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Old 2005-11-17, 02:54
ImBored's Avatar
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Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: UK
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Polyrhythm Writing?

Hi, im just wondering about this. I write guitar parts for my band, and Im also going to do vocals unless a miracle happens, so we're writing lyrics atm and its up to me I guess to come up with rhythms for the vocal lines.

Now, Its death metal; and of course, vocals in DM are used, at best, as a rhythmic tool to enhance the music. I dont, however, want to go the straightforward route of always following the rhythm of the music with my voice, id rather have a polyrhythm going on (voice/guitars [and then factor in keys/drums of course])

So what is the best way to approach writing a rhythm that will compliment an existing rhythm? Are there any tips anyone can offer?

My only thought is, to dissect the parts im singing over, find the strongest beat and emphasis points, and inverting it, so the weak parts of the riff become the strong parts of the vocals. This, in theory, would keep a constant wall of sound going on, shifting emphasis from one layer to another... hmmm.

Any help is appreciated.
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Old 2005-11-17, 05:25
davie_gravy's Avatar
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I read a thread about polyrhythm on this forum somewhere awhile back. Try searching the drum forum. It was packed full of information. Sorry I can't offer more than that.
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Old 2005-11-17, 11:30
johnmansley's Avatar
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There was one in the guitar forum as well, I think.
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Old 2005-12-01, 22:53
New Blood
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
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well, what you are asking seems more like counter part harmony as opposed to polyrhythm. put simply, polyrhythms are more than one time signature going at the same an example drums going at 4/4, guitars going at 5/4, bass going at 6/4, what this will do is cycle through however many number of bars it will take for all of the instruments to sync up on the strong "1" downbeat. check out this link for a more in depth discussion by steve vai.

Old 2006-01-04, 15:12
New Blood
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 11
Identify the riff happening at the time and muck around with the rhythm vocally.

Augment or diminish it (double or half the note values)

Swap it around.

Create an "answer" rhythm to the rhythm of the riff and have them going on simultaneously.

You need to learn about counterpoint to get the possibilities. Go to and examine the fugues. Great stuff for inspiration.

Study fugue form in general as from relatively simple motifs arise some seriously mind warping stuff.

p.s. often polyrhythms (strict definition) are pretty poor sounding unless composed perfectly. I would start with mucking around with syncopation, dotted rhythms, double dotted rhythms before mucking around with simulatenous time signatures.
Old 2006-01-04, 15:59
Brutur's Avatar
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listen to Ram-Zet.... their album Intra is mainly polyrhythmic.... not only the instrumental work, also the vocals are often in a diffrent time signature...

perfect album to listen to if you look for inspiration...
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Old 2006-01-04, 20:13
amerok's Avatar
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the simplest thing to do would be to take subdivisions of the time signature that you are in and keep the same bpm for each rythm. something like 6/8 over 8/8 keeping the bpm the same for each thus both rythms meet on the 1 beat every 3 measures of 8/8.

by using different bpm even something like each measure being both 2/4 and 3/4 sounds awesome. in my opinion doing something with different bpm is much more interesting and notice able.

as for adding vocals... youd have to really emphasize the key signature to get the effect. maybe you could get another intrument in your band to help out with accenting your vocal part so it doesnt sound like chaos
Old 2006-01-12, 18:30
New Blood
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 33
Polyrhythms are playing two different rhythms at the same time. These two rhythms cannot be equally subdivided like playing two 8th notes over four 16th notes. They are more along the lines of playing three 8th notes in the space where five 8th notes occur.

Polymeters are playing two different meters at the same time, for example Meshuggah. Meshuggah doesn't make use of polyrhythms alot. In fact only a couple of their songs actually have polyrhythms in them (I believe Exquisite Machinery of Torture does). Meshuggah is better known for polymeters.

The two may sound similar but in reality they are very different. For example let's say your are in 4/4 time and you play four 8th notes where three should be then follow it up one 8th note, then four 8th notes where three should be then another 8th note. You can put this into powertab if you like to double check me. Polyrhythms are also called irregular rhythms and the button for it in powertab should be right next to the triplet button on the right.

Either with polyrhythms or polymeters you will need something to contrast the backing rhythm. If you would like to get some musical examples of polyrhythms check our Nicholas Slonimsky's Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic patterns. Steve Vai uses this book for ideas and such, as well as Buckethead, John Coltrane, and myself.

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