Thursday, November 10, 2011

5 Beat Groupings

I recently spent some time taking a lesson with John Riley. While discussing my questions about the often deceptive rhythmic approaches, cadences and phrasing of such drummers as Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Jack DeJohnette and Jeff "Tain" Watts, John suggested to me that "often things that we think are random are often not and are planned out, although perhaps executed in unexpected ways."

As an example John had me take a look at his transcription of Jack DeJohnette's performance on the ECM album "Pictures" which is featured in John's excellent book "Beyond Bop Drumming". John pointed out a certain eight bar phrase that upon my first glance seemed to be highly syncopated, complicated and definitely random! However, upon further dissection the phrase actually turned out to be a series of five beat phrases broken up between the snare drum, hihat and bass drum and played against the ride cymbal pattern. However, each time this five beat phrase was repeated Jack would change the phrase just slightly (whether that meant orchestrating certain notes on different instruments or adding/deleting a note here or there). The end lesson being, of course, is that while this all sounded abstract (and perhaps random!) Jack obviously had worked some serious stuff out ahead of time and was able to manipulate it in an unexpected manner. Very hip.

Since five note phrases in the context of a 4/4 groove are definitely on the oblique side of things, I decided to come up with some of my own ideas and practice them.

Please refer back to my previous lesson "Another Comping Exercise" for the nuts and bolts of today's lesson:

So taking that concept of using the stickings from Stick Control in conjunction with some syncopated rhythms to come up with some practical and interesting comping patterns, I've been messing around with these two five beat phrases in 4/4 time:

The first one starts on the beat:

The second variation starts on the off-beat:

Both phrases involve playing eight consecutive eighth-notes followed by a quarter note rest (the second variation is just a displaced version of the first) to give you a five beat phrase that is repeated five times over the course of five bars of 4/4.

-Perhaps to get comfortable with playing five beat cycles over 4/4, try playing the phrase on the snare drum first using a RLRL RLRL sticking while also playing your hihat on beats 2 & 4.

-Then play the Jazz ride cymbal beat with your right hand and the hihat on beats 2 & 4 and play those first two variations with the left hand on the snare drum.

These two primer exercises should get you comfortable with feeling five beat phrases over the barline in 4/4.

The idea is that you use Stick Control-like patterns (with R= Bass Drum and L=Snare Drum...thank you Alan Dawson!) in conjunction with these rhythmic phrases while playing the ride cymbal rhythm and the hihat on 2&4.

So RLRR LRLL using the first example would look like this:

Starting on the off-beat, this five beat phrase using a RLRR LRLL sticking would look like this:

*Please note that I haven't notated the ride cymbal and hihat parts. You'll have to work those out on your own!

Here's a few stickings to get you started that work well with this one:













Of course you can use patterns from Stick Control or come up with your own and be creative.

Also experiment with replacing the bass drum parts with the hihat. If you straighten out the eighth notes and play it faster and play the hihat on all four beats then Tony Williams-like patterns will emerge...

Just remember: Take it slow and make it swing!

1 comment:

  1. Ha! it looks like this Thursday had been brought to us by the number 5!