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Cello Lessons: Mike Block with Rushad Eggleston & Jeremy Kittel: Ensemble Playing - Discussion

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Playing with
other musicians.
We got to play a bunch of tunes today.
What do you think about,
maybe regardless of style,
we can talk about specific
styles in a minute, but
what do you look for
when you're playing with another musician?
>> I look for a good sense of rhythm, like
a fun sense of rhythm that's get intoable.
Some people got really advanced rhythm,
but you can't get into it.
So or some people rhythm is just,
it's closed,
it's too something, can't get in there.
But, some people invite you
in with a fluffy bounce.
And sometimes you can get into
this fluffy bounce together, and
almost anything that happens on that
bounce train is gonna be a good thing.
So, that's one of the first
things I look for.
Other thing is someone that's gonna
inspire me with a sense of wonder.
Melodic wonder, and business, and beauty.
Basically fun and beauty, I would say,
are the two most important things for
me in playing with somebody else.
>> Yeah.
Fun and beauty.
>> You can't argue with that.
>> Yeah, it's pretty hard to
argue with that for sure.
Yeah, music feels and expresses so
wonderfully in so many different ways.
And a big part of that is, there's
a lot of different kinds of rhythm, but
rhythm and sound, I guess it comes
down to, what do I love about music?
>> Are we making music that-
>> That you think is music.
>> That I really feel?
It's not necessarily,
always prefect, per se,
because perfection is kind of
unattainable in this world.
So you can always go to a finer,
you can look for blemishes, anything.
But with that said,
generally really high standards,
just wonderful sense of sound,
so the tone.
I think as humans we like tones
that are that soothe and excite.
And so, you know,
with string instruments, you can make so
many different kinds of tones.
That gives me like,
if somebody plays like this,
Somebody plays like this now all the time.
It might give me shivers too much.
>> Yeah.
>> So I mean, a pleasing tone,
or an expressive variety of tones.
Somebody who's looking to
support the whole as well.
And help,
that's something that I've been trying
to do is instead of what do I want to do,
to be heard or
flex my own musical muscles,
what does the music need?
What is the music wanting to be right now?
And so sometimes that means,
you guys are super fun to play with.
So one of you might go to shuffle, because
we need a little shufflely rhythm just to
keep some glue there, or
one of you might go to the bass line,
because it's-
>> He's really good at being flexible in
switching things up.
>> Well I wanna circle back actually
to the rhythm, because when we were
playing a lot of these tunes, you were
providing such a huge, strong foundation,
actually that both of us could ride on.
That I found myself like wanting
to just be punctuating above you.
>> Yeah.
>> And it was like super satisfying.
We kind of, over the course of the day,
ended up in different roles,
>> In different roles, yeah.
>> Which I think is a big part of it.
Circling back to the rhythm
you were talking about.
If somebody wants to improve their rhythm,
or specifically, finding that way to
sync up with another person's rhythm,
is there anything you could say to think
about or to work on, specifically?
For somebody wanting
to get better at that?
>> Man, it's just kinda like a biofeedback
thing about hearing a certain thing,
and, it takes awhile to
be like what is this?
What does this rhythm need?
What does it need?
And sometimes you're wrong, but
usually if I hear something I'm like hm,
this would be kinda nice if I
just jumped in there and went.
And you just get yourself into that.
There's so
many ways to play different rhythms.
It's not always that people
need to be different roles.
I've had good times
with like Keith Murphy.
>> Yeah.
>> I've had fun times with guys who would
just straight strummers, and they just
strum, and they just wanna strum with you,
and you just wanna strum together.
>> Yeah.
>> It depends, if you're locking up
right you can both even be playing
the same type of roll and it can work.
Like so
like I think different styles
are different in bluegrass
specifically like I feel like
people just strumming together
is like a big part of the band sound and-
>> Yeah,
you see everybody up on
stage going like this.
>> Yeah, yeah.
So in bluegrass specifically,
what are some of the ensemble things
that you're trying to, like,
what are you thinking about?
How do you contribute to a bluegrass band?
>> By playing all the parts.
>> Tell us more.
>> Okay, well, [SOUND] in bluegrass
there's three things to look at.
