Excerpt from the book Max on “Swing” by Max Bacon (1934)
SWING. I cannot imagine a better name, for to me it conveys everything that is expressed in the ultra-modern rhythm. And before we go any farther, I want to pass this feeling on to you; because, until you learn what it is that we are to do, it is no use attempting to learn how it is to be achieved.
What, then, is this “swing”, which is the very essence of successful rhythmic playing to-day? Is it rhythm ? It is more than rhythm.
It is the very pulse of rhythm – that which beats within rhythm to give it life.
Unless the essential swing is there, the rhythm will cease to inspire: it may even cease to exist. Swing is a very elusive thing, but there is no mistaking it when you hear it. It is a sense of rhythmic balance which moves the whole band as one unit. It is a steady sweeping movement, like the swing of the pendulum of a grandfather clock. To and from: to and from. That is swing ; and until a band get knack of swinging together, that band will not be a success. The expression of the rhythm is of the same type that you see in that super swing acquired by skilled skaters, dancing upon ice – large regular sweeps. Mind you, this swing is very difficult to acquire at first. It does not come all at once, even to the best musicians. I have often heard a bunch of well-known players get together for amusement and – experienced though they are – it will be quite a while before they begin to swing as a unit. In the same way, it sometimes happens that a band noted for its swing will lose it for a time. Lack of concentration, or over-tiredness is generally the cause.
But when once you get “into” the swing of the rhythm, you will find that you keep it, for the simple reason that a rhythmic movement, with its regular pulse, is the easiest to maintain.
What is the best way to acquire swing, you may well ask. First and foremost, it is a question of temperament: you must like it when you hear it and you must want to do it yourself. As you know, most dance drummers have become such because they were “drum-minded” ; they had in “in” them to become drummers. In just the same way, you must have it in you to feel that swing behind the rhythm. As I say, it is a question of temperament. It is, of course, partly what we call a gift. You must have the gift of a drumming mind. But it can most definitely be acquired to those who will.
There are several ways of helping yourself to get swing into your work. First and foremost, you must listen to those bands that are known to excel in this. Compare them with others and notice the difference. Then try and analyze their work and discover how this difference is produced. By this means, you will find yourself gradually “soaking your system” in swing until it enters your very blood and becomes part of you.
Having thus acquired it, the best way to produce it is to play easily. Do not be strained or forced. And to do this, you must, of course, have a certain amount of technique…..
Remember that the drummer has a very important part to play in swinging the band: and a poor drummer cannot swing a band, even if it is a good one. And the reverse of this is equally true.
This inspiring book consists of 40 pages of famous Max Roach solos and is now available to order ! Order on the online shop via the link below.
Limited amount available! Visit www.maxroachsolos.com
“Daniel Israelsen’s transcription book on Max Roach is a must have for every Drummer. Great notation combined with great stickings gives you a tool not to miss as a student of being the next Drummer in demand!” – Anders Mogensen (Tim Berne, Jerry Bergonzi, Marc Johnson, Steve Swallow, Bob Berg, Michael Formanek, et al., associate Professor at Carl Nielsen Academy of Music, Odense, Denmark)
Here is a list of the 15 transcribed drum solos, which will be in the book:
The Scene is Clean
Just One of Those Things
I Get A Kick Out of You
I Get A Kick Out of You (Alternate Take)
I’ll Remember April (Take 3)
Flossie Lou (Alternate take 2)
Flossie Lou (Alternate take 1)
Love Is A Many Splendored Thing.
Very few people are able to work out what Roach actually is playing, so this would indeed help many drummers around the world to study and discover famous Max Roach drum phrases/licks.
The book has been reviewed and recommended by renown Jazz drummers Anders Mogensen, Ralph Salmins, Trevor Tomkins and Michael Skinner.
When people speak of a melody being singable, it means that the phrase are no longer than a good normal span of human breath.
