Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Jazz comping roundup: part 1


I was curious about what kind of information there is on the web regarding jazz comping, so I googled "jazz comping drums", and here's part of what turned up. As usual, I've mostly avoided the raft of online video "lessons" that come up with any Google search- a couple were sort of, um, thrust upon me, though. The best of these are actually jazz drumming overviews- the worst are, well, representative of their type...

Jazz Drumming Jumpstart
A reasonably strong introduction to jazz drumming, though it starts inauspiciously with a reference to jazz as an "aural" (rather than oral) tradition. I have a few quibbles, and there are a few clues that the author is longer on education than actual field experience (like I've never heard a jazz drummer refer to the time feel as an ostinato). Swing is dealt with as triplets and only triplets, which is not the whole story- I'd prefer more explanation of such a critical concept. But he presents the basics clearly and with some subtlety. B+/A-

Example text:
Comping is short for "accompanying". Comping is how the rhythm section instruments, such as piano, guitar, and drums support the soloist. Comping provides rhythmic variety and impetus for the soloist. The drummer's job is to support the soloist. As a drummer you should play a variety of rhythmic ideas which contribute to the flow of the solo you are accompanying. Comping is a give-and-take between soloist and accompanist (i.e. drummer). Sometimes the drummer will interject new ideas to push the soloist. Other times he may lay-back and respond to ideas played by the soloist. As a jazz drummer, comping will be your main improvisational activity. You will spend a great deal more time accompanying other soloists than you will playing solos yourself. For this reason, it is critical that you understand the basics of comping. Comping seems to be one of the primary areas where novice jazz drummers encounter difficulty. Repetitive, plodding and uninteresting comping is a dead give away of an inexperienced jazz drummer. In the sections that follow, I'll try to explain the basics of comping on the drumset, and also give some suggestions on how to make your comping sound like that of an experienced jazz player.

Several more after the break- and more coming in part 2.

An Introduction to Jazz Drumming

This isn't strictly on comping, but it compliments the previous piece so well I thought I'd include it. It's all text, which I like, and is an excellent, limited introduction to the subject. A

Example text:
The ride cymbal in jazz drumming should have a basic quarter note pulse as its foundation. The quarter notes are what the entire band will zero in on while making music together. The quarter note pulse also unites the drummer with the bass player, making them both “keepers of the quarter notes.” This is not to say that a person is limited to playing only quarter notes, this is simply enforcing the idea that a jazz drummer must use quarter notes as the reference point for everything played on the ride cymbal. That is why it is a good idea for beginning jazz drummers to start by working on playing quarter notes on the ride cymbal only. Play along with recordings, using only quarter notes. One should try to make his quarter notes line up perfectly with the recording, simultaneously observing how the drummer on the recording adds “skip beats,” or inflections, in his ride cymbal pattern while still adhering to a consistent quarter note pulse. The quarter note pulse is always there, whether it is obvious or not.

Comping 101 - 10 Introductory Tips

This is written for vibraphonists, but it applies just as well to the drums. Very helpful if you're having trouble knowing what to do musically with the patterns you've learned. A

Example text:

5. Don't mimic the soloist. You can tell when a player has started to reach a certain level of competence and comfort in the role of accompanist - they start to latch onto what a soloist is playing, and in some cases (especially with rhythms), start to play it along with them. Just about every player I've discussed this with agrees with me: we hate it when someone starts playing the same thing we're playing. It's like someone finishing your sentences in a conversation. What is preferable, and a little more challenging, is to create something which will compliment the soloist. Listen to recordings of great accompanists such as Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Wynton Kelly, Jim Hall...listen to the solo as well as the accompaniment, and notice how the two parts fit together. Develop a sense of where the solo is leading, and what you can play which will compliment the direction of the solo while not being identical to the solo.

Snare Drums Comping in Jazz
Hmmm, that title does not bode well. This looks like a third-party introduction to a well-known video system, which is Exhibit A for why I'm against videos- it's an almost context-free presentation of a pretty random collection of patterns, seemingly organized with for the purpose of keeping people using the system, rather than providing real musical instruction. F

Example text:
Have you ever listened to jazz? Hopefully, if you play jazz, or want to learn how, then you have. You might notice that, unlike styles like rack and metal, jazz uses the snare as an accompaniment, underlining the soloist, whether that be guitar or keyboard.
Snare drum comping is just short for accompaniment which, as explained above, means that the snare is used to help bring forth the solo instrument.

Extreme Jazz Comping
OK, one video, because I couldn't resist that title...

Call this Exhibit B, I guess. The only thing extreme about this is the total abandonment of jazz as a form of music. The method he's outlined will be familiar to any jazz student who has worked with Ted Reed's Syncopation for any amount of time, except in presenting it as just a sticking pattern, he has eliminated the very important element of relating the drum part to a written melodic line. It's also a music-free example of Bob Moses' dependent/non-independent concept, which is the best thing I can say about it. D+

1 comment:

Ted Warren said...

At least his dogs seem nice......