There's the back beat.
And then there's the bass.
And then there's the filler notes.
And then there's the filler filler notes.
So I play all of them.
>> Yeah.
>> Because I can and it always feels good.
If there's a whole band
playing all the stuff,
I still do too because if that for
me is a glue that makes
if I'm mainly in my role as the back beat,
it makes it come out more.
Just like guitarists strum.
I think, as on the guitar, so on cello.
Just different, more fluffy.
But the guitarist won't sit there
very often in bluegrass and
go [SOUND] on the off beat.
They'll accuse them of reggae.
They were called, accused him of reggae,
heathen, witchcraft, Babylon, interruptus.
But they played both.
They play the whole rhythm.
And if it ends up providing the back beat,
that's awesome.
Or if it ends up providing the bass,
that's cool.
Or if it ends up providing
the middle stuff.
>> Yeah.
>> But a person that's not gonna play all
the stuff can listen, well,
does it need a backbeat?
If it needs a backbeat then
You know?
Try to lock it in tight.
Or if it needs filler then I used to,
when I used to be playing with Darryl and
we'd go to jam session,
everybody was pretty happening,
and we'd both sit there and
be, like, three.
>> Yeah.
Sort of a show.
Yeah, Clash, Beatles.
>> [MUSIC]
So you're just getting kind of
random syncopations against
it which makes it bounce.
It's like dribbling, ba-boom.
Soe of them are gonna be on the right,
some are gonna be left,
some of them through the legs,
behind the back or [SOUND].
>> Yeah, it reminds me,
the way you're talking about
playing all the parts in the band.
I think one of the things about
playing the kind of music where you're
playing string instruments and
you are creating this whole together,
the whole, W-H-O-L-E.
If you interlock really well, if you guys
are listening well to each other and
trying to lock in, the sounds will
literally combine in the air, right?
So all the sounds, if they're coordinated,
will become this thing.
So a quiet note like
I might have a couple quiet
things in there that will actually maybe
just kinda add,
they'll get lost in the mix but
they might still be there in a little way.
>> Exactly, yeah.
>> By playing this way you
can all stay together.
So you're always listening like if
you're getting a little bit off,
time to reign it back in.
>> Right, right.
>> Like, if somebody, if your buddy is
like rushing a lot maybe it happens.
Or say you're rushing now,
your buddy might be like,
okay, I'll meet him halfway, you know?
I'll rush ahead but
not as much as him, because if I did,
then, the whole band would go ahead.
But I'll rush ahead a little bit with
them, that could be cool anyway.
>> Mm-hm.
>> And then we can stay together.
And so
you kind of like have this equilibrium,
like group-wise with the rhythm.
>> Mm-hm.
>> But that's more about coordination,
just in terms of playing these
different parts that interlock.
I think that's one of the cool things
about this group's string music,
is that you can all be
playing together and
making this kind of like this sound,
this glowing,
pulsing string sound, together,
>> Yeah.
>> With all these different syncopations.
>> Yeah, a lot of what I'm hearing is you
guys are kinda both touching on listening
to the composite sound of the group.
>> Yeah.
>> And somehow
understanding how you can fit into it and
kind of embody it while obviously not
playing every instrument yourself.
>> Right.
>> And I feel like one thing,
like as a cellist trying
to play bluegrass or
jazz, I found myself often like
learning the base roles first.
And learning how to play this
in a bluegrass band, you know?
>> Yeah.
>> Even for
songs I don't know the melody of.
And like, for
jazz like I was able to start playing with
good people if I could walk bass lines.
Even if I wasn't like the best improviser.
And so I think cellists working
their way in often come from like
a specific accompanimental role.
>> Sure.
>> And so but I think so the important
thing is by learning the different
roles and really finding a way,
whether it's jazz or bluegrass,
to embody the whole band and keep that in
your soul, even if you're only doing this.
>> Yeah.
>> You know,
if you're hearing the whole band,
it seems like that's,
>> That's a great thing, yeah.
>> Cuz that's the common thread, right?
>> Yeah, yeah.
>> Yeah, strings.
You gotta be able to make some noise.
