Monday, August 30, 2021

Half time country rock with Reed

This swingy country, folky, gospel type of half time feel groove is all over the music of the late 60s/early 70s. You Can't Always Get What You Want, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, for example. It happens on a couple of tunes I was working on for a show with my wife, Casey Scott, on Friday, and I realized I wasn't very good at it. At least in the practice room, at the tempo of that song— in the show it worked out fine. 

But let's talk about a strategy for working on that— it requires some creativity and interpretation on your part. 

We're in a half time feel, so when reading out of Syncopation, the backbeat will fall on beat 3. The 8th notes will swing in a legato way, which will give it a feel not unlike a sixtuplet funk shuffle, though different. Don't overdo the swing feel.

For the grooves, use lines 1, 3, 4, 13-18, 42-43, 46-47 from pp. 34-36 of Syncopation. Play most of the book rhythm on the bass drum, except put beat 3 (not the &) on the snare drum. Play quarter notes on the cymbal.  Get out your four color pen and circle those lines in green or whatever. Note that all of those lines have notes sounding on beats 1 and 3. 

Basically do this, except play quarter notes on the cymbal instead of 8th notes:

To simplify the bass drum and add some interaction with the snare, play line 4, alternating notes between bass drum and snare drum:

That 8th-quarter-8th rhythm happens a lot— when it happens on beat 1, start with the bass drum; when it happens on beat 3, start with the snare, so lines 1 and 3 would be played:

You can then voice the other groove rhythms similarly— start and end on the bass drum on beats 1-2, start and end on the snare drum with beats 3-4:  

For the fills, you can use any of the book rhythms, played down the drums, with whatever sticking you like: 

You don't always have to go high to low— improvise the moves around the drums and see what else is effective. 

If the book rhythm has a rest on 1, play the cymbal or cymbal/bass drum there just to mark it: 

You could play quarter notes on the bass drum through the fill, to nail down the time. Especially on the sparser rhythms. If you watch the Dixie video linked to at the top of the post, you'll notice that Levon Helm played this type of groove with four on the floor bass drum all the way: 

This is the phrase I was practicing, from a particular song— but it's universal enough: 

Improvise the groove portion, and get the fill rhythms out of the book, and focus on the timing. For me the big problem was laying back enough. The vocabulary isn't necessarily new; this is more a template for refining it and nailing down the proper phrasing. 


Michael Griener said...

Thank you, you just sent me down a rabbit hole listening to Levon Helm, reading about the Civil War, looking up the history of The Band, and so on and so forth.
As if I had nothing else to do!
I've been enjoying this.

Todd Bishop said...

That's a great video, isn't it? I never followed him as a player, but that's some very deep stuff.

Michael Griener said...

I don't know much about this kind of music, I must admit.
All I knew about Levon was that he was supposed to be good, but I didn't realize how good he was.
This is really some very deep stuff.
Thanks again for expanding my horizons.