I am continuing with the transcription but have added some extra exercises to my practice. The first exercise is as follows:
A jazz standard melody is sung while playing specific rhythmic figures on the drum-kit. This exercise is an expansion to an exercise I practised with a collegue which was shown to us by Barak Schmool. It is performed by singing a 2 bar rhythmic phrase and clapping at specific points in the bar. Initially, we clapped at specified points within each beat – on the “and” of each beat for example – which would enable us to hear how that point of each beat feels against the underlying phrase. Gradually, clapped phrases become more and more complex: For example, clapping the first two 1/16th note beats, then repeating this phrase on every 3rd 1/16th (see notaional fig.3). This particular figure creates a polyrhtyhmic effect by giving the impression of a meter worth 3 beats in length, played over the underlying 2 bar phrase in 5/4. By practicing this, I found that gradually I was able to hear how the clapped phrase “fitted-in” with the 2 bar rhythmic phrase.
I have taken the basic concept of this exercise and applied it as an exercise to improve improvising on the drum-kit. As with the transcription of “Juju” the melody is sung while improvising on the drum kit. At the beginning of this process I sang the melody while playing specifc rhythmic figures on the kit. This process allows me to hear how these particular figures affect and shape the melody. After spending some time with these figures, I then begin to improvise while singing the melody. On recordings I made on April 19th (recording link no. 1), I can be heard improvising over the melody of Juju. I went around the melody numerous times but was getting frustrated as the time was quite often unsteady with the metronome. After thirty odd attempts, I altered my approach slightly: My priority was to sing the melody accurately and merely allow my hands and feet to, in a sense, strike the drums as they wished with little or no intervention from any conscious thought; when I could feel any tension in my arms or had a conscious thought where I would, effectively, tell my hands to force a phrase into a space, I stopped playing and concentrated on continuing to sing the melody accurately. The effectiveness of this was immediate: Time-Feel was relaxed yet clear and was more accurate with the metronome; there was a logic to the phrasing rather than it feeling overly complicated and unnecessarily complex.
As I have continued practicing in this way, I have found that by approaching soloing and accompaniment in this way, phrases refer and relate to either a melodic structure during solo or to the musical lines being improvised by other musicians in the case of accompaniment. Phrases are shaping the melodic structure that I am singing. What seems to be like a knock-on effect is that I am not playing “chops” at all and seem to be much more relaxed when I’m playing.
A very important observation to note is how often I push phrases onto the kit: moments of tension or even judgement of a solo “so far”, are dealt with by pushing my hands and feet to force a phrase. By singing the underlying structure, I am free to take my hands away at moments like this but still keep a sense of melodic structure, pulse and form and it enables me to hear how phrases played on the kit are shaping and unfolding with the melodic structure. Often the phrases seem very simple with little or no “chops” being played and in order to continue with an improvisation in this way, I find I am required to completely turn off my inner critic.
This approach definitely requires more practice time and I am very enthusiastic about where it is going to lead to.