Thursday, October 08, 2020

Developing New Orleans Second Line Grooves

Here is a sheet of rhythms as well as a handful of methods for building vocabulary and developing feel for a New Orleans Second Line Groove.

The New Orleans sound features a heavy influence from Caribbean, so it's quite common to hear rhythms that are essentially clave patterns with some variations and a different type of swing.  The difference is that these clave rhythms are the basis of the groove, but are not necessarily linked inextricably to the melody as they would be in Cuban music.  For example, listen to Dr. John play "Iko Iko".  The groove is clearly based around a 3-2 son clave, but the vocal phrasing, especially in the verse, sounds pretty 2-3 to me.

The sheet below is going to provide our bass drum parts as well as our snare drum parts.  In many ways this is a bit of a drag and drop sheet, like the Samba Jazz builder.  The first three examples are common bass patterns, which we'll discuss how to use in a moment, and below that are simply clave patterns with some small variations which increase the feeling of syncopation.  We'll use those in both our feet as well as our hands.

So, let's look at some ways we can use these rhythms.  In each example below you'll probably want to play the hi-hat on 2&4.

1.  Play any pattern from the sheet with your bass drum.  On the snare drum play steady 8th notes, and accent each 8th note prior to a bass drum note.  For bass drum notes that are only a quarter note apart I generally wouldn't bother trying to squeeze an accent in between them.  Here are two examples.  The first one is 3-2 Son in the feet, the second is 2-3 Son.

2.  Again, play any bass drum pattern and constant 8ths on the snare drum.  But this time play a different clave as accents on the snare drum.  In the first example below you will see the mambo bass drum pattern with 3-2 Son clave above it on the snare, and in the second example you'll see 2-3 Son in the bass drum with 3-2 Son above it.

3.  Play this sticking RLRR LRRL.  The right hand results in a rhythm called the "Cinquillo".  You can play everything on the snare as in the first two examples, but this also moves around the kit quite well.  Put your right hand on a cowbell or ride cymbal, get the toms involved, etc.  Just get creative with it.  You'll have to experiment a bit with the various bass drum parts as some work better than others.

4.  Another sticking.  This time RRLR RLRL.  This is generally associated with Johnny Vidacovich.  It works the same as number 3.  Orchestrate it around the kit and be careful with the bass drum part as they don't all sound great.  This sticking works particularly well with the mambo bass drum part.

5.  Use either of the two methods from numbers 1 or 2, but rather than play constant 8th notes on the snare drum, just play the clave pattern on the snare while playing the jazz ride cymbal pattern.

6.  Some options for rolls:
  •         Play a roll of beat 4 of the second bar
  •         If there is an accent on the & of 3 or the & of 4 place the roll there instead
  •         If there is no accent on beat 1 you can continue the roll from the previous bar through beat one and until you reach the next accent.

The swing feel in this style of music is a different beast altogether.  It's not as triplety as bop swing, but it's not exactly straight either.  As always, your best best is going to be to listen a bunch.  The go-to tune that most people recommend is The Meters "Hey Pocky Way".  You could also check out some Dr. John.