I am incredibly honored and excited to share a relatively new app that I believe will absolutely help you with your improvisations. I was recently approached by the creators of this app, Dimitris Neonakis and Antonis Tsikandilakis to check out their new app which is the first polyrhythmic play-along. Many of you know that with my students I already highly recommend using iReal, Drumgenius, and other apps for practice. When they mentioned the word polyrhythm I was instantly intrigued. While I play some piano (not at all to the degree to be taking Jazz gigs); I am mainly a trumpet player. Getting together with a rhythm section to work out ideas over shifting rhythms isn’t something I get to do on a regular basis. To be honest, this is one of the areas that I probably lack the most and spend time working on alone. However, this app allows you to work that out whenever you want.
The below is from the Genius Jamtracks:
“Polyrhythms, long part of the jazz vocabulary, were consolidated and brought to a whole new level in the early 60s by the masters of that era and are a core element of contemporary jazz improvisation and composition. Genius Jamtracks is the first polyrhythmic play-along. This interactive and great sounding app offers an easy way to get you from basic four bar chord progressions to the most advanced of Jazz songs.
Genius Jamtracks lets you:
1) Edit each instrument by clicking on it. You can have the bass play quarter note triplets
while the drums play in double time and the piano 4 over 3, or any other polyrhythm you might encounter in this genre
2) Add as many choruses as you want to the song and treat each one individually
3) Treat each section of the song separately: e.g. if the song form is AABA you can choose different events for each of the 4 sections
4) View chord charts and the selected polyrhythms map (for all instruments and sections of the song) at the same time
5) Transpose any track to any key / Adjust the tempo to fit your practice needs / Mix to your liking or mute any of the instruments
6) Randomize your selections either for one section or the whole arrangement and work on your interaction skills
7) Follow through the changes in polyrhythms using the map showing under the chord chart
8) Turn the metronome on/off, from the quick access button, when in need of a checkpoint”
I have had the opportunity to use this app over the past couple of days and I am genuinely impressed and find it incredibly useful. The sounds are as realistic, rhythms are on point (from the default core groove to the 8 different metric modulations and polyrhythms contained in the app), and the various exercises and standards are a great tool to work out these ideas. Because the app is still in its early stages (December 2016) there are only a few limitations like a smaller library of standards and not being able to input your own charts (similar to iReal). However, I’m sure as time marches on some of those capabilities might be added. It is still VERY much worth the $7.99 asking price.
I am going to continue working with this app to help solidify my own internal metric modulations. One exercise I have already started using is taking my Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose book and using the Altered Dominant/Diminished targeting exercise over All the Things You Are with the “3 quarter note pattern.” It’s challenging and fun!
To check out more of the app (including a Youtube video review below by the incredible Jazz pianist, Jean-Michel Pilc) you can go to their Facebook page HERE.
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If you were like me and thought, “I don’t need to see any more, send me to the download page!” You can click on the image below. If you would like to try the exercise I listed above, be sure to grab my book by clicking on the other link. I hope you enjoy this app as much as I am!
If you have followed this blog and have purchased Breaking the Monotony I wanted to share a review of a smart phone app I recently downloaded. It is called Drumgenius v1.4 by the guys at Projazz Lab. For the record, I was NOT asked to do a review of this app. However, I did want to let you know about the app and how it can be used to enhance your jazz improvisational studies (whether you are a drummer or not). I strongly believe this app can be a powerful resource for my students and those that are working with my book, Breaking the Monotony (or even Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose).
Drumgenius v1.4 is made for the iPhone and Android based operating systems so it wont matter what type of smart phone you prefer. The app contains (at the time of this writing) around 300 different styles of drum loops that sound great and have a number of applications that you could use. Loop styles range from Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, Funk, all types of jazz (straight and swung) and odd meters. For drummers, you can play along with each loop to not only get the feel, but work on timing and groove. For other musicians, it gives you the opportunity to work with a drummer anywhere you have your phone. You can work on timing, rhythmic creativity and phrasing. For those that have Breaking the Monotony, this app can be especially helpful because a number of the loops come with an option to include the clave pattern over the loop! You can use a number of different loops as a practice aid with just about every chapter in Breaking the Monotony (or Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose)! Another great benefit (especially for someone like me who is not a drummer) is you get proper names and a short history of the drum loop. As a composer I now have a resource to say, “Oh yeah…that is the drum groove I am wanting for this section on my chart. I always wanted to know what that was called!”
To get a feel of what it looks and sounds like, below is their video found on their website as well as Youtube:
The app itself is free to download. Along with the app you get 3 free loop downloads that come with the app. You can purchase 3 levels of loop downloads in their app store. The first is 10 loops, 50 loops or infinite (which is all 300 loops or any new updates they have in the future). I did not catch the prices for the first 2 levels because I went straight for the infinite option. It was $9.99. For the iPhone, the app also works in the background so you can continue to use your phone for other features while still listening to the loop.
Since I have made this app purchase I have been using it in my daily jazz practice and have been thrilled with the benefits. There is something to playing duets with a drummer that help an improviser’s time, phrasing and rhythmic creativity. Now I can work on those whenever I have my horn and phone. Overall I give this app 5 stars!