Swinging Fast and Slow

Today was a battle between me and my brain. My brain was distracted all day. I had to literally sit down with the lights off and meditate for a few minutes before practice. But it did help. And I made it through pretty well.


The short version:

50 Minutes pentatonics

20 minutes Donna Lee/Voice Leading

25 Minutes ii-V's


Rhythmically, I tried some fun and challenging ideas for pentatonics today. In my usual 8th note triplet polyrhythm, I accented each downbeat (ONE two three FOUR five six SEVEN eight nine TEN eleven twelve), instead of every other note. For some, this may seem intuitively easier, but since I had only practiced accenting every other note it was very difficult. I went through all my major pentatonics in this pattern.

You can probably hear by how slow it was and how I articulated some notes oddly that I was struggling.

I noticed by the end that it had become relatively easy. So for minor pentatonics I increased the tempo and chose to alternate between accent patterns. It certainly wasn't easy at first, but it didn't take long to get a handle on it. I still used V-i cadences at the ends of each minor pentatonic.

After pentatonics I revisited the harmony of Donna Lee. Once again I played my pattern of chord tones from top to bottom/ bottom to top/ landing on certain chord tones.


Today felt like I almost had the whole progression memorized the point where my fingers could move between all the chord tones effortlessly. But not quite yet.

I continued my new practice of voice leading licks based around each chord's 1-3-5 through the whole tune. The first day I did this was easy. The second day wasn't bad. Now, I have to get creative to make new licks with just 1-3-5 and neighbor tones, but it's forcing me to grow in a good way. I experimented more with rhythmic variations today.


I can explain one aspect of how I have grown from this exercise from what I noticed in my improvisation today. Instead of having to think  about...pretty much anything (sequencing, remembering licks, remembering chord tones, creating interest through dynamics etc) I noticed that I could play one simple idea and realize many possibilities to expand it in ways that sound great but in reality are simple. I didn't feel the need to wrack my brain for all the other stuff.


The mental and physical command this gave me allowed me to think much more about the rest of the stuff when I chose to without compromising anything else, which happens easily when I'm preoccupied with picking notes.


After about 20 minutes, I moved on to the Bebop Bible again for some ii-V licks.  Today my focus wasn't on memorizing licks themselves, but for improving my basic swing style.


I started off at a medium sight-reading tempo, but I noticed quickly that I was unhappy (not terrible, just not sounding how I really wanted to). It never occurred to me that my very sense of rhythm would be improved by slow practice, but that's exactly what happened.


I started playing passages in ultra slow motion with the intention of swinging just how I wanted to. When I sped it up, I noticed my whole sense of style improved dramatically.


If you haven't already, check out my interview with cellist Krystian Chiu for some great insights on how a master does it.


Tomorrow will be another Friday special on things outside the practice room that help me inside the practice room. Also check out my interview with Indiana University cellist Krystian Chiu


Happy practicing!



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