Saturday, November 12, 2022

View from the outside of a swing feel

Another item from the outer limits of usefulness, for most people. Sorry. The main interesting thing about that misguided jazz quintuplets page is that it gets us pulling around a jazz rhythm a little bit, hopefully leading to some organic flexibility. It's like an actor trying different ways of saying a line. 

...which— there's a wrong way to do both things. My wife, a trained actress, likes pointing out bad line readings in movies— places where the actor clearly didn't know what he or she was saying, and sounds wrong for the context. And with the drums— there's a tradition. Good players expect you to sound connected to it somehow. There's a lot of freedom in jazz, but it's got to serve an expressive end.  

Having thus established pure intent, here are a few different patterns for exploring that. 

We'll do it by mutating this: 

None of what follows requires any kind of swing interpretation— play the notes exactly as written as best you can. So long as the quarter note pulse is steady, drum corps precision isn't necessary.  

Same notes, in some different 16th note rhythms: 

And in quintuplets— see the other page for a some supporting patterns to get the timing: 

“Tripteenths”— a way of playing 16th notes in Brazilian music, fitting four notes in the space of a triplet. The 1 and the a of the 16ths land on the first and last notes of the triplet. The timing is literally this: 

Here's a snare drum exercise for developing the timing of that— the accents should sound the same all the way through: 

Mid-beat subdivision change— at slow tempos, Elvin Jones will sometimes push the last note of a beat into a different subdivision than the beginning of the beat. The first two notes in a triplet timing, and the last note with a 16th note timing. Or the first two notes in a 16th timing, and the last note in a triplet timing. I've noticed him doing this in a single beat, at phrase endings, but he may do it more often— it's where part of the organic quality of his rhythm comes from.  

I'll illustrate the concept with this phrase:

We'll change the timing of the last note of each measure to match the rhythm of the measure after it: 

It's highly weird to write that in 4/4, it's not so bad in 2/2: 

It reflects something that I think is essential to swing— the last note of a beat treated not as the end of the beat, but as a pickup to the following beat. So rhythm is perceived not as: 

1& 2& 3& 4&
1&a 2&a 3&a 4&a
1e&a 2e&a 3e&a 4e&a

But as: 

&1 &2  &3  &4  &1
a1e& a2e& a3e& a4e& a1

So, a little view from the outside that will hopefully strengthen your fundamentals. Enjoy it, but not too much. In the field your job is still to swing. 

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