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  1. #1

    Help understanding Leavitt

    'Mastery of the ''right hand rhythms'' pages should enable you to perform any rhythmic combinations that may confront you at any time . . .assuming, of course you have the ability to ''swing'' (if this ability is lacking then you have best throw the pick away.)'
    this is what Leavitt says at the beginning of volume 3 of modern method for guitar.
    Can anyone help me understand what Leavitt means by this. What does he mean by ''swing''?
    And how are upstrokes and downstrokes performed by the right hand? there's only one way of picking with the right hand right? either with the thumb striking down or with all the fingers picking the strings at once.
    Help with this ?

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  3. #2
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    I don't know about Leavitt, but this is how to swing...Benny Goodman group with Gene Krupa on drums. If you can distil this onto the guitar, you'll be in demand!


  4. #3
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    Leavitt's Method is specifically for plectrum players, not finger-style, although any finger-stylist can benefit from the method. So, up-stroked and down-strokes refer to the pick. It may be harder for some to "swing" finger style, but not impossible.

  5. #4
    One way to think about it is that a swing rhythm has a triplet feel. In this way all of the notes no longer have the same time value as they do in a straight rhythm. Here is a strumming example of a swing rhythm.


  6. #5
    He's not talking about the physical movement up or down but the time feel. In short, instead of eighth notes being equal in value, the first note is held a little longer and the second not is abbreviated. The long and short add up to exactly what would have been two "straight" eighth notes. A common way of initially thinking of swing time is to imagine an 8th note triplet, that would "fit" in the time of a pair of 8th notes. Instead of three distinct counts of 1,2,3, to get swing feel when you play 8th notes, tie the first two beats together to get the longer first beat, then just the one remaining beat for the shortened second note.
    Ta,ta,ta becomes Taaa,ta ..... so a steady measure of 8th notes will count/feel/sound Taaa, ta Taaa ta Taaa ta Taaa ta
    1 2 3 1 2
    Ignorance is agony.



  7. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by snoskier63 View Post
    One way to think about it is that a swing rhythm has a triplet feel. In this way all of the notes no longer have the same time value as they do in a straight rhythm. Here is a strumming example of a swing rhythm.
    The type of strumming the guy in your video is doing is used in blues, country, and some rock & roll, but not in jazz. I don't have time to go into the various styles of jazz rhythm guitar playing, but it's a good idea to get some records with great jazz rhythm guitar playing. Here's Herb Ellis comping for Joe Pass on a medium tempo version of Cherokee.


  8. #7
    Fair enough, but my intent was simply to provide a basic example for the OP to understand the distinction between a straight rhythm and a swing rhythm. From there that same concept can be applied to jazz more easily. The reality is that to the unskilled listener swing rhythms in jazz music don’t always hit you in the face and say here I am! Baby steps! They worked for Bill Murray in “What About Bob?”, didn’t they?

  9. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by snoskier63 View Post
    Fair enough, but my intent was simply to provide a basic example for the OP to understand the distinction between a straight rhythm and a swing rhythm. From there that same concept can be applied to jazz more easily. The reality is that to the unskilled listener swing rhythms in jazz music don’t always hit you in the face and say here I am! Baby steps! They worked for Bill Murray in “What About Bob?”, didn’t they?
    OK, so I've got a few more minutes to fill out some gaps. OP was asking about Leavitt's tongue-in-cheek advice to throw away the pick if you can't swing, specifically in reference to chord strumming. Leavitt's books are pretty specific about the rhythm patterns he's teaching, which are for the most part based on the kinds of parts you'd be playing in Broadway show-type musical theater gigs and big band charts. The default rhythm is a quarter note-based, four-to-the-bar strum with beats 1 one and 3 held out full value and beats 2 and 4 shortened slightly by lifting the left hand slightly to muffle the sound. Some people refer to this as "Freddie Green style," but it's not, his style being a study all on its own. Mel Bay called it "orchestral style" playing, which is as good a name as any.

