1. #1

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    One of the most frustrating things about learning to play jazz, especially groove based jazz, is nailing the time feel.

    So, here's a recent experience I found enlightening

    Last week I hosted two sessions. Both using the same book of mostly Brazilian tunes.

    Jam #1. Local pro drummer but not so familiar with some of the tunes. Local semipro bassist who gets a lot of work because he's a good player on acoustic and electric. Pianist was a working pro for 10 years. Two pro horns, both struggling with some of the reading (to be fair, some of it was transposing concert charts on the fly and neither was very familiar with the music.

    We were outside and, because of where the sun/shade fell, we were configured in an L shape, with the horns maybe 15-18 feet from the drums. The time was unusually ragged (I've played with all these players before). I don't know why it was so difficult this time. I often felt like I couldn't tell where the beat was and struggled to comp. Ended up feeling like I couldn't play the guitar because my time feel sucks.

    Jam #2. Top pro drummer (years with people you revere), excellent semipro bassist. Same kb player. Monster horn player, reads like a machine, any transposition, any tempo and knows my book. Indoors this time and drummer said it was better that way because we weren't so spread out. Time feel was excellent for the entire session. I felt like I couldn't play a bad rhythm. One of the best sets I've ever been part of. I came away feeling great.

    So, what are the morals of this story?

    1. You can't evaluate your own potential without a group that allows you to reach it. And, it's not just the personnel, it's also the sound and maybe sight lines. Also the style and how well you know the tunes.

    2. It is waaayyy easier to play with great players except in some instances where they can take things further out than you can follow.

    3. How do you practice for the next one? Does your time feel suck or not? Do you focus on it so that you can deal with the more difficult settings? Do you just tell yourself you need better groups and work on something else?

    4. The better horn player mattered. It helps when every melody note is simply nailed.

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  3. #2

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    Bass sounds are slow and diffuse, least likely to be a problem.

    Drummers hear their kit "locally" because they are sitting in it. With others playing from a distance from the drum kit, consider that the drummer hits snare and hears it instantly, half a dozen yards away a horn or guitar hears and plays after a slight delay, but to them the're synchronous. That same delay is added again for the return trip of their sound back to the drummer to hear what the horn or guitar played. Horns are also "local" to their own instruments, but for the guitarist, this delay can be up to twice as bad for the drummer depending on amp placement.

    The guitarist can mitigate a lot of this by placing his amp right into the drum kit - best position is under the hi-hat, then stand as far from the kit as possible. This puts the kit and the amp both sounding from the same place. One can naturally adjust to place the sounds in synchrony if the sources of the sounds are from the same place.

    Indoors, "the same place" basically becomes the room, and reflection, diffraction, absorption, and ambiance all conspire nicely to hide a multitude of errors.

    As far as drummers, to me an excellent drummer is "sonically invisible" where I don't really hear or recall anything they do, yet because of their playing, my playing will feel easy and natural (like when a guitar is tuned just right). If I notice a drummer, the things I notice will be negative - usually control issues with dragging, rushing, dynamics, etc.
    Last edited by pauln; 06-21-2021 at 12:59 AM.

  4. #3

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    Playing outside without a good monitor system is a nightmare unless you are in a band shell.

  5. #4

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    As a young drummer I had the opportunity to play with Dave Holland and John Abercrombie.

    All of a sudden I felt like I knew how to swing, support the music, and react to everything around me.

    It was their strength, of course. But it illuminated the path forward and was a humbling, but encouraging experience.

    Playing with better players...indeed.

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by rictroll
    As a young drummer I had the opportunity to play with Dave Holland and John Abercrombie.

    All of a sudden I felt like I knew how to swing, support the music, and react to everything around me.

    It was their strength, of course. But it illuminated the path forward and was a humbling, but encouraging experience.

    Playing with better players...indeed.
    I’ve had a similar experience when playing with great players.

    I think the main thing is to be interested in rhythm, study it every way you can. And don’t sleep on the physical side of it. But I scarcely need to say that to a drummer :-)

  7. #6

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    Recording oneself is one of the most powerful tools for rhythmic diagnosis