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In this lesson I'm going to show you a piece I played back in high school for my Year 12 final exam. It's "Wilcoxen's 139th" from the Charlie Wilcoxen book, "All American Drummer". I think it demonstrates another direction you can take Metric Modulations in, quite well.

With a Metric Modulation (MM) you're implying a 2nd time signature over the top of the original, to create a rhythmic illusion and draw the listener into that illusion. With a lot of MM's you stop playing the original time in order to help facilitate the strength of the implied time, to the ear. You can however keep both time signatures going at the same time, by playing one time signature with your hands, and one with your feet. Ultimately you hear some really interesting phrases happen over the top of one another, as both time signatures unfold in different directions, yet they are still rhythmically related.

Wilcoxen's 139th is a 16 bar snare solo in 6/8 time. I divide the solo into 4 x 4 bar sections, and in each section I introduce a new foot ostinato pattern between the bass and hihats. This is what is being played in each section (I have just written 8th notes on the snare line to show how the implied idea relates to 6/8 time. Obviously the snare solo is more complex than this).

I start by keeping it really simple. This ostinato is a very common pattern to play in 6/8, it clearly places the downbeats on the bass drum, and the in between 8th notes as hihat chicks. This helps establish the 6/8 feel from which the rest of the patterns will be built upon.

SECTION 2 OSTINATO: Here we introduce the polyrhythm with the hihat, playing a hihat splash on every 2nd 8th note. Use the heel/toe technique for this. This rhythm will become our secondary pulse. We also add in a 32nd note triplet on the bass drum before each pulse.

SECTION 3 OSTINATO: This is where we actually build the 2nd time signature. The reason why the hihat splash rhythm above is considered the "secondary pulse", is because it is a consistent number of subdivisions away from the previous and next splash (always 2). Because this is an even pulse, we can build a new time signature from it.

We will now interpret every 4 splashes and their in between hihat chicks as 4/4 time, as follows..

In order to solidify the new 4/4 time signature in the listeners ear, you can play repetitive 4/4 patterns against the hihat splash pulse. Here we will play an alternating 3, 2 son clave, 3, 2, rhumba clave pattern, repeated.

To the listeners ear, it would sound like this..

But it would actually be written out, or played in 6/8, like this..

The notes in green above are the downbeats where the new clave rhythm starts. The green 8th rest at the end is where the new Son clave would re start the 2 clave cycle. If we were to write out 2 full cycles (Son, Rhumba, Son, Rhumba), it would look like this..

Once again the green notes are the start of each new clave rhythm and the green rest at the end is where the 3rd Son clave would start.

The only difference in section 4 was I used to play that final 4 bars around the kit instead of just the snare. However, I've completely forgotten what I used to play, so this time I just kept it on the snare!


I hope that all made sense. Again, this is just another direction you can take and think about, Metric Modulations. There are other ways as well.

Some of you reading this lesson or watching the video may be thinking, "Err, ok its great to know all this but when would I ever actually need to play it?". Great question! Possibly never? It all depends on the style(s) of music you like to play and listen to. In many styles/gigs you will likely never come across advanced concepts like polyrhythms, metric modulations etc. If you're playing in a 3 chord rock band for instance, chances are you won't need to know this.

If however you are into Funk Fusion, Jazz Fusion, Prog Rock, Modern Jazz, Electric Jazz, Avant Garde etc, concepts like this are normal. The crucial thing is having the musical maturity to know when to use these ideas and when not to. That's an entire new discussion/lesson though.. Cya!




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