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I'm having difficulty performing these series of triplets in tandem with my eighth notes? Does anyone know any cues or practice I can do to learn? I'm thinking I should try to just aim to aim to time the notes to "hit" after 2 beats, where they meet. Thanks.

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  • One can count it – the second eight note is exactly in the middle between the second and third triplet. However first let's clarify the most important: are you sure the left hand is playing straight eighth notes, or perhaps it's playing swinged eighth notes in triplet feel (in which case the second eight note would be played with the third triplet note)? What composition is it? Jun 14 at 1:55
  • See also: music.stackexchange.com/a/45828/63781 Jun 14 at 1:58

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Here are a few step by step exercises that you can try. If you feel that some are too basic you can skip them, of course, although I find that overall this process provides a good foundation to the end result.

  1. With the metronome in 60 bpm:
  • Tap a binary division with your hand (1 2 with 1 with every beat of the metronome).
  • Tap a ternary division (1 2 3 with 1 with every beat of the metronome).
  • When you can do the previous steps regularly and relaxed, alternate continuously between the binary and ternary division every few "bars" (first, say, every 4 bars, then every 2 bars, then every other bar).
  1. Repeat the previous exercise, but tapping the metronome beat with one hand and the divisions with the other hand. Exchange hands. When you can do it regularly and relaxed, do it without the metronome.

These first two exercises will help feel the binary and ternary divisions. The following exercise will train your ear to the 2/3 polyrhythm:

  1. Put the metronome in 120 and tap the ternary division at the SAME tempo as before when the metronome was at 60 bpm. So, 1 2 3 with 1 with every other beat of the metronome. Again, do this until you do it fluently. If you have to go back to 60 bpm to tap the ternary division regularly, do it. When you can tap the ternary division superimposed with the binary division of the metronome, listen to the rhythmic pattern that's being produced.

Now put the metronome at 180 and tap the binary division at the SAME tempo as before (1, 2 with 1 at every 3 beats of the metronome). Again, when you can tap the binary division superimposed with the ternary division of the metronome, listen to the rhythmic pattern that's being produced.

Finally, let's do the polyrhythm:

  1. Put the metronome at 60 bpm. Start for example with the binary division on your right hand and the ternary on your left (could be the other way around, but since that's how your piece is...) and try to tap both hands each with their respective division. The auditory memory of how the polyrhythm sounds will be of great help in this. Your ear will help you even if your hands may not want to in the beginning.

When you can do it regularly and relaxed, do it without the metronome.

Now you can do it on the piano: choose any two keys and play the 2/3 polyrhythm with your index fingers. Always keep relaxed and try to keep the regularity of the pattern. Change fingers and play note series or small improvisations always maintaining the 2/3 polyrhythm, .e.g something like this (it's just an example):

enter image description here

By now you should be able to play the 2/3 polyrhythm in your sleep, so you can focus on the technical aspects of the piece. But you may want to repeat some of the previous exercises at the same exact tempo as you'll have in the piece, before actually going back to it, as this will give the memory of how the polyrhythm should sound and feel in the piece.

I would also suggest to momentarily practice a couple of any two bars where this texture occurs, without the octaves in the right hand (so playing the right hand like a single note melody). This will allow you to focus on the rhythm when joining hands and making sure that that each hand is doing the subdivision in a even manner. So play these bars and listen to what's being played (recording yourself is a good idea), making sure that each note on either hand is rhythmically even and the overall 2/3 polyrhythm is there.

As the work on the piece progresses, there will be a tendency to make the rhythm uneven, specially in the ternary part, the left hand in this case, when there are technical difficulties. So you'll have to keep attentive and once you feel that the technical difficulty is overcome, listen to the overall rhythm and to what each hand is doing to make sure that each division is even.

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  • A typical advice for learning 2/3 polymeter is to first learn the whole structure linearly as a single voice, and only then learn to hear it as two separate voices. You can see examples in the duplicated linked questions. You don't mention it. Does it mean you specifically oppose this method of learning? Why? Jun 14 at 2:45
  • No, I don't oppose :-), I agree that the auditory memory of how the polyrhythm sounds "linearly" is an essential part of learning it, as emphasized throughout my suggested approach (e.g. step 3). But it's easier if you're already familiarized with different time divisions anyway both auditorily and physically, and that's the purpose of the first steps I propose (which can be skipped if not necessary). Jun 14 at 3:22
  • Thank you so much for the advice.
    – chron1cle
    Jun 14 at 4:23

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