Monday, February 6, 2012

4 and 5 letter words

Hey all,
There's been a lot of controversy about some remarks made about the word "Jazz" and what it means. I must admit I used to really hate that word and dance around the subject when people asked me what music I play. ( I suppose when someone asks that they really mean, "What sort of music do you play most often?" because when someone asks me the former question, what I want to say is something like "All of it", or "Whatever someone hires me to play" but I think that response would be perceived as rude or flippant.) After a while, however, I realised that although "Jazz" isn't a very descriptive word for a lot of music I love, neither are most names of musical styles.
The problem is when we're naming music we're trying to describe something so deep it's beyond description. Most words representing God, Love, or Joy don't cut it either, but we've got to call them something!
Let's look at some musical style terms and how inadequate they are.......

Classical- This a word used to denote over a 1000 years of music, from Bach to Bartok and actually also refers to a small era in the music as a whole. it also doesn't say anything about the size of ensembles.

Rock or Rock n' Roll- Originally derived from a slang word for sex (as Jazz was as well). I dunno, I guess these terms are to indicate that the music is supposed to feel good, like the word they're slang for.

Anyway, I think we just need to accept these terms for what they are, a way to market music, I don't think there's any point in giving them attention for anything else.

I am now going to talk about a word I"m having a lot of trouble with lately............Chops!

I believe this term originally was derived from brass players when discussing their ability to play their horns with strength and endurance with their facial muscles. It eventually became an almost universal term for technique on any instrument. Now, as a player who strives very hard to "sing" on my instrument, I actually quite like that this term comes from a wind instrument, just as I like to refer to soloing on the drums as "blowing". Unfortunately, I find more and more that the term chops really should be replaced with "velocity" because that seems to be the only technique that people are referring to when they use this term.
I don't understand why people tend to categorize things like "feel", "solid time", "creativity", "listening" as separate issues from how fast one can play. Hopefully, when I'm practicing I'm working on all these concepts. Do some people really believe that playing behind the beat, for example, isn't a skill that has to be worked on and acquired through hard work and patience? I think this is part of the reason I believe people should only play on a practice pad if drums aren't available. It's great to be able to play fast and clean, but if it's separated from it's context (the drums and the music itself) it's not that useful.
Think about it, what are the first 2 things people hear when they hear you (or anybody, for that matter) play? They first hear the sounds you're making, and 2nd hear the time feel. So if I'm some sort of mega chops guy with a crummy sound and feel, by the time I dazzle you with my "velocity" (not chops), I've probably lost you because I haven't made you want to dance!

Chops includes everything, as far as I'm concerned. Dynamics, reading, memory, knowledge of tunes and styles, even taste! So when we're practicing, let's work on all the music not just the stuff to impress drummers!

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