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Dubspot instructor and course designer Matt Shadetek returns with another episode of Secret Knowledge, a Logic Pro video tutorial series full of production tips, techniques, and advice for Logic users. In this installment, Shadetek explores the concept of polyrhythms using Logic’s ES2 virtual analog synthesizer.
In this tutorial we’re going to do something a little more experimental than we usually do and explore the concept of polyrhythms. I thought this would be a good topic since a lot of people throw this term around without completely understanding the meaning.
A polyrhythm is not any rhythm with a lot going on in it, for example a busy percussion part. A polyrhythm is when we have multiple rhythms existing simultaneously. An example of this would be if a DJ took two songs, one in 6/8 time signature and one in 4/4 and layered them over each other. Overtly polyrhythmic music is not something which we find in a lot of electronic music and in western music in general and so to the untrained ear it can seem quite complex. A way that I find it can be interesting to introduce polyrhythms is to use them on ‘soft’ rhythmic elements, like changes in timbre or pitch. In this example I set up a one note acid-like synth line over a four on the floor beat and then create two patterns. One pattern contains a pitch bend and is five beats long and the other contains a filter tweak and is three beats long. These rhythms loop on their own cycle and create interesting shifting patterns. The 4 beat line and the 5 beat pitch bend coincide every 20 beats (or 5 bars in our drum/acid time signature of 4/4) and the filter tweak coincide every 12 beats (or 3 bars). The entire piece repeats every 15 bars with the first beat of each pattern lining up and restarting. To understand the length of the repetition cycle in a polyrhythmic system you can multiply the length of each cycle by each other, so in this case a 3 and 5 bar cycle create a 15 bar pattern.
Using these kind of simple looping pieces we can create what we call emergent complexity, where simple rules give rise to complex results. What I like about this approach is that although at times the changes may seem unexpected or even random they are being created by a system which can be understood and controlled. – Matt Shadetek
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