My introduction to jazz coordination was sort of a trial by fire thing. I was a young student at the Armed Forces School of Music, fresh out of Basic Training, and as green as my uniform concerning anything related to jazz drumming. At my first lesson, the teacher explained how to properly execute a jazz swing beat and the dynamics of each component of that. Not too difficult. Probably the toughest part of that was getting control of my heavy right foot, which up to that point was accustomed to slamming the bass drum on every stroke of whatever Rush song I had learned that week. In jazz, the bass drum is to be played lightly while the main focus is on the ride cymbal and hi-hat. This is to avoid over-powering the string bass player. Here is the pattern he showed me:
Keep in mind the eighth notes should swing, so it really sounds like this:
Once this was established, he then instructed me to open up the book Progressive Steps to Syncopation by Ted Reed to page 37 (I believe it’s actually page 38 in the more recent editions) and read down the page with my left hand. I think I respectfully laughed. The first four measures of that page looked like this:
He advised me to simply get pattern 1a together, let it go on “auto-pilot,” and keep my focus on reading the snare drum line with my left hand. Oh yeah… and don’t change the ride pattern. After the lesson I immediately hit a practice room and realized very quickly my teacher’s advice wasn’t going to work for me. I needed to devise some sort of game plan to get this assignment together before my next lesson, which was only one week away. Yikes!
Since I knew I was dealing only with quarter notes and eighth notes (down beats and up beats), I needed to figure out how the rhythm I was playing in my left hand would relate to the ride cymbal pattern. My method began with only playing downbeats or upbeats with the left hand while playing the jazz ride pattern in the right hand. I also left the feet out of the equation until I had the hands worked out. In examples 3 and 4 you can see where the hands coincide and where they don’t.
The next step is to play short two-note combinations of downbeats and upbeats on the snare drum. Repeat each measure until you have a firm handle on it before moving on to the next.
Then, try three and four note combinations.
Once you have accomplished this, the next step is to add the bass drum and hi-hat into the mix. After that you should have the necessary facility to successfully work though the exercise on page 38 in the Syncopation book. Here is what the first four measures look like written out.
One thing you will probably notice after working though the first three or four lines is that rhythmic figures will start to reoccur since there are only so many of them. At that point, it just becomes a matter of making the transition from one figure to the next. This will likely feel very robotic and unmusical at first. But in time it will get easier and eventually start to sound like music. Another thing to keep in mind is that this process, while it may seem very time consuming at first, will actually help you get this type of coordination together faster than if you were to attempt to read down the page using the auto-pilot method. Just take it slow and be patient. And above all, have fun.
You see them in almost every piece of music, they’re plastered all over the internet. Yet, most guitar players have no idea what they mean or how to play them. It’s one of the most repeated questions students ask me over and over again.
Hi, Professor Kleiman at your service: Philly Music Lessons’ resident fretted/string instrument guru. You know; Guitar, Bass, Mandolin, Banjo Ukulele, Sitar. Strings AND Frets. My hope is that this can become a regular column and with your help, questions, suggestions and comments, it will. I will try and debunk all the misinformation that’s out there or ‘up there’ in the cloud.
But let’s get back to the question at hand:
C/G or Em/B or even just some space and /G#
What do they mean????? Do you play a ‘C’ chord and then real fast change to ‘G’??? Do I play an ‘E minor’ chord a ‘B’ chord together??? Do I play a G# chord at some point???? The answer to all of them is NOPE.
I’ll answer this question with another. In a live band recording or performance, what other instruments are playing? Let’s break it down to the smallest group: The Power Trio- a Guitar player, a Drummer and a Bass player.
Drummer: they bang and keep the beat. Guitar: they also bang but play chords – How ‘bout that Bass player: what is their job???
They sure don’t play chords. No, they play the bottom. They play the Bass. They play the lowest sound: THE ROOTS!!!!! That’s their job. You could put together the hottest drummer and guitar player you know but if the bass doesn’t do it’s job and play the ROOTS you got nothin’. Absolutely none of the music will sound right. What are the ROOTS or what are the ROOT notes?? That’s easy.
It’s the most important note in any chord and it’s easy to figure out the root note. All chords derive their name from the root note.
