Metric Modulation Simplified
A metric modulation increases or decreases the tempo at what you’re playing, in relation to the note value setting the pulse. You can think of a metric modulation as a rhythmic illusion. This concept is quite common in classical music but has made its way to drum-set playing through guys like Tony Williams and Vinnie Colaiuta. Applying this concept to the drum set can seem quite daunting if not explained correctly. However, through simple methods, Aaron Edgar shows you exactly how to do a metric modulation in this video. If you’re not sure about how to use a metric modulation, you will be after watching this free drum lesson.
A metric modulation can actually change the time signature of what you’re playing. To understand how, play a continuous run of 8th note triplets in 4/4 time with accents on the downbeats. Then, move the accent to each fourth 8th note triplet. If you count the accents against 4/4 time, you’ll notice you’re implying a three-feel. This makes it seem like you’re playing 16th notes in 3/4 instead of 8th note triplets in 4/4. For some cool examples of metric modulations check “All Blues” from A Tribute to Miles (1994) with Tony Williams on drums and “The Lazarus Heart” from Sting’s …Nothing Like the Sun” (1987) with Manu Katché on drums.
The exercise Aaron Edgar uses to teach you how to play a metric modulation is actually a polyrhythm as well. The bass drum pattern that’s played against the 8th note triplets on the cymbal is a 3-over-2 polyrhythm, while the snare pattern played against the 8th note triplets is a 3-over-4 polyrhythm. For developing a good understanding of how polyrhythms work and how to come up with this type of patterns, watch the free drum lesson “What Is A Polyrhythm.” If you’re more interested in checking out Aaron Edgar’s drumming, watch him jam along to The Roots’ “Boom!”