A few of you bass fanatics out there might be old enough to remember the infamous words “fuzzy math”. That’s all fine for the math wizards of the world. But if you are playing bass in the rhythm section then please be kind to your band members and stay as far away from “fuzzy rhythm” as possible!
In my previous video lesson I detailed the use of rhythm-pairs to setup 16-bar exercises in rhythmic contrast. The format of the exercise is to play each rhythm off the other in equal 4-bar sections.
The purpose itself of these rhythmic contrast exercises is to thoroughly learn all of the basic rhythmic values.
You could call these basic rhythmic values the “seven colors of the rhythmic rainbow”:
- Whole notes
- Half notes
- Quarter notes
- Quarter-note Triplets
- Eighth notes
- Eighth-note Triplets
- Sixteenth notes
My claim is that you can make a massive dent in learning these necessary rhythms by investing six-months of daily study at about 20-30 minutes per practice session. Not only that, but you will get excellent practice improvising the phrases as well. Setting up multiple benefits in your practicing is a smart way to go.
An important point that needs to be emphasized for these lessons is that the principle of “restricted note choice” is an incredibly valuable thing to use in your studies. In fact, the use of one, two, and three-note solos is something built into many of the musical studies that I construct for my students.
My experience is that the use of restricted note choice can give a major boost to the quality and effectiveness of many different musical exercises. When you subtract harmony from the equation your awareness of rhythm will skyrocket.
If you are not accustomed to studying a specific rhythm, ie, quarter-note triplets, it can be difficult keeping your focus. Getting lost in the weeds is easy, and trying to solve more than one problem at a time will do it in no-time flat!
The surest two ways to blow an exercise in rhythmic studies is to get tangled up with harmony or to start fishing around the fingerboard. Please work to keep these wayward excursions to a minimum.
There’s no shame in doing one-note solos to lock in your rhythmic values. You will be surprised at how it forces creativity in your phrasing.
Great improvisers can whip an audience in a frenzy with the rhythm and phrasing of a one-note solo!!
Since rhythm is the primary element in music, why not subtract harmony from the equation and concentrate on what’s truly the most important thing of all?
As far as this month’s video lesson is concerned, take note of the fact that although my opening clip pairs quarter-note triplets and sixteenth notes, the actual rhythm-pair of honor today is eighth notes and quarter-note triplets.
If you need a streetwise method to get quarter-note triplets under your fingers you can start by simply tapping quarter notes and then singing half notes on top. When you are comfortable with that then simply learn to replace a half-note with three notes and continue from there. Each half note gets a quarter-note triplet. You’ll figure it out!
Notice how you need to almost drag the triplets to get them to slot out evenly in the measure. Indeed, musicians of an earlier age called them “drag triplets”. They seem to float over the rhythm section and have a very particular effect. And when you can learn to subtract one or more of the quarter notes from the triplet you will be getting into some very interesting rhythmic territory.
Words of wisdom to musicians young and old: Please take your time with these materials and cultivate patience in all of your practicing.
ps Don’t forget to download the play along mp3s below if you would like some help with comping materials for the lesson:
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