Friday, August 09, 2013

Slow tempos: the compound pulse

Following up on the subdiving post: you may have noticed that I suggested subdividing 8th notes at slow tempos— not triplets, as you might expect with music like jazz, that is often thought to be triplet-based. When playing ballads I rarely subdivide in triplets, even if the feel is predominantly “triplety”— instead I play off of a compound pulse of triplets and straight, non-swing 8th notes, something like this:

Minus the embellishments, the composite rhythm of the time feel and felt pulse would look like this:

So I am playing off of a compound pulse like a hemiola, generally feeling the top line in my hands, and the bottom line in my left foot— either by tapping my heel, or somehow silently feeling the even 8th note rhythm in my foot motion; rarely by actually playing the 8ths with the cymbals:

Using this more complex skeletal structure on ballads helps keep the time anchored even when you and the group are outwardly playing with a loose feel; and generally, from moment to moment, I (and/or the other players) may be playing either off of the triplets or the 8th notes, and being clear on this structure will prevent the time from getting distorted. It also sets you up for going into double time, which is widely done, to varying degrees.

A little more after the break:

I will only subdivide triplets when an emphatically triplet-based feel is called for, say, on a tune like this:

Note that the “double time” here is accomplished (at around 2:40) by playing a jazz waltz feel based on the original triplet pulse.

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