Skip to main content
Steve Weiss Mallet Workshop

 

I'd love to see a lesson where a musician, especially a singer,  plays/sings with vibes comping where they talk about their perspective, i.e. what it is they want to hear. In other lessons Behn has mentioned that he will adjust his comping depending on what the soloist is doing.  For example if the soloist is doing more minor intervals playing the blues he will try to go in a minor direction as well.  A really good way to get more gigs is to make others sound better in the band.  Drummers who figure this out are especially sought after.  Too much spice can ruin the chili. 

Thoughts?  

Comments

rogersvibes Thu, 12/22/2022 - 14:29

When I first started performing on vibes, after playing many years as a guitarist, I found it frustrating how few musicians actually liked having vibes comping in a band. In fact, I don't think I have ever heard a musician express a preference for vibes. But it has forced me to put my own groups together. So I guess that is a silver lining.

IndianaGlen Thu, 12/22/2022 - 22:28

In reply to by rogersvibes

Or time, or rhythm or any combination thereof. Granted it's Gary, but I wonder how Stan Getz would broach this conversation. Do we make assumptions that other players/singers prefer drop 2 voicings or stacked 4ths... etc. It sure would be nice to be liked vs. being tolerated :) for example, our dog likes me, out cat tolerates me.

rogersvibes Sat, 12/24/2022 - 20:12

In reply to by IndianaGlen

Nothing to do with voicing, I think. Behn covered most of it, but I think the complaint can be summed up with “too much ringing.” It might have something to do with the tuning of the instrument too. My wife (a non-musician with good ears) always complains about how chords sound on the vibes, like there is something clashing (overtones?) or not “smooth”. But that could just be my awful playing!

rogersvibes Sat, 12/24/2022 - 20:16

In reply to by IndianaGlen

As for Burton and Getz, as I recall from Gary’s autobio, Getz was somewhat desperate to hire someone, and for whatever reason, couldn’t find a pianist in time to go on tour. So it was Gary or nobody! Not a bad problem to have. It sounded like Gary did a lot to organize the band too, what with all Getz’s personal problems.

behng Fri, 12/23/2022 - 20:32

Hey, this is a great question and I don't feel like I have a great answer to this, but I'll do my best!
I think the vibes are too different from piano and guitar in sound and range, so there's an openness in terms of sound. Some people like that and most others don't. I think the secret is texture. A piano player has the capacity to play 10 notes, but plays all different combinations. So I think it's important to do the same on vibes. I mostly play 4 note voicings, but I always make sure to play some simpler stuff too, like guide tones, 3 notes voicings and little decorative lines. I find that to be helpful in breaking up the sound, otherwise it gets too tiring to the listener. In fact if I don't do that, I feel like it tires me out, so imagine how others feel, haha! A good example of what I'm talking about is the way Jim Hall plays on that Sonny Rollins album "The Bridge." He really breaks up the textures in a great way, especially on Without A Song.
I also try to vary articulation a lot and sometimes go back and forth between sustained legato sounds and more rhythmic ideas. I feel like good command of all these things gives the listener enough to grab on to without making it feel too open or empty, which I think is the most challenging part of vibraphone comping.

IndianaGlen Sun, 12/25/2022 - 18:20

In reply to by behng

For example Freddie Green to my ears comped for the soloists and the band. Most people would agree he made people better around him. Some vibe/vocal work that I really like is some of the stuff Cal Tjader did with Anita O'Day in the early 60 was more about call and response vs him comping for her. Although I assume he's playing with two mallets.

So what you're saying Behn is the soloist/band will be more apt like us if we follow your suggestions above, and I guess the ultimate goal is to make more listeners happy.

behng Mon, 12/26/2022 - 10:10

In reply to by IndianaGlen

Good question! I think it's tough no matter what because the sound of other instruments is too strongly imbedded in people's ears. The role of the piano in a rhythm section is so classic, or the role of guitar in bossa nova. There's no association in other genres where one thinks, "I absolutely can't do this gig without a vibraphone comping."
I don't even think this is necessarily bad because I do think opportunity arises when someone hears the instrument and thinks it's a refreshing change. But it requires a certain type of musician, one who likes the different sound and can thrive in a playing situation where it's more open and spacey.

Randy_Sutin Wed, 12/28/2022 - 16:57

In reply to by behng

What people are used to is very important. People are used to piano and guitar.

The range thing and the unvavering pitch thing may be exacerbating factors. It's hard for us to get out of the way of a lot of instruments and singers generally have a hard time working with what are essentially tuning forks.

In my history, there were ever only two horn players that I worked with a lot who actually preferred having vibes for accompaniment. Both trombone players, so there was less of a range clash. Both were deadly accurate with their pitch, so that wasn't an issue either.

All of this said, the guitar/vibes thing is perfect. We can very nicely comp for each other and not have to stress about comping for ourselves on solos. That has always worked well in my experience. Guitar/vibes/bass/drums is a near perfect blend for me.

IndianaGlen Thu, 12/29/2022 - 14:36

In reply to by Randy_Sutin

Feel free to respond by saying "just hire a competent guitar player" if my beating this to death is annoying. Most of my comments in playing should have "in theory" in front of them since I am amateur/hobby player on a good day.

I want to be liked by a singer all by myself :)

Granted the real answer would be for me to try it and report back; however, now you got me thinking about the malletkat maybe changing to a different patch (Piano for one). So then the question is can one get good comping with only 4 notes. I do see your point about how not having to comp for myself would indeed be nice (and I'm not highly skilled at that yet anyhow).

--Trying to resist comments about accurate bone players, hen's teeth etc.