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Ed Saindon's Four-Note Groupings Technique

 Vibraphonist and Berklee professor Ed Saindon sent me some of his articles on Jazz improvisation. He has developed his own concept based on four note groupings, which obviously must have been shaped by being a four mallet vibes player. Here's how he describes it:

"Four-Note Grouping is an improvisation technique that uses major and minor triads along with specific passing notes as a means of generating lines. The concept of Four-Note Groupings allows the lines to be more “out” and stretch the possibility of available notes over a chord due to the structural integrity of the triad-based line. Another benefit of this concept is that the improviser can work on the concept and specific sound of Four-Note Groupings without falling into the trap of playing licks and repetitive phrases. The fact that this is a broad concept and there are many possible four-note grouping choices creates a “deep well” from which an improviser can draw."

Coming from the “four mallet school,” Ed Saindon has developed and continues to refine a pianistic approach to mallet playing which involves a consistent utilization of all four mallets along with a variety of dampening techniques. Saindon has absorbed and transferred the influences from the piano lineage that stretches from Waller and Tatum up to the present. Originally a drummer, Saindon began playing the vibraphone along with piano while attending Berklee College of Music in Boston from 1972-1976. 

As a concert artist, Saindon has traveled throughout the U.S., Europe, Brazil, Mexico and Japan. He has played and or recorded with Ken Peplowski, Warren Vache, Kenny Werner, Mick Goodrick, Fred Hersch, Peter Erskine, Jeff Hamilton, Louie Bellson, Howard Alden, Herb Pomeroy, Dick Johnson, Dave McKenna, Marvin Stamm, Michael Moore and others.

In addition to performing, Saindon’s other passion is music education. In addition to being a Professor at Berklee where he has been teaching since 1976, he is also active in the field of music education as a clinician and author. Saindon is a clinician for Yamaha and Vic Firth giving clinics and residencies on vibraphone, marimba, piano, drums, jazz theory and harmony, composition and improvisation. Berklee Press has published his book Berklee Practice Method: Vibraphone and German publisher Advance Music recently issued his new book Exploration in Rhythm, Volume 1, Rhythmic Phrasing in Improvisation. 

In addition to writing books, Saindon has authored many articles on music education, jazz theory and improvisation. He is currently the vibraphone and jazz mallet editor for the International Percussive Arts Society’s magazine Percussive Notes. His articles have appeared in many publications including Downbeat, Percussive Notes, and Percussioner International.
Recordings as a leader include Swing on the Sunnyside featuring trumpeter and legendary educator Herb Pomeroy and clarinetist Dick Johnson, The Great American Songbook featuring clarinetist Ken Peplowski, trumpeter Warren Vache and trombonist Dan Barrett, Key Play featuring pianist Kenny Werner and Ed’s most recent release, Depth of Emotion featuring soprano saxist Dave Liebman.


Michael Rush & the 4 Hornsmen of the Apocalypse- live @ El Barrio

 Here's a live recording of a recent gig I played in Vancouver, BC with a sax quartet (+bass & drums) called Michael Rush and the 4 Hornsmen of the Apocalypse. The recording has quite a bit of crowd noise since my Zoom H4 was pretty far away from the stage, but the music was interesting and worth a listen. Four of the tunes were written and arranged by the drummer Art Lillard and other band members contributed the rest of the material.

 (This sound clip is an hour and twenty minutes long so it may take a while to load)

alto- David Valdez
tenor & soprano- Evan Arntzen
tenor & bari- Colin Maskell
alto, flute & bari- Neelamjit Dhillon
bass- Michael Rush
drums- Art Lillard

 Michael Rush & the 4 Hornsmen of the Apocalypse- live @ El Barrio

Evan Artzen's MySpace
 Colin Maskell's MySace
 Neelamjit Dhillon's web page
Michael Rush's MySpace
Art Lillard's web page


Tim Fischer's Triad Pair exercises

Guitarist Tim Fischer wrote this sheet of Triad Pair exercises. He has more free lessons available for download on his website: Tim Fischer Music.

"Triad Pair Melodies-
This lesson represents one of my attempts at integrating triad pairs into my linear and melodic vocabulary. After working on the different triad pair exercises from Walt Weiskopf's Intervallic Improvisation, I have wanted to utilize triad pairs in a more personal and melodic fashion, while still retaining the wide interval sounds that make triad pairs so interesting. This handout contains twelve melodic fragments based on two major triads a whole step apart, as well as four ii-V-I lines demonstrating their use in a harmonic context. While there are several triad pair options over the ii-V-I progression, I chose to explore two major triads a whole step on each of the three chords to help acclimate my ears to the sound of that pairing.

Try practicing the first section of triad pair melodies over the chords derived from the C Major scale (Cmaj7, Dmin7, Emin7, Fmaj7, G7, Amin7, B half dim) and note how the harmonic scheme changes the color/effectiveness of the melody. After you have worked on the smaller triad pair melodic fragments, practice the ii-V-I lines over a backing track or with an accompanist to get the full bi-tonal effect that triad pairs invoke"
- Tim Fischer

 (click the above graphic for a larger view)


Triad Pairs Redeemed!

When I hear players (including myself) using triad pairs I usually find myself cringing. In theory it is an interesting technique that generates lines that are neither horizontal nor vertical. The bi-tonal effect can be pretty cool as well. I've worked out of both Gary Cambell's Triad Pairs for Jazz and Bergonzi's Hexatonic books and was pretty excited about the possibilities, at least at first. I soon realized that this technique usually sounds too much like a simple formula, which is of course exactly what it is. I even get bugged sometimes when I hear great players like Weiskopf or Bergonizi use Triad Pairs too blatantly.

Here are some ways that I have found to make Triad Pairs sound less formulaic and more organic:
  • Play only two notes of a triad before switching to the second triad
  • Use two different  types of triads (Maj/Aug or Min/Dim)
  • Try using two notes of one triad and three notes of the second triad
  • Side-slip chromatically to a triad(s) a half-step above or below one (or both) triads
  • Stack the triads on top of each other to create uneven (chunky) vertical structures
  • Add a pentatonic scale to the mix so you are alternating between three different elements
  • Displace notes of the triads to create unusual spread structures (see exercise #2)
  • Add a third triad to the mix (example: Over C-7 use Eb Maj, F Maj and G Maj triads)
  • OR one of my favorite things to do- just start throwing some chromaticism into the mix
This last technique can really obscure the fact that you are using a formula to construct your lines. You can add simple single note chromatic approachs (like exercise #1) or fancy-pants multi-note Bebop enclosures. Since the Triad Pair/Hexatonic formula is a simple one to execute adding some chromatic approaches to it isn't a huge stretch.

Below are some examples I wrote to illustrate how chromatic approaches can make Triad Pair lines a little hipper sounding.  I've kept the patterns fairly simple for illustration purposes, so some of these still sound a bit formulaic. If you really mix all of these techniques together you can create some truly organic sounding lines.
(I used Major triads from the #11 and b13 over the dominant chord for an altered dominant sound)

(click the above graphic for a larger view)