Sunday, November 27, 2022

Hey, you should get drum lessons with me

NOTE: I'm going to keep this pinned to the top of the blog for a little while. Scroll down for new stuff. 

You know what, I don't think I get as many students via this site as I should. Look me up, gang, I can help with what you're working on. Despite my occasionally prickly writing persona, I'm an easy, friendly, low pressure teacher, and am interested in students of all ages, levels, and ambitions. I like helping people with their drumming problems— especially big problems. 

I share so much stuff on this site you could think that's all you need— a lot of pages of stuff to practice. It's not. It's about how you do it. The notes on the page are just the beginning. In lessons you learn the processes for a) learning things quickly and b) in a form that is conducive to playing creatively, to a high musical standard.

Lessons are not information— when I was a student teachers could get away with just throwing some pages of stuff at you. Not-good teachers. Today things to practice are massively available, as are people broadcasting highly detailed advice on what to practice. 

What is not so available are instant answers about what you personally should be doing right now. What you need help with, what you are not getting, what's going to get you to your immediate goals the fastest. What parts of the online advice tsunami you can safely ignore right now, or forever. 

That's the point of all of it: what to do now, what's important now, and what isn't.

So don't be shy, look where it says EMAIL TODD in the sidebar, and shoot me a line, let's yak about it. Let me know what's hanging you up. 

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Marking up Reed for chart reading practice

Continuing the kicks/set-ups Reed tweak— in aid of that kind of practicing, let's mark up the full-page exercises in Syncopation some more. You may not want to look at these changes all the time, so print out those pages, or get a second copy.

Exercise 4  on p. 41 has the most of the kind of activity we're looking for, so I'll use that. 

In the last post I suggested penciling in housetop accents on any off-beat long notes after a long space— three 8th notes worth of space before them, or more:

You'll notice a couple of those are not actual long notes— they're 8th notes with a rest after them. In the second and sixth lines. For these purposes we can treat them the same. 

Syncopation has a shortage of long notes on the &s of beats 2 and 4. They happen a lot in real life, they're rare in Reed. So let's make some by adding ties/accents to 8th notes on the & of 2/4, after a long space: 

To make it easier to read, let's mark the spaces where the set ups go. I put a little line there, you could write FILL, or whatever:

Oops, I missed one in the third line.

You can do this with all eight of the regular syncopation exercises in Reed— some are better than others. Start with 1 and 4, exercise 2 is not great. There are also a couple of the syncopation exercises in Louis Bellson's Reading Text in 4/4 that are usable, as well— pp. 18, 21-22. And my book, Syncopation in 3/4

Also see my much simpler post from 2011, Kicks and set ups using Syncopation. And probably my Chart reading pyramid while we're at it. And my 2021 post with other suggestions for marking up Syncopation

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Reed tweaks: kicks and setups with RH lead triplets

An online student in Europe is working on his reading with me, in preparation for an audition, and we're talking about kicks and set ups. There's a minor tweak to a common Reed solo/fill method— right hand plays melody on drums/cymbals, left hand fills in triplets on snare— that will help with that. 

Part of that method is that any time RH notes are spaced greater than a quarter note, which would require multiple LH notes to fill the space, we break up those multiples by bringing the RH to the snare drum. I've written before about how we do that. Many of those spots are also places you would do a set up if you were reading an actual piece of music. 

Look at p. 38 in Syncopation, and pretend we're interpreting a big band chart, and find the syncopated hits that would require (or suggest) a set up from the drummer. We're looking for long notes on an &, with a long space before them. The second note, on the &, is the kick— you could pencil in housetop accents over each of those. Or print the page out and mark them.  

You can see most of them consist of a quarter note, an 8th rest, and then a quarter, dotted-quarter, or tied note. 

Here's how to play that, with 1) all the filler with the LH, 2) breaking up the filler with the RH, 3) playing that filler RH as an accent on the downbeat before the kick, 4) two note set up:

There are a couple of spots where there are two &s in a row— in the third and fifth lines. All through Syncopation they're just on the & of 1/3, in real life they'll often be on the & of 2/4. 

Again, how you would play that: 1) all filler with the LH, 2) filler broken up normally with the RH, 3) set up falling on the left hand, this time, 4) two note set up: 

Normally with this system the right hand is on the snare or toms, or cymbal + bass drum. To do this tweak, whatever you're hitting for the rest of the page, play the set ups on the drums, and the kicks on the cym + BD.  

Here's how you would play the second and third lines of p. 38, with the right hand playing the small tom for everything but the kicks: 

Or playing the two-note setups: 

There are other possibilities for what to do with the set ups, which we'll talk about later. The idea here is not just to play the thing, it's to read differently, to be able to identify the figures that need support from the drummer— syncopated hits after a long space. 

Next I'll have some suggestions for marking up Syncopation for this kind of practicing. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Stickings a la Funky Primer

This is part of why I write so much stuff— you never know what a particular student is going to need, and in what form. For whatever weird reason, somebody will do really well with one thing, so I want to take it further than the original material. 

Like one younger student responded really well to this obnoxious looking page of sticking patterns from A Funky Primer: 

Hence this, taking it a little further: 

In the lesson we did this with his lead hand on the cymbal, other hand on the snare drum, with bass drum added on some or all of the cymbal notes, and the 32nd notes played on the snare or toms. He plays left handed, and we did just the patterns starting with the left hand. 

