Thursday, December 14, 2017

Linear funk with a broken cymbal rhythm, using Syncopation

I don't know if you've noticed, but we've developed quite a robust collection of funk methods here, using Ted Reed's Syncopation. If you learned them all you should have some real creativity going by now.

So here's another one, a linear interpretation, using a broken cymbal rhythm. This is good for moderate tempos— around 60-90 bpm. Tempos where you might play 16th notes on the cymbal with your right hand. Since we're playing this in 2/2— cut time— that would be half note = 90 bpm, and 8th notes would be the functional equivalent of 16th notes in 4/4. In that range it's very effective to emphasize a solid grid of 16ths (or cut time 8ths), a la Ndugu Leon Chancler and others. It's not the most popular way of playing styles with a backbeat today— chunky— people don't know they want you to play this way, but when you do, it creates a very deep groove.

Let's walk through the steps for this, starting with exercise 1 on p 33 of Syncopation:

Ignore the stems-down part. Play the top line rhythm on the bass drum, filling in any gaps in the rhythm with the right hand on the cymbal or hihat, making an unbroken stream of 8th notes:

As a warm up, do the same thing with the snare drum playing the book rhythm:

Then voice the book rhythm like a cut time funk groove, with the snare drum on 3, and the bass drum playing everything else:

As in our earlier funk method using Syncopation, you can also play the last half of the measure on the snare drum, to make a fill-like variation:

We're generally very right hand oriented on this blog, but the broken cymbal rhythm with this method really changes our focus. Rather than leading with the cymbal rhythm, you'll be thinking more about the bass drum and snare drum, and filling in the cymbal to create a solid architecture. All the parts should be at a roughly even volume. Your left foot may also contribute more than usual— play it on 2 and 4, or 1 and 3, or running quarter notes. Be able to add it in and take it out without disrupting the groove.

Improvise the orchestration to make a complete phrase out of each four measure line of music from the book. I think of it as two two-measure phrases, with a normal backbeat in the first measure, and a fill-like variation in the second measure— a little fill in the measure 2, and a bigger fill in measure 4:

Many of the book exercises have a rest or a held note on 3— page 33, exercise 2, for example:

To figure out what to do with that, first play the entire top line rhythm with the bass drum, filling in the cymbal rhythm with the right hand as before:

Of the exercise rhythm, play the closest note to 3 on the snare drum. That will be our backbeat, displaced:

You can also just add the snare drum on 3, while doing everything else the same as you have been:

When doing the fill-type variations, you'll want to use the displaced backbeat, playing the rest of the measure after that note on the snare drum:

Work with the one-line exercises until you're able to apply the method while playing through the long exercises on page 37 and after. I don't believe it's necessary to work for extreme speed on this one. Use the Betty Davis loop.

Monday, December 11, 2017

NEW E-BOOK: 13 Essential Stickings

Here's part of what I've been up to other than writing new blog posts— I'm releasing a new e-book today: 13 Essential Stickings for the Modern Drummer. If you ever get overwhelmed by the amount of stuff there is to practice, this is the book for you. It's a thorough introduction to sticking patterns that I consider to be essential for filling, soloing, and modern playing in general on the drum set, in a variety of rhythms and meters. They're easy to learn, easy to use in actual playing, and easy to play fast. You don't actually need a heck of a lot else.

The book is in e-book format for Kindle, but it can be viewed and used on any device— Kindle, tablet, laptop, smart phone (this book is very friendly to small screens), or desktop computer.

34 pages. Price is $4.95.

Also see my other e-books.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

History of American Percussion Music

This is just a quick link share: you should read the online article The Beaten Path: A History Of American Percussion Music.

It's an excellent thumbnail history of percussion in American conservatory music in the 20th century— the area of “classical” music in which percussion first started being used in a serious way. You'll be familiar with it if, like me, you ever came within spitting distance of a percussion performance degree. It has actually influenced modern marching percussion in a big way, first via Fred Sanford, who studied with Tony Cirone, and Ralph Hardimon, who studied with Cirone and my old professor, Charles Dowd.

