Forums > Advanced Poi Moves > polyrhythm poi (plus assorted antispin ramblings)

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SILVER Member since Aug 2002


big and good and broken
Location: lunn dunn, yoo kay, United Kin...

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Posted:this one has not been easy to write up but hopefully some of it makes sense to some of you that are kind enough to read it.

please ask for clarification if its required anywhere - i'm happy to talk more crap or come back and edit the main text to make it clearer if it needs it.

there's a few (hastily filmed) video exapmles dotted around and about - you'll find a clip wherever you see one of these: *

please try and download the videos (right click, save as...) rather than streaming them or my website will stop working hug

and so...

polyrhythm poi


don't let the funny word in the title scare you - this is simply spinning your poi at different speeds.

first of all, you need to know what this is all about so you should understand at least what 'polyrhythm' means and how to tap the most simple polyrhythms out (e.g 3:2).

if that is complete gibberish or you just want to know a bit more about polyrhythms, click here to see a thread that will fill you in smile

i've tried giving workshops on this over the last year and found it near impossible to teach due to the base concepts being alien to most people (and possibly because i didn't have a full idea then of the best way to teach it, but we'll ignore that for now wink).

this thread is the first part of my revised workshop, followed by a description of the notation that i use to describe these patterns and work out new ones.

the aim is to get people to have a go at spinning their poi at different speeds and then to give us a way of describing what we are doing so that we (hopefully) have a better chance of sharing, both here and in the real world smile

okay, let's begin...

everyone's always banging on about learning the basics before the advanced stuff and blah, blah, blah...

funny enough, i think that lesson is especially important when dealing with this area of poi.

there are two major techniques you can employ to vary the speed of your poi:

variable radius and variable speed

variable radius involves moving from say wrist circles to elbow or to full arm circles, thereby moving the poi head further away from the centre of rotation.

variable speed involves adding and taking away speed from the poi head by changing the amount of force you apply to keep the poi spinning (this is by far the harder of the two techniques but allows for far more variation).

for the geeks: the the first technique changes the linear velocity (while keeping angular velocity constant) and the second technique changes the angular velocity - big up the geek massive, seen? wink

here are two basic exercises to illustrate these concepts:

exercise one | variable radius - side circles with 2:1 poi *

spin parallel wrist circles in wheel plane.

now make one of those circles into a long arm circle but try to keep the (linear) speed of the poi constant.

because the long arm poi is spinning in a bigger circle (and therefore travelling along a longer path), you should find that just spinning a larger circle adjusts the speeds, so that the poi spinning wrist circles does two beats for every one beat of the full arm circle.

remember how it feels to tap out a 2:1 rhythm with your hands and concentrate on getting the simultaneous beats (the big circle beat and every other small circle beat) to hit at the same time.

try it on both sides i.e. try the big (slow) circle with your other arm.

things to watch out for:

- don't let the arm spinning the big circle speed up.

- don't put an extra beat in at the top of your big circle (your hand will probably want to do this by itself, especially if you've been playing with flowers a lot).

exercise two | variable speed - side circles with 2:1 poi *

this is most definitely the harder of the two techniques.

to begin with, don't worry about speed ratios and getting the rhythm right.

start by spinning parallel wrist circles in wheel plane again and just play around with speeding up and slowing down one poi whilst keeping the other one at a constant speed.

when you start to feel some control over the independent speed of your poi try this:

spin parallel wrist circles in wheel plane.

just after a beat hits (i.e. just after your poi pass the lowest point on their circles), speed up one of your poi to twice its original speed, and into hitting the beats on a 2:1 rhythm.

you should eventually be able to make this speed adjustment within the time it takes the slower poi to do one beat.

describing that beat by beat:

begin with both poi at the same speed (both hit beats at the same time)

immediately following a beat, increase the speed up one of your poi (hence it does an extra beat on its own).

on the next beat both poi should hit at the same time again and from there on, you should be hitting a 2:1 rhythm smile

try slowing the faster poi back down so that you slow straight into a normal (1:1) speed ratio - really aim to hit those beats.

mastering this technique of speeding up and slowing down poi to change and obtain specific speed ratios over the space of one beat (that's the beats of the slower speed poi, otherwise referred to as the 'base beat') is vital if you really want to play with polyrhythm poi.


right, once you have those basics down, have a go at putting them to use:

play lots with spinning two static circles anywhere and dropping into and out of 2:1 rhythms over the space of one base beat - remember to try it with both hands.

try the same thing but use the variable radius technique to vary the speed ratios.

try the two basic exercises above with poi 3:2.

spin side circles poi 2:1, and try turning 180 degrees, ensuring that you keep the speed ratio before, during and after the turn.

