Part 1 – Jazz Rhythms

Jazz Rhythms

Have you ever heard a ‘straight’ musician reading jazz music or a jazz musician reading ‘classical’ music?

The results can be extremely funny

The jazz notes come out all straight from the classical musician – and – the classical notes come out all bent from the jazz musician.

Ignorance of each other’s styles usually results in an unmusical un—idiomatic mess! Nowadays though, more and more musicians learn the differing styles together and can move from one to the other with ease.

This is achieved by learning to count note values in two different ways.

Listen to the following four bars of music on Audio Podcast 1 while you read the notation below. They are played 4 times.

 Click player below for Tune-Up note 

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The first and third playings are as the music looks and the second and fourth are how it sounds, played in a jazz style.

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The difference lies in the counting of each beat in the bar. In the first and third playings each of the four beats in the bar is divided by two giving two equal quavers, the second of which is counted by an “and”. In the second and fourth playings each beat is divided by three into a triplet which gives us a jazz ‘feel’.

(say it as trip—o-let to gain the feeling of 3 equal parts) .

Listen to the same four bars with a ‘count’ and follow the music. This time the jazz ‘feel’ is written as it sounds in triple time but it is always written straight.

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Now you have ·to be two persons in one and practise what drummers
call “separation”.
By ‘separation’ we mean hands and feet playing  independent rhythms.

We don’t need to go that far, but to understand where jazz rhythms are placed, you must be able to maintain a steady beat with your foot and clap a rhythm with your hands at the same time.

Remember, in jazz playing, each beat is divided into 3 equal parts.

In the examples which follow, each triplet division of the beat is clearly marked to show you where the note lies.

Listen to Audio Podcast 3 below.

(a), (b) and (c) follow without a break. Now listen again and stomp and clap along!

N.B. All the rhythms in Examples 3-6 are played on a Concert Bb.

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Listen to Audio Podcast 4 below.

(a), (b) and (c) follow without a break. Now listen again and play along!

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Listen to Audio Podcast 5 below.

(a), (b) and (c) follow without a break, and each section plays twice.

Now listen again and play along!

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Listen to Audio Podcast 6 below.

(a), (b) and (c) follow without a break, and each 2 bar phrase plays twice.

Now listen again and play along!

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All the mel0dies y0u have heard are based 0n the ‘Blues Scale’.

This is a maj0r scale with a few bends in it — the 35 and 7 degrees 0f the maj0r scale are flattened t0 give a ‘funky’ kind 0f s0und. Here it is in the key 0f Bb.

Flute, play up an 0ctave.

Other instruments play at 0ctave ad lib

As you can see each note is numbered 1 to 7.

The following exercise will help you get the notes into your fingers or lips by what is called “diminution

(the note values decrease although the melody remains the same).

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Phrasing and Singing

At all times sing the phrasing until it sounds natural. There are only 3 “words” to learn:-

Dat” for all short sounds,

Du” for long sounds,

*”Ba” for quavers  – which come on the “and” or “off-beat“, but are not played short, i.e.

Go back now and listen again to Audio podcasts  4 to 7 then sing through with them  with the following “w0rds“:-


Although “Ba” gives the correct “feel” for jazz phrasing when singing, wind instrumentalists cannot articulate this

consonant sound when playing. They should instead use “Da”.

Sing your hearts out first, using “Ba”, then substituting “Da” to get the feel of the new sound. Lastly, play away!

Now that you can handle the Blues Scale like a demon, let’s revise the rhythms of Examples 3, 4, 5 and 6 and play

them along with the podcasts.

Follow the rhythm guide and play each number of the Blues Scale to each rhythm value.

The numbers above the rhythms refer to the notes of the Blues Scale, not the counting.

When you can play these licks ascending, go back through the podcasts and play them descending (i.e. numbers 1, 2, 3 of the Blues Scale become 7, 6, 5, etc.)

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You have now played 4 choruses 0f a 12 bar blues which is the most common chord sequence in jazz.

At this stage, let’s not worry about chord changes just play along with the Audio podcast 9 using any of the rhythmical models you have played or better still — invent new ones of your own using the Blues Scale for your melody.

Don’t be inhibited.

Turn the volume up and play your heart out!

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And now, 4 choruses of blues in Bb to do your own thing.

As you can hear, the Blues Scale can be played over all kinds of chords without any problem. Can you hear when one chorus finishes and the next begins? If not, count off 12 bars from the start of Audio Podcast 9 and you will hear the rhythm section “set up” each new chorus.

Hearing chord changes is one of the great skills in Jazz, so now, let’s look at Jazz Harmony.

To go to  ‘Part 2 – Jazz harmony – Click Here’

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