    Unfortunately what a lot of less experienced guitarists play these settings in an effort to "swing" is start putting in a lot of extra strums, and it clutters the rhythm section and frankly sounds corny. IOW you do not play triplets (like the guy in the video) unless the chart has them written. I've been playing gigs in big bands and pop orchestras for over 40 years, so I'm pretty confident about this. And even in jazz combo settings where you're comping as contrasted to the four-on-the-floor orchestral style you don't play triplet-based strumming; it's just not stylistically appropriate.

    Edit: I found the text in the Leavitt book 3 OP was referring to. All the subsequent "right hand rhythms" in that book are Latin rhythms except for a basic 5/4 "Take 5" type groove. The bolero has triplets, most of the others do not.

  10. #9
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    IMHO Leavitt is not talking technically about "swing" as opposed to "even eights" as much more about "swing" as in "This guy swings!" or "That guy swings like dice!" (does not).

    If OP doesn't know what that means maybe some research could to be appropriate.

    Possibly this could be a good starting point: "Learning Swing Feel"
    or this: How to Swing Hard in Jazz Music, Bebop, and Improvisation • Jazz Advice
    Last edited by DonEsteban; 12-19-2018 at 01:36 PM.

    --- The ultimate answer to almost all guitar questions: "Practice more!" ---

  11. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonEsteban View Post
    IMHO Leavitt is not talking technically about "swing" as opposed to "even eights" as much more about "swing" as in "This guy swings!" or "That guy swings like dice!" (does not).
    I definitely agree with you. I interpreted it to mean "the ability to play with good time in an ensemble playing swinging/grooving music."

    Quote Originally Posted by DonEsteban View Post
    If OP doesn't know what that means maybe some research could to be appropriate.

    Possibly this could be a good starting point: "Learning Swing Feel"
    or this: How to Swing Hard in Jazz Music, Bebop, and Improvisation • Jazz Advice
    I like the first article a lot.

  12. #11
    Thanks everyone
    Every answer was very helpful!

  13. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by ronjazz View Post
    Leavitt's Method is specifically for plectrum players, not finger-style, although any finger-stylist can benefit from the method. So, up-stroked and down-strokes refer to the pick. It may be harder for some to "swing" finger style, but not impossible.
    #

    I see, Thanks
    *Thumbs up*

  14. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tassos View Post
    'Mastery of the ''right hand rhythms'' pages should enable you to perform any rhythmic combinations that may confront you at any time . . .assuming, of course you have the ability to ''swing'' (if this ability is lacking then you have best throw the pick away.)'
    this is what Leavitt says at the beginning of volume 3 of modern method for guitar.
    Can anyone help me understand what Leavitt means by this. What does he mean by ''swing''?
    And how are upstrokes and downstrokes performed by the right hand? there's only one way of picking with the right hand right? either with the thumb striking down or with all the fingers picking the strings at once.
    Help with this ?
    Talking about swing sounds like a Zen Koan sometimes.

    My advice is -

    1) practice feeling both straight and swung 'ands', offbeats or - as we like to call them - upbeats.

    You can start by placing your swung 'ands' on the third triplet, so on the and 'a' of 1 + a. Get used to singing, clapping and playing a bar of this, and a bar of the and on a plain old eighth note off beat.

    Get good at nailing that distinction at different tempos. The faster you go, smaller it is.

    Get it so you can feel it.

    2) Now, you feel the swung ands in your body, and you aim to play nice and even... Nice and relaxed, in the pocket.

    Sometimes it can help to accent the ands in a scale, exercise or line. But the aim is to play evenly.

    3) NEVER try to swing. Don't MAKE an inequality happen between the note on the beat and the off beat when playing 8th notes. That's FAKE SWING. Can smell it a mile off.

    But, if one happens naturally, that's cool.

    4) Try singing along with this:


    That'll get you started

  15. #14
    Advice taken!
    Thank you very much

  16. #15
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    Basie's Li'l Darlin ...... what else is there left to say....


    PS. Freddy Green's only solo ever? (First chord)

    --- The ultimate answer to almost all guitar questions: "Practice more!" ---

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