Hey Jazz Guy,
I feel like I’m a broken record. I’m always
playing the same rhythms and can’t seem to snap
out of it. Any suggestions? –Broken in Bed-Stuy
One great way to spice up your rhythmic
life and improve your technique at the same
time is to study groupings of notes and displacement.
When we practice rhythms such as
sixteenth-notes, we’re tempted to play them
in groups of two and four. However, they can
be played in nearly infinite groupings. Playing
sixteenth-notes in groups of three [Ex. 1]
becomes a little more interesting, as it displaces
the beat and spills over the bar lines (FYI: F
Lydian will be used for all examples). Groupings
of five, like in Ex. 2, displace the accents
in the sequence. Playing a descending scale
pattern in groups of three [Ex. 3] and groups
of five [Ex. 4] highlights the effect. (Important:
These examples must be played with a
metronome or you will not hear the concept.)
We can also group sixteenth-notes without
having to attack them all. Dotted eighth-notes
reflect groupings of three sixteenth-notes
where only the first note is attacked [Ex. 5].
In Ex. 6 we can combine groupings to make
the line more interesting. Freely mixing both
the groupings and the attacks, as in Ex. 7, can
lead to complex and interesting rhythms. As
a general rule, odd groupings of even subdivisions—
such as eighths and sixteenths—
displace well, and even groupings of odd
subdivisions, like the triplets in Ex. 8, also
displace well. There are many ways to experiment
and extend these ideas, incorporating
more mixed groupings and rests as well as
groups of seven and nine. However you use
them, you certainly will have left your broken
record sound in dust. Jazz hard!
Jake Hertzog is the jazz ambassador to the non-jazz
world. Send your questions to guitplyr@musicplayer.
com. Jake’s latest release is Evolution [Buckyball].
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