Whiplash (as reviewed by a jazz musician)

Tornado

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Well, Nate Lang plays Carl. Just did some googling, and it's apparently kind of a mystery who actually played Miles Teller's parts. Some speculate multiple drummers. I read one claim that it was Gary Hobbs. Which is kind of cool, I met him in 1995 at a jazz camp.
 

JazzDrumGuy

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I researched further. Nate taught Miles jazz technique and it is Miles actually playing:

"That's not to say what you see in the film was Teller playing those songs straight through, though. Chazelle broke the songs into chunks, and shot them piece by piece. Remember that "Caravan" solo? It took two days to shoot. Then it was editor Tom Cross' job to make it look as if Teller "was playing his little heart out." As you saw, he did a great job. In fact, Cross' editing work in "Whiplash" is already earning awards, including one at last month's New Orleans Film Festival, where the film made its local debut. So, long answer short, that is, indeed, Teller playing the drums -- but with help from some great editing and no small amount of hard work. The end result, as I'm sure you'll agree, is some beautiful music, indeed."
 

dcrigger

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I researched further. Nate taught Miles jazz technique and it is Miles actually playing:

"That's not to say what you see in the film was Teller playing those songs straight through, though. Chazelle broke the songs into chunks, and shot them piece by piece. Remember that "Caravan" solo? It took two days to shoot. Then it was editor Tom Cross' job to make it look as if Teller "was playing his little heart out." As you saw, he did a great job. In fact, Cross' editing work in "Whiplash" is already earning awards, including one at last month's New Orleans Film Festival, where the film made its local debut. So, long answer short, that is, indeed, Teller playing the drums -- but with help from some great editing and no small amount of hard work. The end result, as I'm sure you'll agree, is some beautiful music, indeed."
I'm sure it did take two days to shoot... the visual. And all throughout that shooting, Teller would've been actually playing, hitting the drums... to the pre-recorded drum track.

In virtually every motion picture, dating back to the 40's - live musical performances in a motion picture is filmed against a pre-recorded audio track - be it Fred Astaire singing or the Count Basie band playing in the desert in Blazing Saddles. There are exceptions for sure. In Whiplash's case, that likely would've been some of the rehearsal room parts - but anything with a bunch of visual editing would've been 99% likely to be pre-recorded.

Why? Well first, it is often difficult to do proper micing for audio without messing with the look of the shot. Second, requiring every to edit point to be both a visual and audio point makes things incredibly difficult. How difficult? SO difficult - that 99.9999% of the time they simply don't do it. Just like animated films, they get the audio performance they want - then shoot AND edit visuals to THAT performance.

And something as visually stylized as that Caravan piece - there is just no way.

Of course, that leaves the question... did Teller do the pre-record?

Personally I haven't read anything or talked to anyone that even hinted that to be true. This isn't to say he didn't have to shed a plenty to play it well enough to look good. But being able to learn something in sections is a far cry from what it takes to conceive it (composers don't write jazz drum solos, drummers improvise and play them), then perform it at this high a level.

And that recorded does sound good in every way - it doesn't pieced together - and the playing jumps off the tape in an engaging way. And as someone who has been recording professionally since my late teens - I can most assuredly say... this is no small feat. Something that even rank and file members of the professional recording community (like myself) would have a hard time pulling off. So no, the suggestion of a "I used to play a bit and have now brushed up a bit for this film" player like Teller accomplishing this is pretty much nonsense.

And this is no diss to Teller - I thought his visually performance was stunning. And yes, I'm sure in many of the impromptu moments of the film, we might of actually heard the sound of him playing.

But the showpieces numbers like Caravan - or any of the other "playing with other musicians" numbers... no way. we are seeing him, not hearing him.
 

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Very interesting. Good point and I only did quick limited research. So it's possible/likely MT is just playing along to a drum track and the sound is dubbed in from the tracking drummer? Or vice versa - a "real" jazz drummer is hitting drums when he is (such as a special effects gaffer)? I'll have to study that solo again.....further research indicates maybe Gary Hobbs? There's a lot of discussion out there!
 
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cutaway79

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Playing drums doesn't make your hands bleed...
It most certainly can. Constant friction on any part of your body will eventually break skin. I've taped up bloody fingers more than once in my younger days. Though, for the most part, I would tape my fingers before they got to that point.
 

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I enjoyed the film overall. The hands bleeding part was interesting, as you can wear your hands raw with repeated abuse. The part that is bothersome, is the approach to ride cymbal technique that was presented. I never had instructors in jazz tell me to play a single stroke roll with zero dynamics on the ride, or anything for that matter. It seemed like he was just trying to play extremely fast, without concern for musicality. No swing, no style, just sheer speed and power.
 

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I love Adam Neely's channel and watch religiously. Personally I think jazz musicians haven't been able to see the forest for the trees regarding this film... I found Adam's review here better than most... but still IMO the same problem...

For anyone interested, here's the comment I just posted on YouTube....

reply to Whiplash review---

<<<Adam - The thing is yes, it got jazz kind of wrong… yet for the first time in my life, I found myself in a multiplex filled with lay people, that by the end of the movie seemed to walk away (and I eavesdropped on many post-movie conversations to know this) with a sense of the incredible joy to be had from the fruits of the demanding, grueling, and often solitary and misunderstood pursuit of being a jazz musician (or any musician for that matter).

You seemed to get part of that with your first chapter before falling into - like every other jazz musician penned review I’ve read/viewed - about how the movie failed as a jazz education documentary.

But what purpose would an accurate jazz education documentary serve? Those that know jazz, already know it. And those that don’t, have no reason to care. As they have a no cultural reference - film, TV show or otherwise - to give them any real insight into musicians. IMO this is the first movie ever to even come close to telling a story of a musician struggling with actually Being A Musician. As opposed to struggling with drugs… struggling with fame… struggling with love… anything and everything BUT a story about actually BEING A Musician.

What other movie has ever had anything like the dinner table scene? None. And yet, how few jazz musicians lived through that (or something painfully like it). And for a lay audience to experience that - coupled with the “it was all worth it” pay-off at the end. For me - there is no purpose for this movie to exist, except to reach those people in this manner. To reach the layman. Who doesn’t get us… at all. And give them just a taste of what it is to be a jazz musician.

So IMO getting Buddy, count-offs, what’s hip jazz and dumb jazz, and who should be told to sharp the 9 all wrong is 100% a moot point compared to giving the lay audience even a taste of what it is, what it means, what it’s like, to be us.>>>
This is the most balanced response of this movie, in my opinion. This movie was out several years back.

I remember leaving the theater, movie-buff friends of mine interested in what I thought. I just thought it was unrealistic. But then I realized the parts that I felt were unrealistic were there simply to drive the story line.

Imagine my surprise when this movie got all the critical praise and academy award stuff. So, it's like this: The movie delivers as a movie because fictional narrative movies aren't necessarily supposed to have factual accuracy as much as they're supposed to have emotional impact... Think Black Swan (another movie about a performer who is questioned as to their commitment, etc.., Nathalie Portman is incredible in it).

I'm gonna have to watch Whiplash again, just to see if I have a changed viewpoint. I believe I will. Again the movie was more of a metaphor, and it was about the absolute torture artists (in this case, a drummer) put themselves through in order to get themselves on a level. So much of it was wrong, factually, but it was probably more on-target than I would admit the first time I saw it, on an emotional and cinematic, level.
 


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