Decoding Musical Notation: Unveiling the Meaning of Different Notes

(Featured Image: Dayne Topkin on Unsplash )

Music, the universal language that transcends cultural boundaries, has the power to evoke emotions, tell stories, and bring people together. At the heart of this intricate art lies musical notation, a system of symbols that conveys melodies, rhythms, and harmonies to musicians. Among these symbols, notes stand as the fundamental building blocks of music. Each note carries a distinct meaning, and understanding their significance is essential for any aspiring musician or curious listener. In this blog, we’ll embark on a journey to decode the meanings behind the different notes in musical notation.

The Basics: Pitch and Duration

Before delving into the specifics of individual notes, it’s crucial to grasp two fundamental aspects of music that notes encapsulate: pitch and duration.

    1. Pitch: Pitch refers to the highness or lowness of a musical sound. In notation, this is represented vertically on a set of five parallel lines called a staff. Notes placed higher on the staff indicate higher pitches, while notes positioned lower represent lower pitches.

    1. Duration: Duration refers to the length of time a note is held or played. It’s symbolized by various note shapes and their associated stems and flags.

Understanding Note Values

In musical notation, different note shapes represent distinct note values, indicating the duration of each note. Here are some of the most common note values and their meanings:

    1. Whole Note: A circular note head without a stem. It represents the longest duration among note values. When played, it’s typically held for four beats in 4/4 time signature, the most common time signature.

    1. Half Note: A note head with a stem pointing upward or downward. It’s held for two beats in 4/4 time signature.

    1. Quarter Note: Similar to a half note, but with a filled-in note head. It’s played for one beat in 4/4 time signature.

    1. Eighth Note: An eighth note has a filled-in note head and a flag attached to its stem. It’s played for half a beat in 4/4 time signature.

    1. Sixteenth Note: With two flags attached to the stem, a sixteenth note is played for one-fourth of a beat in 4/4 time signature.

    1. Thirty-Second Note: This note has three flags attached to its stem and is played for one-eighth of a beat in 4/4 time signature.

Combining Notes: Understanding Rhythmic Patterns

Once you’re familiar with individual note values, the next step is to comprehend how they combine to create rhythmic patterns. Rests, symbols representing periods of silence, are also essential to understand rhythm. Here are some common combinations:

    1. Ties: Ties connect two or more notes of the same pitch, indicating that they are held for a combined duration.

    1. Dotted Notes: A dot placed after a note increases its duration by half. For instance, a dotted half note is equivalent to three beats in 4/4 time.

    1. Triplets: Triplets divide a beat into three equal parts. Three triplet eighth notes, for example, would be played in the time normally occupied by two regular eighth notes.

The Last Word

(Songs for Ganda, by the Lorca Hart Trio, is a masterpiece of Jazz notation in action)

In the world of music, notes serve as the bridge between the composer’s imagination and the performer’s rendition. By understanding the meanings behind different notes in musical notation, you gain the ability to read, interpret, and bring to life the intricate melodies and rhythms that have shaped human expression for centuries. Whether you’re a musician or an appreciative listener, delving into the world of musical notation opens up a new dimension of understanding and enjoyment, enriching your musical experience. So next time you hear a beautiful melody, remember that the notes are like the words of a language that speaks directly to our hearts and souls.

Sounds of Spring

Featured Image by Benjamin Lehman

The calendar says that spring is here, no matter what the temperature outside reads. Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal. It is often a joyful season, with the return of outdoor parties and picnics, high school and college graduations, and family and class reunions. It may be a time for remembering people and places that once were familiar to us. Many jazz classics are inspired by spring. They reflect the season’s changing moods, ranging from the merry to the mellow to the melancholic.   

1. April in Paris—This classic song was written by E.Y. Harburg and Vernon Duke for the Broadway musical, Walk a Little Faster. It has been recorded many times since then. Perhaps the most famous instrumental version was recorded by Count Basie and his orchestra in 1955.  

2. It Might as Well Be Spring—This perennial favorite was written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein for the 1945 musical film, “State Fair.” It won the Academy Award for Best Original Song the following year. The wistful lyrics compare the restlessness, anticipation, and longing to the feeling of having spring fever. 

3. Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most—Lyricist Fran Landesman drew inspiration for this 1955 bittersweet ballad from T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Waste Land.” Versions have been recorded by many artists, including Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McRae, Sarah Vaughan and Betty Carter.

4. I Remember April—This beautiful ballad has lyrics by Patricia Johnston and Don Raye, and music by Gene de Paul.  It likens the way a romance grows and subsides to the seasons of the year and the flames of a fire.  Bill Evans and Miles Davis have both recorded notable instrumental versions.

5.  Suddenly It’s Spring—This sweet ballad about the blossoming of new love was written by composer Jimmy van Heusen and lyricist Johnny Locke for the 1944 movie, Lady in the Dark. It appears on the album, “Call Me Irresponsible,” featuring vocalist Lucy Wijnands and John Di Martino and the Night Is Alive Band. 

6. Spring Is Here—This mournful tune about unrequited love was written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart for the musical I Married an Angel.  Hart is believed to have written the lyrics after several of his marriage proposals were rejected by Vivienne Segal, the musical’s leading lady. Jazz vocalists who recorded “Spring Is Here” include Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, and Chris Connor. Pianist Bill Evans, bassists Charlie Haden and George Mraz, and vibraphonists  Bobby Hutcherson and Joe Locke have recorded the song. 

7. Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year—This tune was written by Frank Loesser for the 1944 movie Christmas Holidaystarring Deanna Durbin. The singer reflects on her lost love, but remains confident that ultimately she will get over him. The song remained relatively obscure until the mid-1950s, when it was rediscovered and became a jazz standard. 

Author: Patricia Martin for Night is Alive

How Are Jazz and Memorial Day Connected?

You might know that Memorial Day is a federal holiday that was established to remember and honor members of the U.S. armed forces who died while serving. But you might not know that Glenn Miller, legendary jazz bandleader, arranger, and trombone player, lost his life in an airplane accident while serving in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II.

Glenn Miller and His Orchestra was among the most popular and successful big bands when Miller enlisted in 1942 at age 38. In January 1943, Miller became Director of Bands for the Army Air Force Technical Training Command. He selected personnel for various AAF bands across the U.S. and recruited others for an elite orchestra. Two AAF orchestra units were established to record and broadcast radio shows from Hollywood, California, and New York City, with Miller leading the New York unit. Its members included musicians from leading jazz bands and symphony orchestras. Big Band music was the soundtrack of that era, and Glenn Miller was an inspiration to his fellow troops and the American people during the war.

In May 1944, before the D-Day invasion, General Dwight D. Eisenhower asked that Miller’s AAF unit be transferred to Europe to establish a combined allied radio broadcasting service. In July that same year, Miller and his 51-piece orchestra began broadcasting musical programs over the radio, under the supervision of the BBC. The orchestra also performed for the Voice of America’s European unit and made appearances, mainly at U.S. military bases. In late 1944, Miller and his commanding officer decided to relocate the orchestra from England to France. Miller hoped to arrive there ahead of his orchestra. He boarded a small military plane on December 15, and was reported as missing three days later. His body was never recovered.

Glenn Miller was awarded the Bronze Star Medal posthumously in February 1945. A memorial headstone for the famed musician was placed in Arlington National Cemetery almost 50 years after his death. Miller’s music remains wildly popular even today, and even had three recordings posthumously inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, which honors recordings that are at least 25 years old and that have “qualitative or historical significance.” Those works were “Moonlight Serenade”, “Chattanooga Choo Choo”, and “In the Mood”.

Other famous jazz musicians who served during World War II include Dave Brubeck, Paul Desmond, Tony Bennett, and John Coltrane. Brubeck was drafted into the U.S. Army in August 1942. He trained as a sharpshooter and was sent to France aboard the SS George Washington troopship. He was supposed to join General George Patton’s Third Army, but fate intervened when some visitors from the Red Cross arrived at the base. Brubeck offered to entertain the visitors by playing piano and the commander was so impressed with his talent that he asked the young pianist to stay behind and entertain the troops. Brubeck formed a band called the Wolf Pack, which eventually had 18 members. Some of the musicians had seen combat and been awarded the Purple Heart. Unlike most of the military bands during that era, the Wolf Pack Band was integrated. Brubeck met alto saxophonist Paul Desmond in 1944, and the two musicians were reunited after the war, when Desmond became a member of the Dave Brubeck Quartet.

