DRUMMING CONCEPTS & EXERCISES
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Notes on “Counting the Phrase”
by Nick Scheuble
“America” from “West Side Story” makes use of a hemiola whereby two groups of three can also be phrased of as three groups of two (1, 2, 3 / 1, 2, 3 /1, 2 /1, 2 / 1, 2).
The idea of phrasing in groupings outside of a specific subdivision (or time signature) can yield very interesting musical results. But with that said, I believe that sometimes we may be deceiving ourselves into thinking that we are hearing these shapes when in fact, we may only be adhering to accents within the prescribed time signature or subdivision.
To truly hear these shapes as they exist in and of themselves regardless of time signature or subdivision is the purpose of these exercises.
I’ve developed a handful of rhythmic exercises that can help in developing this sensitivity. In the first example, I’ve written out a measure of accented triplets counting in a traditional way: 1+d, 2+d, 3+d, 4+d (one, an-da, two an-da etc.).
Then I wrote an alternate counting based on the phrases. These rhythmic phrases are five note phrases. In this case, “1,2,3,4,5” replaces “+d, 2+d and so on.
Later, I wrote seven note phrases. Again, it may be helpful to first count the measures as accented groups of triplets (“1+d, 2+d” etc). However, the goal here is to ultimately count in groups of seven (“1,2,3,4,5,6,7”)
The last set of exercises are to be played against a shuffle “time”.
If the player is right-handed and normally plays the ride cymbal with his or her right hand, the left hand should play the 2 written exercises on the snare using the left hand.
While these last couple of exercises may easily be seen as derived from a half note triplet grouping in 4/4 time, it is again advisable to try to count the 4 note grouping that I’ve written.
Lastly, these are only ideas to get you started. Please experiment with counting and “feeling” other phrase groupings.