Friday, May 2, 2014

"Sounds good, but it fits"

This was a wonderful slip of the tongue that the guitar player said to the drummer -- or vice versa -- after a particularly nice lick. Of course we always want it to sound good, and ideally we want it to fit. But here's a shocking bit of news: It can actually sound somewhat awful and still be acceptable . . . in the case of drums, at least.

I went to see a group of touring 'jazz professors' who put on a performance of fairly avant guard jazz. The drummer stood out for me because I thought he was quite horrid. Most of what he played outside of straight time just sounded bizarre and sometimes even wrong. And yet it fit!

How can this be?

First of all, I would never suggest that bizarre is the way to go. But any one of us can have a quirky night, be in too unfamiliar a context, lack the experience and/or technique to do a proper job, or perhaps just have too much freedom.

So here's the reason that the avant guard drummer's playing worked. He had AWESOME TIME. If you hit everything dead on -- neither rushing nor dragging -- it's going to work, regardless of how it actually sounds.

So go ahead, have fun, branch out, experiment. As long as it's played in time, things will likely turn out OK. (Although if you start to get odd looks from the other band members, it might be a good idea to tone it down.)