Polyrhythmic Dexterity Workout

Here's a piano exercise I devised to practice two skills at once:

  • Increase implicit awareness of different subdivision possibilities. When improvising over a 4/4 texture, you can quickly find the quarter note and eighth note triplets. You can also hear 4:3 groupings as hemiolas that resolve after three bars rather than dotted eights and quarters. Or, when improvising in 3/4, you can quickly superimpose a 4-beat pulse (as in the Miles version of "Footprints").
  • Solidify muscle memory of interval distances. The pattern, mirrored in the left and right hands, incorporates every commonly used extension of the thumb and digits.

By playing the left and right hands in low and high octaves respectively, you also get a nice arm stretch in.

You can grab the PDF here. The trickiest part is switching back and forth between letters B and C—practice it carefully!