How would you go about executing the rhythm pattern in bar 15 of Frank Zappa's "The Black Page #2"?

"The Black Page #2" mm. 13 – 17

"The Page" is in 4/4 time; how does one practice making 13 regular strokes within 4 beats? Executing thirteen (or 11, or 7, or 5) regular strokes in one beat is quite easy, but distributing these 13 strokes over 4 beats, I can't imagine how to do it properly.

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  • 1
    The same learning technique is discussed in How can I count 17 against 3 polyrhythm?.
    – Aaron
    Apr 8, 2022 at 11:25
  • Yes, absolutly it does, thank you. So in my case, starting from 13 against 1 which is easy, I should count and have a stroke on just one count every four to get a 13 against 4 rhythm pattern. In therry it sounds good, but in practice not so easy... I wonder if a best way of executing 13 against 4 would not be the following : start from the easier 13 against 1, and just do it 4 times slower by "feeling". I think this could be achieved by practising thousands of times the following :
    – huurd
    Apr 8, 2022 at 12:30
  • start from a simple rhythmic pattern in a given tempo, and execute the same pattern twice as fast, 4 times faster and twice as slow, 4 times slower, within the same basic pulse. Then go for the same with more and more complex rythmic patterns thousands of times, in order to aqcuire the "intuitive sense" of executing the same pattern twice or 4 times faster and slower. Once this "feeling" is automatised in the brain, it should be applied easily to execute "intuitively" 13 against 2 or 13 against 4, starting from 13 against 1, without having to make those horrible countings.
    – huurd
    Apr 8, 2022 at 12:30
  • 1
    You can subdivide 1 into 13 easily? I sure can't. I would approach this as "Well, if this were 12 notes, they'd just be triplets. In fact, I was just playing triplets before this. So just go 'a tiny bit faster.'" I might even intentionally practice three groups of triplets plus one of sixteenths, then try to "equalize" the groups more. I would not focus on being aware of the polyrhythmic interplay of these notes with the four beats of the measure; i.e. I wouldn't focus on [anything] against [anything], just on [something] within [something]. Apr 8, 2022 at 14:50
  • 1
    @Andy : yes, I think one of the aspects of that piece is a game Zappa played between 11 -12 -13, since other bars are displaying 11 within 4, and other regular triplets (3x4=12).
    – huurd
    Apr 8, 2022 at 15:24

1 Answer 1


You say you can execute 13 regular strokes within 1 beat quite easily. Thus, try treating all 4 beats of the usual measure as 1 giant mega-beat instead, and then execute all 13 strokes within that. (Spacing out all 13 strokes properly within that one slow mega-beat might be a little intimidating.)

  • Yes you're right, but two problems I see with that way of doing : first, that "mega beat" is at very slow tempo, and the slower the tempo, the more difficult to execute accurately a tuple. And second, if the drummer go on marking the basic pulse, you will be easily disturbed executing this 13-uplet, since 13 is a prime number and therefore none of the notes of the tuplet will correspond with any of the intermediate pulses done by the drummer. So I think that is not so easy as you say unfortunately.
    – huurd
    Apr 8, 2022 at 12:37
  • 1
    @huurd - My natural instinct just now was still to mega-beat the 13-tuplet just now, except with 2 underlying mega-beats instead of 1. I still think the mega-beat is one of the best strategies for this if you want a competent version of the tuplet fast.
    – Dekkadeci
    Apr 8, 2022 at 14:51
  • And I guess by the time I was done writing my comment I realized that Dekkadeci pretty much says the same thing. So yeah, I'd use some of my suggestions as initial "crutches" to help you get to this point: Start by subdividing "wrongly," like triplets plus 16ths, or inaccurately, like "triplets but a bit faster," until you get the feel for it, and once you do, try to totally ignore the drum and focus on the mega-beat, however slow it is. Apr 8, 2022 at 14:52

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