C chord= C root note.
G7 chord = G root note.
Bm chord = B root note.
F#7b9 = F# root note.
Ab13#5#11 = Ab root note. Got it????
The ONLY EXCEPTION are those pesky little old SLASH CHORDS. C/G means that they want the Bass player to play a ‘G’ note IN PLACE of the normal ‘C’ root note for the ‘C’ chord. Em/B means that they want the Bass player to play a ‘B’ note IN PLACE of the normal ‘E’ root note for the E minor chord. A ‘space’ and then /G# means that at that point in the song the BASS player is to play a ‘G#’ bass note.
Soooooo those slash chords do not change the chord that the guitar player is to play- to the left of the slash is the chord, to the right of the slash is the Bass note FOR THE BASS PLAYER. C/G=just play a C chord, Em/B= just play an E minor chord, ‘space’ /G# = continue to play whatever chord came before the slash- that G# is not for the guitar player-it’s for the Bass.
Remember you are usually listing to a combination of instruments when you listen to music. The most basic being: a guitar and bass- so when you look at music it is ALWAYS written for that combination. (Piano players have the luxury of being able to play both chords AND bass.) Just play the chord that’s to the left of the slash. If you are by yourself and trying to imitate the sound on a recording and you see a slash chord it will only sound ‘close ‘ until you sit down with the bass player – then between the two instruments you will be able to recreate the exact sound of the ‘slash’ chord. Or you could just learn to play piano but that would put me out of a job. Good Luck.
Part 2: Playing Slash Chords
If you read part one of this article, you now know that when you see C/G, it means that to the left of the slash is a Chord and to the right of the slash is an alternate Bass note– thus it is pronounced:
C major chord with a G bass note (or C with a G bass)
In Part 1, I stated that the only way to play this correctly is to have TWO instruments. The guitar player would play a C chord and the Bass player would play a G note BUT– for the intermediate to advanced guitar player– you CAN play this on one guitar. Here is one way to play and finger this chord:
Please keep in mind that there are lots of different ways to ‘finger’ any chord. Believe it or not, there can be can be as many as 26 ways to ‘finger’ any one chord on the guitar.
I try to teach my students at least 3 ways to play a chord, depending on their level.
a fingering within the first 4 frets that uses one or more open strings. See Diagram 1
a movable ‘bar’ form with its root on the A string. The root is on the 3rd fret of the A string (not fingered nor played).
a movable ‘bar’ form with its root on the E string. The root is on the 8th fret of the Low E. (not fingered nor played).
Keep in mind that because of the ‘alternate Bass’ note, we do not play the root note when ‘voicing’ or ‘fingering’ these types of chords. We take it out. There should be a dead or muted string between the new Bass note and the rest of the chord. That will help ring out the new bass note.
(Go back to my Part 1 if you do not know what a root is.)
Another very popular Chord:
E/G# (E or E major chord with a G# Bass)
Try this fingering:
Listen to Eric Clapton ‘Tears in Heaven’ – these are the first 3 chords
A E/G# F#m
Would you know my name?
Remember -if you have a Bass player -the Guitar can just play:
A E F#m
The bass player will hit the G# over the E chord resulting in the correct sound. If you want to play the song with just one guitar, you will need to put in the correct voicing (or fingering) of the chords to get the sound of the recording. (Voicing is the order of notes in the chord-as beginning guitar players we are just concerned with fingering) I don’t care about the theory right now–I just wanna play my guitar!
How ‘bout this one:
D/F# (D with an F# bass)
Lots of Songs: First 3 chords to ‘American Pie’:
G D/F# Em
A long long time ago
and ‘Free Bird’:
G D/F# Em
If I leave here tomorrow
Or as I teach my beginning students the above songs, I use these easy to play chords. (less fingers are used.)
G6 D6/F# Em7
G6 (a 2-finger chord) substitutes for G (a 3-finger chord)
D6/F# (3 fingers) substitutes for D/F# (4 fingers)
Em7 (1-finger) substitutes for Em (2 fingers)
They still retain the correct sound of the substituted chord but are far less difficult to play/learn because less fingers are used. This method is called “Chord Substitution by Family.”
