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Duke Ellington phrasing, make it swing.

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

The chords for this little exercise are as follows:

G, Am, Bm, C, D, Em, D7, G
G, D7, Em, D, C, Bm, Am, G

Jethro Burns published this a while ago as a way to get your playing swinging. < - -, < - -,.... < means strong or accented, - meaning weak or not accented, Think: STRONG, weak, weak, STRONG, weak, weak, STRONG, weak, weak, STRONG This can be used with a band or a metronome to accent your favorite melody or any playing one wants to get away from the straight 8th notes feel.

Every player has rhythmic nuances that literally need to be heard to understood. Books and notation can only touch the surface. Think of Clarence White in the bluegrass world, or Wayne Shorter in the Jazz world. Playing right in front, or or behind the downbeat of a tune can really make a song chug along or glide smoothly. Wayne and his band create lots of movement with the phrasing of his horn and the comping of the piano and bass in the backdrop. They don’t change the tempo as much as they play, “around,” the beat not right on top of it. Below Horace Silver really gets it on piano!

In terms of lead playing, Miles Davis as well as guitar greats like Charlie Christian, Pat Martino and Django are great guys to listen to for new poly-rhythmic ideas to wrap one’s ears around. In terms of piano playing and comping, Horace Silver as well as Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett are players with great senses of time. Below is a video of Wayne Shorter playing some Ellington-esque phrasing, as well as some other ideas I must call all his own. Altered timing is a great way to reveal one’s own unique voice, while dodging the ever tempting trap door of playing too many notes. One clear convicted voice is the goal, don’t be afraid to borrow from your favorite players. Use the stepping stones provided, but remember to tread your own path along the way.

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