Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Page o' skiplets - 01

This is not a great method to self-teach, but for the few intrepid individuals this will help, or for the teachers out there whose students struggle to pick up jazz independence, this approach may help speed up the learning process. It will also help you clean up your jazz coordination all around, since a lot of players (i.e. me) learn this stuff in a brute force frenzy of practicing a lot of patterns, and usually you end up with your execution being not as sharp as it could be.

Before you start, read my previous posts defining this made-up word skiplet, and summarizing the method. It wouldn't be a terrible idea to revisit my old post What it is: swing rhythm just to clarify how the rhythmic system works— in jazz we think in terms of 8th notes while we're playing these triplet based rhythms.

Following the instructions carefully is rather important— if you do this wrong, you could screw up the rhythm and/or end up habitually hearing the rhythm with the beat turned around. You don't want that. Before attempting this method, students who are just beginning with jazz should make themselves very familiar with the jazz cymbal and hihat rhythm, so they definitely know where the 1 is, and they know the hihat falls on 2 and 4.

Note that there are no barlines and there is no time signature. Each exercise is a rhythmic fragment, which you'll need to count correctly to end up with a correct jazz rhythm.

Put in a pause
Treat the last note of each exercise as a fermata— an unmetered held note. Don't accidentally turn the pause into a metered rest, or fall into a repetitive groove with it. Play the skiplet exercise one time, stop, take a breath, think about birds, then play it again. You can gradually shorten the pause until you're playing the exercise repetitively in time.

Alternatively, after you can play the exercise one time, try playing it two times in rhythm, with no pause. Once you can play the exercise four times in rhythm, you should be able to play it repetitively at that tempo.

Start counting on 2
The skiplet pattern played in repetition should be counted 2 &3, 4 &1. Where there is a pick up note before the first cymbal note, count &2 &3, &4 &1, etc. It's up to you if you want to count any triplet partials in an exercise, using triplet syllables— 2-trip-let or 2-&-a.

Think of it as a sticking
Ignoring the hihat part, say the exercise as a sticking, in rhythm, using right, left, or both.

Exercise 2 would be both, right-right 
Exercise 9 would be right-left-both-right 
Exercise 11 would be left-both, right-right 

It's a good idea to refer back to jazz independence patterns written normally in 4/4, with a cymbal rhythm, as you do this— see Jim Chapin's Advanced Techniques For The Modern Drummer, or Joel Rothman's Basic Drumming or other jazz books.

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  1. Anonymous4:31 AM

    Hi Todd,

    Big fan of the blog. Can you expand a little on why you should start counting on the 2? I presume it's so once you start playing jazz ride pattern in a proper musical situation without the fermata you are feeling the beat with the hi hat on 2 and 4?

    Just wanted to check I've got that right.


  2. That's right. We're just learning coordination by orienting around the cluster of cymbal notes at 2&3/4&1, which is the actual musical thing we're doing with the jazz cymbal rhythm-- it's a three-note rhythm starting on 2 and 4. I've just noticed in students a mental block when thinking of it in the normal, 1-oriented way. When we work through it this way, it's completely clear, and they are able to get the coordination faster, and more cleanly.

  3. Anonymous11:27 PM

    Sweet. Cheers. That's a very interesting way of getting it across. God knows I suffered when I was first introduced to jazz ride. Feels like I'm only just beginning to understand it now.