Jazz Rhythm Solfege Part 1 - Jason Klobnak Music

I had a recommendation from a new friend, George Martin, on our Facebook wall to write a post on using solfege rhythm in jazz. This has been something that I’ve used with students (especially beginners) and was something I was taught back in Middle School by my first teacher-Craig Swartz. I know there are a few sources out there that talk about this in book form. The first that comes to mind is a book by Mike Longo called How to Sight Read Jazz and Other Syncopated Type Rhythms. If you’re interested in learning more on that topic, it’s a good read.

In this first part of the jazz rhythm solfege series I want to talk about the syllable/words that I like to use and why (with a few examples). The next part will be some more in-depth examples that I hope will help you and your students.

This is a rhythmic solfege to help give a musician a greater sense of rhythmic time, phrasing and articulation. So the syllables/words below aren’t assigned to a specific pitch like it is in the standard solfege system (i.e. Do, Re, Mi, Fa, etc). Again, this is the way I like to use and present it. If you have a way that works for you and your students…great! Please feel free to comment and share! Below are the basic rules:

  • Anything that lasts longer then a quarter note is assigned a Doo or Dah. The majority of students I come across can count and feel whole notes and half-notes quite well.
  • In general (unless otherwise notated) any note that is off-beat or the last note before a rest it will use Daht.
  • Quarter notes are assigned DuDah or Daht depending on the accent or phrase. If the quarter note is intended to be short (i.e. staccato), if it’s off-beat or if it’s the end of the phrase they will use Daht. This helps give the appropriate feel for jazz articulation.
  • Single eighth notes use Du, Dah or Daht. If the eighth note is on the beat then it will use Du, if it is off the beat it will use Dah and if it is the end of the phrase it will use Daht.
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  • Triplets are quite simple because they will use the word: Tri-pi-let. The same word can be applied to any type of triplet whether it be a half-note triplet, quarter-note triplet or eighth-note triplet like the example below.
  • Sometimes you will find triplets tied to an eighth in jazz. Mike Longo uses the term “Didulia” and I have found that works the best for that rhythm. If it’s the end of the phrase, I like to use Diduli-aht.
  • Finally there are sixteenths. In jazz, some improvisers use “doodle tonguing” on sixteenth notes. Whether you articulate this way or not, it’s a great way to express it in a solfege type of way. The syllable will be doo duhl oodle or ending in Daht if it’s the end of the phrase.

Those are the general rules. Let’s take a look at a simple example below:

Next week we will take a few more examples and apply the jazz rhythm solfege principles to them. I hope this tip has added value and benefit to you and your students in some way. If you haven’t checked out my books or courses yet, I’d like to invite you to go to my online school.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog/post!

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About the Author jasonklobnak

Jason Klobnak is a versatile trumpet player that has been performing as an active musician, author, clinician, composer and educator. His band, J's Ruckus, is Denver's blend of Post-Bop, Soul, Gospel, and Hip-Hop. They perform infectious and up-lifting originals for audiences hungry for a memorable live experience. J's Ruckus released their latest album, Suck Less, in March of 2020 and their first EP, Sermons, in July of 2019. Both were recorded live in front of an audience. Suck Less was recorded to a packed auditorium at Arapahoe Community College's Waring Theater in Littleton, CO. Sermons was recorded in front of a sold out crowd at the Soiled Dove Underground.  The JKQ (the Jason Klobnak Quintet/Quartet) is Mr. Klobnak's Hammond B-3 centered groups. The JKQ released their third full-length album in March of 2018 called Friends & Family. It has been very well reviewed, on numerous Top 10 lists for Jazz radio stations across the country (including Denver's KUVO 89.3FM which named it May 2018's CD of the month), and in Jazzweek's Top 100. Each composition was written for specific family and close friends (that might as well be family). Their second album, New Chapter, was recorded in part thanks to the Pathways to Jazz Grant from the Boulder County Arts Alliance. In 2015 and 2016, New Chapter was in the Top 75 on the Jazzweek charts and on the Top 10 playlists for over a dozen radio stations worldwide. Their first album, Mountain, Move made the Best Recordings of 2013 list from AllAboutJazz.com by C. Michael Bailey. His very well reviewed Christmas single, Hark the Herald, in 2016 as part of a creative project with musicians James Roberson and Nathaniel Kearney Jr. Besides the JKQ, Mr. Klobnak is a B.A.C. (Best American Craftsman-custom trumpet), Denis Wick (mouthpiece and mutes) and Westone Audio endorsed artist (ES20 and Tru Customs). Mr. Klobnak has played and recorded for numerous groups ranging from jazz, soul/R&B, indie-rock/pop and gospel. In addition to performing, he has also written two improvisation-based books called Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose and Breaking the Monotony and is currently an adjunct professor and brass instructor at Arapahoe Community College. Mr. Klobnak holds a bachelor degree from Drake University (Des Moines, IA) and a Master’s degree from the University of Denver, Lamont School of Music (Denver, CO).

  • jazzman1945 says:

    Thanks Jason for the opportunity to meet Your approach to rhythmic solfege ! All that You offer here , can perform on melodica almost without changes (see my topic “Swingin’ on melodica”)

    • jasonklobnak says:

      Thanks Nachum! I’ll check out your post on “Swingin’ on melodica” too. It’s great to read other perspectives and see if there is something that can be gleaned from their experiences.

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