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Hey Jazz Guy: Rhythmic Displacement

January 30, 2014
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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

Dear Broken,
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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