For this inaugural post in the D/GEST section, we pick up a tip from legendary drummer, Papa Jo Jones (October 7, 1911 – September 3, 1985) best known for his work with the Count Basie Orchestra during the swing jazz period of the 1930s and 1940s. From the 1973 album The Drums, Papa Jo reminds us what it’s all about at the end of the day.
“It’s a lot of fun even if you don’t play it professional just to get a set of drums to sit down if you have a nice little padded room you can sit down and you won’t disturb the neighbors, you can play with your own records, or you have someone musical in your family you can have friends to come over and you can find out you can have a lot of fun, it’s a good relaxation to be able to sit down, when you come home from work and you have a nice dinner and you relax and start out playing like this [starts drumming a basic groove] – anybody can move to that and you can strike up your own melodic lines.”
– Papa Jo Jones, The Drums (1973)
Despite our love for technology and all that it has to offer, there’s nothing better than physically practicing on an instrument to get your rhythmic sensibility together. Whether it’s a daily, weekly or monthly exercise, the tiniest effort will expose you to little nuggets of ideas and insights. Most importantly you’ll personally witness the immensity of holding down a groove. It’s the act of coordinating the body and mind in time which is at the heart of the music experience, particularly when it comes to music of the dance variety.
Playing an instrument is an efficient (i.e. quick) way to absorb rhythms and an important step toward the development of your artistic voice and character. If rhythm is a language and you wish to speak it freely with style, then one thing thing to do is to start speaking it and building a vocabulary – one beat, one bar, and one measure at a time.
Here are a few suggestions to get your rhythmic feel together:
– Playing on practice pads or real drum kit
– Playing on electronic drum pads or kits
– Playing a percussion instrument such as conga, bongos or cowbell
– Holding a groove on another instrument such as bass or keyboard
– Vocalization – Verbalization
– Finger drumming
Feel free to use your imagination because you really can’t go wrong with music exploration of any kind.