LAST MONTH, WE TURNED OUR ATTENtion
from harmonic awareness to rhythmic
awareness, looking at a few exercises
designed to increase our rhythmic vocabulary.
This time, let’s continue that exploration
by applying the method of subdivision
to “odd” meters. First of all, the only thing
that makes a particular meter odd is a lack
of familiarity. Playing in 5, 7, 9, or 13 can
feel just as comfortable as 3, 4, or 6 if you
put the proper amount of time into it.
|Portland, Oregon-based bassist and educator
Damian Erskine has toured and recorded with a long list of greats, from Gino Vanelli and the Peter Erskine New Trio to the Jaco Pastorius Big Band. Visit him at damianerskine.com
I often find it helpful to break down odd
phrases or time signatures into groups of
rhythms I feel naturally. For example, many
of us are comfortable playing in groups of
two, three or four beats. If 5/4 confounds
you, try feeling it as a group of 3+2. Working
with a good compound metronome is
extremely useful here (one that allows you
to set up downbeats in different rhythmic
combinations, such as 3+2, 4+3, 5+4, etc.).
Example 1 is a simple line in 5/4 time.
You should pretty well be able to feel the
3+2 compound feel here. Even the trickiest of lines can often be broken down in this
easily digestible way! Example 2 is an example
of how a groove in 15/8 would most
likely really be felt (counted). It’s simply a
“slow” 4 and a “quick” 7 (which is really
4+3). So, I’m feeling the first half in 4/4 and
the second half in 7/8. In other words, it’s
8/8 + 7/8. This may be advancing the concept
a little quickly—don’t worry if you can’t
play it right away. Just understand the concept
and begin to explore the myriad ways
one can divide a beat, a bar, or a phrase.
Practice playing the different sections
on their own until you can internalize
them and begin to combine the different
phrases. Quite often when I’m reading or
playing in an odd meter, I’ll break down
each bar into simpler parts and then combine
them. Ultimately, my goal is to internalize
the line as a whole, as I’m simply
unable to really count and play at the same
time. So I practice trying to internalize the
groove in bite-size chunks until I can feel
the longer phraseology.