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Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It

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Hi David,

I don't really thing changing the tempo, either gradually, or using rubato, should indicate a poor sense of time either, and I think it is somewhat common in early recordings. In fact it is a musical technique which, particularly playing solo, can be very expressive. Done well, solo or in a tight group, I think the toe tapper would naturally adjust to the flow.

--- Quote from: Wikipedia ---rubato: expressive and rhythmic freedom by a slight speeding up and then slowing down of the tempo of a piece at the discretion of the soloist or the conductor. Rubato is an expressive shaping of music that is a part of phrasing.
--- End quote ---

I think the important thing is to do it with purpose, to express, and having a consistency, similar to syncopation. There is an expectation of something and to change it you have to be clear that's what you are doing. It's not just being sloppy, that's poor time. I think a common usage of rubato in blues happens with call and response between voice and guitar. often the vocal will slow toward the end of the phrase and then the response lick will quicken and get back on the beat. McTell is master of this. And heck, I would say the majority of recordings from the prewar era have a much quicker tempo at the end than the beginning. Just makes the song more exciting and gets the dancers going.

Maybe just me, but whenever I hear someone saying you shouldn't do such and such, well, I just think of all the reasons why you would want to do that.


David Kaatz:
Wax, well, you are right. I didn't describe well the phenomenon that I consider to be poor sense of time.

I guess it might be just finding it hard to tap along with, because it constantly changes (and I mean measure to measure, not speeding up as it goes)...or, if playing in a group setting, the group gets out of sync because one member doesn't sense the time of the others. I've seen the former, from a solo artist, and have experienced the latter as a participant in jams and practice sessions. A player gets so into what they are doing, they try to nail their line or part without regard to the time.


I think we are in agreement, David. I think you are describing what I called sloppy, as opposed to really positing what you are playing, which flows, as you said. 'Course, I can imagine the right song at the right time, sloppy time might be the thing. I always try to be inclusive. Really, good time is good time. Hard to really describe in dos and don'ts, because everything is possible if you own it, but you know it when you hear it.

I'm more of a solo player, but when I had a small jug band we were pretty well rehearsed and anyone of us could drive the beat. We did incorporate syncopation, swing and rubato, and I know we would often quicken the pace toward the end. Nobody complained and we often had dancers.



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