If you like the Big Band style of jazz music, be sure to check out Night is Alive’s diverse set of albums. World-class jazz musicians perform your favorite classics as well as new compositions that hearken back to that standard swing style in a refreshing way. My Ship in particular includes nine contrasting tracks that each convey their own unique emotion.

To all veterans and current members of the U.S. Armed Forces, thank you for your service.

April is Jazz Appreciation Month

Featured Image: Nils Schirmer on Unsplash

April was designated as Jazz Appreciation Month starting in 2001 by John Edward Hasse, the curator of the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution. Jazz Appreciation Month is an extension of Jazz Awareness Month, introduced by the Louisiana Jazz Federation in New Orleans in 1980. Schools, libraries, community organizations and other groups currently offer free educational programs and events to promote jazz awareness. Trumpeter Miles Davis is featured on the poster for Jazz Appreciation Month in 2023. He was a versatile musician associated with the bebop, cool jazz, and experimental jazz movements.

Jazz is regarded as the first unique style of music to emerge in America. It began in the late 1890s and early 1900s in the African American communities of New Orleans, though it was also influenced by Caribbean, Latin and European cultures. Ragtime, a popular style of music during that time, the blues, and the marches played by brass bands gave rise to a new type of music. Jazz soon became popular in other cities such as Chicago, New York City, and Kansas City. Radio broadcasts and early recordings allowed the music to reach even more listeners.

Jazz has helped to promote cultural and racial diversity and equality. The popularity of jazz during the 1920s and 1930s brought people of various ethnic backgrounds together, and many jazz musicians became familiar and respected figures in America and overseas. Jazz embodies the American ideals of freedom of expression, creativity, liberation, and diversity. It is associated with the Civil Rights Movement. Jazz has influenced and been influenced by other musical forms, such as rock, hip-hop, blues, and classical music. It has influenced fashion and literary movements as well.

Over the past 100 years, many different styles of jazz have emerged. Traditional, Dixieland, Swing, Big Band, bebop, and cool jazz were part of the first half of the 20th century. During the second half, musicians influenced by rock and rhythm and blues began adding electric piano, organ, guitar and bass guitar to their arrangements. Latin jazz, bossa nova, modal jazz, jazz fusion, avant-garde, modern, and freeform jazz were some of the subgenres to emerge. Jazz continues to evolve, as contemporary musicians compose and play nu jazz, electronica, and acid jazz.

Jazz is popular in many countries. Jazz Appreciation Month culminates with International Jazz Day on April 30. There will be many global live performances to mark the occasion. Jazz fans can check their local news outlets or look online to find events.

There are many ways to observe Jazz Appreciation Month. Revisit your favorite jazz album or jazz standards to evoke mellow moods and treasured memories. Explore new jazz releases or music by artists who seem interesting. Visit Night is Alive’s website for suggestions on new CDs. Read an autobiography by or biography about a famous jazz musician, or watch a movie or documentary about jazz. As the weather gets warmer, consider attending a live concert or jazz festival, or visit a nightclub.

Author: Patricia Martin

Celebrating the Life of Composer Ryuichi Sakamoto

(Featured image from: Arūnas Naujokas on Unsplash)

Ryuichi Sakamoto was a Japanese composer and musician who has been a driving force in the world of music for over four decades. He has created some of the most memorable and iconic pieces of music in recent history, and his work has influenced countless artists and musicians around the world.

One of Sakamoto’s most well-known compositions is “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence,” a hauntingly beautiful track that was originally featured in the 1983 film of the same name. The piece is instantly recognizable for its haunting melody and stirring emotional content, and it has become a classic in its own right.

Over the years, many musicians and artists have covered “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence,” but one of the most notable covers is by jazz pianist Bill Cunliffe. Cunliffe’s version of the track is a stunning tribute to Sakamoto’s original, capturing the haunting beauty and emotional power of the piece while also showcasing Cunliffe’s own impressive musicianship.

Cunliffe’s cover of “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” is a testament to the enduring power of Sakamoto’s music. Despite being over 30 years old, the piece still resonates with audiences today, and it continues to inspire artists and musicians around the world.

