Learning to Second Line

second lining

photo by Brother O'Mara

So I’ve been trying to learn about that second line for awhile now. I grew up in the north, so I heard some New Orleans stuff but didn’t really think about it till I got join a New Orleans-style jazz group. I’m still learning but picked up some ideas that might help you too.

  1. listen to the music
  2. play along with the music
  3. understand where the music comes

Listen to the Music

So for this lesson, listen to Bourbon Street Parade. It’s nice cause there’s no piano or guitar, so you can practice along very easily. Here’s Wynton playing Bourbon Street with Herlin Riley on drums. Sorry bass player! I don’t know your name offhand. I’ve listened to this clip a lot. My friend says the kid is Trombone Shorty.

And here’s that brass band sound that we all love too.

Rebirth and New Birth are the two brass band I know anything about.

So you hear how the bass isn’t 1, 2, 3, 4. It’s got a lot of groove and has a rolling feel to it. Listen to the snare drum. This is a good place to start playing your guitar part. Basically, try and get the swing that snare drummer is getting. Or if there’s some kind of bell, that’s good too.

Play with music

So like I was saying, I try to line up what I’m playing with what one of the drummers is doing. I don’t really try to play what the bass drum is doing though. To start don’t worry about the notes, just muffle the strings and lock the time in with what the drummers are playing

Here’s the chords to Bourbon Street Parade in Bb, which is what they play it in. It has a very typical form for old jazz tunes. 32 bars. The first 16th go between the 1 (Bb) and 5 (F). The second 16 goes from the 1(Bb) to the 4(Eb). Then there’s turnaround. 4, 4#, 1 , 6, 2, 5, 1. Which is Eb, E diminished, Bb, G7, C7, F7 back to Bb.

Bb | Bb | Bb | Bb | Bb | Bb | F | F |

F | F | F | F | F | F | Bb | F |

Bb | Bb | Bb | Bb |Bb | Bb7| Eb |Eb |

Eb | Edim| Bb/F | G7 |C7 | F7 | Bb | F |

Play that along to the record for awhile. It’s such a great song and they have a great groove, too! If you do this for awhile, you’ll start to learn a lot about 2nd line feel and New Orleans jazz.

Understand where the music comes

photo by dsb nolan

The main thing that I remember. That New Orleans is somewhere between swing and latin rythtms. So it uses the 3 side of the clave but swings it a little bit. I realized this when I started swinging the mambo drum beats I was playing on kit. I was like that’s really funky it sounds like 2nd line!

Good class on Second Line

Check out this book too

And here’s what wikipedia says about 2nd line:

Second line is a tradition in brass band parades in New Orleans, Louisiana. The “main line” is the main section of the parade, or the members of the actual club with the parading permit; those who follow the band just to enjoy the music are called the “second line.” The second line’s style of traditional dance, in which participants walk and sometimes twirl a parasol or handkerchief in the air, is called “second lining.”

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