Monday, November 19, 2018

VOQOTD: Jon Christensen on technique

From Jon Christensen's Modern Drummer feature in the early 80s:

MD: What makes a drummer interesting to you? What do you look for?

JC: Having watched a lot of drummers over the years, you can tell that some of them play very correctly and that they are schooled drummers. But in some instances, that seems to have resulted in a stiff and not very interesting feel, at least in my opinion. I have always been more influenced by drummers with a more naive, spontaneous way of playing. You might even call it an amateurish way of hitting the drums, as opposed to all the drummers who play correctly.

If you look at Jack DeJohnette, who definitely knows his rudiments inside out, he has been able to incorporate all that knowledge—you might even say camouflage it so that his playing still sounds fresh. With some other players, it is too obvious that they are playing things they already know—things they have been practicing.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Open ratamacues - 01

Anyone know what the story is with ratamacues? I don't get it. Why a ruff on a 16th note triplet? As a fundamental sticking pattern they're ungainly, and as musical vocabulary they're ill-defined, tensionless blobs of junk. 

Nevertheless, in Wilcoxon's Rudimental Swing Solos there are some variations written in “open” form, in an 8th note triplet rhythm, which are a little more interesting than the standard textbook format. Here I've played with the idea a bit, with single, double, and triple ratamacues:

Try to cover the entire page in one unit of practice— 15-20 minutes. Learn it at quarter note = 120, then 160, then 200, then however much faster you want to take it.

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Friday, November 16, 2018

Hell of notes

I want to talk about my own playing a little bit. Here's an item from a little free-jazz show with Portland musicians Ryan Meagher and Noah Simpson a couple of nights ago:

What is going on here? How do you get from practicing notes on a page to that?

The short answer is: you just have to get the sound in your ear and go for it. It's in the same family of playing as Endangered Species on Ornette Coleman/Pat Metheny's Song X, something I've listened to a lot in my life.

It's not a display of chops— I'm going for an energy level and a texture and a certain feeling of time, and a certain interaction with the other players. When I'm playing the broken rock beat along with the guitar vamp, I'm not trying to be interesting or clever with the time. In my mind I'm not even looking to particularly feature the drums— I'm more setting up an energetic foundation the others can play over, and with.

People call this rubato, but it's really not rubato. That suggests a kind of variable, expressive tempo, which is not what's happening here— there is a pretty consistent feeling of velocity all the way through. A tempo area, I call it, and syncopations and variations in rhythm have the same effect they do in music where there's an actual stated tempo. When I play slowing-down accents on the cymbal, the feeling is not of the tempo slowing, but of tension vs. the continuing tempo area, which everyone is still feeling even though I'm not stating it at that moment.

I'm playing loud, but not harshly so. I'm not as loud as any given power-drumming funk guy. My cymbals are about at their limit. This was the loudest we played in our ~45 minute improvised set.

Everything I'm playing is easy. Maybe I'll do a post attempting to isolate some of the actual patterns I'm using. I'm really not aware when I'm doing it. Some of them are found in my e-book 13 Essential Stickings.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Mel Lewis on rub-a-dub

Loren Schoenberg, who conducted the famous Mel Lewis history of jazz drumming interviews, has begun posting excerpts from the interviews on his YouTube page. Which is lucky, because I think the source from which I originally downloaded it has dried up.

In this video Mel talks about the rub-a-dub concept, with an excellent example of it being done as a high-energy comping idea by Tiny Kahn. Most of it happens during the solos after the vocal scatting. If you have checked out Chris Smith's video outlining this idea, it should be easy to hear how Kahn is using it:

Once again I highly recommend getting Jack Dejohnette and Charlie Perry's book The Art of Modern Jazz Drumming— the meter-within-meter chapter is basically indistinguishable from rub-a-dub.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Accents in 5/4 - mixed rhythm - 01

Exhibit A for why we keep writing. I was practicing yesterday, and I thought hmmm I want to work on this one thing, and out the thousands of pages of drumming materials in my studio, none of them had this— accent exercises with a changing rhythm. It's not exactly a far-out idea.

The page is in 5/4, but that's not the point— six 8th notes and six triplets is just an easy starting place for this idea, and it happens to make 5/4.

Use an alternating sticking, starting with either hand. Easy variations would be to play the unaccented notes as double strokes, or play the accents as flams. Keeping stick heights consistently low will help your dynamics in combo playing— 4-6" for accents, 1-2" for unaccented notes.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Drum technique magical nihilist death cult

Submitted without comment, excerpts from an internet forum conversation on drumming speed training “protocols.” 

