Improv Column: Terry Seabrook’s Jazz Tip of the Month No. 23
Jazz is very polyrhythmic and often has 2 and 3 beats running simultaneously against each other creating an interesting polyrhythm. Drummers do this all the time!
Here is a quick way to play or clap 2 against 3 using the mnemonic ‘Nice cup of tea’.
We’ll start with the groups of 3 beats:
To clap the groups of 3 beats, say and clap “One- Two – Three” evenly over and over :
Still making the three beat sound (ie: same rhythm or beat) Say the mnemonic "Nice Cup Of Tea" over and over with the emphasis on Nice (1) Cup (2) Tea (3) while clapping
i.e. The 3 beats are on now on "Nice" , "Cup" and "Tea":
To clap groups of 2 beats, say and clap “One, Two & Three” but clap on the “One” and the “&” :
And now using our mnemonic, to clap 2, the 2 beats are on "Nice" and "of":
Try alternating the count with the mnemonic (still with just the groups of 2 beats):
Now we are going to try alternating the group of 3 beats with the group of 2 beats. To make it easier we do each group twice before switching. So say: “One, two, three, One, two, three; One, two & three, One, two & three” and then clap and say:
And the same with our mnemonic:
Here comes the really hard bit. We are now going to try the group of 2 and group of 3 at the same time. This is done by tapping the 3 beat group on your left leg while tapping the 2 beat group on your right leg. You can recite the counts (One two & three) or the mnemonic (Nice cup of tea):
The two hands only coincide on beat one (i.e. on "Nice")
Can you do it? If not then try by alternating the two hands/legs.
When you’ve got it switch the LH and RH around so the RH is now doing 3 beat groups and the LH is doing 2 beat groups.
When you’ve got it (or start going crazy) go and make yourself a real cup of tea but don't try clapping while drinking!