Understanding Triplet Feel

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Re: Understanding Triplet Feel

Postby davidpenalosa » Fri Jul 11, 2014 10:12 pm

jorge wrote:the bonko floreo pattern they are playing is more different from that than just a "retarded" or "pulled" feel added to the oversimplified "straight" pattern.


That's how I hear it. He plays the phrase twice and the second time sounds less altered to me.

jorge wrote:Western music notation is in effect useless to provide the necessary information to accurately reproduce that sound, hence my claim that that floreo is unwriteable.


I don't find it useless, but I take your point. For analysis, I find it very useful to determine the fundamental (non-altered) figure being played. If one wanted to learn to play Francisco's solo as close to the way Francisco performed it, a chart alone would not show the way. No chart could convey all of the information necessary to reproduce Francisco's performance. However, a chart can augment the experience of repeated listening.

We are talking about the interpretation of charts. Jazz musicians are very adept at this. For example, many jazz charts are written in 4/4, but the melodies are actually swung and divide the beat into six subdivisions, not four. Yet, jazz musicians understand this and interpret the charts accordingly.

jorge wrote:By the way, how would you translate "floreo" into English? Riff, motif, pattern and phrase all seem a bit different from floreo and don't capture the complete, salient, improvisational, but non-repetitive nature of the floreo in rumba or Abakua music.


Isn't a floreo simply an improvised variation, played within certain parameters?
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Re: Understanding Triplet Feel

Postby jorge » Fri Jul 11, 2014 10:54 pm

I think the first note in the third set starts a little early, not late, and the second and third notes in that set fall right where the "straight" notes fall. So what I think we are hearing is that the second and third notes in that set sound delayed or "retarded", but that is just relative to the first note, not in objective (clave) time. Are those the notes that sound delayed to you? I think Roman's bonko in the Yoruba Andabo recording is a more clear example of this than Francisco's solo in Afro Blue.

Although we both agree that the written chart is not an accurate representation of the actual sound, it seems that I hear one note advanced and you hear one or several notes delayed. So how would we tell the students to modify the "straight" notes to get the sound right? Which note(s) would they modify, would they advance or delay them? They have to listen carefully and repeatedly and study the sound and timing, practice playing it, and respond to feedback from whoever is teaching them, whether they have written notes or not, so I am not seeing how creating a written representation of the floreo helps at all. Maybe as a first step to playing it right?

Yes, I would agree with that definition of floreo, I was just looking for a single word translation that I could use to describe it a bit more accurately in English.
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Re: Understanding Triplet Feel

Postby davidpenalosa » Fri Jul 11, 2014 11:32 pm

jorge wrote:I think the first note in the third set starts a little early, not late, and the second and third notes in that set fall right where the "straight" notes fall.


Jorge, your analysis is more precise than mine. Bravo sir. I just listened to it once, recognized the fundamental (unaltered) form of the phrase and immediately wrote my response.

jorge wrote: how would we tell the students to modify the "straight" notes to get the sound right? Which note(s) would they modify, would they advance or delay them?


I would tell them to listen to the recording in order to hear how the timing of the phrase is subtlety altered. Describing how each stroke is individually altered would in most cases, not be as helpful as repeated listening. However, I personally find the level of analysis you offer here to be quite intriguing.

jorge wrote:They have to listen carefully and repeatedly and study the sound and timing, practice playing it, and respond to feedback from whoever is teaching them, whether they have written notes or not, so I am not seeing how creating a written representation of the floreo helps at all. Maybe as a first step to playing it right?


Yes, for some, probably not most people, it could be a useful step in learning it. A drummer who attended the Humboldt Afro-Cuban workshop was baffled by this very phrase, as demonstrated by Roman Diaz. He sent me an MP3 of Roman playing it. I emailed him back a sequenced version of its fundamental form. The version I sent him was of course, very mechanical sounding; it was made on a computer and had no interpretative feeling to it whatsoever. Hearing the "straight" version enabled this student to wrap his mind around what Roman was actually playing. It was but one step, of a process of several steps. For someone else, a chart like the one I posted here, might be similarly helpful.
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Re: Understanding Triplet Feel

Postby jorge » Sat Jul 12, 2014 10:14 am

OK, I can see how the (over)simplified written pattern can be of use in some teaching contexts, similar to the "frictionless pulley" model that is used in teaching first year physics, as long as we take the next step of adding the changes to the oversimplified model. In fact, Einstein's quote to make things as simple as possible but not simpler comes to mind. The caveat is not to let focus on the details prevent us from hearing and learning to play the overall sound of the whole group rather than each individual part, ie, not seeing the forest for the trees. It is, after all, this multilevel attention both to precise detail and to the overall sound that has enabled the amazing preservation, development and flourishing of Afrocuban music over the past several centuries.
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Re: Understanding Triplet Feel

Postby 440ranch » Sat Jul 12, 2014 1:01 pm

I'd say this forum is alive and well... In fact, one of a kind.

