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Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Strengthening your inner pulse: Think like a drummer part IV

This will be the last instalment in this series. For more ideas and exercises please check out the fantastic book by drummer Pete Magadini called Polyrhythms for musicians. The following study should be as always performed with the metronome and keep your foot tapping!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Strengthening your inner pulse: Think like a drummer part III

If you've become as excited as I have about subdivisions then feast your eye
s on this! But seriously aren't you turning into the best lap drummer you know? Enjoy….

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Strengthening Your Inner Pulse: Think like a drummer part II

When I listen to the drummers in Montreal that I have the great pleasure of regularly performing with I am constantly amazed at how effortlessly they can play ideas using different rhythmic subdivisions simultaneously throughout the kit. For example, he might comp phrases on the snare drum that have a quarter note triplet subdivision against a ride cymbal pattern that has 4/4 feel. A drummer can also hint at another "feel" while simultaneously playing another feel. As far as playing concepts and ideas on the kit, the drummers I've spoken with have told me they spend a lot of time dealing with subdivisions which is the beginning of how they build complexity on their instrument that doesn't sound random but relates back to something fundamental like the basic swing feel.

In the three against two exercise for this week we now subdivide the quarter-note triplet in 3 creating a new grouping of 9 against 2 (or 4 if you're tapping eighth notes with your foot). Once you get this going notice how it creates the sensation of 2 simultaneously occurring "feels" in your body. Your inner pulse must deal with both subdivisions of the beat. You might start by mathematically placing the second quarter note of the bar between the 5th and 6th triplet triplet subdivision. However after a while you'll want to achieve a flow with both your feet and your hands and should try to hear them as two simultaneous and related rhythms. Take note how the odd number of notes in a bar creates a 2-bar phrase between your right and left hands.

Try and compose lines on your instrument with these rhythmic groupings and see how that changes your soloing. Have fun!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Strengthening Your Inner Pulse: Think Like a Drummer

Put down and step away from your instruments....What does it mean to have an inner pulse? Often, it is said that since we all have a heart that beats then we all have an inner pulse. While this is true on a physiological level I've notice that improvising jazz musicians grapple with a sense of pulse in their playing. That is to say that we are deeply concerned not just with the notes we play or their rhythmic subdivisions but the phrasing and feel of what we are playing and how it relates to what other musicians are playing too. Also how much of a presence does our playing have? Do we have a big robust and confident voice when we solo? Or do our solos sometimes sound thin and weak? Are we really expressing our ideas and having an impact on an audience?

I've always been jealous of drummers for playing an instrument that forces them as musician to work directly with an inner pulse. Since the drums are the least forgiving to those who play with a weak sense of time and rhythm, drummers must work really hard to play with a good time feel. I've noticed that the conviction and rhythmic clarity with which drummers play almost always connects well with the audience.  It almost begs the question: Why do us non drummers approach practicing our instruments in different ways rhythmically? Does having a heart beat mean that inner pulse will take care of itself in my playing?

What it would be like to play the piano but think like a drummer? I developed the following exercises for my piano students to work on away from their instrument. I think these exercises would equally apply for any instrumentalist who wonders what it would feel like to think like a drummer. Many of my students tell me that practicing like this lets them concentrate in a different way. It helps them to eliminate all of the built up "piano" stuff that their fingers naturally go to when they practice. When returning to the piano after practicing these exercises one also hears what one is playing from a fresh rhythmic perspective. I should also mention that these were largely inspired by adapting material from a great book on rhythm by the west coast drummer Pete Magadini entitled: Polyrhythms, the musician's guide.

The firs exercise below is preparatory for harder stuff to come. For now concentrate on the feeling of your limbs working together to create a relaxed and swinging time feel. Have fun!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Carlos Jimenez at the Seagal center this month

Here is a little promo video for a concert that I'll be participating this month at the Segal Center. I've had the pleasure of playing in Carlos' group for a little more than a year now and I have to say the music is really happening. Please come out and support us if you like what you hear!

Concert is Sunday January 22nd, 8pm
Segal Center5170 Chemin Côte-Ste-Catherine
Tickets: (514) 739-2301

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Montreal Musicians : Piano trio reviews of Kananaskis and More!

Happy Freakin' New Year!!

I'm very happy to have my latest CD reviewed in Peter Hum's JazzBlog.ca along side two other Montreal pianists Steve Amirault and Marie Fatima Rudolf! I have been a fan of Peter's jazz writing for many years. His blog has now become pretty much the most read jazz blog in the world by jazz musicians and at this point I believe he is also attracting more non musicians than any other jazz blog. While Peter is an exceptionally well regarded writer what makes me a little nervous when I send him something of mine is the fact that he is also a jazz pianist. Of any review that I have ever had of my work it is always Peter's that means the most to me because he appreciates not only the music but also the playing in way that is the most informed of the process.  That is to say I think that other pianists probably hold the most biases when listening to other pianists. Maybe that's not entirely true but I think musicians are often the most judgmental when it comes to listening to someone who plays the same instrument. On the other hand it is those musicians who play the same instrument as we do who we can often grow very close too musically and personally. That's definitively how I feel about the other two pianists on Peter's review. I mean Steve has been a great source of inspiration for Montreal Pianists for 2 decades now and I consider him a very good friend. Marie Fatima or M-F as she has become known is very quickly becoming someone to watch for and listen to. Anyway I encourage you to read Peter's great blog and humbly ask you to read his reviews of some recent piano trio records by Montreal pianists. Read the review HERE

Thursday, December 29, 2011

End of the year roundup Part I: Art advocacy

For the next few days while I catch my breath from the cavorting and over-eating I'd like to revisit some of my yet unpublished posts from this past year. Inevitably every year I write some posts which, for some reason I either can't finish or just don't have the balls to put my name on. I am almost always writing from my emotions and I feel that this yeilds unpredictable results. As in playing music one's feelings can play a really vital role in producing inspiration while at the same time undermining other things that are important like... organization! But hey, I didn't choose music it chose me so everyone has to just deal with me. Haha So I hope you all enjoy a sample from my posts which I felt were largely too unorganized to or pretentious to publish.

(Originally written last winter...sometime...)

I would like to further support my assertion from a previous post that it is crucial for those of us involved in the arts to hone our skills in advocacy for the arts.  Even if it is just learning about the major issues and working out one's own arguments.  I often think about what art means to people and that includes myself. Especially when I get home from a performance where the sound sucked, I sucked, and the piano was badly out of tune. Then I really need some arguments of my own to support my self-financing of my music career (or in my case earning a standard of living lower than what I could make in another field). And on top of that I have to subject my family to my selfish career choice!

Why is it that we need to justify art? What is it exactly that we need to defend to the tax payers of the far right? I come back to my previous statement that there is nothing more worthless than an unwanted piece of art. And that goes for an unwanted minute of jazz improvisation at the Lincoln center or an unwanted opera production. And perhaps we can all agree with this to some extent. I don't support the opera because it is largely a form that I find worthless to me. For shame! But how is that different than the argument that is often made by people that the free market economy means that jazz should die because that is what the public wants.

I think if we are to help change the minds of this increasingly large segment of our society and to really argue with an informed opinion then we need to do our research. I encourage you to start with this video. It's really long so just skip over to the part about the arts and let me know what you think!
Watch the video here (Fast forward to minute 119:30 to hear McCain's rant worthy of a Foghorn Leghorn cartoon against earmark spending for the arts)