General Characteristics [Melodic Movement] The realizations of movement in a work of art is an integration of three influences:
The dynamic quality of perception
The forward impulsion of rhythm
The proper organization of the details in the medium
Repetition: Because music has no verbal context to unfold its meaning, the formal elements which create the substance and significance of music are all the more important. Of these forming elements, repetition of a tone or tonal pattern provides the best means of unification.
Contrast: The interaction between contrast and repetition is just such a reciprocal relationship in which each element intensifies the other. The result is a synthesis of emphases, which contributes to a deeper and more integrated unification than either element alone could generate.
Variation – a gradation of contrast In music, variation reinforces the constructive qualities of repetition and contrast, with the result that it provides one of the best structural means for continuing attention and interest.
Climax, Focal point, Dominance: In the temporal arts, some emphasis in the particular medium is even more necessary than in the static arts. A strong climax will, so to speak, gather its flanking parts into a homogeneous apprehension. It often happens that the element, which saves a fleeting and vague perception of a temporal artwork from confusion is a strong dominating focal point. The emphasis of a particular word, gesture or tonal pattern can be the primary means of establishing the identity of form in such art media.
The return: The return is very vital in the perception of the temporal arts; the memory must recall enough of the initiating phase of the art form so that the return can function as a third phase of the tripartition cycle, and then complete and unify the expression. The return may be expressed through a similarity of thought or gesture, a synonym of words, or a suggestion of previously used tonal or rhythmic pattern; but the psychological response of recognition of the familiar should always be attained.
Balance:As with all the other art forms, a melody must have the basic elements of repetition, contrast, climax and return in such proportions that a balance of all these varied structural influences will result. “The underlying law of balance will be found at the root of every perfect melody.”
Ways of realising balance This criterion is unique in that its function lies in the distribution of melodic elements and material, which have just been previously used. Therefore, the composer should utilize balance as he approaches a pause or a close of melodic movement, for at these places he can best apportion and integrate in retrospect the interaction of the other elements. In painting, sculpture or architecture, balance is static and comparatively easy to grasp at a single glance. For this reason, the structural details of a static art form often approximate equal proportions. Because a melody is perceived in time, a balance of its elements becomes more difficult to comprehend than in the static arts. As a result of this temporal characteristic of appreciation, a melody rarely achieves an exact symmetry of repetition, contrast, climax and return, through a mechanical distribution of an equal number of measures.
Having thought about these few points, it is important to still remember that one of the most important elements of developing and discovering a natural (organic) melody is by using your voice. Singing is very important when composing, but also when working with music in general.
Analysis of a melody
This melody has cadences tailored into it and thematic development, which I believe is why it’s so strong in itself. This four bar section from “Not” composed by Anders Jormin, consists of four devises / approaches / fragments / cells.
The whole section creates a form/structure, which is the most famous of all. The AABA. Each cell establishes it’s own little statement.
This first section of the piece has an underlying sustained D pedal and notice that the most important note in the melody is the A (the anchor, which maintains balance).
Bar one introduces the tonality and flow of the melody and starts on the D and ends with an A triad. This can be considered as a melodic cadence. The I and the V (roman numbers).
Bar two is a rhythmic development of the first bar and also has the D as the I, and the A as the V chord. (repetition with little variation)
Bar three is the B section (the contrast) of these four bars and is a modulation of the same rhythm as in the second bar.
Bar four is the conclusion and reminder or “return” of the first mood/tonality of the melody, stating the A.
There are many ways of thinking about composing, sounds and connecting one chord to another.
I will do my best to explain a useful effect that can be applied as well as concepts which helps me when transcribing, composing and arranging.
First of all, I would like to share some fundamentals; the modes of the Major Scale as I see it, complete with chord symbols and slash chords. I will list these in the original (functional) order, but also in an (Modal) order ranging from the brightest sound to the darkest.
The order in the picture represents each mode as we play the C major scale from C – B. e.g.
Play all the white notes from C-C on the piano (this is the sound of the Ionian scale)
Play all the white notes from D-D on the piano (this is the sound of the Dorian scale)
Play E-E = Phrygian scale, etc. etc.
