Sunday, July 15, 2018

Groove o' the day: Contortions - Designed to Kill

Here's kind of a hip funk-type groove from the late 70s, by James Chance and the Contortions. It's New York scene shit— arty discordant high energy punk/funk jams with a charismatic front man, and not really designed for listening pleasure. That could describe any number of bands and records from that town from the late 70s-90s*. This is the drum groove from Designed to Kill, from the album Buy, produced by Brian Eno; the drummer is Don Christensen.

He does this little variation often:

You could play the whole first groove with an alternating sticking, with your right hand moving between the hihats and snare drum. Play beat 4 of the 32nd note version R L R RL. Any time you're messing with hihat splashes like this, first focus on getting the close— get a solid unison with your left foot and right hand on the & of 3 and & of 4.

* - To me this music sounds similar to a number of things I heard after college, but never really got into; my wife, the songwriter etc Casey Scott, who lived and was musically active in NYC for all of the 90s, and saw him perform many times, informs me that Chance is great.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Three camps - alternative versions

Here are some different forms of the snare drum piece Three Camps— actually we've seen them all before, except for the last one:

See this page which breaks down the piece to see how these individual measures are supposed to fit together. The paradiddle version and the triplet roll alternate version are a type of sticking I use a lot— basically they're rolls starting with a single note at the same rate as the body of the roll. On the first triplet roll version there's a little space between the tap and the body of the roll; my hip way the tap is integrated with the roll.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Happy 4th

Oh, and happy 4th of July.

Get the transcription of Billy Higgins's playing on this.

Page o' coordination: Afro 6 - “African”

Quite of flurry of POCs lately— a plague of POCs. I like this format. It's good for working on more complex independence; things too hard to do with a melodic line interpretation, which is my usual preferred way of practicing anything.

This page has the hihat played in the middle of the triplet*, and the bass drum where you might normally play a tom tom in a stock version of the groove, which gives this a generically African feel. This hihat placement may be a major challenge, so try this page as a warmup if necessary. The page based on David Cornejo's Afro-Peruvian groove also relates. Anyone is actually working on more than a few of these pages is going to be some kind of triplet/6-8/Afro-Cuban/waltz/Elvin groove badass.

Learn all the patterns, and then drill them with any of my standard left hand moves you want. You can also do moves based on the sticking patterns in Stick Control. Try working it with this Eddie Palmieri practice loop.

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* - We're in 6/8, so the triplet-sounding three note division of the beat is not actually a triplet (three notes played in the space of two notes of the same value), and readers with a musical education will object to me saying triplet. I'll write a whole post on this another time. For now suffice it to say that compound meters have a triplet feel, and triplet is an easier word than compound meter 8th notes for more readers to understand. I'm using convenient terminology that will be understood by my audience even if it's incorrect in the context of a theory discussion. Get off my back.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Practice loop: Watermelon Man

This is a practice loop I use a lot, sampled from the intro of Herbie Hancock's Watermelon Man, from the album Headhunters. At 74 bpm it's a little faster than one of my other favorites, If I'm In Luck... by Betty Davis. There are some interesting cross rhythms happening, so you have to pay attention to how you place your notes. This is great for working on any of my cut time funk stuff.

Monday, July 02, 2018

More Frank Butler - intro and break

Another little solo break by Frank Butler, along with something very interesting. The tune is Bobblin'— a bright, somewhat Mingus-like waltz— from the Curtis Amy & Frank Butler album Groovin' Blue, recorded in 1960-61. The tune has an AAB form, with a 10 bar B section, and Butler solos on the last B before he head out, starting at 4:32. Like the last thing, it's a good example of simple, non-technical soloing, using similar language to the simple solo method we've been working with lately.

What's really interesting to me is what he plays on the intro and coda. The sticking here is RRL all the way through— with slight variations when he plays it at the end of the tune. He plays the 8th notes almost straight:

It's a simple thing that is actually very modern— it jumped out at me as being almost Tony Williams-like.

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Saturday, June 30, 2018

Page o' coordination: Mozambique - hands only - 01

A page of technical independence patterns for a Mozambique bell part— a hip, very useful bell rhythm. For more practical left hand parts for this bell rhythm, see my updated Page of Mozambique. Also see my other posts about Mozambique for listening and background on this style.

