Hey Jazz Guy,

I’m playing all the right notes, but something is still missing. How can I make my phrasing sound more jazzy? –No Swing in Norway

Dear No Swing,

Perhaps the most elusive and mysterious concept in jazz, is swing feel and articulation. The concept has changed over time and many great players are very unique in their phrasing and feel. However, there are some stylistic elements that if performed properly will send you way into the ‘jazz universe’. Our model will be the original bebop-type phrasing from which all jazz has descended. The first trick is to learn to hear the metronome on beats two and four. Then we practice eighth-notes, accenting the upbeats [Ex 1]. Next we practice playing triplets, while accenting the third triplet, even removing the second one [Ex 1]. The true swing feel lies in-between these two rhythmic ideas. Proper execution of triplets in a phrase will really make you swing hard. Notice how the first triplet is all down strokes, like an in-time rake [Ex 2], ending with a down stroke on the beat three. Then resume normal alternate picking. In the same example, the second triplet is slurred to give a ‘blurry’ effect, like on a horn. When you practice scales [Ex 3], practice both alternate picking and the slurred phrasing shown here, again, to achieve a horn-like effect. Lastly, practice ‘swinging’ the quarter notes. The slower the tempo, the more exaggerated the feel. Here we use some chords [Ex 4] to illustrate the articulation of long and short quarter notes. Listening to jazz is crucial to developing your ears in this area, so listen lots, practice patiently, swing soulfully, and jazz hard!

Link to PDF Example: HJG – Articulation

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Categories: Rhythm

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