Wally Schnalle: Harmonic Jazz Triplets

In general terms, time keeping in jazz lives within the triplet-based pattern played on the ride cymbal. This is usually augmented by the hi-hat playing on the backbeats (beats 2 and 4) as in Ex. 1. What often gets played on the snare and bass is what is called “comping,” short for accompaniment. Much of this vocabulary is based on one or the other of those instruments playing a syncopated rhythm, or even a dialogue between them. The examples laid out here are harmonic comping combinations in which the two separate rhythms played on two limbs overlap. I use the term “harmonic” as the definition is “two or more notes sounded simultaneously.” The patterns here are created using two limbs playing two notes out of the three possible in a set of eighth-note triplets in all possible positions. Ex. 2 uses snare and bass. Ex. 3 uses snare and hi-hat. Ex. 4 uses hi-hat and bass. Apply these to the time-keeping pattern in Ex. 1 by playing them each four times per each 4/4 measure of the cymbal pattern. In an actual playing situation, that would typically be too much, but these exercises are to help create vocabulary you can use to make better choices later on.

Wally Schnalle

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