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A day in the life of a percussionist

RhythmArt Blog

WOD Is Back!

September 4th, 2009 · No Comments · practicing, WOD

OK, it’s been a long time. A reeaally loooong time, but I’m reviving the Word Of the Day series!

For those taht don’t know, Word Of the Day (WOD) is a practice routine that I came up with years ago to work on two main objectives – melody writing and improvisation. Those have always been weak parts for me, and it’s hard for me to practice them (thus, they remain weak – see how that works?), so I came up with a quick, easy, and fun way to work on them both at the same time.

Here’s how it works:

  • Dictionary.com publishes a RSS feed (and I believe an email list as well) called, that’s right, Dictionary.com Word of the Day. Step one is to get that word. Today (Sept 4, 2009) just happened to be “gadabout”, which actually turned out to be a great place to start.
  • The number of syllables in the word gives us the meter – in this case 3 (whether that’s 3/4 or 3/8 or whatever really doesn’t matter, so pick one, I went with 3/4).
  • The number of letters gives us the phrase length. In this case, 8 – nice and easy. It isn’t always so easy, so enjoy it while it lasts! So, the chord sequence will stretch over 8 measures.
  • The chord progression is derived from the letters of the word. In this case, g-a-d-a-b all work easily. For the o-u-t, extend the musical alphabet to cover the rest of the English alphabet, and you’ll get a-g-f. In this case, I changed the f to a f#, to put the piece in G. Sometimes I roll dice to get the master key, but I was in a hurry and it worked out easily.
  • The letters of the word also make a background ostinato.  This is repeated in each measure over the chord structure of the piece (the rhythm can be tweaked to make it fit), which gives some nice dissonances and resolutions.
  • OK, now the work comes in. Write a melody to go over the chord structure and, hopefully, reflect in some way the nature of the word itself (sometimes it’s easier to pull that last part off than others, but do what you can). Congratulations, you just practiced melody writing!
  • Now, play your melody, improv a few choruses, and come back to the melody, just like a jazz standard. Congratulations, you just practices improvising! (Aren’t we having fun?!).
  • If you have multi-track recording capability, it gets even better. I also throw in a drumset part, and an improv, to work that side of things. Congratulations, you just got some more practice done.
  • Now, the hardest part – share it with the world, warts and all. I’m doing one take (other than false starts and technical difficulties), and posting to my ReverbNation page. The results will almost always have errors (that’s what practice is all about, right?), but putting it out there for others to hear is a vital part of the process – it gets us over ourselves and teaches the ego to climb into the back seat. The more you put the humiliating stuff out there, the less of that stuff there is! Besides, it’s more incentive to do more so that the older ones can get replaced!

Ok, that’s it for now, my first outing is at my ReverbNation page, so check it out. I’ll Tweet every time I post a new one, and if there’s anything more interesting, I’ll post a blog here!

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