I'll be playing through it in a right handed orientation all the way— RH on the cymbal on all patterns. You could also do it in a reversed "open-handed" orientation by playing the starting hand on the cymbal.

Get the pdf

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Syncopation exercise: downbeats and &s

A full page syncopation exercise with the notes spaced a quarter note a greater. Some practice systems only work well, or work well at faster tempos, when there are certain limitations in the reading material, which are not covered in Reed.  

This is similar to an exercise in Chuck Kerrigan's Syncopated Rhythms book— which is excellent, and out of print, and worth seeking out if you're practicing out of Ted Reed a lot. I'm contacting the publisher to see if they're willing to reprint it. We'll see how much pull I have in this business. 

Get the pdf [NOTE: I can't upload the pdf right now, you'll have to print this from the image above]

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Transcription: Al Harewood - Lil' Darlin'

Transcription of a slow tune, Lil' Darlin', as played by Al Harewood, with George Benson. This is a really great group of Benson's, with Mickey Tucker and George Duvivier, recorded on a Jazz Hour album called Witchcraft.  

Anyway, the tune was written by Neil Hefti, in the 50s, for Count Basie's band. On this recording there's a four bar intro, and then the tune is 32 bars long— a 16 bar AABA played twice. I've written out just the intro and head. We're just looking at how Harewood plays the tune. It's not that easy to play those syncopated kicks and maintain groove at this tempo, about 65 bpm. 

The 8th notes are swung, basically in a triplet feel, which is the basic groove of the tune— that very broad Basie groove. But he plays a wider dotted 8th/16th rhythm on the bass drum at times. In fact there's much more going on with rhythm than just a stereotyped Basie groove. If you listen through the whole recording you'll hear that the players are not always playing the same feel— rhythm might be playing a triplet feel while the soloist is double timing, or there may be different feels happening within the rhythm section. It's very open.   

The tied quarter notes in the first four lines are just brush texture, maybe with a light quarter note pulse. Untied quarter notes with the brushes are articulated, maybe with the left hand playing texture. The staccato open hihat accents in the third line are fast chokes with the foot, I simplified the notation there. 

Get the pdf

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Sticking patterns for drum set - basic

An item for one of my students— an adult student who is new to reading music: a page of sticking patterns, based on this 2018 post reorganizing the first pages of Stick Control. I could just circle the appropriate patterns in Stone, but I'm trying to be a nice guy and not make people flip around and go cross eyed looking at a page jammed with 500 sticking patterns when they're just starting to read.

These mostly start with the right hand, and are relatable to normal drum set stuff when played with one hand on a cymbal. See also my page of sticking patterns for jazz from a few days ago. 

Play with right hand on a cymbal, plus bass drum in unison / left hand on snare drum. Repeat many times.  Do it with music to stave off boredom. 

Get the pdf

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Practice loop: slow blues

Bringing this back to planet Earth, here's a nice 65 bpm blues to practice along with. Sampled from the tune After Hours on Roy Haynes's album We Three. 

Saturday, November 12, 2022

View from the outside of a swing feel

Another item from the outer limits of usefulness, for most people. Sorry. The main interesting thing about that misguided jazz quintuplets page is that it gets us pulling around a jazz rhythm a little bit, hopefully leading to some organic flexibility. It's like an actor trying different ways of saying a line. 

...which— there's a wrong way to do both things. My wife, a trained actress, likes pointing out bad line readings in movies— places where the actor clearly didn't know what he or she was saying, and sounds wrong for the context. And with the drums— there's a tradition. Good players expect you to sound connected to it somehow. There's a lot of freedom in jazz, but it's got to serve an expressive end.  

Having thus established pure intent, here are a few different patterns for exploring that. 

We'll do it by mutating this: 

None of what follows requires any kind of swing interpretation— play the notes exactly as written as best you can. So long as the quarter note pulse is steady, drum corps precision isn't necessary.  

Same notes, in some different 16th note rhythms: 

And in quintuplets— see the other page for a some supporting patterns to get the timing: 

“Tripteenths”— a way of playing 16th notes in Brazilian music, fitting four notes in the space of a triplet. The 1 and the a of the 16ths land on the first and last notes of the triplet. The timing is literally this: 

Here's a snare drum exercise for developing the timing of that— the accents should sound the same all the way through: 

Mid-beat subdivision change— at slow tempos, Elvin Jones will sometimes push the last note of a beat into a different subdivision than the beginning of the beat. The first two notes in a triplet timing, and the last note with a 16th note timing. Or the first two notes in a 16th timing, and the last note in a triplet timing. I've noticed him doing this in a single beat, at phrase endings, but he may do it more often— it's where part of the organic quality of his rhythm comes from.  

I'll illustrate the concept with this phrase:

We'll change the timing of the last note of each measure to match the rhythm of the measure after it: 

It's highly weird to write that in 4/4, it's not so bad in 2/2: 

It reflects something that I think is essential to swing— the last note of a beat treated not as the end of the beat, but as a pickup to the following beat. So rhythm is perceived not as: 

1& 2& 3& 4&
1&a 2&a 3&a 4&a
1e&a 2e&a 3e&a 4e&a

But as: 

&1 &2  &3  &4  &1
a1e& a2e& a3e& a4e& a1

So, a little view from the outside that will hopefully strengthen your fundamentals. Enjoy it, but not too much. In the field your job is still to swing. 

Get the pdf