In my research on polyrhythms I have discovered the term "nested polyrhythm" with regard to some of Frank Zappa's works. I have not been able to find a clear definition of it or any examples.

Would someone please explain the term to me and show me some scores where they are heavily employed?

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    I posted a question asking about the simplest possible nested polyrhythm - actually nested triplets. See music.stackexchange.com/q/38434/9426 Jan 15, 2019 at 12:52
  • Thank you! Your question doesn't exactly picture a nested polyrhythm, but it does mention the other instruments' parts playing 4/4 straight, which does a good job at explaining to me what it would be like. I am not certain if the score you got from your local composer qualifies as a "nested polyrhythm". Do 2+ voices have to have nested tuplets for the polyrhythm to be considered nested? I don't know. But I don't think it matters. I will try to respond to my own question later and wait for any more input in the meantime.
    – Pyromonk
    Jan 15, 2019 at 13:19

1 Answer 1


Judging by the information Brian has kindly linked me to, the notion of "nested" polyrhythms relies on a tuplet subdivision inside of another tuplet, for example:

Tricky Rhythm

If the second voice were to play straight quarter notes in the second bar, it would create a nested polyrhythm. It is unclear whether both voices need to have nested tuplets for a polyrhythm to be considered "nested", but I assume they don't.

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