Where else could a guy like me post a simple comment about a video that teaches fundamentals, then, sit back to read a conversation that follows between the Kings of Rhythm?

Yes... more of this please!

Fantastic, thank you.
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Re: Understanding Triplet Feel

Postby jorge » Sat Jul 12, 2014 5:54 pm

I agree, this forum sometimes has some great discussions that we don't see or hear anywhere else, and I am also happy to be part of it. Thanks for your positive feedback and encouragement, but I would say our discussions are ABOUT the Kings of Rhythm and the rhythms, not BY the Kings of Rhythm. Some of us have been privileged to know and play with some of these Kings or Rhythm, and have learned a lot from them, but personally I consider myself a lifelong student of Afrocuban music, nowhere near a master and certainly not a King.

People like Roman Diaz, Sandy Perez, Pedrito Martinez, Mauricio Herrera, Joaquin Pozo, and the late Daniel Ponce and Ivan Alfonso, among many others, are (were) in a completely different league, more than a few notches up from the likes of me, and would actually qualify for a title like Kings of Rhythm. At least one of them actually does hold the title of King (Oba) in a religious setting.

As far as taking this thread beyond its title, I think that is part of the point, that the "feel" derives from a lot more factors than just the theoretical understanding of triplets, 3 on 2, 2 on 3, 6/8 and 4/4 and similar concepts. I would venture to say the "feel" comes more from playing, singing, dancing, and enjoying the rhythm and the other people at the session than from the theoretical understanding of the rhythm. Most of the best players with the greatest "feel" for Afrocuban rhythms that I have listened to, met and played with don't even read music. This is an oral culture, played, spoken, danced and sung, not written and definitely not electronic/digital. Interacting with good Afrocuban dancers as you play adds a lot too. If you are not lucky enough to live in or near an Afrocuban community where this is part of the everyday culture, I highly recommend shorter term experiences like going to Cuba to study, the Humboldt Afrocuban workshop (off year this summer, back summer of 2015), studying Afrocuban dance and/or drumming with a local Afrocuban teacher, and checking out the real deal Afrocuban groups that occasionally tour outside of Cuba.
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Re: Understanding Triplet Feel

Postby davidpenalosa » Sun Jul 13, 2014 3:17 pm

440ranch wrote:a conversation that follows between the Kings of Rhythm


Thank you for the compliment, but I concur with Jorge on this.

jorge wrote:the "feel" derives from a lot more factors than just the theoretical understanding of triplets, 3 on 2, 2 on 3, 6/8 and 4/4


The subtitle of one of Mike Spiro's chapters (and popular lectures), "It's Not a Waltz," conveys exactly the misunderstanding he is trying to remedy. The problem concerns the most fundamental element of rhythm: meter—the main beats, where one taps their foot to "keep time." The many factors of "feel" can only be felt if this misunderstanding is corrected in some way. First things first. Spiro can't take his students at Indiana University down to Cuba for six months. He can though, talk to them in the musical language they already understand.

jorge wrote:the "feel" comes more from playing, singing, dancing, and enjoying the rhythm and the other people at the session than from the theoretical understanding of the rhythm.


Of course, but we are not limited to choosing one over the other. Pity the fool who would initiate a discussion of music theory at a rumba. On the other hand, what if your band is playing "Afro Blue" in the wrong meter because the chart is written in 3/4. You have only a limited amount of time at the rehearsal. Telling the band that the feel ought to be based on 6/8, rather than 3/4, may be enough to remedy such a fundamental problem.

jorge wrote:Most of the best players with the greatest "feel" for Afrocuban rhythms that I have listened to, met and played with don't even read music. This is an oral culture, played, spoken, danced and sung, not written and definitely not electronic/digital.


Yes.
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Re: Understanding Triplet Feel

Postby jorge » Sun Jul 13, 2014 6:17 pm

davidpenalosa wrote:Of course, but we are not limited to choosing one over the other. Pity the fool who would initiate a discussion of music theory at a rumba. On the other hand, what if your band is playing "Afro Blue" in the wrong meter because the chart is written in 3/4. You have only a limited amount of time at the rehearsal. Telling the band that the feel ought to be based on 6/8, rather than 3/4, may be enough to remedy such a fundamental problem.

