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Can anyone help re: working rhythms out from dots?

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51
I've been playing sax for approx 30 yrs on and off. I've enjoyed playing in a few bands over the years, but pretty much on a 'you hum it and I'll play it' basis. I tend to remember things ok once I've found them and can ellaborate on them and improvise quite easily.

The one thing I find difficult is working a rhythmic pattern out from dots. Straight crotchets and the like are ok, but when I see dotted crotchets, ties and rests etc. My head just goes to mush. I've tried working them out mathmatically, slowing it down and dividing it all up into a four count (if it's in 4/4 timing!) but I just can't get it :confused:.

I've had piano and sax lessons in the past where particular bars are explained, then I go home and it's all gone!.

Can anyone recommend a good book that might help?

Any advice would be much appreciated.

Jools
 

Two Voices

Senior Member
Messages
1,113
Well I would recommend Andy Hampton's Saxophone Basics as it breaks it up there nice a simply or The Jazz Method for Saxophone by John O'Neill Volume 1.

I have both and the John's book has far more information in.

Both are easy to read and understand.
 

Two Voices

Senior Member
Messages
1,113

Pete C

Member
Messages
344
I suggest working on rhythms away from the sax. Modern Reading Text in 4/4 by Louis Bellson is a useful book for this - just pages and pages of progressively more difficult rhythms to clap out with a metronome going. Drummers independence studies are also very good.

Pete
 

Young Col

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,419
..or Jools, if you want to understand a bit more theory about rhythm, note lengths, ties etc you could try the Associated Board Book of Music Theory vol1 by Eric Taylor. ABRSM also do workbooks for each grade. Even if you don't do a grade exam they are very useful, not hard going and help you see how it all works.
A typical small problem arose in an ensemble piece I am doing. In 4/4, a bar started with a dotted crotchet followed by a quaver tied to a crotchet. The combination is played as two dotted crotchets, but there is a notation convention as to why the second group is not also written as a dotted crotchet. It didn't take me long to see how it should be played, but some of my fellow players who haven't done theory took ages to see the rhythm of it.
YC
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
If you want something practical, try the theory lessons at http://www.teoria.com/tutorials/reading/index.htm

It's interactive, and there' a good section (exercises at the top of the link) which plays rhythms and then you have to pick the right dots. Harder than it looks!
 
Last edited:

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,904
The one thing I find difficult is working a rhythmic pattern out from dots. Straight crotchets and the like are ok, but when I see dotted crotchets, ties and rests etc. My head just goes to mush. I've tried working them out mathmatically, slowing it down and dividing it all up into a four count (if it's in 4/4 timing!) but I just can't get it :confused:.
This approach works, but you have to count in smaller units. For dotted crotchets and quavers you need to keep a quaver pulse (ie 8 to a bar) going in your head. For dotted quavers etc you have to count in semiquavers. Try clapping the quaver pulse (swung or straight, but as slowly as you need to at first) and then sing the written rhythm by counting the claps. Then speed up gradually and keep at it until you can feel the pulse without clapping.
 

Sweet Dreamer

Senior Member
Messages
505
Something that helped me considerably was to get a sheet music program, type in the sheet music, and watch it play.

There are free sheet music programs out there like Melody Assistant, which is the one I use.

http://www.myriad-online.com/en/products/melody.htm

Type in the bars you want to study.

First type them in precisely as they are written on your sheet music.

Then you can type them in differently to try to different things.

For example if you have a dotted crochet you can write that as a crochet tied to an eight note. Or you can also leave the tie out and hear the to note played separately, get a feel for that, then tie them back together again and realize that the second duration just gets added on to the length of the original note.

The beautiful thing about these sheet music programs is that you can instantly play whatever you type in. The cursor flows along the staff as each note or rest is being played. You can also change the tempo to any rate you want.

For me it was the fastest way to learn to read time and get an instant feel for how things are played.

Also, there's something quite interesting that comes out of this!

Nobody plays music precisely as it is written!

Just listen to how the sheet music program plays the music. That is precisely how it is actually written!

But nobody plays it that way. They always add feeling and intuition to a phrase. And that cannot be written out.

So written score is just a feeble means to attempt to communicate a musical idea. The actual music needs to come from you.

So after a while of reading music you learn to see it as a general idea, rather than as a precise mechanical instruction.

For example, when I see a dotted crotchet I don't think of playing it precisely an extra 8th beat. Instead, I just think of it as a sign that says, "savor this note a bit'. That's all it really means. It means that when you play that note, give it a little attention, a little artistic expression, spend a little more time with it than you normally would give a quarter note.

That's how I think of it. You don't want to play robotically like a sheet music program anyway. So why read the music robotically?

So try to start reading sheet music as more of an artistic expression of musical ideas.
 

VirusKiller

Member
Messages
449
So written score is just a feeble means to attempt to communicate a musical idea. The actual music needs to come from you.
I think the degree of feebleness depends on the composer, but I agree 100% with your sentiment.

So try to start reading sheet music as more of an artistic expression of musical ideas.
Yes, but it's also important to be able to read the music as written and not go off on your own rhythm/timing adventure.
 

Sweet Dreamer

Senior Member
Messages
505
Yes, but it's also important to be able to read the music as written and not go off on your own rhythm/timing adventure.
Well that can depend on what your ultimate goal is. Obviously if you're planning on playing with an orchestra you're going to need to fit in the box of what all the other players are playing. That's a given in that situation.

When playing with a smaller band or a backing track you have far more room for artistic expression. Especially if you're playing the lead melody and they are playing accompaniment.