The vernacular as opposed to
classical tradition of string playing
involves playing a lot more chords and
double stops.
>> Mm-hm.
>> Making more noise.
In classical music, it's always davisi.
It's always divided and people are usually
playing one note at a time and
if they're playing chords it's in
a very like, watch me play the chords.
>> When it would be rare that people
would be doubling each other.
>> Yeah.
>> Like in bluegrass it's okay that you
have six people
you know playing the same chord.
>> The thing is if it's well organized.
in a band, and you know you can hear
that you maybe want to play the same
voicing than those sounds combined because
read chord charts in this kind of band
music and a lot of different, like rock
band you might make a chord chart and
if you guys are on the same page
listening about how to voice those,
the same thing in a string band,
then you can combine the tones.
In an orchestra where people might
not necessarily know how to do that.
And there are so many people,
it's pretty tough to do that,
even if you write the chord symbols and
>> Yeah, you want them to
be combining their chords.
>> You still have 30, 40 people,
50 people, and that's part of the problem.
And I love orchestra, one of my favorite
things, but it requires that organization.
>> Yeah, those are a bunch of cells.
They need a brain to like know what to do.
Be the conductor or
the scorer or something.
It's like hey, look this is your body,
you're like an elbow.
>> Yeah and in a small ensemble
of three or four or five,
these cells we can interact and we can be
there's this kind of like independent.
But cooperative feed
back that's happening.
>> Yeah.
>> So listening to each other and
together forming the whole, am I right?
>> Yeah.
>> Am I right?
>> Yeah.
>> Totally.
So I mean,
both you guys have had
classical training too, so
like, I personally have
a strong classical background,
and the differences between
groove-based music and classical music.
Like I often feel are pretty clear.
At least, and for me,
I had to make them clear at least.
So for you, what's the big difference,
classical ensemble playing versus
maybe groove-based ensemble playing?
>> I think the way that you play
rhythm is fairly different, right?
Because you know, with the, especially
with string band music and just music in
the 20th century and music in America and
now definitely world-wide,
you have interlocking rhythms.
That historically have not
been part of classical music.
So you'd have dance music
in classical music, or
it comes from dance music in all sorts
of different, you know, composers and,
you know, places throughout
the history of classical music.
But I think the way that
we combine grooves and
the kinds of grooves they're still
not in the classical music player.
They might be in the future,
which could be very cool.
If everybody could kill at Mozart, and
then also just feel rhythm in a very
kind of interlocking, polyrhythmic.
It's kind of African derived, American
way, then you could have an orchestra that
just really really grooves completely
without drums or anything.
And that will probably happen.
But I think there are different
traditions of playing rhythm and
different I mean there are different
classical musics, too.
Just like earlier we were talking about
there were different jazz musics,
styles and communities.
But, yeah, I mean I think one of
the things coming to groove music,
as you said, is being able to keep,
in the groove, and
feel all the grooves on top of it.
That concept really I think will help,
because if you can do
and understand, excuse me, and
understand that, you know,
the beat goes on.
Even though you might be playing.
>> Yeah, so like the pulse kind of has
a life of it's own.
>> And the pulse is-
>> Apart from any of the notes you might
actually play, in a way, right?
>> Yeah, and it overrides everything
in a certain context [CROSSTALK].
>> Or it's more important than
dynamics [CROSSTALK] notes and
the intonation is the feeling [CROSSTALK].
The feeling of how
the rhythm makes you feel.
>> That being said, good classical
music has good rhythm too of it's own.
>> Yeah, yeah.
>> Totally.
>> Especially Baroque music, you know?
When they're all just like
doing it awesome and locked in.
>> Uh-huh.
>> I find that a lot of
the similar feelings,
especially playing with string players.
Maybe it's because they have
played classical music.
But the fact that you have a bow and
you're able to swell into
things with people and the.
The joy of doing things together.
Like you know when you're playing a piece
of classical music and the composer, he's
like, well now, I'll have the violin and
the cello and the viola all go [SOUND].
And you were all excited and you look
at each other when it goes [SOUND].
Because it's something, something in
this crazy world that you can agree on.
We can agree on for
a second and it goes [SOUND].