Even that doesn't always work. These are professional musicians (piano and bass) who play jazz and teach music for a living and they still can't get it from the charts. We (the percussion section) have to give them recordings of the songs and then, with lots of work and discussion, they sort of get it. One of them is in Cuba right now teaching jazz bass and hopefully he will get "regrooved" and come back enlightened. More likely, though, we will have to get them to come to rumbas and play clave/bell/chequere (soft), dance and sing before they will really FEEL the difference between Mongo's and Trane's versions of Afro Blue. May or may not happen. And yeah, you definitely don't want to talk theory at a rumba! We could take solace in the fact that most listeners don't get it either and both ways sound fine to them, but that is not the point and we want to be liked (especially) by the minority of listeners who do get it and do know the difference. "Cantala como yo, bailala como yo, gozala como yo..."
"Escribela y leela como yo" doesn't quite fit with clave...
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Re: Understanding Triplet Feel

Postby davidpenalosa » Mon Jul 14, 2014 3:27 am

jorge wrote:Even that doesn't always work. These are professional musicians (piano and bass) who play jazz and teach music for a living and they still can't get it from the charts.


I know how frustrating that can be. I have my own horror stories.

Are you sure the "Afro Blue" chart you are using is written in 6/8? Most are not. Even the "Afro Blue" chart in The Latin Real Book is written in 3/4, and is identified as an "afro jazz waltz," a confusing label—an oxymoron really. Every "Afro Blue" chart I've been able to find on the internet, even the ones using Mongo's original chord changes, are written erroneously in 3/4.

The bass player needs to feel the bass line within this context:

afro blue bass.jpg
The "Afro Blue" bass line creates a three-over-two crossrhythm (hemiola) when combined with the main beats. The slashed noteheads indicate the main beats, where one taps their foot—feels time.
Last edited by davidpenalosa on Mon Jul 14, 2014 4:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Understanding Triplet Feel

Postby jorge » Mon Jul 14, 2014 1:03 pm

Thanks for the suggestion David. I'll give it a shot, and let you know how big a difference the 3/4 vs 6/8 vs 12/8 written notation makes in how he feels the pulse. Although those tied eighth notes do kind of clock you over the head with the 3 over 2 concept, I suspect a much more important factor in changing how he feels the pulse will be whether someone takes him to a bembe or guiro or cajon or something similar while he is in Cuba and he gets a chance to dance the beat for a few hours nonstop while hearing and marking the clave/bell.
I see what you are saying about the afro jazz waltz label, and how the 3/4 notation may create a tendency to artificially break the clave in half. Actually this reinforces the point that intellectually understanding the "feel" is not really about "triplet" feel so much as it is about "clave" feel since the fundamental rhythmic unit (Abakua clave) is 12 eighth notes long. While triplets can adequately describe the bass line in Afro Blue, they can't by themselves adequately describe either a 4/4 or a 12/8 clave or most rhythmic figures in Afrocuban music, since some of the strikes are on the upbeats of the triplets as your transcription above shows. Mathematically, 12 is divisible by 2, 3, 4 and 6, making it a convenient number of beats to put in a measure that describes 3 on 2 polyrhythms that are one clave long.
I think I am going to ask the bass and piano player to each transcribe a whole song - all parts including clave, conga, timbales, bell as well as piano, bass and horns - as an exercise in intellectually analyzing the rhythmic relationships among the different parts.
Maybe I will start with Afro Blue, the exercise would probably be most instructive if they wrote it in 12/8 rather than 6/8.
What do you think?
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Re: Understanding Triplet Feel

Postby davidpenalosa » Mon Jul 14, 2014 3:42 pm

jorge wrote:I suspect a much more important factor in changing how he feels the pulse will be whether someone takes him to a bembe or guiro or cajon or something similar while he is in Cuba and he gets a chance to dance the beat for a few hours nonstop while hearing and marking the clave/bell.


That would indeed be a valuable musical and cultural experience.

jorge wrote:I see what you are saying about the afro jazz waltz label, and how the 3/4 notation may create a tendency to artificially break the clave in half.


It's a more fundamental a problem than that. Feeling "Afro Blue" in 3/4 untethers the musician from the grounding of the four main beats (per clave), and has them tapping their foot to six crossbeats. Talk about not being on the same page! I fear the The Latin Real Book's representation of "Afro Blue" in 3/4 has perpetuated the confusion for another decade.

jorge wrote:I think I am going to ask the bass and piano player to each transcribe a whole song - all parts including clave, conga, timbales, bell as well as piano, bass and horns - as an exercise in intellectually analyzing the rhythmic relationships among the different parts.


