For classical players this might be the most difficult part of improvising.
When it is not in our genes, we can definitely work our way to it.
That’s what we will do in Lesson 5, play the swing on country style.
We will get to the jazz part in Lesson 6, let’s first get acquainted with swing on easier chords, the I, IV and V.
If you haven’t reached the level of position playing yet you can download Grey Eagle 1st Position as alternative.
Turn your smartphone horizontal.
With Swing we actually mean a rhythm that is based on a division in triplets. When we play 2 “8th” notes they both have the same note length. With Swing we will change that to triplets, making the first “8th” note we had longer. This may sound a little confusing, so let’s dive in!
- Am I playing too fast?
Hover over the video, click on “1x” and choose your speed.
- Do you want to repeat part of the video?
Hover over the video, click on “AB” then set the beginning point with “i” and the end point with “o”.
2 Swing Bowing
To get that real swing feel we need to put little accents on the syncopated notes. To get this done we have to learn a certain type of bowing: bow changes on the syncopated notes. We will tie the 2nd note to the 3rd, you might be used to tying the 1st and second… Give a little accent on a bow change and we get what we want, that swing feel. I recommend you to listen to some jazz players, you will always notice the accents coming in between the counts, especially the drummer on the snare! Play everything along with me and get used to this way of bowing before we turn to the next.
3 Learning swing bowing on Grey Eagle
Grey Eagle is an American Traditional, bluegrass style. It is a great way to practice the “swing feel” with this, we will take it slowly at first. Mark the red notes in the score, these are the end notes of a “sentence”. It is common to end every sentence with the root note when we improvise on bluegrass. The bowing you see is just a suggestion, feel free to make your own bowings, but do stick to bow changes on syncopated notes.
4 Learning swing bowing on Grey Eagle at 120BPM
Now we will exercise the bowing on Grey Eagle at 120 BPM (Beats Per Minute)
5 Learning swing bowing on Grey Eagle at 140BPM
Even faster! 140 BPM (Beats Per Minute)
6 A little example of improvising with the melody
Playing a bluegrass (or jazz) melody we can play it as free as we want, yes! even the melody itself. Add little variations with notes or rhythms, here’s an example how you can do it. Download the backing-track with a comfortable tempo to experiment with this. This will also stimulate and grow your “improvisation vocabulary”.
7 Looking at the chords, preparing to improvisation on this song
We are in the scale of A. As we learnt earlier the chords we use were built up from the notes of the scale, in this example, the scale of A. So we can use this scale over the 3 chords in this song, it will always sound good!
8 Practicing with notes from the A-scale
Let’s practice with the scale of A on the chord progressions. Starting slowly, listen to the chords as you fit in the notes.
9 Same, but a little more tempo
Let’s practice with the scale of A on the chord progressions again. Now with a little more tempo.
10 One more time, again a little faster.
Try to keep up! 🙂
11 For the cracks…
Bluegrass is played in faster tempos, train this as much as you can, don’t forget to end on the note A on the places where the red note is marked.
12 Chord Stacks
Let’s do a different approach, now we will pay a little more attention to the chords themselves. We can play notes from the A-scale in this one, but now try to work a bit with the changing of the chords. Try to play one of the chord notes in each chord change. We will start slow again.
13 Chord Stacks with a little more tempo
Same again, try to hit one of the chord notes when they change.
14 For the “die-hards”
For the real “die-hards”, keep up with me at 180 BPM!