Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Basic funk ideas: four iterations - 03

Another page of this modern funk method— we're going to need a better name for this thing, as we're getting well beyond basic. This is turning into quite an epic. Normally, working on fairly demanding materials, I like to practice a full page at a time— working through a full page of stuff pretty thoroughly in 15-30 minutes of practicing. With this we're now looking at about 15-30 minutes per numbered row of exercises— doing all the combinations, using all three pages. So you could take nine days to get through the whole thing; it is a solid method and I think it is worth that level of commitment— I encourage you to actually do that.

The method, again: After getting basically familiar with the patterns by playing them several times individually, begin combining patterns as follows, playing each lettered pattern 4x, 2x, and 1x:

AB, AC AD... BC, BD... CD...

Do that across all the pages, so you'll be combining all patterns from the same numbered row on all three pages. Not a small assignment. It wouldn't be a bad idea to play through each page by the vertical column, just playing the patterns 4x each. No need to do combinations when working that way.

Our relation to the original patterns is getting slightly less obvious, so here's what's going on: Column A is a groove with a baiao-style hihat rhythm; column B has the cymbal in unison with the bass drum on beat 1, in unison with the snare drum on beat 2; column C has open hihat on single bass drum notes, and on the second bass drum note of any doubles; column D is alternating sixtuplets, playing cymbal accents in unison with the bass drum— this will be harder to do at faster tempos, so I would cut that from the routine rather than let it prevent me from doing the system fast.

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Friday, September 23, 2016

Negotiating for prostitutes

Not to hire one, to be one— good not to have too many illusions about our economic place in society, as musicians. From the Quartz web site, an excellent piece on business negotiation as practiced in one of Nevada's legal brothels, from which musicians can learn a lot. If you've ever led a commercial band, or tried to book a tour, you'll recognize many of these situations immediately, and hopefully see what you're doing wrong, and what you can improve on in the future. There are also some good angles to think about in structuring your teaching business. Do go read the entire piece.

1. Establish a connection. The negotiation begins the moment the counter-party lays eyes on the escort. She smiles, says her first and last name, displaying a confidence and warmth that puts the customer at ease and projects value. Almost no one likes to negotiate. The woman’s friendly self-confidence not only makes the counter-party more comfortable, it puts the escort in control.

After the lineup, the woman takes the customer by the hand, the first point of physical contact. They walk side by side—never one in front of the other, as they tour the ranch. As they walk, they talk about why he’s there, his background, and his hobbies and interests. One escort got a large booking ($6,500, up from her usual $1,000) because during the tour they connected over a similar childhood in the Southwest. Forging a connection creates power in the negotiation. If a customer is attached to an individual, he is more likely to meet her price.

2. Don’t talk about money or time initially, just the service you’ll provide. The women are instructed to describe an ideal scenario while touching the arm, leg, or hair of the client. They don’t bring up money or how long it will take until the client is hooked and wants the full service. Instead of leading with how much they’re worth, they describe their value in a way that’s appealing to the counter-party.

Hof described it this way:

'The guy’s, like, “Well, I need four hours and I need to do this and I need to do that.” What I would tell her to say is “We’re not going to have to worry about time. We’re going to have plenty of time together, all the time that you want, because I’m not rushing you out of here because I want you to come back.” Now, you just eliminated the whole discussion about time. Then the guest says, “Well, how much time do I get?” “You get what you need. I’m not rushing you out of here.”'

3. The most controversial question is whether to say the number first or let the client. The younger women always make the client say what he’s prepared to spend first. It’s hard to tell how much money a client has. Some of the less flashy looking clients ended up spending hundreds of thousands of dollars. If they say the number first, they risk low-balling themselves.

But Hof and the older women like to say the number first. They say it sets the tone and takes control of the negotiation. They don’t worry about saying a number that’s too low, because if the client readily agrees they then go in for the more expensive service and still get more.

I asked negotiation expert Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business school, about who is right. He studies the power dynamics of negotiations in other industries. He agrees with Hof that it is better to say your number first. That’s especially true when pricing is not transparent (as it is in the brothel). It gives the seller more power if she throws out the number first. It also frames the discussion and puts the prices in a higher range. “It is better to make an ambitious offer and give yourself room to concede—unless the other side has more information [on pricing].”

