Warming Up on the Run, Part 2

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In 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

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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 your explorations.

2. Syncopation and Forward Motion

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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

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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

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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

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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!