Try the above songs with these simplified chords- pretty close to the sound on the recording, no? For the beginning Guitarist, understanding Chord Substitution by learning these simplified chords, can really make it easy to learn songs that use more difficult chords (3 and 4 finger chords) and still sound pretty authentic.
Sometimes, the alternate Bass note is notated with just the ‘slash’ as in: The first 4 chords of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’
Am /G /F# F
I look at you all see the love there that’s sleeping
You would interpret the music as thus:
Am Am/G Am/F# F
OK- that should help you out next time you come across ‘slash’ chords. (But please call them by there correct name)
Questions, comments? Get back to me and I will try my best to answer them.
“Doing is the essential of learning. The doer is the learner.” -Ray Josephs
It can be difficult in this busy world to find the time to practice your instrument. But, the fact of the matter is, practicing regularly is what develops your ability to express yourself easily on your instrument. There are 3 main questions to address surrounding practice routines:
What should I practice?
How often should I practice?
What is the difference between “practicing” and just playing whatever I like for 90 minutes a day?
1. What to practice
Curiosity, Not Cramming Students should practice areas of playing that need improvement as well as unexplored ideas. They should be strengthening skills and learning new ones. Try new ideas that are just out of reach, yet avoid practicing ideas that are too difficult (or the result may be disappointing). Your teacher can help you determine difficulty level if you aren’t sure.
Practice should be engaging and fun. It should not feel like a chore or a cram session for a final exam. After you and your teacher discuss goals, your teacher can prescribe appropriate exercises. Once you reach a certain level of comfort playing these exercises, your curiosity may kick in. You may wonder what other possibilities exist – Now is the time to feed that curiosity with some fun challenges. A curious mind is an open mind, and an open mind is always learning.
Theme and Variation An exciting way to get more mileage from an exercise is through “theme and variation”. Theme and variation works by disguising a main idea in new and clever ways. For example, say the theme is C harmonic Minor. Students can try changing the way they practice this scale by varying the rhythm. Play the scale as 8th notes, triplets, 16th notes, 32nd notes, etc. Try shuffling or swinging the rhythm for a different feel. Try changing the time signature or adding interesting rests or moments of silence. Perhaps instead of playing the scale in a step-wise motion, vary the pattern of intervals in 3rds, 4ths etc. Let’s say you are learning a 6 stroke roll on drums – write the idea out in a dozen variations. This way, you can achieve the fundamental goal of repetition while exploring how each example has a unique sound and feel. Theme and variation is exciting and can make practicing something students look forward to. It is a great way to ensure natural progress, since variation is still related to a single theme or idea. Be sure to ask your teacher about incorporating “theme and variation” at your next lesson.
2. How often should I practice?
Students (adults and teens) should reserve at least an hour each day for music (5-15 minutes for very young kids). This is the minimum if you would like to see noticeable improvement. If you don’t have that time, a little bit every day is still better than one or two big chunks once or twice a week. If you’re dedicated, and have 2-4 hours, even better!
3. How to Practice and Progress: Play, Focus, & Self Discovery
To begin practicing, students should start by playing freely – but don’t get carried away! I recommend playing freely for the first 5-10 minutes. Try to manage your allotted time by dividing your practice routine into different segments or areas of study. For example:
A New Song
The Value of Self-Teaching Through Free Play I have studied music from grade school through college, but also consider myself to be self taught in many ways. I recall playing freely when I was younger and noticing an interesting rhythm. No one had taught this rhythm to me – I had stumbled upon it. I knew immediately that I liked how it sounded, yet I also knew there was room for improvement. As there was still a disconnect between what I imagined in my mind head and what I heard from my drums, I played it over and over again. I played it slow to make sure my muscle memory was learning the correct motions. I played it fast to make sure I had control of speed and direction. Practicing an idea found through one’s own explorations, and then improving upon it through repetition, is another useful practice technique.
Another way to play/practice with self-guidance is to listen to your favorite songs. Try to figure out your part. This is a great way to develop your ear and also the layout of your instrument. Be sure to share with your teacher what you have figured out. Perhaps you missed a couple notes or the chord voicing was wrong. They will be glad to help you.