Give it a read, learn the names, chase down some of the music on YouTube.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Practice loop: The Sermonette

Here's a jazz practice loop in 4/4, a sort of gospel 2 feel, sampled from The Sermonette, by Cannonball Adderly. It has a nice deep pocket and is good for all your jazz practicing needs. The tempo is 124 BPM.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Page o' skiplets - 01

This is not a great method to self-teach, but for the few intrepid individuals this will help, or for the teachers out there whose students struggle to pick up jazz independence, this approach may help speed up the learning process. It will also help you clean up your jazz coordination all around, since a lot of players (i.e. me) learn this stuff in a brute force frenzy of practicing a lot of patterns, and usually you end up with your execution being not as sharp as it could be.

Before you start, read my previous posts defining this made-up word skiplet, and summarizing the method. It wouldn't be a terrible idea to revisit my old post What it is: swing rhythm just to clarify how the rhythmic system works— in jazz we think in terms of 8th notes while we're playing these triplet based rhythms.

Following the instructions carefully is rather important— if you do this wrong, you could screw up the rhythm and/or end up habitually hearing the rhythm with the beat turned around. You don't want that. Before attempting this method, students who are just beginning with jazz should make themselves very familiar with the jazz cymbal and hihat rhythm, so they definitely know where the 1 is, and they know the hihat falls on 2 and 4.

Note that there are no barlines and there is no time signature. Each exercise is a rhythmic fragment, which you'll need to count correctly to end up with a correct jazz rhythm.

Put in a pause
Treat the last note of each exercise as a fermata— an unmetered held note. Don't accidentally turn the pause into a metered rest, or fall into a repetitive groove with it. Play the skiplet exercise one time, stop, take a breath, think about birds, then play it again. You can gradually shorten the pause until you're playing the exercise repetitively in time.

Alternatively, after you can play the exercise one time, try playing it two times in rhythm, with no pause. Once you can play the exercise four times in rhythm, you should be able to play it repetitively at that tempo.

Start counting on 2
The skiplet pattern played in repetition should be counted 2 &3, 4 &1. Where there is a pick up note before the first cymbal note, count &2 &3, &4 &1, etc. It's up to you if you want to count any triplet partials in an exercise, using triplet syllables— 2-trip-let or 2-&-a.

Think of it as a sticking
Ignoring the hihat part, say the exercise as a sticking, in rhythm, using right, left, or both.

Exercise 2 would be both, right-right 
Exercise 9 would be right-left-both-right 
Exercise 11 would be left-both, right-right 

It's a good idea to refer back to jazz independence patterns written normally in 4/4, with a cymbal rhythm, as you do this— see Jim Chapin's Advanced Techniques For The Modern Drummer, or Joel Rothman's Basic Drumming or other jazz books.

Get the pdf

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Ben Riley comping

We lost a very great drummer this week, and one of a dwindling number of his generation: Ben Riley. He was best known for his playing with Thelonious Monk in the mid-60s, and with the group Sphere, which was comprised of former Monk sidemen; but he did a lot of other stuff, and stayed musically active for the rest of his life. He's a great example of bebop drumming in its classic form— maybe the best example I can think of. His playing is non-idiosyncratic, and he plays fairly busy, and very clean, with a great sound and an active intelligence.

Swing the 8th notes, except where indicated. The hihat is played on 2 and 4 throughout, and there is some bass drum feathering occasionally audible. He mostly plays the standard cymbal rhythm, with occasional variations. The triplet figures played in measures 24 and 32 are played with an alternating sticking. A comping rhythm he comes back to several times is &-of-2/4, or &-of-2/&-4— see measures 2, 4, 6 and 8.

Get the pdf

Monday, November 20, 2017

Chaffee linear phrases: adding 2s / triplets in 3/4

Another item we did some months ago: Gary Chaffee style linear phrases including a two-note pattern, this time in a triplet rhythm in 3/4. As you are no doubt familiar with by now, Chaffee wrote a system of linear drumming based on combinations of three-to-eight note patterns with an alternating sticking, ending with one or two bass drum notes. Sometimes when practicing his materials, the omission of a two-note pattern seems kind of glaring, so I wrote these pages.

