Open, broken and busy time - how to practice

Mighty_Joker

Silver Member
Hi folks,

Take a look at this great performance by Eric Harland: Video

From about 1:16, he plays this wonderful busy time feel, alternating between the ride and hi-hats, with what looks like comping on the snare. I'm very interested in this style, and curious how to approach practising it.

So far, I've been trying rudiments; for instance, switching between paradiddle-diddles and double paradiddles between my hands while keeping a pulse. However, I don't think what Eric is playing is completely linear. Unison notes suggest it's not entirely rudimental, hence my confusion.

What are some good practice methods for keeping a groove like this, where his hands seem totally free to keep time, yet produce this very busy, melodic feel? I'm interested in your thoughts on this.

Thanks.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
It looks like normal ECMish modern jazz/quasi-Brazilian language, but busier (and smoother!) than most people are comfortable making at QN=160ish. Notice that he's playing a (loose) ostinato on the bass drum part of the time, and when he's on the drums he's doing normal hands stuff- so the tricky part to understand is what's going between the cymbal and the LH. There isn't really a standard method for developing that stuff, that I'm aware of, but if you work with making a similar feel out of these things, you might find that style somewhere in the middle:

- Basic coordination using the 8th/2-16th cym pattern (1 &a 2 &a)- regular jazz vocab evened out. Working out the same stuff with two or three more complex RH patterns would be helpful- like pick a pattern from Syncopation pp. 34-37 (new edition) and put it in double time.
- Stick Control- the beginning and maybe the flam section. Over an ostinato or with the RF doubling some/all of the RH.
- Paradiddles and paradiddle-diddles and their inversions, plus plain old doubles- RRLL and RLLR RLLR- with/without a flam at the beginning of the R or L hand double. Swiss triplets in a 16th note rhythm.
- Samba- all of the above plus hands in unison.

Probably I'd spend the most time with the first and last ones there. If you're wanting to make a bee line for getting it at that tempo, I'd be looking for the things that come easiest for you, and building on them. Instead of killing yourself getting the most difficult things together repeating endlessly at tempo, you could try to work them in once or twice, surrounded by either something easy (like 8ths on the cymbal or alternating 16ths on a drum, or a simplified time feel), or rests. Since he's changing ideas rapidly, that will get you to this style faster.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
No problem- ECM is a major German jazz label- since the late 60's/early 70's. That even-8th, broken up style of drumming- a la Jon Christensen or Dejohnette- has become associated with them. Keith Jarrett's Belonging, Jan Garbarek's Dansere or Gateway's II would be a good introduction to that style. Have fun-
 

Swiss Matthias

Platinum Member
Great playing in that video link!

Good post from toddbishop (as usual)!

Maybe as an addition, you could also take a text like syncopation or Ted Reed's -
I'd suggest one with rather few notes - start with a standard samba-jazz feel (as
Todd decribed) and then try to incorporate the rhythmic figures you are reading.
Kind of like accentuating the written text subtle, setting those hits up even more
subtle, leave rests after the notes to make them stand out.

Hope that makes sense. Can't explain it better at the moment :).
 

Busy b

Member
Snare drum as a tom, vintage bomber, and a nice pair of kicks... right on!

What is the name of the percussion instruments on his main snare & floor? What are they traditionally made out of?

Aaron Parks and Joe Martin are great musicians too!
 

Boomka

Platinum Member
I would keep working on my closed, unbroken and simple time. I think that once you have that pretty sussed, and you're listening to the kind of playing you are, ideas will start to present themselves to you. Playing broken feels isn't so much about technique, but about learning to hear time differently. I don't think we can really jump straight into broken time feels - we kind of have to follow the historical progression of jazz drumming to hear how it evolved to really get why it works the way it does. All the guys who play that way have a firm grounding in a more straight-ahead approach to timekeeping.

I recommend this book all the time, but you may be interested in Blackley's Essence of Jazz Drumming. The book will take you through building blocks of simple timekeeping and then up into 3 and 5 beat rhythms which can then serve as the basis for more complex playing in 4/4 or odd meters.

I think a big part of what we hear as "open" or "broken" time is when the 4/4 pulse isn't stated so clearly by the RC and there are shorter phrases going on within one or more bars of 4. That's essentially what Elvin Jones brought to the instrument, which kicked off a lot of that "broken" playing. Max and Roy and those guys had all used implied 3-beat patterns in their comping against a steady ride rhythm but none had taken the concept where Elvin did. Essentially, he was thinking in 3 beat phrases a lot of the time and started altering the approach to the ride pattern to follow these shorter phrases within 4/4. Two bars of 4/4 works out to two 3-beat and one 2-beat phrase, for instance. You can start to get a sense of this by clapping out groups of 3/3/2, 2/3/3 and 3/2/3 over top of two bars of 4/4 time. You may be amazed with the results. ;) Two bars of 4/4 also works out to one 5-beat and one 3-beat phrase, so you can try that as well.