Play the left hand on the snare drum as a rim click, then you can move between the snare and the high tom, or do all my usual tom moves. You can practice this along with this Cal Tjader practice loop— the bell/cascara rhythms are slightly different, but they're both in the 2-3 clave orientation

The hihat part is optional; you could do this page with your hands alone. There are other hihat rhythms you might want to use in an actual Salsa/Cuban-style music setting; this one works best when playing with jazz musicians. If you want to add bass drum, start by putting it on the & of 2 of the second measure, or of both measures.

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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Maximizing syncopation rhythms

This is something I was doing with a Skype student recently. We're working on jazz solo vocabulary, currently getting fluent with common jazz rhythms using basic drum set orchestrations— developing a basic Billy Higgins/Frankie Dunlop-like solo vocabulary (the non-technical end of their soloing, anyway) using my simple solo method from a couple of weeks ago. This is an exercise to get the most real vocabulary from the one-line exercises in Syncopation (pp. 34-37), by isolating parts of the rhythms.

These examples will use this line from Syncopation— p. 34, line 3:

Which we would generically play like this, on the snare drum, with the hihat played on 2 and 4:

First just play one measure of the pattern, stopping on the following 1, while continuing the hihat through the rest:

Or you could leave off the 1:

The first three notes of the pattern are easy enough to isolate:

And the whole ending of the measure, with or without the 1:

The middle of the measure:

Don't always front load the two-measure phrase— put the space at the beginning sometimes:

You should be using the basic orchestrations the whole time you do this, mixing them up freely. Do this with perhaps a dozen lines of exercises from the book— that should be enough to teach you this way of thinking, so you can begin improvising naturally. All of the rhythms resulting from this system occur other places in Syncopation, so it's not necessary to work this through too rigorously just to learn rhythms.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Aka Pygmy clave

This is just a brief investigation of an interesting rhythm, a sort of clave rhythm clapped by the lead performer in the video below— a candid video of three Aka Pygmy people performing a polyphonic tribal song.

I know very little hard theory on African music, but I know that applying a Western music theory concept of meter to it is a very slippery prospect, and is basically guaranteed to be a distortion of what's actually going on. The rhythm and meter as I've transcribed them are functionally accurate, but the placement of “the barline”, and even the primary beat is questionable. If the performers conceive of a downbeat (that's the 1) as we understand it, it's often buried— not unlike with clave-based music, where the strongest note is the & of 2 of one measure, and the 1 at the beginning of the rhythm is relatively de-emphasized. This music seems to be inherently syncopated, and it's possible that the primary beat is not even being stated— the beat as you and I feel it may be the middle note or last note of a triplet to the performers. I suspect that the performers may be perceiving the beat as a compound pulse, or pulse matrix, rather than the simple pulse used in Western music. At any rate, we trust at our peril our own first instinct about what we're hearing.

I think it's best to avoid looking for the one definitive answer of “what it is”— that may not be knowable by anyone not living this culture— and take more of a matrix approach; figuring out the obvious-to-us version, then running that through inversions, with different barline placements (while remembering that barline is an extremely foreign concept here). It's a technical process, but it's all we can do as people not raised in that culture. Just trying to “feel it” without any of the cultural learning that went into it will not work on any level.

The rhythm has groupings of seven notes and four notes. The seven note group is the primary group, and the four note group the response. If we put the seven note group at the beginning, we get this:

I initially felt the seven note group as crossing “the 1”, like this:

The remaining examples will be written both of those ways— with the seven note group placed at the front, and with it crossing the bar line.

This inversion is attractive to me— favoring the middle note of the triplet is an African “thing”:

Here is the version crossing the barline:

This inversion may be closest to what is happening in the video. The secondary performers are tapping their feet approximately this way— a little after the beat as written in our first version.

Crossing the barline:

At the beginning the leader sets up the groove this way (or with some inversion of it), which appears to support the first, easy, nursery school version of the rhythm, until we remember that African musicians will often not start on the 1.

I recommend clapping all of these patterns while playing the bottom line part with both feet in unison. I'll post a few possibilities for exploring this rhythm in a few days.

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