Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bag of Tricks: Hemiola (3 : 2)

This is a very fun trick to have in your bag. You can use it all over the place.

A hemiola is simply a figure where three equal notes are played over two equal notes. It's also a handy way to give the feeling of speeding up or slowing down without actually changing the tempo. Hemiola is fairly common in some African traditional music.

We'll think of it in two ways.

Counting in triple meter - 3/4.

And counting in duple meter - in this case, 6/8, but counted as if it were triplets in 2/4 (one-and-ah, two-and-ah, OR one-la-li, two-la-li).

Practice this on two different voices. Even playing your bare hands on your thighs will work. Practice playing it slowly enough times that you start to hear the two hands as separate, distinct voices. It's also fun to remove one voice or the other, switch back and forth, emphasize one or the other, and so on. If you can think of both parts as separate, interdependent voices, you're there.

Really, that's all there is to it. Practice it at various tempi and with various feels, over foot patterns, break it up around various orchestrations or voicings, etc. Once you've got it mastered, listen for appropriate places to use it to enhance your ability to be expressive and musical.

Happy drumming!


  1. Great little pattern! I use it loads changing 6/8 into 3/4, or 6/4 when played over 2 measures .... very effective!!


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