Switching Styles in Music

Learn how to switch your improvisation between jazz, rock, blues and other styles.

Hey guys, Willie Myette, creator of jazz edge. Welcome to episode number 11 of the confident improviser podcast. Today, we’re going to be talking about how to switch styles in music. And you’ll learn how to switch out your improvisational lines that you’ve been learning in the confident improviser. Now, just remember, if you want more information on the confident improviser just go back to the confident improviser.com. And this podcast is really designed to go along with the confident improviser. Alright, so switching styles in music. So if we have I have exercise 11 here in front of me, and I’m just going to put on the medium swing tempo at 100 beats per minute, this is what we’re typically doing. This is what you’re typically hearing in the competent improviser so far, here we go.

I’d say you’re learning these licks you learn in these short phrases, short progressions, and you know, it’s building up your improvisation. Well, now, many students would be, you know, thinking themselves, you know, I know I would Well, how do I apply these licks and improvisation ideas to other styles of music. Because even though I love jazz doesn’t mean that I’m always going to play jazz. Sometimes I might play blues or rock or Latin or whatever. So how do I apply these licks to other styles? Alright, so the first thing you have to understand is, the main difference in styles is the rhythm. Okay, now, of course we can get into and we could start to split hairs, obviously, of like, Oh, well, you know, jazz has more complicated progressions, and the chords are more complicated. Yes, of course, right. The chords are different. In jazz, you’ll find more seventh chords in tensions, rootless chord voicings all of that, whereas rock pop might be more triadic bass, you know, three note chords, more, you know, I want to say simpler chords, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re, they’re always going to be simple. The point is that the chords are going to usually be played a little bit different. But the real crux of it, if we really boil it down to its most basic difference between, say rock, and blues, and jazz and Latin is really, that drum style, it’s really that beat. It’s really the underlying swing versus straight. Okay, so if I were to change this to say, a rock pattern, it’s gonna sound something like this, right?

Now, these chords that I’m playing in the left hand, yeah, you could still use them might not fit so well. In a rock pattern, you might want to move to more just octaves, or maybe some simple triads. But the one thing you’ll hear that I changed in the right hand, was the way that I interpreted and played the rhythm of the lick. Okay, so when I played it swung, it was more.

And when I played it more in a rock field, I played it more straight, it was more like this. Mm


So, that’s the main difference in your styles. Like I said, of course, the chords are going to be different, the progressions will be different. But if you’re playing and moving from rock to jazz, you probably already know that those chords and progressions are going to be different anyway. So, when it comes to moving your licks from one style to the other, you have to know well, should I be playing it straight or should I be playing it swung? Right? And then straight is d by d by d by d bar, right? And swung is d by d by d by d by right, you could kind of feel that, that swing pattern and the real difference in terms of the rhythm and the difference between straight and swung is in straight eighth notes, okay, or a straight rhythm. You’ll notice that the eighth notes are very straight, they’re very uniform, right? So, if we’re thinking about, you know, the eighth note equaling 100%, the first eighth note is 50%. The second eighth note is 50%, as well, there’s your 100%. But now when we swing it, it’s usually more like 70% on the first eighth note 30% on the second eighth note, right, so that’s where we get the d by d by d by

debugging. And the more that you give to the first one, the more it’s really starting to do, buddy, you know, you can really swing this thing out. So

when we’re playing straight, it sounds like that day by day by day by day. That’s that’s my a thought. That’s what I’m thinking.

I sound like you can hear that debt debt debt debt debt, debt, debt debt, right, my eighth notes, I’m playing them straight. When I swing, it’s more

I’d say you can hear that the eighth notes there are swung, right. So that’s the difference between straight and swung eighth notes. If you need more in depth on that, take a look at my rhythm essentials course, at jazz edge, and you’ll get a whole deep dive on rhythm and vocalizing the rhythms. So now it comes back to well, should I play the rhythm straight? Or should I play it swung for the style, then applying? Well, the first thing you could do is just use your ears. So let me change this to a Latin field. Right I’m going to do a do like a Bossa Nova field, and then bring this down, we’ll bring this down to 120 beats per minute, okay.

All right, so let’s take a look at what I’m going to do is I’m going to play this swung, right in fact, I’m going to do is going to bring it down to 100 beats a minute, just so you can really hear this swing pattern.