But it's the same thing when we're
improvising and we're going [SOUND] and
you start going [SOUND] and he starts
going [SOUND] and I'm all [SOUND].
We had to play them almost like
that almost today when we were all,
they're all, now we're getting bluesy,
now we're getting hits.
Chicon, chicon, chicon, and you get
stoked on that, you know, like, yeah.
>> [LAUGH] What do you think, Mike,
in terms of the rhythms,
because you obviously, you know,
are well-versed in a variety of ways.
>> You know, yeah, I think with classical
music, like in a string quartet,
I always feel like everybody
is following the melody.
And if the melodic player takes time,
then everybody takes a little bit of time.
And if the melodic player grows in sound,
then everybody tries
to support that sound.
And so it's using quality of sound,
and in using rhythmic flexibility,
like as an expressive tool-
>> pulse flexibility.
>> Yeah, or like the primary things I
might be thinking about when I'm playing
in a string quartet.
And that was like, so playing with Darryl
was my first, you know like real folk
thing where I had to learn how to go like,
or actually it was even with
Mark O'Connor and
his Appalachia waltz trio.
We did some Texas style stuff.
And like I was very new to the style and
I had to go like this,
You know, just like hold down a bass line.
No matter what he did,
and like he would like,
he'd be like really pushing and
it would get really exciting.
And it was all I could do to
actually try and not react too much.
>> Cuz I like
>> Yeah, yeah, so the one thing I had to
learn, the one thing that was hard for
me, was to actually ironically
not react to people as much.
And to hold down the baseline, and
be like my baseline is this, and
I'm feeling the pulse.
And then like the melodic player
can kind of skate around that.
And if the melodic player's taking time or
you know it's like in a way it's
like I'm gonna let them do that.
And just groove with the guitarist.
>> Yeah, like he's got the good nice
jazz thing of being able to play in
slow motion.
Over like, you'll be playing eighth
notes but so behind the beat.
>> Right.
>> On purpose when you're all.
>> And it's worse cuz you
guys are holding it down.
>> Yeah but we gotta hold it down and
keep on pushing ahead,
[CROSSTALK] especially in
those times I feel like
there's not much going on here
besides that, that's why I'll be like,
I'll be the guy the keeps it
pushing ahead, then we don't start.
>> I think that's the thing.
In group based music,
I always find myself listening down.
Like, what is the bass player doing?
What is the drummer doing?
And how can I fit into that?
With classical music, or other melodic
based styles, I'm always listening up, and
thinking how can I play-
>> To the melody?
>> Yeah, and
how can I play with the melodic player?
And I think for me,
that's like a clear division,
in who I'm gonna be looking at,
at any given moment.
>> Of course in classical music a lot of
the feeling of the change in time and
in taking time,
in adding time it's about to me it
feels it's expectation and surprise.
>> Mm-hm-
>> It's what we use.
>> In time based art to be really-
>> Right, like
a surprising turn of phrase or something-
>> Right, it just takes a little
longer and you wait for it, and so
it gives it a certain feeling there.
And in a way you can have the feeling
of those things happening,
kind of in a similar way to me
playing back on the beat in jazz.
You can have the feeling
of the maybe imaginary
pulse that would be happening
in robotic classical part.
>> Mm-hm-
>> It should happen there so
you kind of feel it, but
then it happens a little bit later.
It gives it a certain kind of push and
multiple elements of rhythm pushing and
pulling against each other like orbits or
>> Mm-hm-
>> Because if you guys are placing to go
back to groove music [SOUND],
to groove [SOUND] like centrally.
That's like the planet and I'm the moon,
i'm like [SOUND] [CROSSTALK], and
pushing and pulling back in and
that creates rhythmic tension-
>> Mm-hm.
>> And then you can,
if I played behind you guys all the time,
it would probably sound and
feel rhythmically tense all the time.
So, no one do that necessarily.
>> Yeah.
>> I think that's a big, I mean, that's
exactly what you're saying it's like,
the sensitivity we have to melodic and
harmonic, tension versus release.
Like even if you're droning
on just two chords,
there can be an equal exploration
of rhythmic tension and release.
