Peter Erskine: How To Read Elvin Jones

Reading Elvin

A recent Practice Pad column of mine explored an Elvin Jones-inspired fill with humble origins as a four-note outline (Ex. 1). As the art of most transcriptions can complete a sound picture only part way, the player’s ear is all important in terms of guiding the relative speed and dynamic flow of such a flourish of notes (Ex. 2). The challenge of the column was to decide upon the most accurate way to notate something that seems to defy such cut-and-dry representation, however exotic the rhythmic groupings might be (we tried using quintuplets, septuplets, etc.). For the benefit of my students and the readers of DRUM!, I decided upon Ex. 3 as the best way to write out this Elvin-inspired connecting device. While the triplets (or sextuplets) remain the same, the accents combined with the note grouping/visual cues should provide the closest way to describe the indescribable. Thus is the mystery and beauty of music.

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