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Topic: Lesson 1 - Intro & Rhythm

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
    Orcas Island

    Arrow Lesson 1 - Intro & Rhythm

    Using Garritan Jazz & Big Band

    by Chuck Israels

    Lesson 1 - Intro & Rhythm

    The information in this book is arranged sequentially, and the first reading of the material is probably best accomplished in that sequence. But the information wasn’t acquired that way, doesn’t exist that way in the writer’s mind, and won’t be used that way by the reader after it has been learned and integrated. We learn things best by immersion, the way we learned to speak our native language as children. Any language that we learn later, through books and courses of instruction, is learned less efficiently. There is no substitute for learning the language of music by writing it, and hearing it played. Unlike learning to fly a plane, mistakes
    will cause no permanent damage and may turn out to be memorably instructive.

    Music notation software and the Garritan Personal Orchestra Jazz Library make it possible to include easily accessible playback of the jazz arranging examples in this book. Together, they allow an arranger who doesn’t have easy access to live musicians to examine a variety of musical choices and play back a sketch version of the results. A performance by live musicians is the best feedback, but this method can provide an informative step along the way to finding the sounds and balances that define a composer/arranger’s personal style. High quality “sketch” playback can bring the composer/arranger closer to the end product and improve communication with musicians by providing a good representation of a basic interpretation of the notation.

    As long as the composer’s intention is to achieve results that are recognizable as being in the jazz style, it’s essential to have some listening background in the history of jazz arranging, so that elements of existing styles can be used as building blocks for the development of new music. Jelly Roll Morton’s march-based polyphony, Fletcher Henderson’s early big band swing, the Kansas City tradition as developed by Count Basie’s arrangers, Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s expansive variety of techniques, Tadd Dameron’s bebop sounds, Horace Silver’s mastery of small group forms, Gil Evans’ developments of more typically orchestral ideas, Oliver Nelson, J.J. Johnson, Gerry Mulligan, Bob Brookmeyer, Dave Berger …the list is a long one, and familiarity with successful pieces written by masterful musicians can save a new arranger a lot of time by pointing to effective established techniques.

    Of course, the assumption is that a creative musician will go beyond mimicry and use historical precedent as a starting point for new uses of established ideas, but there is rarely a need for a self-conscious search for originality. Most of us will naturally (and often unconsciously) insert enough elements of our point of view to provide the music with its own personality. There is no reason to fear that experience with, and understanding of, historically successful techniques will lead to a lack of creativity. More often than not, familiarity with examples of great music leads to efficiency in achieving the goal of effective personal expression.

    The most important things in music are: rhythm, rhythm, and rhythm, in that order. The most important thing in jazz rhythm is the democratization of the beats, the equalization of emphasis on all parts of the measure. This is not music theory. This is music fact, and it is what makes jazz “swing” in its idiomatic way. Musical elements that help balance the rhythms add to the propulsive forward motion of jazz; those that unbalance the rhythms impede that propulsion. (The Brazilian word for “swing” is “balance”.)

    In jazz and most popular music, harmonic changes take place on the first and third beats of common time music. The accents on the second and fourth beats in jazz function to balance the emphasis that accrues to the down beats as a result of the changes of harmony, and should be played as strongly as they need to be to fulfill that function and no stronger. Accenting the second and fourth beats heavily, as so many school musicians are taught to do, only serves to unbalance the music in the other direction and is as destructive to the swing as overemphasizing one and three. The only time heavy accents are needed on the off beats is when there is an equally strong emphasis on the down beats in a passage that needs a powerful “two beat” feel. In that case, the heavier off beats restore the balance.

    Beyond the world of half note and quarter note rhythms, smaller subdivisions of the pulse are also equally emphasized in jazz. There is no better or more characteristic demonstration of how this works than the music of Louis Armstrong, the genius of jazz expression who perfected this style. Louis’ singing and trumpet playing provide the quintessential basic templates for the understanding and creation of swinging jazz music. Everything that follows flows from the example set by his music.

    Some of the history of this style goes back to the West African need for songs and music to maintain historical tradition in a culture that did not use written language. Expressive singing was more than entertainment, it carried essential historical connections, and it had to be related to speech closely enough to make “resonant” sense to the listeners. This singing tradition began to show up in this country in the music of early Delta Blues singers and in the singing of Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey. Louis Armstrong applied this conversational style to a broader range of material, as he was encouraged to record the popular songs of his day in order for his music to reach a wider audience.

    The rhythms in Armstrong’s trumpet playing are directly related to those in his conversational singing style, the prototype for American interpretation of popular music lyrics. Jazz rhythms come from the way the originators of the style heard and spoke the English language, and familiarity with the sound of the language goes a long way towards suggesting ways to notate swinging jazz rhythms. Normally expressive spoken rhythms are full of nuances of timing, things that surge forward and things that hold back. And if those surface timings are experienced in relation to an underlying tempo of speech, they will show a balance of accents and stresses, some of which fall into regular predictable patterns, and some that are surprising in their syncopations and cross relationships with the general tempo.

    That is a pretty good parallel with the swinging rhythms of jazz. In order to have a good effect, those rhythms need to have predictable elements that establish expectation in the listener, and unpredictable elements that disturb that expectation soon enough and for a long enough time to be interesting, but neither too early nor for too long to obscure the memory of the established expectations. There is no substitute for immersion in the sounds and rhythms of good jazz in order to absorb them on an intuitive level. Still, something can be gained by looking at the way elements of jazz forms are interrelated and how they can be used to control the sense of expectation and surprise.

