Groove, Rhythm, Time Feel

This part is dedicated to aspects of rhythmic accuracy, groove and performing complex rhythms. Time is most likely the key element to master for every jazz and pop musician but it is also one of the most elusive parameters. Pianist Fred Hersch while referring to a performance:

“There should be ten, fifteen different kinds of time. There’s a kind of time that has an edge on it for a while and then lays back for a while. Sometimes it rolls over the bar, and sometimes it sits more on the beats. That’s what makes it interesting. you can set a metronome here and, by playing with an edge of playing behind it or right at the center, you can get all kinds of different feelings. That’s what makes it come alive. People are human, and rhythmic energy has an ebb and flow."1

Most instrument methods or books on Jazz improvisation contain specific chapters on rhythm but very few are entirely dedicated to purely rhythmical aspects with the exceptions of e.g. a book2 by drummer Bob Moses or a method3 by drummer Billy Martin.

A few words of caution on working with metronomes and machines from the following video4 by Richie Beirach on developing a better sense of time:

  • Listen to great examples … check Out Speak no Evil, listen to Elvin Jones, Herbie, Freddie, Wayne, Ron Carter
  • Forget about the metronome
  • Metronomes are suicide for the Jazz musicians
  • Metronomes are good for kids because when you are practicing you are lonely and scared and it helps to feel not so lonely
  • Perfect time doesn’t help you with your Jazz rhythm”.
  • Is a click track great for pop music? Yeah, it keeps everybody together. Pop music can be creative but it is not improvised, it is a whole different genre, keeps everybody together. I believe in the click track too.

  1. Berliner, P.F. (1994). Thinking in Jazz : The Infinite Art of Improvisation. Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology. ↩︎

  2. Moses, B. (1984). Drum Wisdom. Modern Drummer Publications (republished in 2022 as Kindle edition) ↩︎

  3. Martin, B. (2006). Riddim, claves of African origin (D. Thress, Ed.). Alfred Music. ↩︎

  4. Beirach, R. (2021). Richie Beirach on developing a better sense of time. (These wise words might serve as a natural antidote but it is still be advisable to get your shots.) ↩︎