Continued after the break:

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Transcription: Joe Dukes - Hallelujah Time

I was rooting through some early George Benson the other day, and turned up this smoking number, which I had never heard before: Hallelujah Time, played by Brother Jack McDuff, with his long time drummer Joe Dukes killing it. He's actually doing a lot of things I like playing on fast tempos these days, so I wrote it out— just his playing on Red Holloway's tenor solo. The audio is not great, so there are likely some things going on that didn't make it to the page. No matter, the only things that really concern me here are the time and the big accents.

Some notable features of his playing here: Likes starting a chorus with accents on 1 and 4. Big, simple punctuations, often on 1, 4, 1 and 2, or 1 and 3. One-measure fills at the end of phrases. Mostly straight quarter notes in the cymbal pattern, sometimes plays several measures with the skip note added only on 2. Rim click on 4 frequently, or light 2 and 4 on the snare drum— ghosted, really. Relentless, driving hihat on 2 and 4 all the way through. Little conventional bebop independent-style comping on the snare drum, and not until later in the solo. Overall, very half note and quarter note oriented.

The transcription begins at 0:55 on the track. The tempo is around half note = 163— cooking, but not insanely fast.

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After the break there are a couple of more versions of this tune.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Daily best music in the world: Breezin'

Here's something very great: Harvey Mason playing Breezin', written by Bobby Womack, on George Benson's album of the same title in 1976. As far as I'm concerned there's really no higher artistry in drumming than this— I don't care who you're talking about. And it doesn't matter that this is just a light little commercial tune.

Some observations: The groove is very deep, and of a totally different quality than you hear in current music— it's interlaced these with rhythmic microtensions that are the result of live musicians pulling a groove out of the air. The time is not precisely metronomic: the body of the tune starts at around 83 beats per minute, relaxes somewhat over the first couple of minutes, and by the end has settled to around 80 beats per minute. Later in the tune Mason repeatedly accents on the crash cymbal on the e of 1, playing off the primary riff you hear played by the flute— which is very audacious. Not the type of thing you would normally dare to play over and over on a commercial record. I'm basically in awe of the fills. Not just anyone can be that deep in the pocket when filling. Mason is digging in, but he's not playing loud. It's not a hard sound.

Gabor Szabo recorded the same basic arrangement of this tune in 1971 with Jim Keltner on drums. It may be a hipper overall rendition of the tune, but there's something different going on with the groove. There's more forward momentum: the tempo starts at the same tempo as the Benson version, 83 bpm, but speeds up to around 87 bpm by the middle of the track. The bass and maybe the guitar seem to be driving that, with the drums laying back; the snare drum especially is way on the back of the beat. It's not really a comfortable groove for me to listen to. Keltner plays very simply, with no fills at all. On Benson's version the drums are featured in the mix with the guitar; here they're balanced with the tambourine.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Very occasional quote of the day: Bozzio studies

I always loved this photo from the
original interview. First copy of MD
I ever read. Also had Jim Keltner
and Ed Blackwell.
In his 1981 Modern Drummer interview with Robin Tolleson, Terry Bozzio discusses his study methods when he was in school, and the books he worked out of:

[I] studied Haskell Harr's books. And then I got into Stick Control, which I thought was a little bit better practical application of that, rather than having all the fancy notation. And I studied that, and I studied out of Ted Reed's book Syncopation, and Louie Bellson's books, and this other book Portraits In Rhythm by Anthony Cirone. That's a real good book for dynamics, and classical snare drumming. [...] I studied [...] that Morris Goldenberg snare drum book.  
So I would go up there with head phones and a cassette recorder, and practice and work out Tony Williams Lifetime licks from this tape thing, and write them all down. My whole way of learning at that point was sort of to take all the drummers that I loved, like Tony and Eric (Gravatt) mainly, and whenever they would do a lick that I thought was really cool, I would write that lick out, and practice it, and learn the technique involved, and then make up my own licks using those techniques. And that's probably the main way I learned to do what I do, at least musically. That's a good thing to do, because that way you don't get stuck with just doing their licks, but it does open up a lot of doors. Because when a lot of people start, they hear things and they don't know what
the hell is going on. You just have to listen to that section over and over to get it.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Creative tips from Brian Eno

From 99u.com, a creativity site, retweeted by the actual Brian Eno, an article about a few of Eno's creative strategies:

1. Freeform capture.
Grab from a range of sources without editorializing. According to Tamm, one of Eno’s tactics “involves keeping a microcassette tape recorder on hand at all times and recording any stray ideas that hit him out of the blue – a melody, a rhythm, a verbal phrase.” He’ll then go through and look for links or connections, something that can form the foundation for a new piece of music.

