Thursday, March 26, 2009

Professional Percussion

This past Monday Dave, who plays percussion in the community band and also in maestro's jazz quartet, came by and we ran through some songs with me on guitar/banjo and singing and with him playing my high hat, cymbal and blocks, along with a small snare and some other things he brought. He's far and away the best percussionist I've ever played with. A couple of years ago he filled in with the Dixies on the New Year's Eve performance and it was the best I've ever played with that group because of being able to bounce off his playing with my strumming.

We did some old Dylan faves of mine, along with things I'm developing for the learning materials. Playing with him was a real treat, but listening back while making a practice CD for Andy and maybe the Kenwood Players has been a revelation.

First, I've been amazed at the variety of sub rhythms he creates, along with a wealth of variety in timbres and articulations. His high skill level means he's got a huge range of possible licks to bring to bear, so his playing, while rock steady, is full of variety and surprise.

The other thing took longer for me to recognize has to do with my singing. I've always realized I play with strumming behind the beat, but had thought my singing was right on the beat. Listening back to the recording it dawned on me that I'm actually anticipating the beat with my singing, either somehow due to years of leading people or because in learning songs I tend to line up the accented syllables with or slightly before the beat. Either way it creates an off-putting edge that I'd always thought had to do with the timbre of my voice, when it's really a rhythm issue as much or more than anything else. 

Last night after coming to this realization, tried singing after the beat and it was really difficult, but when it worked it brought a whole new feel to songs I've been singing for over 30 years. 

One of the great things about making music is that there's never an end to how deeply into it you can go, and the learning and experiencing new dimensions recharges the whole endeavor. 

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