Sakamoto’s work extends far beyond “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence,” however. He has composed scores for countless films and television shows, including “The Last Emperor,” “The Revenant,” and “Black Mirror.” He has also released numerous albums and collaborated with a wide range of artists, including David Byrne, Iggy Pop, and Alva Noto.

Throughout his career, Sakamoto has pushed the boundaries of what is possible with music, blending different styles and genres to create something truly unique and groundbreaking. He has also been a vocal advocate for environmentalism and political activism, using his platform to raise awareness about important issues and to inspire change.

In short, Ryuichi Sakamoto is a true icon of the music world, and his contributions to the art form are immeasurable. His work continues to inspire and move audiences around the world, and his legacy will undoubtedly live on for generations to come.

We are here to tell you to do something irresponsible. 

Get rebellious with our new release of “Call Me Irresponsible”, music by Jimmy Van Heusen and John Di Martino as our music director. Live a little, do something daring, exciting, something new. Because that is how this song makes you feel “irresponsible, irresistible and undeniably true that it is bad for you”.

Jimmy van Heusen is claimed as one of the best songwriters in American history. Claiming a total of 4 Oscars and 1 Emmy for “best song”Best Song”, he is truly one of the most decorated musicians in American history. Being that he wrote these absolutely classic songs that should show that You should give this album another listen for the sake of hearing the classics and remembering the old greats.

Our new version featuring John Di Martino, it brings these classic hits into a new era. A full list of musicians is available on our website, and remember to return weekly for a new blog post.

But that is enough of that why don’t you go back to one of our past releases? Specifically, the Colors of Jazz by the Lorca Hart trio featuring Ralph Moore. This new edition of the classic hit “Here’s That Rainy Day” another Jimmy Van Heusen tune, is much more pleasing to the ear with the soft jazz tunes and is a great choice for when relaxing. Click here: for your listening pleasure.

Why Jazz Musicians Should Choose a Professional Studio for Recording

Image Source: Unsplash‍

As a jazz musician, you know that the quality of your recordings can make or break your career. Whether you’re looking to create a demo to send to record labels or release an album independently, you need a recording that captures the essence of your sound and connects with listeners. That’s why it’s essential to choose a professional studio for your jazz music recording. In this article, I’ll explain why recording quality matters for jazz music, the advantages of using a professional studio, and how to choose the right one for your needs.

Recording Quality Matters for Jazz Music

Jazz music is all about improvisation, spontaneity, and creativity. It’s a genre that requires technical skill, emotional depth, and musical intuition. As a jazz musician, you want your recordings to capture the energy and emotion of your live performances. That’s why recording quality matters for jazz music.

A high-quality recording can bring out the nuances of your performance, highlight the interplay between band members, and showcase the subtleties of your sound. It can transport listeners to the club or concert hall and make them feel like they’re experiencing your music in real-time. A low-quality recording, on the other hand, can make your music sound flat, lifeless, and uninteresting. It can also turn off potential fans and industry professionals who are looking for quality recordings to invest in.

Advantages of Using a Professional Studio for Jazz Music Recording

Recording in a professional studio has several advantages over recording at home or in a cheap studio. First, a professional studio has the equipment, acoustics, and expertise to capture your sound accurately. Professional studios have high-quality microphones, preamps, mixers, and monitors that can bring out the best in your instrument and voice. They also have well-designed rooms and acoustic treatments that can minimize unwanted noise, reverb, and distortion.

Second, a professional studio has experienced sound engineers who can help you achieve the sound you’re looking for. Sound engineers are trained to balance the levels, EQ, and dynamics of your tracks, and they can offer creative suggestions for enhancing your sound. They can also troubleshoot technical issues, such as clicks, pops, and hums, that can ruin a recording.

Third, a professional studio can save you time and money in the long run. While it may seem cheaper to record at home or in a cheap studio, the cost of fixing mistakes, re-recording tracks, and mastering your recording can add up quickly. A professional studio can help you get your recording right the first time, which can save you money on future edits and remixes.

How a Professional Studio Can Enhance the Sound of Your Jazz Music

A professional studio can enhance the sound of your jazz music in several ways. First, a professional studio can offer a controlled environment that allows you to focus on your performance without distractions. Unlike home or cheap studios, professional studios are designed to minimize outside noise and interruptions, which can help you achieve a better performance.

