Quintuplets: Grasping A Concept

A few months ago, a student of mine asked me to figure out what time signature a section of a Jacob Collier song was in. First and foremost, if you are not familiar with Jacob Collier, you need to go on what I refer to as a “YouTube vortex” and discover this amazingly talented young artist. The first song I would recommend you listen to is “Don’t You Worry Bout A Thing” by Stevie Wonder. It gives a good overview of what Jacob is all about.

The song that this particular student had a question about is actually an original of Jacobs called “Hideaway.” Two minutes and 26-seconds into the piece, I thought that I was listening to something written in five. On further listening, I realized he was playing quintuplets, but also that the shaker part was playing quintuplets in groups of three. The shaker part gives it an over-the-bar line shuffle feel. And as complex as this section is, it really does groove.

Once I grasped what he was doing all I could think was, “How did he come up with that?” I know we are talking about some pretty heady stuff here, but let’s try to wrap our brains around 30 seconds of it. Consider this momentary journey into Jacob Collier’s brain an ear-training exercise.

I have separated out the udu and shaker parts he is playing below. Under that, you’ll find a few exercises to help you understand the feel of quintuplets. Start playing these by tapping your feet to quarter notes. Then make them harder by tapping your feet to eight notes.

The ability to comfortably play quintuplets is the first step to grasping what Jacob is doing here. And if you’re up for a challenge, try playing the shaker part on high hat and the udu parts on bass drum and snare.

Now I’m sure many of you are saying, “I would never use that in a worship situation.” And you’re right, but think about how much better those eight-note and sixteenth-note grooves will feel once you have mastered quintuplets.

For further investigation, search for Anika Nilles – Exploring Quintuplets. I think you will enjoy the cool drumming this young woman does using these groups of five.

All of the above said, let’s embrace the challenge of a new rhythmic concept and use that to motivate us in our practice rooms.

Blessings,  David

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