It gives me great pleasure to announce the publication of my most recent work entitled “Rhythmania!” Students, teachers, professional musicians and dear friends from all over the world will be delighted to know that the book they have been asking me to write is finally complete. I’m very excited about the launching of this labor of love and thrilled to tell you all about it!
Rhythmania! is a comprehensive guide for vocalists who want to learn more about rhythm and hone their skills in reading and performing rhythmic patterns and phrases. The exercises are uniquely designed with a lexicon of instru-vocal articulations that integrate the lingo of musical instruments. These expressions are commonly used in solo a cappella improvisation, scat singing and circle songs. Rhythmania’s phonetics include brass shakes, spills, plops, flips, bends, percussion flams, kicks, cymbal crashes, hi hat splashes and triplety swing riff embellishments formally played by the acoustic bass. Have fun practicing single, double, triple and doodle-tongue patterns used to articulate rhythmic figures and increase your groove vocabulary by exploringthe nuances of even and swing feels in the musical styles of jazz, pop, R&B, blues, funk, swunk and shuffle. Expand your cultural horizons by examining the rhythmic ingredients that fuel Latin Bossa Nova, Samba, Baion, Mambo, Songo and Guaguanco grooves. Whatever your musical goals are, I’m sure you will enjoy immersing yourself in the wonderment of Rhythmania!
All styles of contemporary pop, jazz and world music, whether simple or complex, contain a nuclear composite of the three essential musical elements: rhythm, melody and harmony. While melody and harmony stimulate our emotional sensors, rhythm directly summons our physical impulses. Our bodies respond to rhythm precipitously, without thought or discrimination. We tap our feet, clap our hands, snap our fingers, or bob our heads when we hear and/or feel musical rhythms. But for those who perform music, crafting rhythm is a skill that requires formal study and the inclusion of an effective daily practice regimen. This applies, of course, to both instrumentalists and vocalists.
While instrumentalists enjoy the luxury of being able to articulate music using external triggers such as sticks, bows, slides, valves, and keys, a singer, who may or may not play a musical instrument, will typically lean toward learning by rote because it doesn’t require tedious muscle memory training. This is not necessarily an easier or better approach, however, as it requires notably good intuition and the innate ability to spontaneously transform internalized musical concepts into coherent artistic creations. Many singers are able to do this reasonably well with little or no training. But many years of vocal coaching have revealed to me that rhythm is often considered the singer’s “Achilles’ heel.”
How can vocalists improve their rhythm skills? One way is to listen to variety of music and assimilate the rhythmic components by ear, focusing on patterns, grooves and stylistic interpretations. But learning how to feel rhythm raises the bar to a higher and more practical level. As a former instrumentalist, practicing muscle memory exercises made a huge impact on my rhythmic expertise because of the physicality and repetition. Being a talented, intuitive and proficient drummer added a lot to the mix but I also reaped comparable rhythmic rewards from playing trumpet and flute preparatory exercises, excerpts and etudes on a daily basis.
Consider the voice as a viable musical instrument. It’s readily accessible, expressive and convenient so why not use it to practice rhythms? Your mouth is already a seasoned embouchure for triggering a variety of sounds and shaping different vowels. You can explore a potpourri of available timbres and tonal colors using your vocal cords. Your head and chest provide natural chambers for sound resonance. All you need is a suitable vocabulary to articulate your rhythmic ideas!
Rhythmania! is specifically designed to help singers connect with rhythm more intimately and incorporate rhythmic diversity in their vocal performances. Each example offers a specially prepared vocabulary of instru-vocal articulations that are comprehensive, challenging and fun to learn! Rhythmania! is a perfect guide for practicing rhythmic patterns using an instrumental approach. Learn all about drum grooves, bass articulations and the language of big band brass while you hone a variety of relevant skills including lyrical phrasing, scat singing, articulating vocalese, “locking in” with rhythm section grooves, collating with other singers or players, doubling or harmonizing other parts in a studio or live session and any other activity requiring rhythmic precision.
Remember that daily practice is essential for musicians in training and having a solid rhythmic vocabulary is not only crucial but a delightful addition to your musical palette. So enjoy practicing these cool exercises and I’m sure that in no time, you will begin to experience the effects of… Rhythmania!