And of course, if you're playing a solo you can be as individual as you like, unless it's your goal to try to duplicate someone else's style. Usually in that case score won't help much anyway, since the only way to really try to copy someone else's style is to listen to them by ear.

All of this became vividly apparent to me a few years back when I was learning to play the violin. My naive goal back then was to play the Bach partitas and sonatas for solo violin. I got the sheet music, and typed it all into a sheet music program. Then I LISTENED to how all the great violinists actually played each phrase. They all played them differently. the notes were the same, but nobody played as written. In fact, if they did, they would sound as mechanical as the sheet music program.

They all put feeling into each phrase, and if you were going to write out precisely what they are actually playing you'd have a really messy score with dotted 16th notes tied to dotted 32nd notes and so on. Even the rests would all be odd dotted thingies all over the place. The score would be virtually unreadable if you actually printed out precisely what these guys are actually playing.

Ironically, even though all these great violinists all played these pieces differently (even though they maintained the same basic pattern of notes), none of them played it the way I ultimately imagined it to be played. I dreamed of learning to play the violin well enough to bring my musical expression to life and into the real world where other people could hear it. But alas the violin is not an easy instrument to play from a technical point of view.

Then one day I saw a CD on sale of a girl violinist. She was playing the Bach partitas and sonatas, so I thought I'd buy it and she how see does. She was young and I didn't expect much. However, when I listened to the CD I was blown away. She played it almost exactly as I had imagined it should sound. I couldn't believe my ears! It was beautiful and musical and put all the "Greats" to shame, IMHO.

Her name is Hilary Hahn.

Yep, she doesn't play the score, she plays music.
 
Messages
51
Fantastic response - Thankyou all!

Loads of good advice.

Sweet Dreamer - have just downloaded Melody Assistant so hopefully when I get stuck I'll be able to hear how it should all work. Also, I totally agree with your view on the importance of bringing dots to life.

Thanks again
 

Sweet Dreamer

Senior Member
Messages
505
Jools,

I'm working with an older version. Probably 5 years old. Although, I did download the new version just now when I gave you the link. I'm half afraid to install it though because I'm happy with the older version and I hate to lose that by overwriting it.

In any case, I'll try to help you out with things if I can. I guess I better install the latest version myself so I know exactly what you're working with. It shouldn't be all that much different from the version I already have.
 

Sweet Dreamer

Senior Member
Messages
505
Ok Jools,

I just installed the updated version. It doesn't appear any different at first glance. Fortunately it saved all my custom configurations from the previous version. In even saved my "recent file" list which I use a lot. So currently it doesn't appear to be much different from what I've been using.

If you have any questions feel free to ask, I'll try to answer them the best I can.
 

SaxyMalcolm

Member
Messages
77
I've been playing sax for approx 30 yrs on and off. I've enjoyed playing in a few bands over the years, but pretty much on a 'you hum it and I'll play it' basis. I tend to remember things ok once I've found them and can ellaborate on them and improvise quite easily.

The one thing I find difficult is working a rhythmic pattern out from dots. Straight crotchets and the like are ok, but when I see dotted crotchets, ties and rests etc. My head just goes to mush. I've tried working them out mathmatically, slowing it down and dividing it all up into a four count (if it's in 4/4 timing!) but I just can't get it :confused:.

I've had piano and sax lessons in the past where particular bars are explained, then I go home and it's all gone!.

Can anyone recommend a good book that might help?

Any advice would be much appreciated.

Jools
Jools

The Joe Viola book titled "Creative Reading Studies for Saxophone" from the Berklee Press is a very good book and has studies on every type of Jazz rhthym you can imagine.

Malcolm
 

stefank

Member
Messages
366
In the end, it's about recognition/doing, and a good sight reader has as much conscious computation going on in his/her head as a barcode scanner does at the local supermarket. The maths of rhythm patterns is just something you have to do to until you get to the point where it seemingly becomes automatic - within the styles which you are used to. Throw in a new style (eg give a "classical" player a funk chart) and it's almost "start again".
 

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,904
In the end, it's about recognition/doing, and a good sight reader has as much conscious computation going on in his/her head as a barcode scanner does at the local supermarket. The maths of rhythm patterns is just something you have to do to until you get to the point where it seemingly becomes automatic - within the styles which you are used to. Throw in a new style (eg give a "classical" player a funk chart) and it's almost "start again".
Couldn't agree more. Especially the part about having to go through the working it out slowly stage first. Your subconscious won't do the business until youve trained it do do so. Have recently been in the classical/funk situation you described and was definitely struggling to keep up at first.
 

half diminished

Senior Member
Messages
1,302
My teacher has been helping me with playing rhythms from the dots accurately. She gets the metronome set up to mark out the 'smallest component' note value - eg semi-quavers. I then play everything to those values, so a quaver is two equal notes, crotchet four and so on. Once I can play that in perfect time with the metronome we start combining the semi-quaver values into larger ones until after a while I am playing everything as written and in perfect time.

This is all done at a relatively slow pace and then gradually increased to the correct speed. Hard phrases are isolated, broken down and repeated with a couple of notes added once I have mastered it. We work backwards from the hard phrase. The real bugg@ for me is syncopated rhythm.

All this is working but its a long process. I agree, Jazz shouldn't just be played 'from the dots as written' but it is essential to be able to play in perfect time even when improvising. That doesn't mean you can't deliberately play ahead of or behind the beat but playing out of time is just like playing a bunch of random notes.
 
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