I’m thrilled to announce the publication of my new book Rhythm Savvy. www.altobone.com/rhythm-savvy/
Late in the writing, I realized that the over 100 exercises with odd click tracks, listening challenges, and play-along tracks were very similar to puzzles, so I added the subtitle, Rhythm puzzles for trombone.
In typical fashion for each of the Savvy books, Rhythm Savvy is a honest and practical hands-on deep dive into building one’s inner clock and sense of rhythm. As I wrote in the beginning, show me a great player without a solid sense of time and rhythm. I know of none. Players can have less than world-class technique or pitch, but time is essential for a great player.
Anyone can practice with a steady click from their phone or a metronome, but that exercise only goes so far and quickly becomes boring. Rhythm Savvy goes WAY beyond single notes or scales over quarter note clicks. In fact, the book treats the study of rhythm as more than just metronomic precision. The book is divided into three sections:
This section is about improving the accuracy of your time. The section begins with three audio files to help you evaluate your acuity to time. Similar exercises populate the book since it is important to have an accurate awareness of your skill before diving into improving it. Next, some written melodic phrases are provided to play over a basic metronome click. After that, things get interesting.
A new test is presented providing a clear musical beat over which a new sound is added that completely turns around the rhythm even though the fundamental beat doesn’t change. Can you hear the original beat? Following that are several click patterns that alternate between click and silence, all the while maintaining the original tempo. Can you play through the silence in perfect time until the click returns?
Later in this section, you are given a click track that rather than being comprised of a steady click, alternates between 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 clicks to the bar–all the while keeping the tempo. Can you play (or tap your fingers) with this “Maniacal” click? Syncopation exercises follow and a host of similarly odd exercises for strengthening your basic musical clock throughout the rest of the section. It ends with exercises for maintaining time with very slowly evolving rhythmic pulses. Rhythms aren’t always fast.
This section is about developing a better groove to your playing. After working on rhythmic accuracy, now we look at using rhythm to create a feel to your playing. Having perfect metronomic time doesn’t necessarily make for good music, so this section uses the subject of rhythm to strengthen your musical feel. The book makes the point that the subject of feel is applied more to jazz and other non-symphonc playing. Rightly or wrongly, this section and most of the following focus on jazz or other styles requiring more than straight and full playing of each note.
The section begins by explaining the fallacy of using the tri-po-let tri-po-let rhythm as swing. Emphasis is given to the idea that swing isn’t the same for everyone. Cecil Taylor and Oscar Peterson are two jazz giants used as examples of very different takes on the idea of “swing”.
The subject of modeling is explored at length and the practice of modeling singers as well as instrumentalists is encouraged along with examples of both. A latin song and a medium jazz groove are explored in detail with exercises and models of playing with a particular feel. Here’s one:
I then play this song (Dat Dere) in a variety of feels including straight, the tri-po-let tri-po-let fake swing, and even an exaggerated feel beyond the above track.
This is an often overlook aspect of playing with good time. Especially in improvised solos, the rhythm of your phrases is a critical part of your overall musical statement.
The section starts off with an exercise in phrase length discipline. A play-along track is provided over which I record myself improvising eight bar phrases, four bar, two and single bar. In between my phrases you are asked to improvise your own self-contrained phrases of those specific lengths. Next, we look at iconic solos of Miles, Sonny Rollins, and Dexter Gordon. In a unique type of notation, I have mapped out their individual phrases to demonstrate their various lengths and contour.
After a few other exercises, I provide a visual that suggests phrase positions and lengths you improvise over a play-along track, but only over those designated areas. After that, you’re given a similar exercise but this time the phrase beginnings and ends are not visual. Instead you’re given audio cues. Sound interesting? It’s pretty cool.
In the beginning, I mentioned this being a book of rhythm puzzles. Well the last page is an actual crossword puzzle made entirely of clues from the book itself. Send me a picture or scan of the completed correct puzzle and I’ll give you a free digital product from my store. Yea, I really want to you to go through the book!
The above is just a brief outline of the entire book. Over 100 audio files have beed produced and uploaded to Soundcloud as a companion for the book. Lots of grooving tracks covering a wide variety of styles and feels so that you’ll have fun while you improve your sense of time and rhythm.
This labor of love was a long time coming and I hope that you find it beneficial to building your sense of time and rhythm, and as a result, your musicianship.