Holidays are well and truly over now and although I’m hanging onto the last of the Indian summer we’re having in Britain (I’m still in shorts!), there’s no denying the workload which is building and it’s time to get back to the blog 🙂
The summer has been full of arranging for a variety of ensembles, managing the royalty free music site (more of that later) and the gig diary has been pretty continuous – culminating in a great evening with vocalist Sue Rivers last Friday.
Apart from the fact that the gig was a mile from home, it was a great evening for me because Sue is a great natural musician with excellent pitching and natural time. Very few vocalists are so reliable that they allow the accompanist complete freedom to use frequent harmonizations and in particular, space!
Playing in time is NOT about playing on the beat – in fact I have a pet hate of that. It’s about knowing where the beat is and either playing in front, on or behind it, depending upon the mood/ style of the music and the instrument.
Groove and swing is all about the rhythmic “pull” between a group of good live musicians which relies upon their ability to hear the “invisible” internal beat. You must hear the constant, imagined beat although you may never play on it.
For me, when musicians are able to do this, everything starts to flow, musically and technically. You can stop “fighting” the groove and trying to jostle musicians into hearing right time or feel. Sometimes it happens immediately and sometime never, but it’s the most rewarding experience when it occurs because ideas flow naturally and you are able to use the musicians most powerful tool……..space.
The key to all of this is not the ability to hear the notes – but the ability to hear the space that surrounds them. It took me years to understand what this means and it’s not always easy to do. I first heard Keith Jarrett talk about it with reference to his period in the Miles Davis band. Miles was “all about space”. If you learn to hear the silence, the notes are easy.
Some very good musicians never understand this although their natural gifts allow them to play very well, but for me their music it never artistic – it just does the job.
You must first imagine the beat (and “groove” or various subdivisions of the beat), then the harmony……. and only then you start to play! If you cannot conjure up these aspects before you play then it’s highly likely that you’re music won’t be very good.
If you’re a visually inclined thinker then the image to the left may make sense to you. This is quite literally what I see very often when playing. If you’re not visually oriented…. don’t be put off!