Thursday, November 17, 2011

Swinging with Half-Note Triplets

Today's drum lesson deals with using different permutations of half-note triplets as the basis for developing Jazz vocabulary and phrasing ideas on the drums.

Several years ago I attended a drum clinic with drummer Carl Allen, who is now the artistic director of the Jazz program at Juilliard and a very fine Jazz drummer and educator in his own right. Carl talked at length about the "Power of Three", his concept that illustrated the importance of feeling groupings of three in different ways while playing Jazz drums in the context of being a soloist and accompanist (whether that meant smaller combinations of triplets or larger groupings and subdivisions).

Based on that idea I've been messing around the idea of dealing with larger groupings of triplets lately, in particular the use of half-note triplets starting on different parts of the beat within the bar.

Here are the three variations of a half-note triplet in 4/4 time:

- In a timekeeping context I'll play the ride cymbal rhythm and then mess around with voicing these different rhythms around the drum set and splitting them up between the hands and the feet.

- In a soloing context I will improvise triplets around drums and accent those half-note triplet phrases within those phrases.

I like playing these rhythms because they take a bit longer to resolve evenly within a bar and, I think, allow my comping to open up and breath a bit. Often drummers, when they are comping, sometimes try to cram in all their ideas into a bar and the result is a very dense and unmusical sound. I've found that working with longer rhythms as a framework helps avoid this.

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