In last month’s lesson on warming up when time is tight, I explored some of the more melodic
kinds of exercises I often create on the spot at sound check to help
get my mind, ears, and hands ready for a performance. This month, I’ll
delve into some of the more rhythmic kinds of things I play to
help me find my center when time is tight—such as when sound check
before the gig is the only chance to practice.
1. Rhythmic Ostinatos
Try the basic 6/8 pattern in Ex. 1 for a more
rhythmic approach to warming up. In the examples that follow, you’ll see
how a little help from the left hand adds movement to this otherwise
static ostinato pattern. Feel free to program a beat and play along in
2. Syncopation and Forward Motion
In Ex. 2, both hands move identically for the first
half of both measures. In the latter part of the measures they offer up
syncopation and forward motion. Playing this type of pattern is almost
cleansing. The more you focus on it, the more relaxed you become.
3. Rhythmic Variation
Ex. 3 is similar to Ex. 2, except the first beat of
the measure is omitted in the left hand. Making even small changes to
the patterns you come up with helps you stay mentally agile.
4. Polyrhythmic Implications
In Ex. 4, the left hand starts to imply 4/4 time. Let your body feel both pulses and relax in that groove.
5. Rhythmic and Melodic Possibilities
In Ex. 5 I’ve fully committed the left hand to
playing straight 4/4 time against the 6/8 ostinato pattern in the right
hand. This type of exercise opens up a world of possibilities, not only
rhythmically but also melodically. If you listen closely to the
resulting counterpoint, you can find melodic “suggestions.” Try to hear
what's not being played!