Expanding Rhythmic Possibilities

 

“Expanding rhythmic possibilities” was my theme for today. I practiced pentatonics in triplets, but I varied my accents for each mode.

 

That means I would play ONE two three ONE two three ONE two three ONE two three

One AND two AND three AND four AND five AND six AND

ONE two three one TWO three one two THREE one two three

 

I cycled through those accent patterns in all major and minor pentatonics. It was slightly challenging at first to mix smoothly between the patterns, but since I have spent so much time on each pattern individually, it wasn’t that hard all told. It felt exhilarating to have that kind of command. The metronome was set to about 100 BPM in quarter notes.

 

My lower neighbor tone exercise is coming along. I played it in 8th notes at about 125 BPM today. Aside from notes which are getting easier and more ingrained in my fingers, I am focusing hard on navigating the intervallic leaps with the smoothest and most consistent tone I can produce.

 

I delved very deep into Stella by Starlight today. Last year I listened to this tune hundreds of times.

 

The more I practice discrete ideas (such as pentatonics), the more I observe that the best way to get comfortable using it in improvisation is to take an entire chorus on that one idea. So today, when playing through my usual chord tone exercise, I played the chord tones in triplets. Just like the alternating patterns I described above.

When improvising over Stella, I noticed that a much wider array of tools comes easily to me now, even on a new tune and new progression. I see a major chord and I know what I can play over it. Same with minor, same with dominant. And my rhythmic possibilities are certainly expanded. My ability to continue or discontinue an idea is improved. My articulation is more intentional. And my swing is more natural.

 

Because my memory, ear, and brain have been improving so much lately, I was able to learn a lick and transpose it to several keys and work it up to 175 BPM in about 15 minutes. So I picked a second lick to work on as well, but I didn’t quite love it. I actually changed part of it to suit my taste better; worked it up to 175 BPM also. You can hear me experiment with some different articulations if you listen closely.

I am still exploring some options to fill the extra hour a day I created for myself earlier this week. So today I revisited “Jordu”. I like the idea of keeping old tunes sharp for just a few minutes a day.

 

And I finished off the day by improvising over Donna Lee. I have the head totally memorized now with a swing feel I am proud of. The harmony I have almost memorized, but I definitely need to practice not looking at the changes. Still, the improvisation felt good. I recorded it and was happy with virtually all aspects of my playing. Tone, time, the way I created variation with rhythm and phrasing. Of course I still have 50+ years to get better, but I feel like I have the basic competencies down. That’s a recent feeling to be sure.

Monday I'll be releasing another interview, this time with an absolutely killin' professional saxophonist.

 

Happy practicing!

 

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