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Improve Your Swing

Steelers were never really taught the importance of volume dynamics while it seems like all other instruments are taught to master this stuff early on. All forms of music require volume dynamics. The volume dynamic helps us swing more.

Improve Your Swing With Volume Dynamics

We’ve all heard fiddlers who swing pretty good… until Johnny Gimble would play. Same with most steelers compared to the feel of Buddy Emmons, Maurice Anderson, Tommy White, Curly Chalker, etc.

There is always a night and day difference between the masters of volume dynamics and the average player who does not use it expressively. Swing is a dotted feel which gives us a lot of real estate to explore.

Using fiddle as an example, Gimble (a true master of the swing feel) incorporated various bow pressures in each line and would loosen up the feel exactly like the great swing players in the 40’s and 50’s big bands.

Each of us has to discover where to rhythmically place these dynamic issues to get into the Swing and Jazz world, and that in itself could be a lifetime’s study. I know it is for me. Driving home after each Monday night gig with The Time Jumpers, I think about how many opportunities I missed for making it swing more.

Check out Johnny’s solo at 1:38 on “You’re Something Special”. His first note swells in, then he punctuates key phrases with volume dynamics.

In Jazz and Swing (actually every form of music) the secret for phrasing is never playing any line with the same intensity. Just like singers, we should emphasize certain words/notes for more impact on the listener. Listen carefully to Buddy, Chalker, or Rusty Young for how they applied the volume pedal for expressing dynamics when playing chords.

When they wanted to make a chord pop like a horn section or the organ does, they picked the strings a tiny bit harder and would choke back the pedal on the chords they wanted to speak for accenting a melodic line.

In swing, I especially listen to Chalker’s chord playing. I also notice how Buddy would use the same volume pedal technique to accentuate certain notes for expression. Know that they were imitating players like B-3 master Jimmy Smith, so mainly I go to their source for expressing the Volume Pedal……Nobody was better at it than Jimmy Smith.



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