Second, a professional studio can offer a range of equipment and instruments that you may not have access to at home or in a cheap studio. For example, a professional studio may have a grand piano, a vintage guitar amp, or a rare drum set that can add a unique flavor to your recording. They may also have high-quality effects processors, such as reverbs, delays, and compressors, that can add depth and dimension to your sound.

Third, a professional studio can offer a range of services that can help you polish your recording to perfection. For example, they may offer editing, mixing, and mastering services that can help you fine-tune your tracks, adjust levels, and add effects. They may also offer session musicians, backup singers, and other professionals who can add their talents to your recording.

The Role of Equipment in Jazz Music Recording

Equipment plays a crucial role in jazz music recording. The right equipment can capture the nuances of your performance and enhance the sound of your instrument and voice. The wrong equipment can make your recording sound dull, flat, or distorted.

Microphones are one of the most critical pieces of equipment in jazz music recording. Different microphones have different characteristics that can affect the way your instrument or voice sounds. For example, a condenser microphone can capture the warmth and richness of a grand piano, while a dynamic microphone can handle the high sound pressure levels of a drum set.

Preamps are another critical piece of equipment in jazz music recording. Preamps amplify the signal from your microphone or instrument and add color and character to your sound. A high-quality preamp can add warmth, depth, and clarity to your recording, while a low-quality preamp can add noise, distortion, and coloration.

Mixers are also essential in jazz music recording. Mixers allow you to balance the levels of your tracks, add effects, and create a stereo image. A high-quality mixer can offer precision and flexibility in your mixing process, while a low-quality mixer can limit your options and compromise your sound.

The Importance of Sound Engineering for Jazz Music Recording

Sound engineering is a critical aspect of jazz music recording. Sound engineers are trained to capture, shape, and enhance the sound of your recording. They can offer technical expertise, creative suggestions, and troubleshooting skills that can make your recording sound its best.

Sound engineers can help you achieve the right balance between instruments and voice, adjust levels, EQ, and dynamics, and add effects and automation. They can also offer suggestions for improving your performance, such as adjusting your mic placement or changing your instrument.

The best sound engineers are also excellent communicators. They can listen to your ideas and feedback and translate them into technical adjustments that can enhance your sound. They can also offer their own creative ideas and suggestions that can take your recording to the next level.

How a Professional Studio Can Save Time and Money for Jazz Musicians

Recording in a professional studio can save time and money for jazz musicians in several ways. First, a professional studio can help you get your recording right the first time, which can save you time on future edits and remixes. A professional studio can also help you avoid technical issues, such as clicks, pops, and hums, that can cost you time and money to fix.

Second, a professional studio can offer a range of services that can save you time and money in the long run. For example, they may offer editing, mixing, and mastering services that can help you polish your recording to perfection. They may also offer session musicians, backup singers, and other professionals who can add their talents to your recording, which can save you time on arranging and rehearsing.

Third, a professional studio can help you avoid costly mistakes that can ruin your recording. For example, they can help you choose the right equipment and settings for your instrument and voice, which can prevent distortion, noise, or coloration. They can also help you avoid common mistakes, such as playing too loudly or too softly, that can compromise your sound.

Choosing the Right Professional Studio for Your Jazz Music Recording

Choosing the right professional studio for your jazz music recording requires some research and planning. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Location: Choose a professional studio that is convenient for you to travel to and from. Consider the transportation options, parking, and accessibility.
  • Reputation: Choose a professional studio with a good reputation for quality recordings, professional staff, and fair prices. Look for reviews, testimonials, and referrals from other jazz musicians.
  • Equipment: Choose a professional studio with high-quality equipment that can capture your sound accurately and enhance it creatively. Look for microphones, preamps, mixers, and monitors that are well-maintained and up-to-date.
  • Acoustics: Choose a professional studio with well-designed rooms and acoustic treatments that can minimize unwanted noise, reverb, and distortion. Look for studios that offer different room sizes and configurations to suit your needs.
  • Staff: Choose a professional studio with experienced and courteous staff who can help you achieve the sound you’re looking for. Look for sound engineers, producers, and other professionals who are knowledgeable, patient, and communicative.
  • Cost: Choose a professional studio that offers fair and transparent pricing for their services. Look for studios that offer packages, discounts, and flexible payment options that fit your budget.