2. Blank state.
Start with new tools, from nothing, and toy around. For example, Eno approaches this by entering the recording studio with no preconceived ideas, only a set of instruments or a few musicians and “just dabble with sounds until something starts to happen that suggests a texture.” When the sound texture evokes a memory or emotion that impression then takes over in guiding the process.

3. Deliberate limitations.
Before a project begins, develop specific limitations. Eno’s example: “this piece is going to be three minutes and nineteen seconds long and it’s going to have changes here, here and here, and there’s going to be a convolution of events here, and there’s going to be a very fast rhythm here with a very slow moving part over the top of it.”

4. Opposing forces.
Sometimes it’s best to generate a forced collision of ideas. Eno would “gather together a group of musicians who wouldn’t normally work together.” Dissimilar background and approaches can often evoke fresh thinking.

5. Creative prompts.
In the ‘70s Eno developed his Oblique Strategies cards, a series of prompts modeled after the I Ching to disrupt the process and encourage a new way of encountering a creative problem. On the cards are statements and questions like: “Would anybody want it?” “Try faking it!” “Only a part, not the whole.” “Work at a different speed.” “Disconnect from desire.” “Turn it upside down.” “Use an old idea.” These prompts are a method of generating specifics, which most creatives respond favorably to.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Daily best music in the world: Puddles Waterworld tribute

Last week I got to see Puddles Pity Party, a one man show with video accompaniment, by a depressed clown who happens to be an amazing singer. After a lengthy setup where he attempts to conjure Kevin Costner on the video screen, he gave us this number, and it's been stuck in my head all week. Put this on full screen so you get the full majesty of the video presentation.

Go see him if you get the chance, he's awesome.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Form and spirit in art

Piero della Francesca
And now for something completely different— I can't just dump 50 pages of practice materials all at once. So here is a piece of art writing that has been very important to me. It's a portion of a longer piece by Aldous Huxley, Meditations on El Greco; the excerpt released in Huxley's collected essays was entitled Form And Spirit In Art:

A painter or a sculptor can be simultaneously representational and nonrepresentational. In their architectural backgrounds and, above all, in their draperies, many works even of the Renaissance and the Baroque incorporate passages of almost unadulterated abstraction. These are often expressive in the highest degree. Indeed, the whole tone of a representational work may be established, and its inner meaning expressed, by those parts of it which are most nearly abstract. Thus, the pictures of Piero della Francesca leave upon us an impression of calm, of power, of intellectual objectivity and stoical
Cosimo Tura
detachment. From those of Cosimo Tura there emanates a sense of disquiet, even of anguish. When we analyze the purely pictorial reasons for our perception of a profound difference in the temperaments of the two artists, we find that a very important part is played by the least representational elements in their pictures—the draperies. In Piero’s draperies there are large unbroken surfaces, and the folds are designed to emphasize the elementary solid-geometrical structure of the figures. In Tura’s draperies the surfaces are broken up, and there is a profusion of sharp angles, of jagged and flame-like forms. Something analogous may be found in the work of two great painters of a later period, Poussin and Watteau. Watteau’s draperies are broken into innumerable tiny folds and wrinkles, so that the color of a mantle or a doublet is never the same for half an inch together. The impression left upon the spectator is one of extreme sensibility and the most delicate refinement. Poussin’s much broader treatment of these almost non-representational accessories seems to express a more masculine temperament and a philosophy of like akin to Piero’s noble stoicism.

In some works the non-representational passages are actually more important than the representational. Thus, in many of Bernini’s statues, only the hands, feet and face are fully representational; all the rest is drapery—that is to say, a writhing and undulant abstraction. It is the same with El Greco’s paintings. In some of them a third, a half, even as much as two thirds of the entire surface is occupied by low-level organic abstractions, to which, because of their representational context, we give the name of draperies, or clouds, or rocks. These abstractions are powerfully expressive, and it is through them that, to a considerable extent, El Greco tells the private story that underlies the official subject matter of his paintings.

Continued after the break:

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Practice loop: The Meters / Doodle-Oop

Oh, and you might want a slightly slower loop to hang with the sixtuplets on the new page of funk stuff, so here's some more Meters. The tempo is about 90 BPM, and the NOLA-style swing feel si happening, but it'll work well with those pages. The drummer, our beloved and revered Zigaboo Modeliste, is playing a combination of street beat and funk groove, so this will also be great for working on those recent street beat methods I posted.