I'm in danger of writing too much stuff on this subject, and I'm posting this mainly for the upcoming 2017 book of the blog. If anyone gets around to practicing it, and finds it useful, it'll be good to have more than one page that includes the two note pattern. But you can consider all of my pages based on this system to be nearly identical; there's a lot of overlap, and the more you practice any one of them, the less you need to practice the others. Or, the more you practice any one page, the smaller/more subtle the thing you gain from practicing the other pages becomes.

The most likely context for practicing this will be a jazz waltz, so you could alternate between playing the linear patterns and waltz time. You may want to add your favorite waltz hihat rhythm with your foot. At moderate tempos, you could play the complete linear pattern with your LH/BD while playing waltz time with the cymbal hihat, of course. Improvise moving your hands around the drums, and vary your dynamics— I don't think there's anything much to be gained by staying on the snare drum or maintaining a static volume.

Where there are several 2-note patterns in a row, feel free to vary the sticking; you could play the first pattern R-L-R-RL, or R-L-L-RL, or R-R-L-RL. You could also play the right hand note as a right or left handed flam.

Get the pdf

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Page o' coordination: triplet pattern with cymbal variations - 02

Part 2 of something we did way back in January (where the hell did the year go, actually?), changing cymbal rhythms against a steady left hand and bass drum pattern. Here we're just inverting the LH/BD from last time, starting with the bass instead of the snare. This is a fairly low-commitment page, opening up some flexibility with that very common basic pattern.

Add 2 and 4 on the hihat with your left foot, or play quarter notes with it. Also play the entire page substituting the hihat for the bass drum. If you burn through this very quickly, you may want to try playing the bass drum part with both feet in unison. Doing our stock left hand moves is optional— there's no need to bog down in this page running every possibility.

If you're already using some form of this idea in your practicing or playing, you could do all you need to do with this in three or four practice sessions. If you can play the page straight through without repeats at a moderate tempo— say, quarter note = 120— you're done.

Get the pdf

Friday, November 17, 2017

Anti-book review

What's it even called? Guitar Center
Lessons Drums Book 1? 
Anti-review, not anti-book. I like the book: Drums Book 1, put out by Guitar Center. It's a very good basic rock book a student brought in to a lesson, which I spent about two minutes skimming. It's an anti-review because how can you review something you just skimmed for a second?

Well, this impressed me. I'm instantly skeptical of all new drum books I see, because so few of them are any good— by which I mean I either can't use them in teaching, or I can't/won't/don't practice out of them. I had more reason than usual to be skeptical of this book, mainly because it was branded by Guitar Center, apparently for use in lessons in their stores. I guessed it was probably slapped together by some hack, but it had about ten people listed in its writing credits, including Rod Morgenstein and Joe Morello, and I forget who else. Probably Rick Mattingly— I suspect the book was edited by him. On flipping through it, and saw that it was all solid functional rock stuff, with snare drum reading examples similar to what I always use and teach from Syncopation, as well as rudiments, and information on setting up a drumset. It includes (online?) access to audio examples, which I never use. I like that it's not overwritten. I really like that I didn't see anything stupid— nothing Metal-related, nothing pointlessly difficult for a beginner or adult amateur. No weird formatting. Nothing Drumeo-like.

There aren't many good beginning-intermediate rock books. Joel Rothman's Mini-Monster book is one. The Drumset Musician by Rod Morgenstein and Rick Mattingly is another. A Funky Primer by Charles Dowd is almost one, and the Burns/Farris studio funk book is also almost one— those are for slightly more mature players. Everything else I've seen is tied for suckingest. Of those four good books, this one is the cleanest and most concise, and likely the most suited to the most students.

The only problem is, I don't see it available online anywhere, either on the Guitar Center site or on the publisher Hal Leonard's site. Probably you have to go into a GC, or call to order it. I'll definitely be picking up a few copies to start using with beginning-to-intermediate students. Well done, Guitar Center and Hal Leonard.