Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Cracking 5/4: more architecture

Beyond the 2/4+3/4 or 3/4+2/4 phrasing we've already discussed, there are a few common constructions you should be familiar with. Just learning the things covered in the first part will take a fair amount of time, and will go a long way towards being fluent in 5/4, so I present these not so much for using directly right now, but more as guidance for future practicing, for making your own variations on your written materials, and for writing your own materials.

6/8+2/4 and 2/4+6/8

Here we interpret the 3/4 part of the measure as 6/8:


In straight-8th feels you will build your groove out of the 8th note subdivision, with the 6/8 phrasing:

This interpretation will likely come into your swing feel more in the form of emphasizing the & of 2 of the 3/4 part of the standard */4+*/4 type of phrasing. This is example is in 3/4+2/4, but the tied note on the & of 2 gives the suggestion of 6/8+2/4:

Much more after the break:

You can begin approaching an Elvin-like meter-within-meter thing by also playing a dotted quarter at the beginning of the 2/4 part, basically playing the measure as 9/8+1/8:

Since you are now itching to extend that a further, I'll give you this two measure phrase-- more than that will have to wait for another day:

The big 5
Essentially your phrasing becomes 2/4+2/4 +2/4 +2/4 +2/4 over two measures of 5/4:

This has a more "normal" duple feel, eliminating the normal lopsided phrasing that can be a big hang up. It's probably wise to save this for when the bass is actually walking; and if you're playing this while reading, you'll need to be very comfortable reading two measures of 5/4 as one measure of "big 5." It really buries the downbeat of the second measure, and can play a lot of havoc with the other players if they're not familiar with what's going on with it.

Best for even-8th feels; this interpretation should be dictated by the music, but this is also a direction you can go in soloing or in comping as a co-soloist. Like the larger meter, each of those 5/8's break down into twos and threes, like 2/8+3/8:

Or 3/8+2/8:

Or both of them back to back:

Incidentally, we do see that last architecture on the quarter note level, too-- this piece by Dave Holland is based on a vamp written in 3/4+2/4+2/4+3/4:

You have to be very comfortable with 5/8 (there are several approaches to this covered in our primary workbook, Even In The Odds), and very familiar with the & of 2-- the middle of the measure in 5/4:

This creates a sort of "big 2" with a quintuplet subdivision-- a good foundation for all sorts of polyrhythmic mischief, if you're inclined that way.

We've gotten into somewhat mathematical territory here, and I'm not an advocate of that kind of thinking while you're playing. These are all things that need to be practiced (or generally noticed while practicing) to the point that your playing mind knows them, not just your mathematical mind. Explaining the distinction there is a subject for another day.

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