By changing our resolution points we give the time a more rolling, forward feel as compared to a static 4/4 concept. By "resolution point" I mean essentially where we imply "1" or where the forward motion of a phrase comes to a halt and a new one begins. When we start a new phrase on 1 or 3, things still feel static, but when we leap off of 2 or 4, there's another level of syncopation created. For instance, when clapping 3/3/2, your second group of 3 jumps off of beat 4 of the first bar, which creates tension and forward motion. In a 3/2/3 phrase we jump off of beat 4 of the first bar AND beat 2 of the second bar. Notice the push this gives the music.

Another exercise for getting into this idea is to play a standard ride cymbal pattern, but play the SD or BD on the first note of groups of 3/3/2, etc. Start to hear how the different phrases lay over 4/4. Then, alter your RC pattern so that you play the skip beat after the second beat of each phrase so that - for instance - 3/3/2 would give you Dang-Danga-Dang/Dang-Danga-Dang/Dang-Danga. Follow that process for all the permutations of 3 and 2. Support the first note of each short phrase with the BD or SD. Keep your HH on 2 and 4 for now to keep give everything a reference point.

This all works if you straighten out the feel as well.

Or, just run out and get a copy of Jim's book where he's got it all laid out nicely and more.... :) If you want a hand going through it, I'm here and as you can guess, I like nothing more than working on Jim's stuff.

Here's a great video on altering the RC pattern to feel busier and more modern: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Svco860T110
 
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Mighty_Joker

Silver Member
I would keep working on my closed, unbroken and simple time. I think that once you have that pretty sussed, and you're listening to the kind of playing you are, ideas will start to present themselves to you. Playing broken feels isn't so much about technique, but about learning to hear time differently. I don't think we can really jump straight into broken time feels - we kind of have to follow the historical progression of jazz drumming to hear how it evolved to really get why it works the way it does. All the guys who play that way have a firm grounding in a more straight-ahead approach to timekeeping.

I recommend this book all the time, but you may be interested in Blackley's Essence of Jazz Drumming. The book will take you through building blocks of simple timekeeping and then up into 3 and 5 beat rhythms which can then serve as the basis for more complex playing in 4/4 or odd meters.

I think a big part of what we hear as "open" or "broken" time is when the 4/4 pulse isn't stated so clearly by the RC and there are shorter phrases going on within one or more bars of 4. That's essentially what Elvin Jones brought to the instrument, which kicked off a lot of that "broken" playing. Max and Roy and those guys had all used implied 3-beat patterns in their comping against a steady ride rhythm but none had taken the concept where Elvin did. Essentially, he was thinking in 3 beat phrases a lot of the time and started altering the approach to the ride pattern to follow these shorter phrases within 4/4. Two bars of 4/4 works out to two 3-beat and one 2-beat phrase, for instance. You can start to get a sense of this by clapping out groups of 3/3/2, 2/3/3 and 3/2/3 over top of two bars of 4/4 time. You may be amazed with the results. ;) Two bars of 4/4 also works out to one 5-beat and one 3-beat phrase, so you can try that as well.

By changing our resolution points we give the time a more rolling, forward feel as compared to a static 4/4 concept. By "resolution point" I mean essentially where we imply "1" or where the forward motion of a phrase comes to a halt and a new one begins. When we start a new phrase on 1 or 3, things still feel static, but when we leap off of 2 or 4, there's another level of syncopation created. For instance, when clapping 3/3/2, your second group of 3 jumps off of beat 4 of the first bar, which creates tension and forward motion. In a 3/2/3 phrase we jump off of beat 4 of the first bar AND beat 2 of the second bar. Notice the push this gives the music.

Another exercise for getting into this idea is to play a standard ride cymbal pattern, but play the SD or BD on the first note of groups of 3/3/2, etc. Start to hear how the different phrases lay over 4/4. Then, alter your RC pattern so that you play the skip beat after the second beat of each phrase so that - for instance - 3/3/2 would give you Dang-Danga-Dang/Dang-Danga-Dang/Dang-Danga. Follow that process for all the permutations of 3 and 2. Support the first note of each short phrase with the BD or SD. Keep your HH on 2 and 4 for now to keep give everything a reference point.

This all works if you straighten out the feel as well.

Or, just run out and get a copy of Jim's book where he's got it all laid out nicely and more.... :) If you want a hand going through it, I'm here and as you can guess, I like nothing more than working on Jim's stuff.

Here's a great video on altering the RC pattern to feel busier and more modern: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Svco860T110
Thanks man, a lot of ideas there. I'll check out Jim's book, and keep working on the Elvin-esque patterns from Riley's Beyond Bop.
 

Boomka

Platinum Member
Thanks man, a lot of ideas there. I'll check out Jim's book, and keep working on the Elvin-esque patterns from Riley's Beyond Bop.
I should've been more clear about how this relates to Harland's playing there. He's playing a lot of little figures that are pieces of what we might hear in longer patterns. As Todd said above, there's some samba and funk style stuff in there but it's been "broken" as we say. So, the trick is to get some of that vocab down in whole and then break the bits apart.
 

eddypierce

Senior Member
I've developed my comment below a little bit with a new post specifically about the ECM feel- I fleshed it out a little bit. And great post Boomka!
Great posts, Todd and Boomka. I'd like to add that there IS a drum book that addresses some of the coordination involved with this style: The Broken 8th Note Feel by Skip Hadden. So in addition to the ideas already suggested, you might be interested in checking that out.

Ed
 
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