Since many formally trained musicians tend to benefit from visual representations of the music, I think that would be a very good idea. At the very least, they need to rewrite their own parts. They also need to be able to tap their foot to the main beats. If they are unable to tap their foot properly, they will not be able to lock-in with the rest of the band.

jorge wrote:Maybe I will start with Afro Blue, the exercise would probably be most instructive if they wrote it in 12/8 rather than 6/8. What do you think?


Yes, 12/8 is a more precise representation of the music, because then, one clave = one measure. By the same token, it is also more precise to write 4/4 clave in a single measure. When clave is written in two measures of 4/4 (as is the norm in North America), the uninitiated musician tends to tap their foot eight times per clave. That said, if Al McKibbon had a bass chart when they first recorded "Afro Blue," I am certain it was written in 6/8, as that is the norm in jazz.

Speaking of jazz, it may be helpful to refer your bass player to the jazz standard "Footprints" by Wayne Shorter.

http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=miles+smiles+footprints&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

On the Miles Davis album Miles Smiles, the bass seamlessly switches from a three-over-two hemiola, to its 4/4 correlative, tresillo. The chart below shows the correlation between these two fundamental parts. It's definitely not Afro-Cuban music, but it may convey this most basic of concepts, since it's a jazz standard, something he is already familiar with.

footprints.jpg
Bass line for "Footprints" by Wayne Shorter, as performed on 'Miles Smiles' (Miles Davis 1967). Slashed noteheads indicate the main beats, where one taps their foot to "keep time."


The bass line in the original recording of "Afro Blue" is a straight hemiola; there is no "stretching of time" as there is in the conga solo. A properly written chart, indicating a slight accent on the last note (an offbeat), instead of the first (an onbeat), ought to be enough information for a reasonably trained bass player to properly hold down the part. The fact that it is sometimes not enough, reveals a great shortcoming in our music education.

I have performed with several musicians with music PhDs, who could not stay in-time playing salsa. I performed the Mongo version of "Afro Blue" with the most talented and celebrated bass player of a university. Within a couple of choruses, she fell out of time and, completely unaware, stayed out of time for the remainder of the tune. Our music education system emphasizes harmony and not rhythm.

Things are getting better though. There's a whole new generation of formally educated musicians who are better trained rhythmically, are familiar with clave, and acquainted with other musical principles not ordinarily associated with Western theory.
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Re: Understanding Triplet Feel

Postby jorge » Mon Jul 14, 2014 10:20 pm

Thank you David, this is very helpful. I will let you know how it goes. Hopefully we can get them on board with the feel of the songs, both Afro Blue and our usual mambo and latin jazz repertoire. Let's see what works.
Yeah, I never believed for a minute that a PhD in music would help someone play with swing and sabor, although I would have expected it would help with at least staying in time with the downbeat bongo bell! I guess we can't even assume that. I also had in the past thought that a career as a jazz musician and music teacher would have provided a strong base to learn a different feel and play a different style, but I guess that is not necessarily true either.
Regarding the younger generations, you may be right, there does seem to be more understanding of clave among SOME formally educated musicians. Maybe having folks like Giovanni Hidalgo teach at places like Berklee, and efforts of people like you, John Santos, Rebecca Mauleon, Mike Spiro and others in university music departments has given more visibility to the clave.
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Re: Understanding Triplet Feel

Postby davidpenalosa » Mon Jul 14, 2014 11:20 pm

Good luck my friend. Here are some exercises (from The Clave Matrix, Chapter 4) that may be helpful for your bass and piano player to practice. This one generates 12/8 rumba clave within the complete triple-pulse "grid," while stepping to the main beats.

12-8 exercise 1.jpg
Playing 12/8 rumba clave while stepping to the main beats.


This one generates a three-part rhythmic counterpoint: 12/8 rumba clave, the six-beat cycle ("Afro Blue" bass line), and the four main beats.

12-8 exercise 2.jpg
Playing 12/8 rumba clave and the six-beat cycle, while stepping to the four main beats.


If they have trouble discerning the individual parts played on each hand, one hand can strike a table top, while the other strikes a knee. The two distinct sounds will help in separating the two parts in their mind.
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Re: Understanding Triplet Feel

Postby jorge » Tue Jul 15, 2014 4:31 am

De raiz Abakua asere. Hopefully this will be an effective teaching tool for the jazz folks to learn clave. Thanks.
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Re: Understanding Triplet Feel

Postby windhorse » Mon Jul 21, 2014 4:04 pm

For grins an exercise using triplet structure in 3 over pulse in 4 demonstrated by my friend Robert Scarlett:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/agal20gmtt8aoi7/displaced16ths.mp4
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