Monday, March 20, 2017

7/8 practice rhythms plus stickings

This was partially covered in '15 with a similar post, but I wrote this up, so I'll post it. Small differences in format, or in which rhythms you choose to include, can make a difference in how you use practice materials. That's basically the entire premise of this site. These are some syncopation rhythms in 7/8, with their accompanying Stick Control-like pattern— the rhythm played with the right hand, and the 8th note grid filled out with the left. I've included only rhythms that give stickings or one or two notes in a row per hand.

We're in 3+2+2 phrasing here, so this is great for using with our old friend, the John Zorn Solitaire loop (I like practicing with that loop). The left hand column is in Ted Reed format, with a bass drum rhythm included— I always ignore that stems-down part. I just like using that traditional format. You can use that part as beat marks, to help you read the top-line rhythm.

Quick rundown of first practice options: play the left hand column rhythm on bass drum or snare drum, or a combination of the two (alternating, or 8th notes on SD/quarter notes on BD), along with any cymbal rhythm of your choice. Play the right hand column with left hand on snare drum, right hand on snare or toms, or any cymbal plus bass drum in unison. You can also play the rhythm and accents of the right hand column, with an alternating sticking.

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Things other people say that I think are stupid

T.H.I.S. S.U.C.K.S.
I'm sorry I said stupid. I just wanted you to read this. If you hang out on the internet a little bit, you start noticing patterns in people's views about drumming, and that a few of them are not actually the greatest thing in the world. In the following I will comment on some practices and advice that often come up around “the web” and give my own value-added advice on same.

“Practice your rudiments”
And that's it. End of suggestion. Just general rudiments. No indication of which ones or what you're supposed to do with them. It sounds like people are just getting out the list of rudiments, and playing through them in dictionary entry format, which I think is a big waste of time.

My advice: Get a book, and learn it. Haskell Harr (mainly book 2) is an excellent traditional choice, and my current favorite. Rudimental Primer by Mitchell Peters is a more modern option. Matt Savage's Rudimental Workshop is good if you're involved in drum corps. Rudimental Swing Solos by Wilcoxon if you're a serious jazz student, and fairly advanced. All of those books give you the rudiments and their variations, preparatory studies for learning them, and solos in which you learn to use them in context, in a variety of common meters.

“Practice the book Stick Control— just the first page.
Or sometimes just the first thirteen exercises. The idea is, I guess, that those patterns are so fundamental, you can do anything else in drumming just by doing them a lot. I honestly don't know why people give this advice. Maybe they've been lazy and never got past the first pages, so they created this notion that you should only do the first pages. Shield their behinds from criticism.

My advice: Look, practicing Stick Control is a nightmare. And not in a good way. The beginning of the book is the most boring part, and practicing only that part is needlessly painful and ineffective. They wrote all those other pages for a reason. Challenge yourself, move on.

“Four per hand”
I don't know why going RRRR-LLLL is suddenly a thing, but it is. RRRR-LLLL is the gateway to a fairyland of amazing drumming abilities.

My advice: It looks cool to be able to do blazing 4s, like Chapin, but so what? Are you a professional practice pad chops demonstrator? WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE ACCOMPLISHING?

Excuse me. It's fine. It's a thing. I personally don't think it's the most important thing to work on, but whatever. I think you'll get more value out of practicing it if you put the last note on a strong beat, like: RLLL-LRRR.

Push-pull/Moeller/free strokes/etc/etc/etc
I put all of these complex, rebound-reliant strokes under the Moeller umbrella. Most great drummers, actually do not use this technique, but it's become an article of faith that on the internet that this is the one true best way to play a drum. It's very hard to argue with it because the people who are good at it are truly impressive. I think the approach has serious limitations when it comes to real world playing.

My advice: Follow my technical advice in this old post, Playing Quieter, or contact me for a Skype lesson or three. I spent a good 15 years with this general type of technique, and I developed something cool with it, but I eventually figured out it really doesn't work for everything. It's good for relaxed power. It's good for automatic running notes at certain rates of speed. It's generally not good for playing normal combo volume, and actually not great for playing creatively— you tend to get locked into repetitive motions. Tempos tend to gravitate towards what feels right mechanically. And I found that there's a built in weakness in not training the up part of the stroke as well as the attack.

Not this.
Preoccupation with “techniques” in general
A certain element of humanity tends to be preoccupied with compartmentalizing and giving things names. If something has a name you can talk about how awesome it is, and about who's good at and who sucks, and you can distinguish yourself from those poor clueless outsiders who don't know about it. Metal drummers are really into this. “If I learn X, Y and Z techniques I'm a good drummer.”

My advice: This is a low form of consciousness, a magician mindset. What we want to do is play creatively thinking about rhythm, melody, groove, sound, and energy— explanation of that is beyond the scope of this piece.

