Breaking in Your Ears – part 3

Welcome to our third Latin workshop. We continue with the last segment of this series of exercises BUT…be aware that there are many many many more variations in this study. Our next exercises takes us to the realm of 4 bar cycles.

The term 4 bar cycle simply means that this phrase is spread over 4 bars. These cycles are very important. Longer cycles provide a basis for a vast amount of vocabulary and really help your ability to “feel” the timeline. Remember that the point of all these exercises is rhythmic ear training. Independence is almost a side issue that gets worked very nicely, but the main focus is on your hearing. The learning curve for the western player wishing to learn these styles is shortened through the study of rhythm. These phrases we are studying now are the foundation of the vocabulary you will be using in the music. Think of them as the alphabet. Later you will be able to structure cohesive phrasing (sentences) through a wide variety of African descent styles.

Vocabulary is an integral part of playing this music. When you finally get to play Latin styles in a band, you will see that it wont work to well to play patterns like you would in Funk or Rock. Latin music is to a very large degree improvisational.
For example: if you are playing a Samba groove. It won’t work very well to just repeat one pattern over and over through the whole song. Like in Jazz, your phrasing must propel the music forward, create tension and release and of course support the other players during the solos and different parts of the song. That’s why you have to start from here. Knowing 1 or even 20 Brazilian, Afro Cuban, Colombian etc etc patterns won’t do you much good if it’s hard to function within the music. The challenge for us coming from a western music background is to absorb this vocabulary. That challenge has been solved by using this system of study.

In your general approach to this music it’s better to start from the source. Not from the result. Thus…we have the phrasing of African music. A beautiful, wondrous, mind opening and physically challenging phrasing to play.

You will notice that these exercises are structured the same as the last. Timeline patterns with the hands, Hi Hat playing on the main pulses. Bass drum playing the phrases. If you are having a hard time with this, my suggestion is, practice one measure at a time. Loop it and repeat it until it’s in your hands. Then Add another measure, and another. Slowly making progress and letting the phrases sink into you. This is a bit extreme but it works. VERY important – Make sure you always listen to the melodies of the cycles and play them through to their completion. Don’t end up with just 2 or 3 measures of this exercise. Patience, confidence, determination, and it will come together.

Breaking in your ears work-part3

Con Alma, enjoy!

Phil M.

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