J a z z F i d d l e W
i z a r d
JAZZ FIDDLE WIZARD (College):
The basic eighth note feel in jazz is the triplet swing eighth feel.
To learn about rhythm we refer to one of the masters of jazz violin, Stuff Smith. Even though history is not the focus of this book some of the most famous players are used as examples. See "suggested listening" under each tune. I also encourage the reader to use the listings in the back to learn more about these performers.
Stuff Smith learned his phrasing from horn players especially Louis Armstrong. He transferred basic jazz phrasing and rhythm to the violin in such a natural way that his playing is a great place to start for the beginning jazz string player. Tune # 1 is a transcription of a solo off Stuff’s 1936 recording of "Knock, Knock, Who’s There?".
The whole solo is built on a triplet subdivision. That means that both regular eighth notes (see ex. 1) and all other rhythms (see ex. 2 & 3) are played differently from the way they are written.
As seen in example 1 every off beat is delayed equivalent to the last of three eighth note triplets. The first eighth note is therefore played longer than written, equivalent to the first two eighth notes of the triplet. As seen in examples 2 & 3 this also applies to all other eighth note rhythms. Though all this sounds complicated it simply is the swing groove or feel explained theoretically. The best way to learn this is to listen and imitate the great jazz players.
1.) Beat exercise 1 using two hands hitting a table. The right hand beats the rhythm while the left beats triplets. By doing so the rhythms are forced to fit in the right subdivision. Later try clapping the rhythms to a metronome or drum machine.
2.) Imagine you are part of a marching band and clap the rhythm in exercise 2. After clapping the written rhythms make up your own while staying in the swing groove.
3ab.) Play exercise 3a and 3b as written on the open A string focusing only on rhythm. Play the eighth notes on the upper half of the bow. Even out the volume of the down and up strokes by putting a slight accent on the long eighth to counter the natural bow accent of the shorter stroke.
4.) Clap the whole Stuff Smith solo first really slowly then faster and faster using the a metronome or drum machine. Listen to the actual solo if possible.
5.) Play the Stuff Smith solo. If you have the recording, copy his rhythm and phrasing as best you can. Remember there is nothing wrong with imitation as long as you imitate many different players and only the best.
Jazz Fiddle Wizard home