Monday, November 14, 2016

Magic Sound

What I learned from Lonnie

Lonnie Johnson

Chapter 4 chronicles

Odd instead of even
Mathematical music
Pythagoreans first connected music to numbers but this is not what he is talking about
Not clear cut/consistent
Johnson did not use the method himself
It has worked for Dylan so it must be a good method

View from d’s stage performances
Peculiar 2 to three note soloing style
Drive listeners crazy but they work
Horrible mannerisms
Sing song style
Every phrase reduced to a single note
Which skips up an octave at the end of a phrase

System of infinite permutations of simple formulas
Not improvisational nor inspirational
Schematical approach to basic chords and melodic shapes
That can be applied to any song

4 elements
1 a certain rhythmic approach
2 melodic cells
3 based on esoteric power of numbers
4 these elements make up a formulaic approach

Dylan refers to triplets when he is probably referring to triads (chords)

Link Wray’s Rumble uses this pattern
Sharply delineated parts
Each has its own rhythmic pattern
That create counterpoint lines
3:2 pattern instead of usual 2:2 pattern

Popular music is based on the even number 2
It is filled with fabrics, colors, effects, technical wizardry to make a point
Total effect is a depressing, oppressive, dead end.
Only lasts in a nostalgic way.
When using an odd numerical system things that strengthen a performance automatically happen.
You do not have to plan or think ahead
Memorable for the ages

Two different worlds one where the performer does something and one where something is done through the automatically through the performer.

Dylan’s system relies on countermelodies

Musical principle

#1 a selection of some scale steps either within the chord or outside it

Make simple patterns out of any selection of tones

#2 combine into simple patterns

#3 which are repeated or combined as building blocks

Repeat and combine these patterns
Thereby establishing a new tonal system
Exploits tension between the musical backbone of the song and the new pattern
In order to be recognized as a new tonal system by the listener, it must by simple.

Actually if you conceive of it as a "method" to organize your musical thinking its abstract but valid. 
You can think about rhythmic patterns in the same way. Its a math oriented means to generate themes and rhythms based on sequence and patterns of numbers.
I think its enigmatic due to the fact that its under explained in the book.
I and many others do this all the time.
It reminded me of my composition studies. There are methods that generate "material" that are not based on inspiration. You generate the material and classify it after the fact. 
You can also use similar methods to improvise accompaniment patterns.
What Mr. Bob is talking about is one method with which a musician can think his way out of cliche and habit.

This was asked here as well when the book came out.

And yes, for as well wrought as that book is, that is the one thing he did not do a very good job explaining.

But to me, it makes sense that he is talking about thinking and playing in triplets while the overall time signature of a tune is actually 4/4.

1-2-3 | 1-2-3 | 1-2-3 | 1-2-3

He had done this long before the time period he was referring to, for example in the turn-arounds after each verse in original version of Just Like a Woman. Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35 also seems to use triplets in 4/4 time as well, at least they are implied in the cadence of the guitar, across the trombone whole notes, etc.

But Johnson did it in a more Swing sort of way.

STRUM stra-strum | STRUM stra-strum | STRUM stra-strum | STRUM stra-strum |

Or  stra-strum STRUM | stra-strum STRUM| stra-strum STRUM | stra-strum STRUM|

But in the book Dylan is referring to his stage performances from the post-Rolling Thunder period if I remember correctly. So I have yet to actually hear him doing it, as I have never heard any bootlegs from those years.

I went to a master class at the Bermuda Guitar festival in 2010 where Adam Rafferty explained what he had been taught when he decided to try to get a new perspective on guitar playing by taking lessons from a keyboard player. This keyboard player (who was a jazz master) used a small djembe drum to play a 123 123 123 123 123 123 123 123  rhythm, where 4/4 beat is on the bold 1s. Rafferty's teacher made him play this drum rhythm any time his timing was off. Once he had it down, his teacher suggested he go up to Harlem to jam. When he was in Harlem, one of the old jazz musos he was jamming with said "Oho, you know the secret!"

Try it, it fits just about any time signature in addition to the obvious 3/4 and 4/4 and your timing will improve out of sight immediately.

I have long pondered what Dylan meant, and I think this is it. It is certainly consistent with the Lonnie Johnson rhythm playing Todd has posted above.