Frequently Asked Questions About Jazz Music Recording in a Professional Studio

Here are some frequently asked questions about jazz music recording in a professional studio:

What is the difference between a cheap studio and a professional studio?

A cheap studio may offer lower prices but may compromise on equipment, acoustics, and expertise. A professional studio, on the other hand, may offer higher prices but can provide high-quality equipment, well-designed rooms, and experienced sound engineers.

How long does jazz music recording take in a professional studio?

The length of jazz music recording in a professional studio depends on several factors, such as the number of tracks, the complexity of the arrangements, and the skill of the musicians. On average, it can take several hours to several days to record a jazz album in a professional studio.

Can I bring my own instruments and equipment to a professional studio?

Yes, you can bring your own instruments and equipment to a professional studio. However, it’s important to check with the studio beforehand to ensure that your equipment is compatible with their setup and to avoid any technical issues.

Can I hire session musicians or backup singers from a professional studio?

Yes, many professional studios offer session musicians, backup singers, and other professionals who can add their talents to your recording. However, it’s important to discuss your needs and budget with the studio beforehand to ensure that you get the best value for your money.

Let’s Make Beautiful Music Together

Jazz music recording requires technical skill, emotional depth, and musical intuition. To capture the essence of your sound and connect with listeners, it’s essential to choose a professional studio for your recording. A professional studio can offer high-quality equipment, well-designed rooms, experienced sound engineers, and a range of services that can enhance your sound and save you time and money. By considering the factors mentioned above and doing your research, you can choose the right professional studio for your jazz music recording and take your career to the next level.

Studio Photography by Chris Drukker.

Dave Brubeck: A Legendary Jazz Pianist and Composer

Dave Brubeck was a legendary jazz pianist and composer who helped to shape the course of jazz music in the 20th century. Born in Concord, California in 1920, Brubeck began playing piano at an early age and went on to study music at the College of the Pacific in Stockton, California.

Brubeck formed his first jazz ensemble, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, in 1951, and the group quickly gained popularity with their innovative approach to time signatures and their use of odd meters. They released their first album, “Jazz at College of the Pacific,” in 1952, and their follow-up album, “Jazz Goes to College,” became a hit in 1954.

In 1959, the Dave Brubeck Quartet released the album “Time Out,” which featured the hit single “Take Five.” The song, which was written by saxophonist Paul Desmond and featured a 5/4 time signature, became one of the best-selling jazz singles of all time and helped to make Brubeck a household name.

Brubeck continued to perform and record music throughout his career, releasing more than 50 albums as a leader and collaborating with a wide range of artists, including jazz greats like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. He was a prolific composer, writing music for film, television, and stage, and he was also a dedicated educator, teaching at institutions such as the Juilliard School and the College of the Pacific.

In addition to his work as a musician, Brubeck was also a social activist and humanitarian. He used his music as a platform to address issues of social justice, and he worked with organizations such as the United Nations and Amnesty International to promote peace and human rights.

Dave Brubeck passed away in 2012 at the age of 91, but his music and legacy continue to inspire and influence jazz musicians and fans around the world. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest jazz pianists and composers of all time, and his contributions to the genre will be remembered for generations to come.

Feature Friday Q&A with Gerald Cannon

Feature Friday Q&A with Gerald Cannon

Happy Friday! You made it to the end of the week! Gosh, it sure does feel good, doesn’t it? And the cherry on top is that we have the first installment in a brand-new Feature Friday Q&A series! This time, we’re interviewing the musician, composer, and painter Gerald Cannon.

Jazz bassist Gerald Cannon has performed all over the world with Roy Hargrove’s band, made his debut in the New York City visual art world, and is currently an instructor at the Julliard School and Oberlin College and Conservatory.  

But before all of those accomplishments, he was just a boy growing up in Racine, Wisconsin. Read the interview to learn more about his formative years.

JK: I read online that your initial inspiration was your father Benjamin, who was a guitarist, and bought you your first bass. So, I’m guessing that music was a big part of your household growing up?

GC: Oh yeah, constantly. My father had a gospel quartet when I was a kid—I mean he always had one as far back as I can remember. So, there was always music in our house. We used to rehearse at our house on Wednesday evenings. There were always guitars around the house, and I was never supposed to touch his guitars, but I did every time he left the house. He called me one day, and I though, uh oh, I’m in trouble, and if I hadn’t been able to play anything, I would’ve been in trouble! But I figured out a few notes—actually a few notes that my uncle sang in my father’s gospel quartet. I just played something nice that he sang—he sang bass. So, then my father took me immediately to a music store and bought me my first electric bass. I was nine years old then.

