Jazz Articulations

Today's topic dives into the variety of jazz articulations. The majority of this information comes to us from Mats Holmquist's book, "The General...


Listen to the Podcast Episode

Today's topic dives into the variety of jazz articulations. The majority of this information comes to us from Mats Holmquist's book, "The General Method: A New Methodology for a Tighter Big Band." I highly recommend this book for any of you out there teaching or actively performing jazz music. Please click the image above to get your own copy of this book.

The Need for Jazz Instruction

In the past I would always teach my students the four primary articulations. Tenuto, marcato or short accent, the roof top accent and staccato. Many times students would recognize these accents however, after the first time introducing them they often failed to fully recall them on day two. And that's okay. Articulations need to be reviewed not only for mental recall but for also mastering the kinesthetic or muscle memory side of improving their craft. 

Jazz band
Jazz Band
Young musicians often find it difficult to sustain the needed energy or mental focus to play a challenging piece of music fraught with regular and mixed up articulations. More times than not, students must be reminded to actively observe and execute these musical nuances. Regular and focused practice of articulations is necessary for large ensembles to stylistically lock-in.

I fully believe that the four primary articulations (tenuto, marcato, roof top accent and staccato) should be practiced early starting in a child's musical career. But what comes next? What can my students do to continually improve? My after school jazz band is typically the group that gets more engaged into these types of self development sessions. Today's important topic includes advanced skills relating to jazz  articulations. Next, we are going to explore more of what Mats Holmquist's book says about articulations and articulation rules.

The Brick

Holmquist begins by describing what he calls the brick. This is a symbol that represents a long note that visually illustrates an articulation that looks like a uniform brick. One of the troubles musicians have when they play is that they round out or are careless about the articulation. The brick provides a mental cue to add an edge to the beginning and end to a long accentuated note. The note should begin with a distinctive attack, think a marcato accent at the beginning and end with a clear energy release.
The Brick

The Anthill

The opposite of the Brick could be considered the Anthill. The Anthill attack is similar to the Brick in the sense of starting with an edge, or marcato accent feel, however, has a clear phrase ending diminuendo at the end of the note. This type of articulation is much more prevalent in classical music and really only should be used when a diminuendo is notated.
The Anthill

The Brickhill

The Brickhill is a type of hybrid articulation and is essentially a cross between the Brick and the Anthill. You could describe it as an Anthill where the attack has a solid beginning (with a marcato accent) however, the phrase ending sharply diminuendos at the end at only 50% volume. This is in contrast to the original Anthill that diminuendos 100% within the beat.
The Brickhill

The Dog

The next articulation is called the Dog. This is similar to the Brickhill. The only difference is that there is actually space between the end of the note and the next beat. The main reason they call this articulation the Dog is because if it is executed correctly it should sound like a barking dog and it should also have a bounce-like feel.
The Dog
1 2

Post a Comment