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Eighty-eight drums: the piano as percussion instrument in jazz

dc.contributor.authorVan Seters, Tom
dc.description.abstractEvidence of a link between piano and drumming performance practices in western music dates back to at least the mid-nineteenth century. The modern construction of the piano had yet to be fully standardized when percussive techniques were being applied to its keyboard. Since that time, pianists and drummers (especially those involved with the creation of groove-based music) have grown closer and closer, participating in what remains a richly symbiotic relationship. This study examines parallels between piano and drumming performance practices in jazz. In this context, drumming is acknowledged as an important inspiration guiding the expression of rhythm and percussive attack by non-drummers, pianists in particular. Historical connections between pianism and drumming in jazz are addressed through an examination of those legacies that are widely believed to derive from West African drumming, European march and dance traditions, and various aspects of the so-called "Latin tinge" from the Caribbean and South America. Playing techniques are compared in part based on the premise that similarities in musical output flow naturally from congruencies in instrumental architecture. Percussive action unites pianists and drummers, as do shared abilities to create rhythmic layers through the independent functioning of multiple limbs. A discussion of ensemble roles reveals conceptual links, especially with regard to time-keeping, "comping," and mutual approaches to the creation of groove and swing. Transcriptions are employed to illustrate instances of widely adopted drumming-like gestures from the history of jazz with special attention paid to rhythmic counterpoint, complementation, and rudimental sticking patterns used by jazz pianists since the 1960's. Though a statistically small sample, interviews with ten professional jazz pianists support the essential findings of the study. Questions are raised throughout regarding the effectiveness of traditional jazz pedagogy in emphasizing the importance of drumming to non-drummer instrumental praxis.
dc.format.extent2.75 MB
dc.identifier.citationVan Seters, Tom. "Eighty-Eight Drums: the Piano as Percussion Instrument in Jazz." Phd thesis, University of Toronto, 2011.
dc.rightsAll Rights Reserved
dc.titleEighty-eight drums: the piano as percussion instrument in jazzen
dc.titleEighty-eight drums: the piano as percussion instrument in jazzen


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