Not Rushing Madly Enough
October 20, 2008 9:11 AM   Subscribe

Piano-Playing-filter: I am having trouble playing a double rhythm against a triple rhythm.

I am trying to learn Philip Glass' Mad Rush. It requires me to play 8 eighth notes per measure in my left hand against 4 eight note triplets in my right hand. I have never really played anything like this before and I am not having a lot of success. I have tried slowing it way down; I have tried playing the left hand and just counting triplets against it but even that seems tricky.

Any advice on how to "get" this, or even how to fake it pretty well?
posted by wittgenstein to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I used to have trouble with triplets as well. I stumbled upon a site about african polyrhythms once at random, and I haven't had trouble since. Just train yourself to do 2 against 3 over and over until it comes naturally, then the triplet problem just becomes an overall tempo issue.

This is the first thing that popped up for me and it has a midi file near the end.
posted by ctmf at 9:26 AM on October 20, 2008

I always think of the rhythm of Carol of the Bells.

"Hark how the bells
sweet silver bells
all seem to say
throw cares away"

Tapping it out is a good exercise. Just hit your hands on your thighs to the rhythm (no notes or fingerings to hold you back). One side does the triplets and the other does the eighths.
For some reason I can effortlessly tap out triplets on my right hand while my left does eighth notes. To switch it I really need to concentrate and force my hands to mimic the rhythm. Maybe experiment and see if one side is easier than the other and use that as a basis to switch it up.
posted by simplethings at 9:27 AM on October 20, 2008

Carol of the Bells is a basic 3/4 and doesn't contain a rhythm like the one the OP is asking about.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:42 AM on October 20, 2008

Yes, but tap your left hand on 'hark' and 'the', but tap your right on 'hark,' 'how,' and 'bells'.

I can't switch hands without a great effort either. I can start either way, but once I've started, can't switch.
posted by ctmf at 9:47 AM on October 20, 2008

Just scads and scads of practice. That's all I did in my piano days, but practice enough and you eventually can pull off things like the bridge in Billy Joel's "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" (16th-note octaves on the right hand, 32nd notes on the left) or Genesis's "Turn It On Again" (which is in 13/8 time).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:49 AM on October 20, 2008

A piano friend of mine taught me the "not DIF-fi-CULT" rhythm, which works exactly the same way as simplethings' suggestion of "carol of the Bells" but is much more ironic.
posted by Planet F at 9:51 AM on October 20, 2008

I swear that my link was to this.
posted by ctmf at 10:23 AM on October 20, 2008

For this kind of pattern, just remember the second eighth note in a single beat comes between the second and third notes of the triplet rhythm.

Unison-left-right-left // Unison-left-right-left // Unison-left-right-left // Unison-left-right-left
posted by NemesisVex at 11:59 AM on October 20, 2008

I've tried to write out below how I count this but the spacing is overruled in the posting. However, hopefully the below is legible otherwise I can write it out differently. The first line is the counting pattern, the second and third lines are the right and left hands lined up against their respective measure count. (Ignore the dashes, they're just to line the lines up properly).

1+ 2 + 3+ 1+ 2 + 3+ 1+ 2 + 3+ 1+ 2 + 3+
L - L - L - L - L - L - L - L - L - L - L - L -

Basically, I count [1-and-2-and-3-and], and the right hand plays on the [1] and the second [and] beat, and the left hand plays on [1 ] [2 ] and [3 ]. After you count this for a while, you will be able to speed it up and also get a feel for how the rhythm works so you will no longer have to count.
posted by lemonade at 12:03 PM on October 20, 2008

A supplement to the rhythms mentioned above that helps some people when they are just getting started is to count a steady 3/4 rhythm like this:
 1 & 2 & 3 & 1 & 2 & 3 & 1 etc.
(say, aloud and rhythmically, 1 and 2 and 3 and )

Once you have this steady rhythm going (counting it out loud), then add the rhythmic pattern, which you will patsch your with hands on your legs in this pattern:
1 & 2 & 3 & 1 & 2 & 3 & 1 etc.
B   R L R   B   R L R   B
B = both hands
R = right hand
L = left hand

Start this very slowly and then as you get the hang of it, gradually increase the tempo.

Once you've got that, then leave out the "extra" syllables so you are counting and patsching, in the correct rhythm
1   2 & 3   1   2 & 3   1 etc.
B   R L R   B   R L R   B
This allows you to go even faster, so practice until you're comfortable doing so.

(Of course this rhythm is the same as both "Hark how the bells" and "Not dif-fi-cult" mentioned above, so you can use those or any words with a similar rhythm instead of 1 2&3.)

Once you've got that, then slow it back down & switch hands so you are doing:
B   L R L   B   L R L   B etc.
Once you can do it with either hand & at a decent tempo, that's it--you've got it down.

As someone mentioned above, it's far easier & more effective to practice rhythms with large muscles (arms patsching rather than merely fingers moving as when playing the piano). Once you have it down with the larger muscle groups it's easy to transfer the rhythm to to piano.
posted by flug at 12:05 PM on October 20, 2008

Lemonade's way of writing this is
1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 +
R     R     R     R     R     R     R     R 
L   L   L   L   L   L   L   L   L   L   L   L   
(BTW the trick to keeping the spacing is to use the <pre> and </pre> tags.)
posted by flug at 12:13 PM on October 20, 2008

I learned how to snap it in order to play the rhythm that you are talking about. I'm still hopeless with anything involving, say, four against three instead of two against three, but I'm hopeful.
posted by greekphilosophy at 1:36 PM on October 20, 2008

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