How to Write Polymeter DRUMS
Step 1. Kick in 7
The new Periphery single “Atropos” (from the album Periphery V: Djent Is Not a Genre) opens with a classic djent polymeter, which we love! Staying true to Meshuggah’s original polymeter recipe, the kick is in odd time while the snare and cymbals are in 4|4. So, start by programming a one-bar kick rhythm in 7|8. And just cos you’re in 7|8, doesn’t mean you have to only use 1/8 notes, so change your grid to 1/16 notes. By the way, the tempo is 80 BPM.
Once you’re happy with your kick rhythm, copy and paste it over four bars of 4|4. At the end of your 4-bar loop, you’ll notice that you can’t fit a full bar of 7|8. Don’t worry, that’s part of the fun of playing these polymeters. Simply chop off whatever doesn’t fit of your 7|8 rhythm. In fact, that’s how you get those abrupt-sounding loops that are one of the main characteristics of djent polymeters.
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Step 2. Snare in 4
This is the easy and fun part! Start by playing a crash on every 1/8 note. This keeps the pulse and lays your 4|4 foundation. Then for momentum and to give the djent kids something to shake their heads to, throw in a regular backbeat snare, which is on beat 2 and beat 4. Right, now you’ve got a polymeter! But, there’s more.
Periphery’s drummer Matt Halpern does this really cool thing that most people won’t even notice. Where the kick and snare overlap in bar 2 beat 4, he moves that kick a 1/16 note earlier. This tiny variation makes the repeating 7|8 rhythm less obvious, which melts the two time signatures together a little bit. Small tweak, but it’s super creative!
Next, throw in some accents on a second crash (or china). You can do whatever you want here as your polymeter is already established. We accented the first beat in every bar of 7|8 with a china, as well as beat 3 in every bar of 4|4. This further melts the two time signatures together. And lastly, a little kick and snare variation at the end of the loop will act as a mini-fill to transition back around to the beginning.
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