    Consider the way rhythmic expectations function in the first 16 measures of a 32- measure AABA song form. Whatever happens on the first beat of the 1st measure is deeply related to what will happen on the first beat of the 9th measure, slightly less deeply related to the first beat of the 5th measure, and another level less (though still connected) to what happens at the beginning of the 3rd measure. Corresponding relationships exist among other similar rhythmic positions in the form, and awareness of these relationships allows the jazz musician to use the mathematical predictability of the form as a background on which to superimpose elements that provide a felicitous balance of expectation and surprise.

    Here is the rhythm scheme of the first 16 measures of a simple standard popular song, as it might be performed by a, rhythmically-aware, singer or instrumentalist:

    This is a simplified example, and is only a rough template designed to show how parts of popular song form relate to one another. The benefits to be gained from careful listening and analysis of the recordings of great jazz singers cannot be over emphasized as a starting point for understanding how to create swinging jazz phrases. There are wonderful, challenging, examples among the recordings of Joe Williams, some of which are so rhythmically complex and sophisticated that they nearly defy notation.

    Changing pitches has less effect on our perception of music than changing meter and rhythm. Here is a simple example of how much more difference changing the rhythm makes than changing only the pitches.

    Score References & Musical Examples Using JABB:

    Click on Play Button below to Play from the Score

    These are a few of the most basic rhythms that help to identify the rhythmic character of American Jazz.
    (The “Charleston” rhythms are always played with a 12/8 swing feel. In order for the cross rhythms examples to have their maximum effect, they must be performed more evenly.)

    Score References & Musical Examples Using JABB:
    Click on Play Button below to Play from the Score

    Here is a sophisticated example using carefully notated improvisatory rhythms that set up an effective cross meter pattern that resolves in the 3rd measure.

    Score References & Musical Examples Using JABB:

    Click on Play Button below to Play from the Score

    Arrangements written by otherwise sophisticated musicians can fall short of their potential because of a lack of courage and persistence in remembering and notating the rhythms regularly played in jazz improvisations. Learning to notate improvisational rhythms takes considerable attention and practice, but the results, once understood and absorbed by the performers, can transform what might otherwise be a mundane piece of work into music that expresses the variety and joy of rhythmic spontaneity. Most arrangers spend the majority of their time and attention on questions of chord voicing and a small percentage on rhythm. For the most effective results, the proportions should be reversed. Devoting energy to the careful choice of rhythms brings musical rewards. It would be difficult to overemphasize the importance of this aspect of the jazz composer/arranger’s art.

    Getting started

    As the work on the composition/arrangement gets started, nothing is more important than getting the rhythmic proportions of the melody in balance. That’s a good first step. After the rhythmic phrasing has been decided and the proportions are satisfactory, the next step is to secure the foundation of the music by writing a good bass part. Once the relationship between the outside voices is determined, much of the work has been done, and other elements tend to fall into place more easily. It would be difficult to overemphasize the importance of organizing the details of this basic, outer-voice, sketch in directing the flow of the musical idea. Time spent considering and solidifying this part of the musical design is time well spent.

    Part of the jazz tradition is to provide only a chord chart for the bass player. While this can work well when the player is experienced, it can omit information that might lead to a more effective relationship between the bass part and a written melody. If there is going to be any doubt as to the direction of the line, writing it out can erase that doubt and give the bass player confidence that the part will be going in an effective direction. When in doubt, write it out (and provide chord symbols as an encouragement to embellishment).

    Please Support the Free Online Jazz Arranging Course
    Donate to the Author or Pre-Order the Book & DVD

    The online "Exploring Jazz Arranging" course is the culmination of a tremendous amount of work and represents a golden opportunity to learn from a real master. The course is offered free of charge and there is no obligation to buy anything. If you are benefiting from this course, it would be appropriate to honor Chuck's work if it is within your means. One way to support the effort is to make a donation to Chuck in appreciation of his work.Any and all donation proceeds go directly to Chuck.

    Another way to support this work us to pre-order the hardcover book & DVD that will ship at the conclusion of this course. The hardcover book will have additional material and will include this entire course on DVD.

    Go Here to the "Donation & Pre-Order Page"

    Coming Next Lesson: Lesson 2 - Bass Lines

  2. #2

    Re: Lesson 1 - Intro & Rhythm

    Your article is really great and I truly enjoyed reading it.
    thank you for the informative post and keep up the good work!

  3. #3

    Someone is still using the course.

    Just started the course. Finally. Finished Lesson one and moving on.

  4. #4

    Re: Lesson 1 - Intro & Rhythm

    Where has this been all my life! I have been playing since i was 5 and am now 52, listening and playing jazz since 1971 and always wanted to learn more about jazz arranging.

    Just finished the first lesson and going on to the second. I clicked the link to buy the book, but it takes you to a page that says "Oops! We couldn't find the page that you were looking for" when it tries to go to http://garritan.com/jazzcourse.html

    Anyone know if is still available? I want to contribute to say my thanks!


  5. #5

    Re: Lesson 1 - Intro & Rhythm

    I am now ready for lesson number 2 .. a big thanks for this ..

  6. #6

    Re: Lesson 1 - Intro & Rhythm

    Thank you very much for this!

  7. #7

  8. #8

    Re: Lesson 1 - Intro & Rhythm

    I've never done any jazz arranging before but this lesson really made me interested in giving it a go. Thanks Chuck, great stuff!

  9. #9

    Re: Lesson 1 - Intro & Rhythm

    WOW, incredibly amazing lesson, I really appreciate that you have added it here. A lot of useful information you can read there. I think that holding a rhythm is the most difficult think to do during playing.
    To want to, is to be able to.
    nya spel

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