4:3 metric modulation in jazz

toddbishop

Platinum Member
4:3 metric modulation in jazz [UPDATED- new pdf added]

Here's a little piece I posted on my blog, for working on the 'dotted 8th = quarter note' metric modulation/implied meter in jazz. It's an advanced concept, and I didn't go overboard on the explanation, so feel free to ask questions about working on it or applying it.

Follow the link to view it and get the pdf.
 
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daredrummer

Gold Member
When you apply this in jazz time, wouldn't it sound the same as if being played in 4/4 to the listener?
Or am I way off here?
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
DD- Yes, it sounds exactly like 4/4, but slightly faster than the original tempo, since the primary pulse is dotted 8ths. But all the relationships are the same.

Gusty- It comes up most often on jazz waltzes, or tunes in 6/8 that are basically waltzes, like Footprints- a lot of times the rhythm section will modulate into the faster 4. The drummer can also superimpose it alone. There's a lot of this sort of thing on Wynton Marsalis' Standard Time records, and on Brad Mehldau's Art of the Trio records.

I actually think the effect can be a little trite, but it's a good exercise even if you don't plan on getting that rhythmically cute in your actual playing. The way you have to count to master these can help clean up the internals of your time feel and basic comping- it's sort of a rhythmic cross-reference. It also helps you keep from getting lost when the rest of the group gets rhythmically adventurous.
 

gusty

Platinum Member
Gusty- It comes up most often on jazz waltzes, or tunes in 6/8 that are basically waltzes, like Footprints- a lot of times the rhythm section will modulate into the faster 4. The drummer can also superimpose it alone. There's a lot of this sort of thing on Wynton Marsalis' Standard Time records, and on Brad Mehldau's Art of the Trio records.

I actually think the effect can be a little trite, but it's a good exercise even if you don't plan on getting that rhythmically cute in your actual playing. The way you have to count to master these can help clean up the internals of your time feel and basic comping- it's sort of a rhythmic cross-reference. It also helps you keep from getting lost when the rest of the group gets rhythmically adventurous.

Ok cool - I think I can sort of 'feel' how it sounds, if you know what I mean. I tapped it out while counting in 3 and got through the whole thing at a slow tempo, so I might give this one a go. Thanks!
 

daredrummer

Gold Member
DD- Yes, it sounds exactly like 4/4, but slightly faster than the original tempo, since the primary pulse is dotted 8ths. But all the relationships are the same.

Gusty- It comes up most often on jazz waltzes, or tunes in 6/8 that are basically waltzes, like Footprints- a lot of times the rhythm section will modulate into the faster 4. The drummer can also superimpose it alone. There's a lot of this sort of thing on Wynton Marsalis' Standard Time records, and on Brad Mehldau's Art of the Trio records.

I actually think the effect can be a little trite, but it's a good exercise even if you don't plan on getting that rhythmically cute in your actual playing. The way you have to count to master these can help clean up the internals of your time feel and basic comping- it's sort of a rhythmic cross-reference. It also helps you keep from getting lost when the rest of the group gets rhythmically adventurous.
Ok I understand.
Sounds great I'll give it a go!
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
That's where the math gets really nuts- to do more complicated comping stuff you want to know the basic exercises backwards and forwards, and then do the complicated things just over 3/4 until they're really solid. If you can read the long exercises in Reed doing the 4:3 thing while keeping track of your place in the form in 4/4, I'd say you're pretty cooking. Most people never get these things together to a professional standard in plain old 4/4.
 

gusty

Platinum Member
On the train today I wrote out this concept in 4/4 using quintuplets...I tried to scan it but the scan didn't work, but it looks interesting. Probably not musical (I can't hear it in my head so I don't know) but an interesting concept and probably really difficult.
 

zap98

Member
metric modulation is the same as a polyrhythm?

one or more rhythms played over each other.

What is the ratio. Is it 4 beats played over 3. Would that be the same as 3 against 4 in polyrhythm talk?

Or is it something else? I'm a bit iggy and curious.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Metric modulation actually refers to a tempo change accomplished by reassigning the value of a given note- in this case, the dotted 8th note of the old tempo becomes the quarter note of the new tempo. So it's not 100% correct to use it referring to two or more meters being played simultaneously, even though it's used that way all the time. People also use the terms "implied" meter and "cross" rhythm. I like Jack Dejohnette's term- meter-within-meter- but it doesn't seem to be real universally recognized. The terms polyrhythm and polymeter also apply, but seem to be out of favor right now, for some reason.

So, metric modulation and polyrhythm are not the same thing, but people often use MM when the mean PR.

Here 4:3 is correct and 3:4 isn't; our modulated primary pulse is dotted 8th notes, of which there are 4 in the space of 3 of the old quarter note primary pulse. 3:4, with the 4 still being quarter notes, would make the 3 a half note triplet. The two ratios are the same (though inverted) mathematically, but musically the order is important- the second number refers to the old/original/base rhythm, and the first number refers to the superimposed rhythm. So if you change the order you get a different thing musically.

I hope that helps! The idea is actually simpler than the language you have to use to talk about it. We're talking about the underlying concept, but you don't need to do any fancy math to play the thing the way I've written it- all you have to do is play the written note values literally.
 

zap98

Member
This is a great explanation....thanks boss.

The only misunderstanding i have is why should there be a change in the tempo. I am referring to your piece. Maybe I don't understand what tempo means?

I understand tempo as BPM. So you could be playing 8ths, triplet 8ths, 16ths, etc, but in the same BPM. So the tempo dicates the rate of how the the standard note values are played, so tempo is constant and always there.

But I also accept pieces can have tempo changes e.g. 60bpm for 8 bars, then 90bpm for the remainder.

Could you clarify.

P.S. - i like meter-in-meter, its neater like encapsulation!
 

jeffc

Junior Member
Thanks for posting this man... it's really helpful stuff. My question is about counting and keeping the form. When you change from 3/4 to 4/4 and the phrases start going over the barline....

How do you keep track? What is the most important thing to concentrate on? Do you count all four beats, or is the downbeat the most important? Do you subdivide as well? 8th's 16ths?

Is it better to feel the dotted 8th as the primary pulse or AS it's written feeling the off beat sixteenth notes.

Do you concentrate on the number of cycles it takes for the pattern get back the downbeat of the bar (if it's in 4/4) by singing the melody as i hear jazz musicians do?

Sorry if this is way too many questiions. thanks again.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Thanks Jeff! To start putting them in 4/4 without getting lost, 1) do the superimposed time for short periods at first, and 2) decide on the phrase you're going to use ahead of time. I'd start with one measure of the exercises in 3/4, plus a quarter note to make a measure of 4/4; then try two exercise measures plus two beats of whatever you want, to make two measures of 4, and so on through the common phrase/section/form lengths- 4, 8, 12, 16 measures and beyond if you want to be a nut about it. It will help if you count out loud as you do this- it's difficult to sustain over several measures, but it will really help keep you from getting lost not just with this idea, but with anything.

I don't know if you need to subdivide further- aside from just counting in 4, I'd be getting a feel for where the downbeats and half notes fall vs. the 4:3 time. I don't normally do this kind of thing by counting the number of cycles, and relying on the math to come out right- I want to know where I am all the time. Hearing the melody of the tune in your head will help you come out right even if you blow the pattern.

I'm actually putting together a page of stuff that should help- I'll post it here when it's done.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Re: 4:3 metric modulation in jazz [UPDATED- new pdf added]

Thanks Mathias! You don't really need Chapin for this- but here's an example for reference.

On the blog I've posted another pdf with some more things- preparatory/explanatory exercises, practice phrases, and some bonus cool stuff.
 

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