you improvise, through time, feel and rhythm.
  • Broaden your rhythmic imagination in both odd and even meters as you improvise.
  • Discover suprisingly new ways to re-organize the harmonic/melodic materials you already know.
  • Improve your rhythmic sight reading, and your time.
  • Fundamentally transform your phraseology when improvising in any idiom.

I’ve written the material in this book with the intermediate to advanced jazz musician in mind (assuming a working knowledge of the most fundamental melodic and harmonic material of modern jazz). Nearly all the exercises are written out in all twelve keys.

For all treble clef instruments. Downloadable in pdf format, 165 pages. Price: $14.00

Click the links below for a pdf  SAMPLE EXERCISE from the book, and for a midi sound file of the exercise for you to listen to:

Essential Polymeter Studies In 4/4 sample-pdf

Essential Polymeter Studies In 4/4 sample-midi

If you’d like to gain more of an idea about the concept, format, benefits and practice guidelines found in the book, click the link below for a pdf copy of the INTRODUCTION CHAPTER:

Essential Polymeter Studies In 4/4 Introduction Chapter-pdf

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If you have any questions about the material in this book, or are having problems downloading the pdf, please contact me. I’ll get back to you promptly. Thanks!