Friday, March 27, 2015

3, 5, 7 Exercise

Here is a versatile coordination concept that I often use when working on new groove ideas.  For lack of a better name I simply call it 3, 5, 7, because what we are essentially doing is implying 3, 5 and 7 (8 or 16) over 4/4.  By implying odd time signatures we can play over the bar line and build longer phrases with a more fluid sense of improvisatory time playing while also strengthening our coordination over a new ostinato or grooves.  In general I try not to think of this exercise in terms of one time signature being implied over another.  I’m not trying to see how many mathematical permutations I can achieve.  I’m simply trying to further develop coordination and facility in improvising.  Remember, music, not math.

There are a number of different ways you can use this concept.  As I’ve been doing a lot of samba stuff lately let's start with that as an example.  Say you’re working on some of the patterns from the Jazz Samba Builder.  You’re comfortable with many, or all of the combinations, and now you want to start playing longer phrases and improvising.

Try, say, the second ride cymbal pattern, with the first bass drum pattern, and upbeats on the hi-hats, which would look like so:

With the left hand, then, try each of the 3, 5, and 7 exercises (the note values will be cut in half).  You can orchestrate them as a rim click, or lightly on the snare.  As with the Four Limb Warm-Up exercise, these will naturally resolve after an odd number of bars, but you should work in more common phrases, like 4, 8 and 12 bars.  The best way to do this, of course, would be to play along with music rather than using a metronome.  Each of them would look like this:

Once you’re comfortable with each of them, you can thicken things up a little bit by adding a “skip” note.  Any time you have note followed by two 8th note rests, play two notes instead of just one, which will look like so:

Applied to the previous exercise:

We can also achieve some great textures by applying this to the ride cymbal.  Use the same feet patterns as before and play the 3, 5, and 7 patterns on the ride cymbal.  With your left hand you can fill in the gaps:

Or for a sound with a little more depth I like to play the snare drum on all of the 16th note upbeats (this fits the samba feel particularly well), like so:

If you’re feeling a little more ambitious, you can try to play some of the left hand patterns from the Jazz Samba Builder sheet while you play the 3, 5, 7 ideas on the ride.

You can also apply this concept to your feet, and any number of different types of grooves.  Use it to develop coordination, longer phrases, soloing ideas, etc.  Once you’re comfortable with whatever way you try to orchestrate these ideas, start improvising with them by stringing them together and mixing and matching.

Although I have notated some examples for you here, I recommend that whatever you apply this concept to you do so without reading.  Learn to feel these ideas rather than trying to think of one time signature over another.

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