ARTIST FEATURE: From teaching at Cal Poly Pomona to being an influencer on Instagram. From playing Fender Strat to composing on fretless guitar. Meet Buzz Gravelle, the magician of the guitar! We are excited to have him as our featured artist this week.

1) How do you practice your rhythm and sense of time?

Well, everybody knows how to use a metronome when it is set to the beat or a subdivion of the beat. This is, of course, an important use for it. I use a metronome this way often. However, especially playing solo, I often want a sense of rubato mixed in with larger stricter metric pulses. To work on this I sometimes set the metronome to click only on beats one and three of each measure (or two and four) or even just on beat one. This allows me some freedom while still adhering to a larger pulse. I think it’s important to hear these larger metric units.

2) What are your favorite rhythmic exercises?

At the moment I am fascinated by a lot of different polymeters. I am working through exercises in a great book by Matthew Montfort called “Ancient Traditions, Future Possibilities” which explores rhythmic training through the traditions of music of Africa, Bali, and India. Traditional African music, especially, often has multiple layers of rhythm–two against three, four against five, and even more complex polymetric relationships. It’s fun to set the metronome to one of the meters while playing in the other meter, ultimately training the ear to hear the composite of both simultaneous meters.

Cyclic nature of life is reflected in the re-occuring cyclic rhythms!

3) What exotic rhythms do you like and what can we learn from it?

Oh, so many! I am fascinated by the Indian classical system of talas or re-occuring rhythmic cycles. These rhythmic cycles can be much longer than the Western music’s concept of a measure. And within these talas incredible cross-rhythmic variations are often improvised by master musicians. It’s such a different perspective on pulse and meter than in Western music. As with many things Indian there are philosophical underpinnings to the concept of rhythmic cycles. In this case, the cyclic nature of life is reflected in the re-occuring cyclic rhythms—one is born, lives his life, dies, and then is reincarnated to begin a new life again.

4) Can you name one thing that you like about the metronome on
It works on every device I use. I often recommend it to students. If a student doesn’t have a metronome it’s only a quick google search of “metronome” away.

VIDEO: Check out Buzz’s viral video called Proof of Existence on a fretless guitar!