Finding a Balance Between Fun and Progress During Practice Students need influence and guidance from others, but also need to develop their own truths, opinions, and curiosities about music. The key difference between playing whatever you want for 90 minutes and playing during a practice session is the focus on progress. Practice requires you to be aware of your shortcomings and to take a moment to figure out solutions. These moments can be discussed with your teacher. They want to know what you’ve been working on. Explain to them what you’ve been doing on your instrument – whether it’s an assignment or your own pursuit, your teacher wants to help you improve your skills.
Music is scientific in many ways, but it is still an art. No matter what it is you are trying to convey, it is all made possible when you are comfortable on your instrument. There are two solid paths to developing an understanding of your instrument (I find that it is a healthy balance of these two paths that will help you become well rounded). Remember to practice exercises assigned by your teacher on a regular basis (focused progress), and also save time to just play, experiment and enjoy yourself (curiosity and exploration).
Theory, Composition and More – Lessons with Annabelle Corrigan at Philly Music Lessons
We’re pleased to announce Annabelle Corrigan as the latest addition of teachers at Philly Music Lessons (piano lessons, voice lessons, and studies in music theory & composition). Annabelle lives in the ‘hood (Fishtown, that is), right down the street! She’s soon to join the ranks of Temple alumni (alongside many of our teachers), as she will be graduating in May from the Boyer College of Music with a degree in theory and composition. Annabelle also has her associates in piano performance and has studied voice as well. For students looking to learn piano or voice, or for those who want to explore music theory, Annabelle is a great guide – especially for those with an interest in songwriting or who want a deeper understanding of music (theory). Annabelle spends a lot of time composing, and her experience studying at a high level enables her to work with a wide variety of interests. Her own interests have taken her from opera, to classical, to jazz, film scores, and more. Schedule a Lesson
When did you begin playing [instrument], and why?: I’ve been singing since I was about 8. I began to play piano when I was a teenager, because many of my classmates were really good at piano or some other instrument, and it inspired me to be like them.
What are your personal goals as a musician?: I love opera, and my goal is to compose my own. I plan on working closely with the librettist, since I’m a poet as well.
Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked? Something you’ll remember forever?: I never knew what perfect pitch was until I was much older. I also didn’t realize I had perfect pitch until a professor at an audition made me aware of my ability. Since then, it’s become a wonderful tool.
What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?: Being compassionate with a student will allow them to fearlessly open up to their potentials.
What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?: In the winter months, my body feels tight and cold, and sometimes this causes tension during playing or singing. That’s why to me it’s important to work in a warm environment, do proper daily stretching, and have a healthy lifestyle (good diet, exercise, proper sleep).
What is your biggest musical achievement?: Composing a fugue.
Favorite thing about teaching?: I love sharing my passion for music with other human beings.
What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?: If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. Music is meant to be fun, enjoy it!
Personal music projects: i.e. bands, groups, shows, recording, etc. (if any): I am in the process of composing a work for my sister’s wedding. Additional compositions underway, member of American Composer’s Forum, member of Contemplum (composition club at Temple), participant in the Oticons Film Score Contest.
Annabelle Corrigan’s Bio I have always been involved with sounds and music from an early age. My greatest forte is my ability to hear. When I was young, people thought I might become a voice actor, because my skill at replicating voices was quite apparent. Still, I loved to sing and had been regularly involved in choirs. I dabbled in violin in the fifth grade, but I didn’t feel a “click.” Without despairing, I tried my luck with piano and felt instantly in sync. I knew this was the right instrument for me. During my piano studies, I continued to work on my voice. In addition, I studied the workings of a sound board, and was head sound chief at my high school. At the college level, I began to pursue composition, while still continuing with my piano and vocal studies. I hold an associate degree in music, piano performance, and I am currently working towards my degree in music theory and composition. I will be graduating from Temple University this coming May. I have been teaching music since 2006 and have worked with a wide range of ages and various group sizes. My joy is working with people in a field that I’m passionate about. My interests include music (jazz, classical, opera, new age), ballet, composition, yoga, meditation, going to the gym, hiking and camping, scuba-diving, sailing,Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture, cooking and baking, film-editing, sound engineering, poetry, reading good books, building websites, and watching documentaries.