Lesson and video by Stewart Jean

This lesson presents a way to hint at a change in feel and also a way to travel seamlessly and musically from 4/4 rock to a traditional 12/8 feel. This requires using the eighth-note as our vehicle.

Start by playing a basic rock feel at 90 bpm in 4/4 (Ex. 1). The quarter-note gets the beat and there are four beats to each measure. The hi-hat maintains a steady pulse of eighth-notes, the snare drum is on beats 2 and 4, while the bass drum plays on 1, the & of 2 and the downbeat of 3.


To create the illusion of a feel change you can alter the placement of the bass drum and snare drum to land on every third eighth-note as opposed to every other eighth-note. To avoid falling for your own illusion you must make sure to continue to count in the same manner as you do in bars one through five. This illusion occurs in the last three bars of an eight-bar phrase. Repeat Ex. 2 as an eight-bar loop.


Once you are comfortable with Ex. 2 you can use the following two methods to deepen your understanding and command of this superimposed meter change. First, establish accented downbeats (1, 2, 3, and 4) on the hi-hat. This technique will allow you to continue to feel the established 4/4 feel. Be sure to maintain this hi-hat accent pattern throughout all eight bars of Ex. 3.


In Ex. 4, we heighten the illusion by shifting the hi-hat accent pattern to match the bass drum and snare drum placement. The super-imposed rhythm presented in bars five through eight can be used as a springboard to actually transition from 4/4 to 12/8 at a new tempo. The established 4/4 rock feel at 90 bpm shifts gears to 12/8 at 60 bpm (dotted quarter-notes get the beat) while maintaining the pulse of the eighth-note. To aid you in maintaining a steady eighth-note, set your metronome to 180 bpm with no accented clicks. The clicks at 180 bpm will match your eighth-note pattern through both feels. Loop the pattern as a 12-bar phrase (Ex. 5).


Ultimately, it helps the transition immensely to add set-up fills to project the oncoming tempo/meter change. The last bar of the 12/8 section provides an easy fill to transition you back to the 4/4 rock feel. Once you have a handle on these suggested fills you can add your own (Ex. 6).



Once you are comfortable with the modulation, try playing it without a click along with a bass player. Make sure to properly count the eighth-notes within each section. Count loudly and proudly!

10-Day Metric Modulation Lesson Plan Day 3: Regrouping Triplets