“When are you considered to have truly 'mastered' a given tempo? For example, I could continually play 16th notes at 250bpm for 1 minute. I had a teacher who said 'well, can you play 250bpm for 2 hours without making a single mistake'?

'Can you do it for 8 hours'?

'Can you do it for 24 hours'?

'No? Well, then you can't play at 250bpm'.

His argument was that technique at ANY bpm should literally take zero effort and zero tension, so if you're truly able to play at, say 300bpm, there should be nothing stopping you from playing a single stroke roll at that speed for literally DAYS on end without making any mistakes or dragging at all since it should be as easy as breathing.

So, technically, if you have truly mastered playing at 250bpm (and not just muscling it), you should be able to play a single stroke roll at 250bpm until you start actually dying of thirst/starvation

Good technique should be effortless. So, can anyone actually play 250bpm with good technique? Because if they could, they'd be able to sustain a 250bpm floor tom roll for 24 hours straight - and I've not seen anyone do that.

If you feel the burn at ANY point, doesn't that mean your technique is inefficient? A guy who can play at 260bpm should be able to hold an unbroken 260bpm single stroke roll for literally DAYS without ever feeling a burn. If he feels a burn at any point, doesn't that mean that he's muscling it instead of having efficient technique? Since efficient technique should be literally effortless?

I've often heard that good technique should use as little energy as breathing. Breathing does take a degree of energy, but you can easily do it for as long as you live without taking a break. So, technically, if you have truly mastered playing at 250bpm (and not just muscling it), you should be able to play a single stroke roll at 250bpm until you start actually dying of thirst/starvation - so for several days at least.”

End of quote. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Harmonic coordination whatsis - 02

There's an easy to play my patented new harmonic coordination whatsis™ technique— I thought about it for five minutes longer and thought of a better way to practice it. This is a way of doing the harmonic independence materials found in 4-Way Coordination by Dahlgren & Fine, with a less soul-destroying presentation. The method here is to do a very basic Reed interpretation, with varying stickings— similar to what is done in the first pages of Stone's Accents & Rebounds.

The basic orchestration: 

Using this rhythm from Syncopation as an example:

Play the melody rhythm on the cymbals, with the bass drum in unison:

Fill in the gaps in the rhythm on the snare drum:

Play the hihat (with your foot) in unison with the snare drum:

You could instead play a simple rhythm with the hihat, or leave it out altogether; putting it in unison with the snare drum just duplicates the kind of coordination used in 4-Way Coordination.

The actual practice drill: 

Do the above orchestration using sticking patterns from the beginning of Stick Control— or from my page of Stone-type patterns. For example:

This is entire area is secondary-level conditioning, after you've developed a basic drumming vocabulary. But keep this in mind if you're working on Dahlgren & Fine— there may be better ways of developing the same thing. How useful this method will be depends on your level of fluency with 4WC. It may be better at first to read the exercises the way they are diagrammed in the original book; at some point it will become useful to switch to my approach.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Another trip to Cymbal & Gong

A few videos from a quick visit with Tim Ennis at Cymbal & Gong headquarters yesterday, labeling and stamping cymbals, and picking out some Holy Grail and Mersey Beat cymbals for my friends in Germany.

Labeling and cold-stamping the Krut— Cymbal & Gong's version of a Turk-style cymbal. This is going to Sebastian in Dresden:

Quick look at four Holy Grail ride cymbals— a 19", 22", 20" and another 22". The 19 is reserved for Michael in Berlin, but the others will be available for purchase on Cymbalistic soon. The other cymbals in these videos will be available for a short time, so if you like one and want to purchase it, email me soon with the exact time the cymbal appears in the video, and I can get it for you.

Two more videos after the break:

Rub-a-dub lesson: Au Privave

Something a little more challenging to try rub-a-dub style. Since it's not just a lick, but a way of playing figures and setups, musical context is important— we're trying to make some written kicks, so just doing our usual Syncopation thing won't be the best way to work it out.

Here we'll apply the concept to the Charlie Parker tune Au Privave— not a big band kicks-and-setups situation, but still educational. I've written out the exercise, plus the melody rhythm of the tune under the staff.

If you don't know the tune, play it through a few times just playing the melody rhythm on the drums— either snare drum alone, and/or with both hands in unison on the snare plus a tom tom or cymbal, and/or with the left hand along with the jazz cymbal rhythm. Listen to the recording and copy the horn's accents. Good advice for learning any bop tune, actually...

Then play the exercise as written, on the snare drum and one cymbal, then begin moving both hands around the drums/cymbals as outlined in Chris Smith's video that kicked off this whole series. Try it with the practice loop once you've got it up to speed.

As I said with the Equinox exercise, this will be helpful in learning to play Au Privave, but it's not necessarily how you want to play the tune.

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