reels, poi 2:1 *

don't freak out about spinning a pattern!

spinning poi 2:1 reels isn't much harder than poi 2:1 side circles:

spin the poi 2:1 side circles, turn 90 degrees, crossover planes for every base beat smile

try turning with this pattern too.

reels, poi 3:2 *

don't freak out that you're trying a 3:2 pattern!

again, this is easier than it sounds, especially if you do it like this:

for the poi spinning 3 circles, spin one beat in front at the hip, one behind at the shoulder and one behind at hip - the other poi just does normal hip reel circles, one in front at hip, one behind at hip.

spin this so that the beats coincide when the faster poi is doing the front hip circle (the other poi should be hitting the rear hip circle).

for those that like flowers and and fancy a bit of a challenge, try spinning some flowers with 2:1 poi.

don't forget to count your beats at the centre (as the poi passes your arm).

the poi spinning at the faster speed should do twice the number of petals as the other arm does - there are some lovely new flower patterns in there smile

so, you may have noticed that everything so far feels distinctly one-sided - these patterns have all been asymmetric.

that was always going to happen if we describe what we are doing by saying poi 'a' is going at twice the speed of poi 'b' - to get a symmetrical pattern, we would obviously have to swap the speeds of poi 'a' and poi 'b' at some point.

well, hopefully you've been trying some of these variable speed patterns using your weak hand as well as your dominant one because here's an example of a simple symmetrical polyrhythm pattern... smile

my first symmetrical polyrhythm poi pattern - video of ttn variations (described below) here *

spin a forwards butterfly or better, a forwards thread the needle.

now spin one of the poi in a long arm circle, thereby slowing it down so the other poi does two circles in the same time as one longarm circle is completed.

you may find it easier to spin as 3:1.

its fun to see see how high you can get that ratio - spin those wrist circles as fast as you can!

just for a laugh, try and spin it the other way too i.e. spin long arm circles with the slow poi devil

when you have this pattern solid on both sides, try switching which hand does the big circle on every long arm beat.

this is a 2:1 thread the needle smile

the pattern should end up as:

2:1 ttn - right poi spins long arm circle while left spins two wrist circles, when the long arm hand passes the other hand (through the normal ttn hand position) and the beats coincide, switch so that left poi spins long arm circle while right spins two beats. repeat.

so, now we have an idea of what techniques we have to create these patterns, we can finally get on to how to best describe them... smile

here comes the sciencey bit...

first off, feel free to skip this bit for now if you're not interested ubbrollsmile

i have found three methods to describe polyrhythm (x:y) patterns that cover just about all the patterns i can spin (and suggest loads more that should be possible).

i'll quickly summarise them here so we can use them to easily describe the patterns we come up with smile

poi x:y *

the x:y ratio refers to the beat ratio of one poi to the other.

e.g. poi 2:1 means one poi does twice the number of beats that the other does, all of the time.

planar x:y *

the x:y ratio here refers to the beat ratio between two (or more) planes.

e.g. planar 2:1 [back wallplane:front wallplane] means that a poi in the rear wallplane will spin twice the number of beats as one in the front wallplane.

or, to say it another way, when a poi is behind you, it spins at twice the speed as in front of you.

positional x:y *

the x:y ratio here refers to the beat ratio of a certain position(s) in a pattern relative to the remainder of the pattern.

e.g. 3bt weave with positional 2:1 [whenever a hand is crossed over on top of the other arm] means that when a hand crosses over the body on top of the other arm it should be spin at twice the 'normal' speed (or 'double the base beat' if that makes more sense to you).

this results in a symmetrical, 4bt pattern with 3bt arm movements - we like that.

some things to note about these methods of description are:

they are not deterministic by any means i.e. they don't tell you what is and isn't possible, they just describe what's there already quite well.

there are a few patterns that can be described just as well using one of these methods as another.

still, as the moves get more complex, usually one of the methods will yield a far more concise description than the others.

often, attempting to use a method to describe a pattern that it can't adequately describe will lead to a nice variation instead smile

there are a few (complex) polyrhythm patterns that require the beat ratio to be split across particular sections of a plane to describe them completely - this method of description is like a mix of positional x:y and planar x:y but it is far from ideal.

there are a few moves that do not fit neatly into one of these three description methods at all and seem in fact to defy any concise description.

i'm hoping that means i'm missing a more general way of describing these patterns.

i have a good feeling that true polyrhythm poi is closely interlocked with advanced crossover theory.

and maybe that will reveal itself at some point in the future when we have delved deeper... umm


right, that's it meditate

most important with all this stuff - don't forget to smile now and then biggrin

cole. x

"i see you at 'dis cafe.
i come to 'dis cafe quite a lot myself.
they do porridge."
- tim westwood

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