Just as far as like, are you playing
on the front side of the beat or
the back side of the beat or
in the middle of the beat and
how is that interacting
with the other people.
And if you become conscious of like,
the range of rhythm that can be correct.
It's like a window,
like a beat is a single moment.
There's front side and a back side.
So it's like,
if you can start to be conscious of
that when you're playing with somebody.
>> Yeah.
>> Then like even with just two chords, an
improvisation can have a big shape to it.
If it gets tense in the middle and
then relaxed at like, boxed in-
>> How do you guys think that
you can improve that one can
improve ones rhythmic awareness?
And groove awareness?
And knowledge and groove?
I'll put on out there.
>> Yeah.
>> Since I asked it.
Playing along with it and getting into it.
And it sounds kind of obvious-
>> Like a recording?
>> Yeah, yeah.
Or with people.
When you're doing it with people,
then you're each responsible,
live for keeping groove happening.
>> Except their seems that there some,
sometimes some people are they seem
like they're really feeling it.
They feel like,
it must sound great to them.
But what they're playing,
[LAUGH] is maybe like super doesn't
sounds very good to anybody else.
You know what I mean?
When someone's really feeling it, but they
got like, they're rushing like crazy or
something and like.
>> So how do you develop that awareness?
>> How do you even?
>> Yeah- [CROSSTALK]
>> Listening, yeah, okay.
I ought to try that myself.
>> Yeah.
I mean, that's the essence of what
all this comes down to, right?
I mean, you could set up a practice
regimen with a metronome,
and have a list of 30 albums to play with,
it's always just listening at
the end of the day, right?
>> I think the more you know and
the more tools you have,
Through listening and doing it.
>> The more things you
can become sensitive to.
>> Yeah.
>> Like listening [CROSSTALK] to the
groove in the background behind your solo.
So as to not just get
like lost in your own.
>> Yeah, right, right.
>> You wanna devote part of your brain
that can be always listening to what's
going on, even as maybe another part
technically speaking, who knows,
is actually improvising.
So, if you're giving your
all to improvisation,
and you're getting
disconnected from it and
just practice listening to the groove for
a while, and just playing in the groove.
I do think that playing along and
transcribing can be really great,
and not actually necessarily transcribing,
But just learning something by ear,
so you can sing it in
time right with the melody that you-
>> And play along with it in time.
>> And play along with it, right.
>> If you're learning to play at the exact
same time in the timing of the beat that
like Coltrane, or Campbell,
or somebody does.
>> Right, right.
>> That's really learning something,
because that's taking their feel
which is a cultural, historical,
passed down through
generations type of feel.
And it's becoming yours and
the fuel, it's infected,
it's passed on through here that feel,
That's the thing that I like to
think about is that it is, cultural.
Or something, like it's an inheritance.
Like, we're lucky to inherit these blues.
Licks and
phrases that are all around in Bluegrass,
in pop music and rock and stuff, stuff.
But that's like, you couldn't write that
out, there's no way to write that because
the inflections are subtle,
they're micro-tonal.
It's [CROSSTALK] The rhythm inflections,
the way you go [SOUND].
>> And the pitch inflections.
>> [SOUND]
>> Right-
>> And the way that you suddenly slow it
down or bring it up, yeah.
It's a language.
To bring it back, music is a language and
there's like a million ways
to learn to speak a language.
You can learn some from books, but the
best people always say that the best way
to learn a language is to go
[CROSSTALK] by talking with people.
>> Right.
>> If I going to the country that they
speak the language [CROSSTALK] in.
>> Immersion.
>> Full on immersion.
You will learn Bluegrass [CROSSTALK],
go hang out with Bluegrass people for
a long ass time.
>> [LAUGH]
>> And then at the end,
you'll probably be a lot better at
speaking Bluegrass then you were before,
because you were just sitting
in your room being like, well,
if this protractor is correct-
>> [LAUGH]-
>> Then bluegrass should be
somewhere over here.
>> Yeah,totally.
>> You guys.
>> Yeah.
Thank you guys.
Very nice to talk to you.
>> [SOUND]
>> Dude, total pleasure.
Such a pleasure.
>> Yeah, very pleasure playing.
>> All right.