Forward Motion!

Forward Motion!

I just got the book “Forward Motion” by Hal Galper. It is written from a jazz perspective but the author claims that the principles/rules of phrasing, which he collectively calls Forward Motion, apply to all musical styles. I am curious if anyone here is familiar with the author’s concept of Forward Motion and if anyone has tried to apply it to Irish traditional tunes?

Re: Forward Motion!

Could you give us a short introduction to the concept?

Re: Forward Motion!

Sure I can try.

As I understand it, the idea is that the strong beats, which in 4/4 time would be the 1 and the 3, are the where resolution should happen, and what happens the rest of the time functions as musical tension or unresolvedness and points forward to the next point where resolution/release can happen, which is generally going to be the 1st beat of some upcoming bar.

The author argues that when we learn music, especially when taught in a methodical way as children and made to practice counting beats in a mechanical and mindless way, we come to think of the start of each bar – the 1 beat – as a “beginning”, whereas musically this beat makes more sense when thought of as an “ending” or a really stopping place, a place of release and resolution. As you play, you keep the resolution note you are heading towards in mind as a target.

He spends almost 200 pages applying this core idea and some elaboration thereof to key aspects of jazz playing. I am definitely not doing it justice.

One thing that I am not sure about is whether his ideas need to be adjusted to deal with the reality that Irish reels are not played in 4/4 but in cut time.

Anyhow, my impression is that as I try to apply this kind of phrasing to Irish reels, it seems to me to work pretty well. There ends up being space right after each phrase, after the first beat, in the same places where I believe that flute and whistle players tend to breath. Perhaps this is just another way of describing what people who are good at phrasing tunes already know in some intuitive/pragmatic way?

Re: Forward Motion!

Yes, I was thinking of the flute and whistle as I was reading your summary.

Re: Forward Motion!

Looks very interesting, but a little pricey. I’ll have to think about it.

Re: Forward Motion!

I held off for like 2 or 3 years after I first heard of this book before taking the plunge. I feel like it is well worth the price for what I have gotten out of it. But it does assume some knowledge of theory and of jazz in order for it to make sense, so I guess I hesitate to recommend it widely. I was posting to ask for opinions, not necessarily to advocate 🙂

Re: Forward Motion!

I really like Hal Galper’s classes, etc. that he has on YouTube. I hope you share your review of the book as you get through it!

One of the things I remember he told a student:

He asked him “Can you swing?”
“Yes.”
“Ok. DON’T SWING.”

🙂

Re: Forward Motion!

Thanks for this thread Timmy. I’m still struggling to get my head around this concept, yet I find it thought provoking and instinctively right enough that I’ll have to buy the book. It doesn’t matter how much we ever improve in our playing, it’s learning that’s the ever driving thing with me,so I’m always looking for a refreshing focus like this one.

Re: Forward Motion!

“Forward phrasing” is making the phrase go from the second eighth note in the measure through the first note of the next measure, instead of phrasing from one bar line to the next. It has been around a long time and is not original with Galper. It was first taught to me, while studying Bach, as a way to propel the music forward. It is certainly applicable to any style if you want the music to flow better and not be choppy.

It can be used in any meter that has running subdivisions.

Re: Forward Motion!

David L – his book is called “Forward Motion: From Bach to Bebop” 🙂 He is not claiming to have invented something new here.

Re: Forward Motion!

Jason - enjoyed that video! When the tempo gets fast in sessions, I often
tap like that, and it turns frantic out of control playing into slow and comfy - especially
if you leave out a few notes and twiddles. Now that I’ve seen this video from
an official expert, I’ll be doing it all the time.