JK: Did you play any instruments before the electric base?

GC: No. Just electric bass.

JK: So, at age 9, did you know that was what you wanted to do with the rest of your life?

GC: Yeah, I kinda did. After that I pretty much spent all my free time on it. I was just really happy to have something that I could call my own. My brother was an actor and, so when I started taking lessons—I was about 9 or 10—my brother started taking voice and acting lessons.

And my mother and father used to dance all the time. I guess that before I was born, they used to win awards for their dancing abilities. And my grandmother was a great gospel pianist in the South. So, it’s kind of always been there.

JK: Was your mother also a musician?

GC: No, she wasn’t. She was just a housewife, but she loved music and could dance. Her and my father used to dance in our living room to Nat King Cole and some records and stuff.

JK: What was your most beloved song during your childhood?

GC: Oh, that’s an interesting question cause, like I said, we listened to music a lot. Let’s see—it would be this record my dad used to play all the time. It’s a Kay Burrell record called Midnight Blue. And I remember hearing “Gee Baby Ain’t I Good To You” all the time when I was a kid. I mean we just had records—I don’t know; I don’t really have a special song. We listened to music all the time in our house. It’s kind of hard to think of just one. It was all good music too—we listened to lots of jazz; my dad played lots of gospel records.

JK: What was the first song that you learned on the electric bass?

GC: Hmm. Probably The Old Rugged Cross. If I remember correctly. That was 50 years ago.

Tune in next time to learn more about Gerald Cannon. And in the meantime, you can listen to him play in the WJ3 All-Stars’ newest album, My Ship.

What is Syncopation?

What is Syncopation?

As a jazz fan, you obviously love listening to the notes flowing out from the bell of a saxophone, but can you actually visualize those notes, on a staff? Are you able to see the music as well as hear it?

Trust us, learning a bit about musical composition won’t ruin the magic of jazz—far from it, it’ll only enhance it. Because when you gain a deeper understanding of all the intricacies, you’ll develop an even stronger appreciation for the enchanting nature of jazz music!

So, in that spirit, we’re continuing our blog series on the basics of musical theory and composition. If you’re curious to learn more, check out our posts about melody, harmony, and polyphony.

Today, we’re going to be learning about syncopation. But first, before we talk about that, let’s quickly run through the concepts of rhythm and beat. As you might already know, every piece of music has an internal natural flow, like a pulse or the ticking of a clock, that repeats until the end. This pulse is called the rhythm, which is organized into beats per measure.

Syncopation is a rhythmic structure that avoids the natural flow, or beats, of a piece. And how does syncopation avoid the beats, you may be wondering. Well, it’s actually quite simple—the notes are displaced so that they don’t fall precisely on the beats of the time signature. Instead, the notes can be played in anticipation—earlier than you’d expect—right before the marked beats, or they can be delayed and played after each beat of the pulse.

Believe it or not, in some melodies, every single note is syncopated—meaning that every note falls before or after the beat! And in jazz, this is a very popular technique. Most jazz musicians prefer to accentuate the upbeats. So, if you’re tapping your foot along to the music, the notes that are played when your foot is in the air are the ones that are emphasized.

Now this all may sound very complicated, but to the jazz musician, it actually comes quite naturally—eventually, master musicians do it intuitively, just like how you fluctuate your voice while speaking.

Syncopating notes gives the musician freedom to express their own interpretations of the beat. And to be honest, if there was no syncopation, jazz simply wouldn’t be jazz—it wouldn’t sound right—because most jazz compositions incorporate a mixture of syncopated and non-syncopated notes.

Many well-known songs from “Hey Diddle Diddle” to “Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)” include syncopated notes.

Can you spot any syncopation in this 2022 jazz rendition of “Can’t Buy Me Love” from the WJ3 All-Stars?

“Can’t Buy Me Love” comes from the album My Ship, which is available in our store and on all major music platforms today.

This post was written by Digital Marketing Manager, Jacqueline Knirnschild.


Photo by weston m on Unsplash