Monday, March 12, 2018

The Second Triplet

About five years ago I had the opportunity to work with saxophonist Ralph Bowen and play a concert of his music arranged for big band. It was a wonderful experience and I also took advantage of the opportunity to take a lesson with him during his time in Calgary. Ralph is a serious musician with huge ears and he KNOWS drummers and drumming when he hears them so I was very interested in his perspective on my own playing. We spent the better part of an afternoon playing saxophone and drum duets.

One idea that he suggested that I explore more closely was a phrasing concept, the idea of emphasizing more of the 2nd triplet of each beat in my comping patterns, when playing a slow to medium tempo swing groove.

Something like this:

Of course, to my ears anyways, this immediately suggests the drumming of Elvin Jones who was famous for his triplet-laced comping style and his own unique emphasis of the 2nd triplet within his own timekeeping phrases.

So I came up with a few exercises to further develop this concept:

1) Mess around with the orchestration of every 2nd triplet of each beat of the bar, playing it on the snare drum, tom tom, floor tom, bass drum and hi-hat, mixing it up in different combinations, all while keeping Time on the ride cymbal. Once you are comfortable with this and can get a nice flow happening, start to leave the occasional note out. Think compositionally and get comfortable with the placement and feeling of that 2nd "inner" triplet.

Here's a couple more fun exercises to further explore this concept:

2) Play the Jazz ride cymbal rhythm (right hand) with the 2nd triplet as a constant rhythmic ostinato on the snare drum (left hand).

Then using Stick Control, add a constant eighth-note shuffle between your feet, orchestrating it as follows:

R= bass drum

L= hi-hat

You'll find that you will create a constant stream of triplets underneath your ride cymbal but the feet will never line up with the 2nd triplet on the snare drum. Clever eh?

3) Same idea as above except use Page 37 etc. from Syncopation and orchestrate the rhythms between your feet while your right hand plays the Jazz ride cymbal beat and your left hand plays the 2nd triplet of each beat as an ostinato on the snare drum.

a) bass drum = long notes

    hi-hat = short notes

b) Reverse*

c) bass drum = Any rhythm that lines up on beats 1 and 3 (including the +'s)

    hi-hat = Any rhythm that lines up beats 2 and 4 (including the +'s)

d) Reverse*

Take it slow and remember: Keep it Swinging!

*Perhaps try playing the hi-hat as an open "splash" sound when interpreting it as a "long" rhythm...

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