Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A crash course in the ECM feel

Look for the photos with water
and the Helvetica font.
The "ECM feel", as it's now being called, is a style that evolved in the late 1960's and 70's, and has since become one of the major time feels of modern jazz. It's associated with the ECM record label because that's where you find most of its major early practitioners and first/best recorded examples. Before you do anything, I suggest hitting the read more link at the bottom of the page and listen to the audio examples.

Some of its features: Even 8th notes, non-repetitive, linear, broken-up (pick your adjective), possible suggestion of a backbeat, Brazilian influenced. Light, airy, ride cymbal based feel (get yourself a Paiste 602 Flat Ride to complete the period effect). Had it's beginnings in the 1960's work of Tony Williams, Roy Haynes, Paul Motian and Barry Altschul. The drummers it is most generally associated with include Jon Christensen, Jack Dejohnette, Bob Moses, and Airto.

There is no standard method that I'm aware of for developing this feel, but if you work through one or more of these suggestions and do a lot of listening and playing you should begin to find it

UPDATE: In the comments Clint lets us know that Berklee professor Skip Hadden has a method book and mini-series of videos at the Vic Firth site dealing more broadly with this style. Onward:

Practice methods:

Basic coordination using the 8th/2-16th cym pattern. You can also think of it in cut time:

Use regular jazz vocabulary with even 8th notes (converting them 8th note patterns to 16ths if you're thinking of it that way). Working out the same materials with two or three more complex cymbal patterns- and with plain 8th notes- would also be helpful; you could pick a pattern from Syncopation pp. 34-37 (new edition) and put it in double time, for example.

Stick Control- the first section, and maybe the flam section- and the same part of Syncopation as above, plus the long syncopation exercises. Play this (and all the following) with the right hand on the cymbal and the left on the snare. Also play the first section with the hands together on the cymbal and snare on the Rs, and the bass drum and/or hihat (w/foot) on the Ls.

Paradiddles and paradiddle-diddles and their inversions, plus plain old doubles- RRLL and RLLR RLLR- with/without a flam at the beginning of the R or L hand double:

And Swiss triplets in a 16th note rhythm. They make a 4:3 polyrhythm, so find a place to stop to fit them within one or two measures of 4/4:

Using the feet:

Again, with the right hand on the cymbal and the left on the snare, play all of the above over an ostinato with the feet; either samba or baiao, or double some/all of the right hand part with the bass drum. Also play an ostinato with one foot let the other play sporadically to fit with the hand part.

Note: It would seem to be an obvious choice for developing this style, but I don't like to recomend Dahlgren & Fine's Four Way Coordination to anyone seeking immediate results; as I've written before, I've seen it turn into a bit of a tar pit for more than one young drummer. But if you keep your eye on the practical result you want to achieve, and don't get bogged down with the need to learn it "completely", it should also be useful here. Vol. 2 of Dahlgren & Fine's Accent On Accents would be a good substitute/supplement for Stick Control for the exercises above, though.

Audio examples and discography after the break:

Jon Christensen:

Also see my recent Christensen transcription of the tune Dansere by Jan Garbarek.


Bob Moses:

Here's a pre-ECM example of the ECM feel, by Barry Altschul:

Records to buy:
Keith Jarrett: Belonging, Nude Ants
Jan Garbarek: Dansere, Witchi-Tai-To
Gateway: II
Gary Peacock: Tales of Another
Pat Metheny: Bright Size Life, 80/81
John Abercrombie: Timeless
Chick Corea: Return to Forever (ECM recording), Light As A Feather
Gary Burton: The New Quartet
Terje Rypdal / Miroslav Vitous / Jack Dejohnette (embedding-disabled YouTube audio here)
Paul Bley: Closer, Turning Point

(h/t to mighty_joker)


Clint Hopkins said...

Great blog, Todd. If you haven't already, check out Skip Hadden's series of videos on Vic Firth's site demonstrating the broken eighth note/ECM feel. It includes a selected discography as well.

Todd Bishop said...

Thanks, Clint! Checking that out now...

Andy Stermer said...

Skip also has a book out called "Broken Eighth Note Feel" that comes with a CD containing lots of reference recordings.