Tuesday, September 30, 2014

“Skiplet” analysis — the basics

A few weeks ago we introduced a new term, that is totally made-up by me: skiplet. It refers to the cluster of three notes of the standard jazz ride cymbal pattern starting on beat 2, and on beat 4:

In working with students on jazz independence, I found that it was helpful to isolate those notes, and treat them as a unit, integrating it with the independent part. Giving that unit a name, however stupid, helped with that.

Today we'll begin a series of posts talking about how I'm using this idea in teaching, starting by looking at some jazz independence exercises, and seeing how the different left hand parts effect the skiplet analysis of the pattern— since we're turning the the skiplet plus the independent part into one thing, the two-beat coordination idea may overhang the bounds of the skiplet proper... it will make sense. Next time I'll show you how to break down a whole line of non-repeating patterns, and then give you my own method for working through this with my students.

First let's pull the skiplet from a full measure of jazz time, written as 8th notes (to be played with a swing interpretation), with the normal hihat part added. There's no time signature given here, but the meter is 4/4:

Being skiplet-oriented, our thinking about the pattern becomes less of this barline bound rhythm 1, 2-& 3, 4-& ; we're now thinking the same way your body feels the rhythm as you play it, as 2-& 3, 4-& 1:

Adding the left hand, patterns starting and ending with skiplet notes are easy enough to figure out:

Any time the independent part fills out beat 1 or 3— whenever the rhythm on those beats is something other than a quarter note, our little coordination unit will be a little longer. If the middle of the triplet, or the entire triplet, is written, we think of those notes as coming on the end of the skiplet before it:

If there are plain 8th notes on beats 1 or 3— we're swinging them, so those &s of 1 or 3 will fall on the last note of a triplet— those &s are attached to the skiplet following it, as a pickup:

This will cover every pattern using swing 8th notes or 8th note triplets. Knowing this way of thinking helps students be absolutely clear on the architecture of the patterns they're attempting to play, and eliminates some common confusion related to being barline-and-downbeat oriented. Next we'll analyze a non-repeating line of music from Syncopation, and then talk about actually teaching this approach.

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