As a Pianist, you can do many tricks to completely change how a song sounds to the audience. One of these is PolyRhythm’s, i.e playing contrasting and layered lines of rhythm vertically.
You will need to have a very good understanding of rhythm values (how long a given note lasts), syncopation (the accenting of certain beats) , and tempo (“pulse” of the song) to do this. Technique-wise, you will need a great degree of hand/finger interdependence, as each section of your hand is playing a different part (kind of like tapping on the desks with your fingers)
Here’s “Clocks” by Coldplay, played normally :
At 0:15 , I add the PolyRhythm. She is playing the main melody on the top (1/8 notes and 1/4 notes) my right hand is playing a series of rapid triplets (1-2-3-1-2-3) and my left hands is playing 1/8th notes on a bass line with every 3rd note dotted (means hold down slightly longer).
The difference in sound between the triplets & eighth notes is what creates the syncopation, which the ear hears as an “off beat” pulsating across any of the triplets. Hear below :
Now, I bring things back to a familiar supporting pulse by playing 1/8th notes as chords with no accent. This supports the top because she starts the melody. Its very important to be able to listen to the other parts and know the structure of the song so you wont clash when other instruments or sections are playing important bars in the song (like the verse/chorus)
I also sneak in a quote of the main theme played staccato 🙂
Try doing this to any song you like! There is no right or wrong way to play with rhythms as long as they are all on tempo, and the note values make sense in respect to the beat (and ultimately, to the listener.)
If you have trouble, I highly recommend using a metronome and starting slow. No one got good at anything musical on the first attempt!
Full video below of the complete song :