Some might find it confusing and difficult to understand slash chords, but it’s really not that complicated. Composers make use of slash chords, when they wish to present a particular sound or scale. The way they are represented (using a / ), can indicate either:
1. the scale or mode
2. an inversion of a chord, creating a particular sound. This could for example be ‘5 over 1’ i.e. C/F. It could also be Cm/Bb, and this particular voicing, wants to go Aø – D7(b9) – GΔ. The scale representing the inversion Cm/Bb can suggest the use of either C Dorian or the C Aeolian scale. The Bb is not the start of the scale (it’s just an inversion of Cm7).
Here’s the list of the compulsory slash chords related to the Modes of the Major Scale, but using intervalic numbers, which may be an easier way to remember them. This knowledge will help us to determine whether a composer is referring to a particular scale or simply just an inversion.
Voicing Tip: Including the 4th in a voicing, often represents the sound of the mode clearer than the 5th. FΔ#11/C represents C Ionian, but you could in fact play this chord only (4th step of the scale) whilst changing the bass note, according to which mode you wish to represent.
Theoretical fact: When we tritone substitute the V in a II-V-I, we should include the note of that original chord that we substitute. This will give us the most IN-sound to play on the substitution – the Lydian Dominant scale. In the key of C, the G is such a crucial note as part of the cadence to C.
A straight Db mixolydian (Db7) scale would in fact lead to the key of Gb. However, this could be your choice of sound in a specific context. But knowing the importance of the G creating a Db7#11 is important. The Mixolydian scale is a more angular choice, but would sound ok.
Analysis of effective use of contrasting colours in compositions
As mentioned in another post, I have transcribed several Anders Jormin compositions and have found a great example of how to explain and use one of the most notable writing-effects possible. I’m using the solo section of his composition “Seli” to demonstrate this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-HiCop-0jIo
Bar 1 and 2: introduce minor keys – relative minors to chords in bar 3. The phrygian chord is a nice transition to the harmonic minor chord. Bar 3: here we are introduced to the relative majors of the minor chords in bar 1. Bar 4: we are reminded of the original mood as in the beginning of the sequence. The phrygian scale helps the improviser to shape his phrase into the harmonic minor sound at the end of bar 4 before modulating. The note F is held by the phrygian slash chord before resolving to the note E. Coming from DbΔ, the improviser can still use the Ab ionian scale on the phrygian chord because it’s the third degree of Ab, i.e. the Db bass note descending to the C, creates a minor sound, leading smoothly into the F Harmonic minor scale, just before modulating to A minor. Bar 5: “Resolution”. New refreshing colour / sound to the piece and gives the sequence more shape and adds variety. Bar 6: Reminder of the relative major sound related to the original mood / key of the piece. It’s very common to improvise using the lydian scale on major chords, but not always the most effective solution – the decision should always be made with consideration to the surrounding harmony and context. context context context. (in this case, Bobo Stenson uses lydian which is the best sounding solution). Bar 7: this bar functions as a transition, moving back into the minor mood/key of the piece. Bar 8: a brief movement from major to harmonic minor, which prepares our ears to go back to the top of the sequence..
This is a perfect example of how “naturals” can create the effect of brightness even though the quality is a minor chord. It proves that context plays a big role in what our ear interprets as bright and dark sounds. The resolution of 3 or 4 flats/sharps, brings the most notable harmonic change (“allowed”) from one chord to the next one. It is this harmonic resolution, which creates less tension and causes a sense of unexpected delight to our ears. This effect is possible because of the context in which it is used. Take the Lydian sound for example:
This sound can come across a serious/powerful sound played in a particular context such as in rapid chord changes, but when applied to a modal situation in a slower tempo, the sound may come across as a bright open sound. That being said, the actual voicing of the chord plays a big role on the overall texture. Powerful sound; when voiced in stacks of fourths. (#4-Δ7-3) Another strong voicing is: 1-3-#4-Δ7. A modal voicing would be the slash chord: G/F
The bottom line: adding 3 or 4 sharps (or resolving 3/4 flats) to a current tonality will give us the most notable change of scene/colour, or whatever you want to call it.
