Exercise #11: Trading Fours and Eights with the Melody

Medium Slow Swing

Melody
5

A !#! # # " "#!

Bye Bye Blackbird
# % # # # $ $ # % # $ $ # # # $ # # # $ $ # # # % # # # # # $ % % $ # # # $ $ $ # % # % % % # & $ ## $ % # $ #
Ray Henderson

$

Play time and sing

" % " #

Solo

9

A

#

#

#

13

" % " # " # " #

17

B

# # # # $

# # #

# #

21

25

A

29

" $

Step 1: Trading fours with yourself This is the first exercise that deals with totally improvised soloing, specifically trading fours. Trading fours means to alternate four bar improvised sections

between instruments. To practice this, you will sing the first four bars of the melody while playing time and comping as you see fit, and then respond with four bars of soloing. Guide 1. Play 4 bars of time and sing the melody 2. Play a 4 bar of solo

Examples from “Billy Boy” from “Milestones”

Drum set
3

! "!#
3

#1

% 3 " $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ #
3 3

$

$

$

$

$

$

$

$
3

$

$
3

$

$

$ $ # ! (

$ '

% $
(R

5

" #

#2

L

L

R

R

L

R

R

L

R

L

L

% $ $ $ $ $ $ $ & '
R R L R R L)

# !

7

% % % % % " $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ " #
#3

$

#

$

$ $ $ $ #

$

$ $ $ $ $

$

$ $ $ $ #

$ ( $

9

# # % $ ( $ $
!

' * # #

#)

#

!

#

!

# *

!

# % # % $ $ # #

!

'

! #)

#

!

# '

!

# ) $ # #

!

# $ ' $ $

!

#

!

11

# " % ' " # " #
#4

# % $ $ $ # # $ $

!

# % $ $ # #

13

# #

$ $

# #

# $ # ! ( $ $

15

Playing Tips: Philly Joe’s fours Philly Joe played some of the most musical and influential fours ever recorded. To trade fours like Philly Joe you must always relate your soloing to the form and melody of the song you are playing, as well as respond to what the other soloists you are trading with are doing (again, the two songs of jazz from the introduction). Also, Philly Joe tends to split his fours into two, two bar phrases. This gives his fours a stronger sense of structure and is a big part of what makes him such an effective soloist, so try to incorporate this technique into your own soloing. If you ever need inspiration for good soloing vocabulary, remember that transcription of classic fours (like Philly Joe’s) is the best source there is.

Improvise your own fours with sticks then brushes Try trading fours this way with sticks at first, and then try it with brushes, as the two implements require dramatically different approaches. I have included some transcribed Philly Joe fours from the song “Billy Boy” on “Milestones” just to give you some inspiration, but the sooner you start improvising your own fours, the better. Practice with the metronome at a wide range of tempos to keep yourself focused on the groove. It is essential to remember that when you are soloing, no matter how complicated the idea you are attempting to execute, you have to keep the forward momentum of the groove.

Playing is like speaking Improvising on the drums is similar to public speaking, and a lot of the techniques people use to make their speeches more interesting also work well on the drums. Four good examples of such techniques are: leaving dramatic spaces, using a wide-range of strategic dynamics, call and response, and repeating something for emphasis. All of these techniques are present in Philly Joe’s soloing and are a big part of what makes his solos so captivating. For example, in the transcribed fours above there is a dramatic use of space in the

third bar of #3; the big accents in the second to fourth bar of #1 are clearly a strategic use of dynamics; in #4 the first two bars function as a call and the second two bars as a response; and the repetition of the eighth note figure in the first two bars of #1 strongly emphasizes it. When soloing your tendency is most likely going to be to play as much and as loudly as you can to fill up the space in the music. Ironically, this has the exact opposite of the intended effect on your audience. Instead of making them focus on your solo, people will unconsciously block out what you are playing because it is too overwhelming. If, on the other hand, you can relax and pace yourself, remember to leave lots of space, play with a wide range of dynamics, and repeat yourself often, your audience will be transfixed.

Step 2: Trading eights with yourself Repeat the same process using all the same techniques, but this time trade eight bar solo phrases with the melody.

Guide 1. Play eight bars of time and sing he melody 2. Play an eight bar solo

Playing Tips: Simulate performance The best way to prepare yourself for actual performance is to practice with conditions that simulate performance as closely as possible. Two things you can do to simulate performance are to play with a metronome and record your practicing. The metronome simulates the pressure of having to play with someone else’s time, and the recording simulates the pressure of an audience. In addition, recording yourself is an excellent analysis tool since it lets you go back and critique your own playing.

Suggested Recordings 1. Miles Davis, “Round About Midnight”, “Bye Bye Blackbird”: Philly Joe playing the song 2. Miles Davis, “Milestones”, “Billy Boy”: Excellent example of Philly Joe 4’s