Everything is just singles and doubles, so just practice singles and doubles. 
If you can do those, you can do anything! So do just those. This is the self-flagellating minimalist version of the Stick Control thing above. People think your natural creativity will be unleashed if you master a couple of “universal” ideas.

My advice: Minimalist practice methods don't work. You don't become Marcel Proust by just reciting the alphabet, or verb conjugations. Naming pronouns. You have to acquire content. That's actually your primary job as a student drummer— it isn't about just learning physical motions. In the practice room you do that by playing through a lot of stuff. In the larger scheme you also listen a lot and play a lot.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Very occasional quote of the day: cymbal selection for bop

Roy Haynes talks about what cymbal used to go with what soloist in the 1940s:

“I just liked the sound of a cymbal with the sax. It was cool with a trumpet, too. Back in the old days we used to play the hi-hat for trumpet players and also for the piano soloist. Now all of the guys want you up there.”

Highly worth reading that entire interview with Christian McBride.

Related: Mel Lewis talks cymbals in his 1985 Modern Drummer interview.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Sonny Clark comping

Something a little different: transcribed piano comping rhythms. Played by Sonny Clark on Funky Hotel Blues, a bonus track on the CD release of Sonny Rollins's The Sound of Sonny. I've written out the first three choruses of the sax solo, starting at 0:20 in the track. The form is a 12-bar blues, so that's 36 measures total. Use this as you would the syncopation exercises in Reed— I've even written them in the same format, with a “bass drum” part that you should basically ignore. I don't know why. Tradition.

Swing the 8th notes. I would use this primarily as a comping study— play a swing rhythm on the cymbal and hihat, play the written top line on the snare drum, or bass drum, or play the short notes (untied 8th notes) on the snare drum, everything else on the bass drum. Or mix them up between the snare and bass however you see fit.

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Daily best music in the world: Sonny plays Surrey

Sonny Rollins and Philly Joe Jones play Surrey With The Fringe On Top, duo, on Sonny's record Newk's Time. This has got to be the purest essay on bop drumming ever.

Friday, March 10, 2017

A funk sticking in context: RLL - 32nd notes

Third entry in this funk stickings in context series, using the RLL pattern again, this time in a 32nd note rhythm. I do this kind of thing a lot in 32nd notes. This is an intensity-builder, and the cymbal accents and 4:3 cross rhythm help that happen.

The groove portion of each exercise is sort of an outline of the fill portion, and the cymbal rhythm sometimes changes to help you get the timing of the beginning of the fill— usually because the fill starts on an e or an a. Not a bad idea to put a little crescendo on the fill part.

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Thursday, March 09, 2017

An Ndugu break

I think we're going to be seeing a lot of Ngugu Leon Chancler around here in the near future. A group I play with plays a lot of 70s funk tunes, so I'm listening to a lot of funk, and Chancler has stood out as one of the most interesting guys to listen to. On the stuff I'm listening to, he makes a perfect balance of playing the funk and the setting, and making a statement as a player. There's a lot to be learned from him about playing funk effectively. So here's a cool little eight bar drum break from 1000 Reds, from the David Axelrod album Seriously Deep. It happens at 1:40 in the track.

On a lot of these 70s records Ndugu sounds like he's playing a normal 5 or 6 piece set with a couple of extra concert toms— either 8"/10" or 10"/12". I don't know if this is the Yamaha set he used later on Billie Jean, but it's at least a similar set-up. I would spent some time learning and messing with each of the 32nd note/sixtuplet fills. Which drum they're on is not important.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Very occasional quote of the day: time in perspective

A good few lines about time from Robert Glasper, in an interview with Ethan Iverson:

People worry about the metronome, “I’m not gonna move, I’m not gonna move!” because that means you are good. If you move, that means your time is bad. But Miles and them moved all over the place, and it was fucking awesome.

No one ever listens to a tune and says afterwards, “Man, they were at exactly the same tempo the whole time, how hip was that?” Who cares?

It was not just tempo, back in the day they didn’t care about tuning, either! Sharp and flat as hell, but the feeling was right.

Nowadays people care. It probably has something to do with double-edged sword of schooling and the wrong kind of teachers.

Obviously, tuning is good, keeping time is good! If you are ignorant to it, that’s a different thing.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Bass drum rhythms for pad practice

This is a page of bass drum rhythms I use for pad practice— I have one of those Gibraltar bass drum practice pads I sometimes use. These are good for anything with a running 8th note rhythm (or 16th note rhythm, if you double time the ostinatos): accents, mixed stickings, flams, drags, short rolls.

The names I've given for each rhythm are just convenient shorthand, for their broad similarity to rhythms/parts associated with those styles. Part of what I don't like about practicing with bass drum ostinatos is the tendency to get locked into the ostinato rhythm— so memorize these, learn to change rhythms on the fly, and eventually improvise your own variations. Think of them all as variations on each other, and practice using them interchangeably. It's good practice to emphasize the & of 2 on most of the rhythms, or the 3 on the two “samba” rhythms.

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