Our end conclusion and findings are astonishing. When creating a curve representing the change of colours used in Jormin’s composition we are presented with a cultural connection showing us a part of the nature from his homeland Sweden – Mountains 😀
My thoughts on the art of musical expression – Daniel Harding
One of my philosophies, which has been confirmed in recent years from listening and being around so many different musicians/drummers, is the important concept or skill of knowing what not to play, but also, perhaps more importantly, knowing when to play soft and when to play loud.
Musicians may learn many phrases and licks, but the real music doesn’t start to happen before they let go, start listening to everything else around them, play with honesty and have self-belief in the musical decisions they make in real time.
Sometimes I hear drummers playing too many notes (tossing too many ideas into the music) on the drums and not thinking about being supportive in a musical way i.e. in relation to what other members of a group may be playing. It is something a discovered through my own development as a musician/drummer.
One of the reasons for this tendency could be an underdeveloped ear, i.e. poor listening skills from having focused only on one particular instrument on a recording. I remember listening to myself performing a piece with a band when I was younger, and noticed that I wasn’t only playing what the drummer on the recording I was inspired by, but also playing what the piano was playing, which was the melody. In other words – I wasn’t supporting the music happening ‘live’ in the moment in my band. I was trying to replicate what I was hearing it in my head.
The reason for this tendency would be unfamiliarity with melodies, lack of patience, lack of listening skills, not being in the moment, or even through a wrong assumption of being afraid to leave too much space (silence), and thereby not supporting other members of the band musically.
That being said, there is also another aspect to these observations/philosophy of playing less; i.e. it all depends with whom you are playing and what style is being explored. I’m not saying that it’s better to play really simple no matter what, but merely pointing out, that it all depends on the style of music being played and what other musicians play around your groove.
What musicians play, also depend on their life experience and their developments as human beings – the journey of finding out whom we truly are and how we can thrive and become successful. Experience is an underestimated value for music and other professions for that matter. We can study music in conservatoires as students, graduating with flying colours, but without ‘real life’ music experiences – we won’t acquire the skills we need to be successful later in our career.
Drumming started out as being a solid foundation for which music was based, but as time went by the drumming loosened up and got freer and started contributing as an instrument of musical interaction and ‘question and answer’. Some of the first drummers to do this were Sidney “Big Sid” Catlett, Kenny Clarke, Papa Jo Jones, Max Roach and later Philly Jo Jones and Elvin Jones.
Today there are so many musical styles and international influences on jazz. Jazz is found all around the world and the history of jazz directly connects to the history of humanity.
The modern society that we live in today is another point on why Jazz is particularly interesting and helpful to us. We find ourselves in a stressful environment with computers, mobile phones, the latest news, wars and the demand for everything to function as quickly as possible. Spending time on something which can make you feel liberated, express your true self and forget all about your worries for a while, is an important value to realise within our modern society.
Jazz is an art form of expression and when practiced, can leave us feeling relaxed, bringing us back to square one and remind us that we are in control of our lives. The musical expression is important and I feel honoured to be part of the next generation, pursuing jazz and its representation of freedom.
I have personally arrived at a point, where self-expression and interacting through music, is easiest when improvising freely. The most important things about self-expression are to be honest, to listen, be supportive, be confident in decisions made, be in the moment and make sure the artistic message reach out to whoever is listening. There is an inner urge to explore, discover the unknown, because we are already familiar with the known (such as jazz standards) and it’s important to try and reach higher levels of music making, because, repetition is dangerous for our creative muse.
Before we can begin to explore this freedom we need to have reached a certain musical maturity in order to be fully creative and embrace our individual artistic capabilities. As Sonny Rollins once said:
“I think there are two kinds of music: that which expands and that which contracts”. With that, he was referring to our musical consciousness.
