Monday, March 20, 2023

Limitations of loops

There's a good post about playing along with recordings, that everyone should read, over at Ted Warren's Trap'd blog.

Since he commented about playing with loops vs. whole tunes— and I do a lot with loops— I should clarify some things.  

2. Try to play with whole tunes rather than loops.

I've mentioned this before, and I don't want to step on anyone's toes around this, but I feel playing with loops never gives us the whole story. By loops I mean just taking a small section of an already existing tune and have it playing endlessly. When we do this we miss out on a lot of form. Not only the structure of the tune (AABA, 12 Bar Blues etc.) but the form of the whole performance. How do we differentiate between sections of the song like in head to solos, different solos, and last solo to out head? Does the tempo of the tune change from beginning to end? What about the relative volume of the drums at differing sections of the tune? These are important issues!

He's absolutely right. In jazz form is not dispensable, it is the whole thing. A jazz environment is not complete without considering form. All of my jazz loops will include at least one complete time through the form— except when there's a special purpose involved, like learning a figure, or learning to hear the connection from the last A section to the first A section on Stablemates

Once or twice through the form looping is still not the complete picture of performing a jazz tune, but I think we're talking about different practice goals here. Most of what I use the loops for is to take regular focused drumming practice— like, stuff from books— in a more musical direction. So we can hear these book ideas in a context, and try to match them to a musical vibe, and play them in a way that makes sense within a musical phrase, with some continuity. To an extent it's about concentrated exposure to a single figure or vamp, or a single solo. 

Ted's concerns above are bigger picture items re: playing a complete performance of a tune. For me it's hard to do the kind of practice above with complete tracks— the temptation is to just play.  

But it's true, no one should have any illusions that playing with a recording is a replacement for playing with people. They're really entirely different things. The track doesn't listen to you and fall apart when you play something so dumb you caused a train wreck. Or get mad at you and never call you again because you played selfishly. You don't learn anything about support playing with a track. So you have to be very cautious about the lessons you take from playalong practice to playing with people. 

Also see my previous post on this topic, that I wrote in hectoring screed form


Unknown said...

Great post Todd, and yeah I certainly wasn't calling out you or your method. Your extensive teaching studio speaks for itself. Uh, we're still pals, right? :)


Unknown said...

I also updated my post to include a link to this post. :)


Todd Bishop said...

No no no we're good, always! I just like to clarify that there is no disagreement-- assuming the same people are reading both of our sites, which they should be.

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