Polyrhythm/Polymeter scores?

• Dec 17, 2015 - 03:31

How might I use MuseScore to score compositions with polyrhythms, or more precisely, polymeters?
The staves in such compositions will have different time signatures, yet are played simultaneously.
See the attached excerpt from Dave Stewart's excellent book, "Inside the Music" for further explanation and a few examples of what I'd like to do with MuseScore - if possible.

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Inside Music - Polyrhythms.PDF 102.28 KB


In reply to by Shoichi

Shoichi - I think there's a misunderstanding here.

Dave Stewart in his book talks about a situation where the *pulse* stays the same between the two parts (i.e. the length of each note is exactly the same in both upper and lower parts). Your example doesn't play back correctly because the 5/4 local time signature in the lower stave causes the note values to be "stretched" with respect to the 7/4 global time signature in the upper stave. This creates the equivalent of 5 crotchets in the time of 7 and all the barlines remain aligned (which they wouldn't if the pulse were the same), and that's not what the example meant at all.

However, it is possible to notate and play this back correctly with MuseScore if the parts are written out until both parts re-align (5 bars in the upper part and 7 bars in the lower). Note that I didn't use a local time signature in the lower stave. Instead, I changed the time signature *appearance* to 5/4, hid the barlines and then added mid-measure barlines where you'd expect them if the lower stave were in 5/4 (BTW., this is not my idea - Marc Sabatella explains the process in his book - I just happen to have found it useful once or twice!). This is the first example (below):

The second example (v2) is an attempt to make it look the way you might want it to be printed and yet still have MuseScore play it back correctly:

In reply to by Xasman

Xasman and Shoichi,
Thank you both for your replies!

I have long had an interest in polyrhythm (and what I now know, thanks to Wikipedia, as "polymeter") music, especially as it relates to African drumming patterns, and it is wonderful to know that MuseScore may be used to notate them.

What do the two of you make regarding these Wikipedia articles, which seem to take slightly different approaches to this topic? In the middle of each, there is a section entitled "Cross-Rhythm", but the section is different in each article, as if there was some disagreement between the authors on this.

What is the "book" by Marc Sabatella to which Xasman refers?

In reply to by tomfeledy

@tomfeledy: Could you be more specific? After an admittedly quick read through, I don't see any major disagreements between the cross-rhythm discussions in those two articles; in fact they even both quote the same definition of "cross-rhythm" from the New Harvard Dictionary of Music.

I see Shoichi already pointed you in the right direction for Marc Sabatella's book, which I heartily recommend, by the way...

HI, do hope you'll still see my question after all this time...
I read your answer with much interest, and naturally tried to implement it, but found that I had no notion of how to add bar lines other than by the palette commands. So, how do you do it?
Many thanks,

Has there been any update to this? The piece I'm looking to copy over is Béla Bartók's "Song of the Harvest" which has a couple of spots where Violin I has a measure of 3/4 followed by 2/4 and in the same 5 beats, Violin II has a measure of 2/4 followed by a 3/4. Ideally this is a feature of putting an independent time signature in (with the ctrl/cmd key) and have playback keep a consistent subdivided pulse instead of making a polyrhythmic sound.

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