Check out some of the best improvising (free) drummers, such as Gerry Hemmingway, Rashied Ali, Milford Graves, Paal Nilssen-Love, Gerald Cleaver, Tom Rainey, Han Bennink, Louis Moholo, Ronald Shannon Jackson, Paul Lovens, Chris Corsano, Jon Christensen, Mark Sanders, Tony Oxley, Hamid Drake, Raymond Strid and Billy Higgins.
For my arranging module at Trinity Laban Conservatoire, I wanted to do something that I was particular interested in at the moment – and so, I chose to write in the style of Bob Brookmeyer. This turned out to be the most intense and beneficial task of the year. I chose to arrange the John Coltrane composition “Lazy Bird”
I made a 1500 words rationale to support my arranging decisions.
I will upload an audio file of the arrangement when I get hold of it.
Excerpt from “Conversations”
Steve Lacy in conversation with Kirk Silsbee on 26 March 1988 at the Club Catalina’s in Hollywood:
What’s your general attitude towards practice?
It’s what I was saying before about grappling: you have to really treat your instrument badly. You have to really beat on it. You have to hit on it and insist on certain things that it doesn’t want to deal with. You have to stay on some low notes until the instrument is crazy. Another thing I would like to recommend you is tight corner exercises where you limit what you’re working on to just one or two notes and you stay on it a long, long, long time. You take a half step and you play this half step for a while. Just go back and forth on this half step. If you keep it up for a while it starts to get very boring. When you get beyond the boredom, it starts to get interesting a little bit. If you stay on it after that, you get into the realm of hallucinations and there’s where the fun begins. There’s where the interval starts to get bigger and bigger and you start to get smaller and the interval gets bigger than you are. You’re a little person in this big interval, which is a half-step. It becomes a room and after an hour in this room, it’s like a trip. You have a rest and everything is transformed. Your ear is changed. A trip like that changes your whole life. Well, there’s a thousand trips like that possible. I would recommend that you start dealing with things like that if you’re interested in digging what can be dug out.
The majority of this book is about Scott’s life told by his sister as well as other people who worked with Scott, sharing their stories and memories of him. Very easy to read.
Miles Davis – The Definitive Biography, by Ian Carr
This was the first biography I bought, but for some reason I haven’t quite finished it yet. First half was great, but towards the end I lost concentration, perhaps because I was mostly interested in the stuff he did in the 50’s and 60’s.
Fiction / Facts and Wisdom
I got this really interesting book as a Christmas present from my mum. It’s called. “The Art of Melody” by Arthur C. Edwards
It’s an old library book from Stamford Branch Library University of Connecticut.
I’m in chapter two at the moment, but let me say that it really sheds some light on how to think and what to consider when composing melodies. Wow.. it keeps me busy.
This is a very good book! Kind of opened up my mind to an extend – it’s full of great sayings, stories and quotes.
For my research methods module at Trinity Conservatoire I choose to reflect on a chapter from the book. Feel free to read it. Form unfolding – a relation to a practical piece of work (doc)
A few years ago I started transcribing some tunes I really like. The latest ones are “Moon River”, “Ballad of The Sad Young Men” and Anders Jormin’s composition “Q”. Speaking of Anders Jormin – I’ve found his composition particularly interesting. His use of melody and harmony is very musically interesting and satisfying to me.
I’ve transcribed his compositions “Not”, “Seli”, “Sediment”, including the whole piano arrangement of “M” played by Bobo Stenson from his album Reflections.
I also transcribed a couple of tunes by Keith Jarrett, Lars Jansson, Bobo Stenson, amongst many others. All tunes which are not formally published by the artist (makes it more interesting).
Transcribing will benefit your ability to recognize sounds (chord extensions), your reading, your piano skills in terms of voicings and chord progressions.
I sometimes analyze the tunes and wish that I someday will be able to write just a well as they do.