Jim, the 123 123 123 123 I am talking about has nothing to do with triplets like 1, 3, 5 (major chord triplet - first, third and fifth notes of the major scale). It a rhythm scheme like Tak et ta - tak et ta - Tak et ta - tak et ta. It is an alternating hand beat. If you don't have a drum, you can bang it out on a book or a table top, a drum just sounds better (thus reinforcing you more when you get it right). Adam Rafferty called it the rhythm of the universe.

In terms of chord triplets, if you look at a first position G chord, on strings 6, 5, 4 it is a 1 - 3 - 5 triplet (ie root in bass); on strings 5, 4, 3 it is 3 - 5 - 1 (ie root in treble); on strings 4, 3, 2 it is 5 - 1 - 3 (ie root in middle) and on strings 3, 2, 1 it is 1 - 3 - 1 (ie not actually a chord triplet).  For major, minor and diminished chords there are three available fingerings for each group of three strings on the guitar, one for each of the chord inversions (ie root in bass, root in treble and root in middle), although the diminished chord fingering with root in the bass for 6,5,4 and 5,4,3 strings (which are the same fingerings because the intervals between the strings are the same) is a bit of a stretch.

Exactly right, Spoon. I think Lonnie Johnson is one of the most influential of all guitar players.

Have a listen to the Grateful Dead playing Scarlet Begonias for an excellent example of the 3s within 4s effect.

Other time signatures lurk inside that rhythm as well. At the 2010 master class, the effect of banging out the beat was immediately apparent in better timing from beginner, intermediate and advanced players alike.

the above Johnson link seems similar to a lot of Blues guitar riffs.......and a lot like Dylan's playing in Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat.

Interesting topic!

I think there's a lot of excitement that can be added by playing with a kind of push/pull feel between 6/8 and 4/4 time, as well as 12/8 and 4/4. Some of the basics of African polyrhythmic drumming are really cool and open up whole new worlds of rhythmic delight.

I'd just add to the nice posts here that it'll probably be slightly less confusing to think of "triplets" as related to rhythm beats/feel and "triads" as related to notes in chord structure....and of course, triads can be played in triplet feel but don't have to be.

Always easy to say when you get it and it it became second nature for you a long time ago.

There is a famous story where George Barnes was the chief arranger for WABC and had a studio full of trained professional musicians rehearsing for a radio broadcast, who played classical music primarily and how frustrating it was for him to get them to "swing" when it came naturally to him.

The original point of all of this, Dylan said he was burnt out and losing interest in endless playing. So he started changing his own personal time signature inside of whatever the actual time of the song and it made playing fun again - that basically what I got out of it from reading the book.

Only he did not explain what he was doing exactly, he just mentioned Lonnie Johnson as an example of someone who did it too.

Author: My Echo, My Shadow And Me [ Mon May 16th, 2011, 12:42 GMT ]
Post subject: Re: Dylan's recent way of guitar playing.

In a 2005 interview Freddy Koella linked Dylan's piano playing to Thelonious Monk (Vintage Guitar magazine, December 2005 issue). In his lead guitar playing Dylan applies the same technique.

Thelonious Monk, live 1966 (piano solo starts at 3:08):
Dylan does the same thing. The rubato playing, the playing "around" the actual melody or the hinting at the melody and also the use of notes that are slightly sharp or flat. Jazz "purists" accused (and accuse) Monk of not being able to play the piano. The fact of the matter is that Monk is one of the few true innovators and geniuses in modern music. - Odd-number guitar system?

Author: Three legged man [ Thu November 13th, 2008, 04:46 GMT ]
Post subject: Re: Odd-number guitar system?

Bob was revealing the theory behind chord-melody guitar style. It's a little known fact that Bob is an accomplished jazz guitarist in the Joe Pass tradition.

Author: harmonica albert [ Thu November 13th, 2008, 22:29 GMT ]
Post subject: Re: Odd-number guitar system?

Dylan speaks of a guitar "style of playing based on an odd--instead of even--number system...Popular music is usually based on the number 2..."

This could mean a number of things. In terms of harmony, a major scale consists of half-note and whole note steps with the exception of the 4th to 5th note and 7th to 8th note in the octave which are only half-steps--the adjacent white keys on the piano for example when in the key of C major. But pop music is generally in 4/4 or 2/4 time, and most melodic phrases occupy 2, 4, 6 or 8 measures (including rests between sounded notes), so this could also be what he is describing. Rhythm is usually subdivided into twos or threes--1 and 2 and 3 and 4, or in the case of triplet rhythm 1 and a 2 and a 3 and a 4, etc. Dylan's point is to establish a baseline symmetry of form, against (and with) which one plays the actual music one makes.

