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Steve Weiss Mallet Workshop


we talked for a while about voicings at the delaware workshop which was great. but i'm wondering everyone's approach on voicings when your playing solo and in a duo with a bass player. do you guys keep the root out for the most part when your solo or not?


tpvibes Sun, 08/08/2010 - 08:31

Hi Nathaniel (it is Nathaniel, right?),

I almost never include the root in a voicing, even in solo playing, unless voice leading or the melody favors it. I usually think 3, 7, some sort of 9 (flat, natural, sharp) and some sort of 13 (flat, natural). Except for minor 7 flat 5 chords -- b5 replaces 3 or 7.

Another exception might be on say a major 7 chord; the minor second between the root and 7th can be nice. Of course all this stuff is like the "pirate code" -- more suggestions and rules of thumb than hard and fast.

Tom P.

goldwing Sun, 08/08/2010 - 16:29

In reply to by tpvibes

I avoid the roots as much as possible too when comping. You only have 4 notes maximum to use when playing vibes so using the root is often a waste of color options. As Tom P. suggested, stick with 3 and 7 most of the time and go for some other choices for your color tones. When harmonizing a solo, you'll probably find yourself using the root on top from time to time because the tune will call for it or your improvisation may call for it. That's fine; use it then. I noticed that David Friedman used the root on top a lot more than I suspected at the Delaware workshop. Interesting. As Tony likes to tell us, play some options and use the ones that sound good to you. Ed De Gennaro

John Keene Sun, 08/08/2010 - 20:12

In reply to by goldwing

I'd be curious if you would use the root more if playing solo on a 3.5 octave vibe? Did you notice what David did when he played the Yamaha?

Also, Ed, I noticed that you were playing the Piper vibe at the workshop. How did you like it?

tonymiceli Sun, 08/08/2010 - 22:15

In reply to by John Keene

it's funny, all these rules! i'm sure i play the root a lot more than the rule permits. you know the rule, root goes first, then the fifth.

hmmm, good point, john, we maybe one reason we omit the root, etc is because the vibes are generally mid range. now add the extra have octave and i do think we'd play more roots. the instrument is getting in that bass range.

so i think that's a good observation, john!

Tony Miceli (new)
s k y p e: tjazzvibe

james_whiting Mon, 08/09/2010 - 00:07

In reply to by tonymiceli

I agree with Tony, there are all these rules about no roots and fifths and I'm definitely sure I play more than the rule permits.

I also find its very dependent on whats going on - there are definitely places where the root is already implied so there is no need to touch it. There are also always places where (I feel) the root needs to be played because it makes it feel like "Great, we're home!" On the other hand I really dig rootless or "unconventional" voicings e.g. check out some of the stuff Ed Saindon does!!

I've recently done some work with vocalists and I've found some of them freak out when there is no root/fifth and for example C - 7 and I rock Bb, Eb, F, D... I've found that because we (particualrly 4 mallet players) are consistently working on chords/ voicings and all these different sounds our ears develop almost automatically whereas an instrumentalist or vocalist who doesn't deal with voicings/ chords on a day to day basis doesn't have that depth of knowledge yet.

I think its great to sometimes play roots and fifths as well as root position chords and even triads... - just like chords with roots (and in root position) start to sound bland fast, if you always play rootless voicings etc, that will start to sound bland because its all the same...


John Keene Mon, 08/09/2010 - 06:34

In reply to by tonymiceli

Well, the vibes is an instrument that you don't see in a solo context and rarely in a duo without a bass player. I don't really think in terms of the root as much as what I need in that frequency range below low F. If I was playing Misty on solo vibes, I'd be wanting that low Eb on a 3.5 octave instrument.

goldwing Tue, 08/10/2010 - 22:08

In reply to by John Keene

Yeah, I noticed that David Friedman played the roots a lot more than I expected from a guy who says he likes minor seconds, forths, etc. I use them often with minor chords like Dm7 or Dm6 but I almost ALWAYS avoid them on most other chords like 7ths, 9ths, major 7ths, etc. They just sound more hip.

As for playing the Piper vibe, the one I can remember using was not in very good shape. The damper pad was very loose and it was difficult to manage the instrument's sound because of it. Because of this, I really don't have any assessment of it.

As for the 3.5 octave Yamaha I played, I was delighted with it early in the week when I had the chance to first play it. Those extra few notes at the bottom seemed like a huge benefit. But as the week went on, I realized that chords using those low notes were really muddy. This means you really can't play closed voicing chords below the F or perhaps the E note. It works a bit better with open voicing chords using these low notes, but even so, the low notes still sound muddy. The best use of these extended low notes seems to be as bass notes when you're playing a tune. Ed De Gennaro