Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Metronome fun(?)

Why you, I oughta................

Just thought I'd share with you a couple of things I've been working on. The first thing is from Victor Wooten's great book The Music Lesson. Buy it here.
This exercise involves playing any simple groove along with the metronome assigning the click to any of the four 16th notes of the bar. Playing along with the click on the +s wasn't so challenging, but the e and ah was definitely creating some colourful language in the practise space today! To create more of a challenge (and because I'm a masochist) I did the same idea with swing rhythms and had the metronome playing on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd beats of the triplet. Oh, btw, all of these were done with the metronome at quarter note = 50 bpm. Plenty of margin for error there if you aren't really feeling that tempo. A couple of things I like about these exercises are that when you're playing to a click that's on the beat, if your time is reasonably accurate, it gets easy to disengage and not really listen to the metronome. With putting the machine on upbeats, there's no way to do that. You have to really play with this device. Also, it gets us as drummers more acclimatized to having things thrown at us. (Which isn't usually the case. As far as rhythmic trickery usually goes, most drummers have the adage "Tis better to give than receive"). If you can play strongly and effectively while the click is on the middle beat of the triplet, you are definitely holding your own.

I would warn, however, that this is just one way to work on the accuracy of your time. With the swing rhythm especially, there is quite a bit of leeway in the swing feel and some great grooves may not be even close to being mechanically "perfect". Make sure you're playing along to people like Tony Williams, Billy Higgins, Elvin, etc. No machine will ever be able to create time like that! The click is an important tool, but if it moves from being a partner to a master that has to be worshipped, we end up with music like the stuff that was popular in the 80s and a lot of that is, frankly, unlistenable.

So click and then don't click!

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