And of course, remember, if you’re just kind of jumping in and kind of hearing my stuff for the first time, remember, these exercises are designed to be simple. We’re not blowing off the doors here with our, you know, most creative improvisation ever, you know, it’s a step by step approach here. So sometimes some of these licks are gonna sound, you know, a little hokey, maybe, you know, they might sound a little bit, you know, not not as sophisticated as we might want them to sound. But that’s okay. We will get there. So anyway, when you listen to that, when I was playing the swing eighth notes over the Latin feel, how did it How did it feel to you that it feel like it was it was right that it feel like in the pocket in in the groove, listen to it this time and see if you could figure out what the difference is that I’m doing?

Do you hear the difference? You know, if you didn’t pick it out, and you want to go back and rewind a little bit and see if you could figure it out? So the answer is that when I played it in a Latin feel, right, or in a Bossa Nova feel, I’m playing the eighth notes straight. So I am playing the rhythm straight versus swung. So now the question is, what is a player to do? How do I know if I should play it swung or straight? Well, the first thing you could do is use your ears and just kind of listen to it and see if it sounds right and it feels right. But then there’s also some guidelines. Typically when playing jazz, blues, those are definitely swung styles, like a blues shuffle, it’s a triplet bass, it’s a swung. It’s a swing style, when you’re playing classical music that’s straight, Latin music, funk, rock, those are all straight, eighth kind of fields, and you would want to play straight rhythms. Let’s put out a funk beat here, just a little bit fast. Let’s see how this goes. And then you know, while we’re at it when I was when we put a nice electric piano sound here to

let me do this. I want to bring this up just a little bit so you can hear this.

Alright, so now let me slow this down here, it automatically goes to 140. So let me bring it down to 100 again, so you can kind of really dig in and hear it.

Now listen to this one.

right you can. It feels so weird to play it swung over the funk rhythm. But you could kind of hear and feel that Oh, wait, it just doesn’t feel right. Right. So when we switch styles, the main thing to consider is, what am I doing with my rhythm? Right? So am I playing it straight? Or am I playing it swung? And is the straight or swung? Is that the best choice for this style? Then again, use your ears and listen to the groove. Let’s try another one here. How about blues? In fact, this is a gospel feel, according to

I real pro here. So let’s see what this sounds like. I put out 125 beats per minute.

Okay, this is kind of like a shout, feel. So let’s put it on 200, like I said,

was really, really building me moving fast.

Whoa, boy that’s moving along there. Right. So let’s bring this down a little bit, because I want to really show you something and bring it down to tempo 175

started again.

Now you’ll hear that? Okay, that was 175. And do you hear how it still had some swing to it? Let me bring this down to now let’s go down to 140. Okay, I’ll bring it down to 140 for a tempo. And now listen to it.

All right, so you can you can hear that. All right, that’s more swung up. Devin.

Right, you can hear that swing field. Now let me bring it back up to 200. Again, right? Take a listen to 200. And listen to what happens.

I only put the piano sound on so you can hear it just a little bit better.

little mistake in there. But anyway, you get the point. The point is that when we move faster, we swing less. So as the rhythm moves faster, the swing starts to straighten out. Right? So when you’re playing like a, you know, a blues field and put on a different blues field. Here’s a Chicago shuffle, right?

All right, so you can hear it, it’s swung. Listen, what happens if I play it straight.

Now that one is not so bad, when you play it straight like that it doesn’t sound so so off, right? But you should swing it instead. Right? So the best thing to do is record yourself while doing this, you know, either audio or video so that you could listen back and kind of feel like how does it feel because sometimes when you’re playing it in the moment, you might not really kind of get the field down. Let’s go back to the medium swing again at 100 beats per minute, this time now if it’s a medium swing, so obviously I should be doing what I should be swinging the eighth notes. I’m going to play them straight just so you can hear what that sounds like.

All right. So this is just dipping a toe into the idea of switching styles. And I just wanted to get you guys really thinking about those eighth notes in the straight versus swung rhythm. If you have questions on this, you can join me every Thursday, with the confident improviser live q&a sessions that I do just log into the site and you’ll see it there. If you want help with rhythm, take a look at the rhythm essentials course, that’s a real great course to understand the difference between straight and swung to get down your vocalization. And there are also a bunch of rhythms in there to help get you started. Also, in level, one of the confident improviser, there’s a rhythm practice guide, I would suggest taking a look at that as well. Now what I was using from the drum beats in case you didn’t see it, and you’re just listening in the car or wherever. I’m using ireo Pro. And what we’ve done is we have the competent improviser

backing tracks that can be imported right into AI real pro, right? So you can download them right on the website, and then bring them right into AI real pro. And the beauty is once they’re in AI real pro, you can switch between a number of different styles. So you heard all the styles about switching to today. Well, those are all available in ireal Pro. Alright, so anyway, that’s it for me. Thanks, guys. I will see you in the next episode.

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Willie Myette

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