Wednesday, August 27, 2014


In some ways I feel I'm watching (and contributing to) the death of the familiar jazz ride cymbal pattern as a musical thing, for a lot of reasons, but partly as the result of a whole lot of practice room abuse by uncommitted players. Lots of drummers are working on it, but very few of them are even listening to much actual jazz music, let alone making music with it. It's becoming just an obligatory drummer-thing, and we're starting to see people feeling free to invent their own stylized way of playing it, and making their own totally wrong pronouncements about it, seemingly without fear of being corrected by actual jazz musicians.

So I have mixed feelings about going further with the theory of it in an open setting like this. I don't really want to teach non-jazz musician teachers how to fake out their students better. But for all the people of noble purpose out there, this is one I've been working on for awhile:

The way I learned all my basic jazz coordination was through brute force; my teacher pointed me at some pages of Reed or Chapin, said “learn that”, and cut me loose to go figure it out how to play them. I didn't have any kind of system for doing that, so I just kept hacking away at them until I got it. There may be benefits to doing it that way, but it left me susceptible to weak spots in my playing— certain little coordinational things I learned well enough to get through the page, but not really well enough to be able to use in real playing.

To remedy that, in my own teaching, I want to have absolute clarity on all the little internals of the idea, and came up with my “kernel” theory of practice, in which you isolate clusters of notes, and coordinate around them. With jazz, that means using a single time through the basic unit of the pattern, “2, &-3” (or “4, &-1”, if you prefer):

Now, I don't like the idea of giving everything in music a name— I think it's orthodoxy-creating— but I've also wasted a lot of time and confused a lot of students calling the above thing “the 2, &-3”, or “the ding-da-ding”, and I wanted an easier way to refer to it as a discrete entity. Kind of like the tresillo in Salsa music. Tresillo means triplet, and refers to the three notes on the “3” side of clave. The middle note of the jazz pattern is sometimes called the skip note, so it only took a minute for my little rat-brain to come up with the word skiplet.


Stupid? Yes, it's stupid, but I can't be bothered with that. Jazz theory is full of made-up shit. Just be aware that it's something I made up, and if go into your next lesson with Billy Hart and say “skiplet”, he'll probably either laugh in your face or throw you out, maybe both. Soon we'll break this down a little further, looking at how you handle Chapin from a skiplet-oriented perspective...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What's the difference between swinging eighth notes, playing the first and third notes of a triplet and playing dotted eighth notes followed by a sixteenth note ?