Develop Jaw-Dropping Independence

Developing Jaw-Dropping Independence

When I first experienced Mike Mangini’s and later on Virgil Donati’s jaw-dropping musical independence virtuosity I thought to myself, “Well, great. Not only will I never achieve any of that but I will never even understand what’s going on” [sighs].

Hearing both of these artists turned into motivating moments of my career because I wanted to badly to scratch the surface of the talent they displayed. I spent a lot of time practicing and trying to figure out the best ways to achieve and maintain such independence. That practice created musical freedom for me and that's why I want to share with you this approach that has already helped many of my students far beyond any of their expectations.

When working on independence I always advise students to stay away from trying to write things down, figuring out how it all lines up. To me, that conflicts with the goal of true independence. Here is what happens when you write music (or anything else) down. Let’s say you see that certain notes are suppose to be played together and that they fall exactly between other musical relationships on the staff. Whether consciously or unconsciously you will force them the notes to come out that way almost as if that was the goal. You'll try to play those notes "correctly" regardless of what else is going on musically. On the other hand if you play your parts independently of each other yet both in sync with time (or "the master code" as I call it in my book In-Depth Rhythm Studies-Advanced Metronome Functions the result will be that those notes are being played together, exactly between other beats and so forth. But all the part will be played perfectly in time, which is the real goal.

We will play alternating singles between our feet while playing odd groups of alternating singles with our hands on top. (Groups of 3,5,7,9 etc…) I picked groups of 7.

Note: Don’t worry about how these two parts line up with each other. Get very comfortable with the alternating singles at first and then start adding the other two limbs on top. “Easier said than done” you might say. OK, let’s take several steps back. Start by playing only the first two notes of the odd grouping, then 4, then the whole group, then two of the groups and keep adding until you can play it over and over again. It is very important to add the other limbs on top of the ostinato (alternating singles) independently.

You can help yourself by listening closely to one part and looking at your limbs playing the other part or vice versa.

Exercise #1A: Odd Group, Right-Hand Lead
Exercise #1B: Odd Group, Left-Hand Lead

Once you are comfortable with either limb leading you can switch without stopping. In the video I play two groups of seven before switching the lead. While switching the lead it might sound as if nothing happened, but don’t let that fool you. The sticking might not have changed but the feel has since you are dealing with odd groups.

Exercise #1C: Odd Group, Switching Lead

Now we are going to switch our parts. Hands are going to keep the alternating singles while our feet will play them in odd grouping.

Exercise #2A: Odd Group, Right-Foot Lead
Exercise #2B: Odd Group, Left-Foot Lead
Exercise #2C: Odd Group,Switching Lead

Now we will turn the patterns around. Our Right Side (R-Hand+R-Foot) will keep alternating singles while our Left Side (L-Hand+L-Foot) will play the alternating singles in groups of 7.

Exercise #3A: Odd Group, Left-Hand Lead
Exercise #3B: Odd Group, Left-Foot Lead
Exercise #3C: Odd Group –Switching Lead

Let’s flip the sides.

Exercise #4A: Odd Group, Right-Hand Lead
Exercise #4B: Odd Group, Right-Foot Lead
Exercise #4C: Odd Group –Switching Lead

Free your mind and amazing things will start happening. Have fun!