"If you're using an odd numerical system, things that strengthen a performance begin to happen...In a diatonic scale there are eight notes, in a pentatonic scale there are five."

Here Dylan is concerned with melodic phrases and the contrast between the 8-note and 5-note scales, the latter being closer to the actual tones used in West African, African-American and Appalachian folk musics in many but not all cases. And in general, playing melodic lines that do not neatly fit the 2 and 4 bar lengths and/or that transition smoothly over chord changes (in a 12 bar blues, for instance, starting a phrase in bar 3 and ending in the middle of bar 5) creates a tension between the formal expectation and the improvisational execution. Lester Young and Miles Davis are great examples of this phrasing ability in jazz, maybe most easily heard on their classic ballad performances. The "5 vs 8" contrast is really just blues quality imported to European tonal systems and fundamental to rock music and most of American music.

"If you're using the first scale, and you hit 2, 5 and 7 to the phrase and then repeat it, a melody forms. Or you can use the 2 three times. Or you can use 4 once and 7 twice...The possibilities are endless" So if you are playing in a major key, he supposes a 3 note phrase based on the dominant chord--a triad with the root of the chord in between the fifth and third intervals. This is the barre C chord shape, with the roots on the B string and A string; say your are playing in A major, with A equal to 1. 2,5 and 7 would be B, E and Ab, and Bob seems to be advocating this sort of arpeggiated chord as one way to form a phrase (over a V chord). But not all phrases have to use the root, third and fifth of a chord. Bob's playing often divides the beat into triplets instead of two, so he might be saying you can play a triplet on the B, or simply play 3 quarter notes on the B. Using the "4 once and 7 twice" or the D and two Ab notes would be akin to playing intervals from the E7 chord. Each interval of the scale will be found in several chords. So what he seems to be advocating is moving away from simple root-third-fifth arpeggios in melodic improvisation.

I'm mostly self-taught on guitar, but I did study some music theory needed in an History of Jazz college course, had maybe 10 lessons in lead and slide guitar, and I have accumulated a collection of songbooks and guitar/banjo/mandolin instruction books (and a few dvds), but I don't read standard notation very well at all and rely on tab notation for really working on material on any instrument. I think well in patterns and numbers, so Dylan's "system" means something specific to me, but I can't say that I know precisely what he means, just that the numbers he mentions correlate to my view of the guitar neck, piano keyboard, and how I breakdown chords and scales for melodic improvisation when I play.

I don't think Bob is jiving, but neither is he trying to methodically demonstrate the secrets of his guitar genius, such as it is. It's easier just to listen to him play. Believe what you hear.

Author: mimsford [ Fri November 14th, 2008, 17:14 GMT ]
Post subject: Re: Odd-number guitar system?

I'm a guitarist, and that windy and complicated explanation in the book just about blew my mind, too.

From what I can tell, he's simply talking about playing three notes (triplets) over every four beats.

Listen to the live stuff from the mid-90s onward, and you'll hear him playing those distinctive three-note lead phrases (duh-duh-duh, duh-duh-duh, duh-duh-duh, duh-duh-duh) and, after a few measures they feel kinda hypnotic and circular ... this approach allowed him to feel the songs differently, and it influenced his vocal phrasing.

That's my take on it

Author: harmonica albert [ Fri November 14th, 2008, 18:11 GMT ]
Post subject: Re: Odd-number guitar system?

I read an interview with Winston Watson in which he said Bob's guitar playing was under-appreciated, and that he used a basic barre F position and triplet phrases effectively. The F chord shape gives easy access to all the notes in the diatonic and pentatonic scales, and it's fundamental to rock guitar technique. The triplet thing is I think rooted in barrelhouse piano, transferred to guitar by Robert Johnson, and maybe most clearly employed by Elmore James in his Johnson-derived "Dust My Broom" octave lick and by Dylan in Rainy Day Women (at least in concert) and his Blonde on Blonde "Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat" guitar work.

The Supper Club recordings are a good place to listen for acoustic guitar playing in his "system" because Bob plays most if not all of the flatpicked solos. If you hear a repeated 3 note phrase with a shifting accent as the band keeps the 4/4 time going, that's probably the best example of what I think he means. Also on the boot Fifth Time Around where Bob's acoustic leads are quite clear and pretty good.

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