Sunday, July 21, 2013

Key to right hand accented triplets using Syncopation

There's a very common interpretation used with Ted Reed's Syncopation: the right hand plays the melody line, swinging the 8th notes, and the left hand fills out the triplets— hopefully everyone has heard of that one by now. If you've tried it, you've figured out that it leads to a lot of multiple hits with the left hand, which will obviously put a pretty hard ceiling on how fast you can do them. But I've seen put forward surprisingly few ways of getting around that; I think one, actually, by Steve Houghton. What I do to make these playable at higher speeds is insert as many single unaccented right hand notes as are needed to break up the left hand multiples (runs of more than two notes), while avoiding any loud-soft or soft-loud right hand doubles.

So here I've given the key for (I think!) every sticking situation occurring in the long exercises in Syncopation, though they sit in different parts of the measure in the actual book. You should be able to do these stickings on the fly while reading the long exercises out of Syncopation (pp. 37-44, old edition), at 200+ bpm.

Get the pdf


  1. Nice article, Todd. In addition to Houghton's book, I think I've seen three other books that mention this issue: Kim Plainfield's Advanced Concepts, Ari Hoenig's Systems Book 1, and Jim Blackley's Essence of Jazz Drumming. Plainfield has a system for getting around playing more than two consecutive notes with the left hand (off the top of my head, I can't remember what method he uses, though). Hoenig merely discusses playing Syncopation-like figures with the right hand, while filling in with the left, and says when you'd normally have three or more left hand notes in a row, to experiment with placing right hand notes in (unaccented) to keep the left hand consecutive notes to one or two. Blackley's book has several ride cymbal time keeping patterns written out, with the left hand filling in triplets, but he has the right hand come over to the snare on some of these filler notes (unaccented) to avoid the left hand "three in a row" problem.

  2. Crap, looks like I need to buy some more books-- thanks for the cites! I have one more, actually-- Interpretive Stickings by Martin Bradfield. It's a photocopied thing that may or may not be available through Steve Weiss-- there are two volumes of it, plus a reading volume called The Rhythm Book. It's actually a really good series, and cheap. I couldn't detect a system to the way he breaks up the multiples, but it doesn't really matter.