Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Metal in 6/8

Following up on this post about that 80s Heavy Metal triplet groove— a student who is mainly a Metal drummer requested some help working out some vocabulary for a song in 6/8, and these are some things we went over in our lesson. The fill portion will be good for other things, too— like in a slow swing feel, a la Jack Dejohnette on the one John Scofield record, where he plays some fast stuff at a slow tempo.  

It's hard to improvise in this type of groove environment; the main groove is easy, but the usual tempo range puts everything else at awkward rates of speed for drummers— the main dotted-quarter note beat is typically an uncomfortable moderato, the 8th notes feel kind of slow for fills, the 16th notes may be very fast. Your hands will want to lapse into four-note subdivisions, and that will usually sound very wrong. So you mostly have have to stay on the 8th notes— the triplet-feel subdivision. We had this same problem on Lopsy Lu, and any number of things using that 70s triplet feel, across a number of genres. 

Here's another item that may be helpful in this general feel. 

The fast doubles can be done with one or two bass drums— that's up to you guys who do that stuff to figure out.  

Get the pdf

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Robyn Flans fundraiser

Scott Fish has shared a fundraiser for fellow former Modern Drummer writer Robyn Flans— her name was all over MD in the 80s, and she's a major contributor to the literature of drumming. Please read and donate.  

Monday, November 22, 2021

World's shortest jazz solo exercise

A quick little item— I know I've posted it before in other forms, maybe this time will be the best. For jazz students, this may be the most useful thing on the site for soloing and filling.  

This is a summary of a very well known right hand lead solo method used with the book Syncopation. You play the rhythms in the book with your right hand, accented, in a swing rhythm, and fill out the triplets quietly with the left hand. Following that rule, the first triplet exercise below is an interpretation of this rhythm— this is background, it doesn't even matter if you get this part:  

So practice this: 

Move your right hand around the toms however you like: 

Also play with your right hand on the cymbal, with bass drum in unison: 

Then improvise— play the RLL portion for as long as you like, transition with a RLR into the LLR pattern, which you can then play as long as you like, going straight back to the RLL sticking whenever you like: 

Add hihat on beats 2 and 4. 

The actual solo method using the book is a little more involved, but this will be extremely useful even without doing that. Practice trading improvised 2s, 4s, 8s, and Blues choruses this way, with all of the moves, and bango, you're a jazz soloist. 

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Very occasional quote of the day: figuring things out is an inexact science

“You might come up with a way to play something somebody else played, with completely different sticking. You might try to duplicate it, but it's  not  necessary to duplicate it technically. It could open your head up to a whole new thing, based on another person's idea.”

- Steve Gadd, Modern Drummer interview with Aran Wald

Friday, November 19, 2021

CYMBALISTIC: Second Line Chinese cymbal!

CYMBALISTIC: Oh, I also have for sale a sweet little 14" Second Line Chinese cymbal— paper thin, at 550 grams. It took awhile for Cymbal & Gong to settle on a design for their Chinese cymbals, but what they're doing with them is great, in my opinion. I have a 20" C&G paper thin and it's the best Chinese style cymbal I've ever played.  

If you've played a few Swishes, Pangs, China Types, you know they can be quite obnoxious— with some wildly offensive overtones, or they'll be too heavy, and make a long horribly loud GAAAA when you're just looking for a fast accent. Many/most of them are unusable in moderate-volume situations. 

This one, named “Bambang”, has everything you want: a fast, washy, high energy crash, and a perfect musical exotic sound, very crisp choke effects. I normally would not get excited about a 14" effects cymbal, but this is great. I keep talking about playability with all C&G cymbals— after years of playing so many things that demanded some kind of special touch to sound good, Chinese style cymbals especially. When you get a line of cymbals that just hangs right there with you, and plays and sounds exactly the way you want whether you're playing big or softly— you get excited about it. 

This one is very zippy— it's fun to play a lot of fast stuff on it, as you can see: 

This particular cymbal may already have a buyer, but there will be more of them. I played three others at C&G HQ, and they were all excellent. We'll be seeing more of this type. Let me know by email if you're interested.

Visit Cymbalistic to see everything else I have in stock. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Gaps in our counting system

In the comments on that extremely valuable izquierdadiddles post, a friend of the site from the Czech Republic remarked on stickings in his native language, and on the American system for counting 16th notes:

[We] Czech drummers get to deal with two syllables per hand, making everything sound as if it were meant to be eight-note based.

I never realised the English speaking players had a certain advantage in this regard, but what I am really envious of is your ability to count subdivisions in such an organized manner as one-e-&-a. While it's obvious for you, it's nothing short of genius for us.

He's right— the #-e-&-a system is extremely effective, for reading and singing a rhythm, while relating it to a metric grid. You can get very fluent at playing complex 16th note passages accurately while counting some very fragmented series of numbers, as, es, and &s. I've been doing it so long I don't even know what the alternative systems are.

But the world is imperfect, and our counting system is nevertheless incomplete, and so it's only a partial tool for learning rhythm— combined with playing, and with working personally with teachers, conductors, and other musicians. 

In my music career up until now I've only counted beats using numbers, plus 8th notes using added &s, plus 16th notes using added es and as, plus &-a for triplets and compound 8th notes. For teaching I sometimes need a little bit more. We're talking about counting rhythm only, here— leaving aside counting for keeping track of phrases or form. 

Here are a few of the gray areas, and blank areas, and how I deal with them:  

More than one &
“And” is a convenient sound to put between two numbers. Yes, the rhythmic & is most familiar as an off beat 8th note (counted 1-&-2-&); but it may also be the middle triplet partial (1-&-a-2-&-a), or middle 8th note in compound meters (e.g. 6/8 or 12/8, also counted 1-&-a-2-&-a). We'll find some other places for it later on. 

Ultimate confusion sets in when we talk about swing 8th notes, where the & falls (broadly) on the last triplet partial, but if we happen to play a triplet in that setting, the middle triplet partial is also called &:

When talking through jazz rhythms, I deal with that by distinguishing between the swing & and the triplet &. Most people get it.  

You could avoid that ambiguity by counting triplets 1-tri-plet-2-tri-plet— sometimes I do. But I'm put off by all those flammy consonant clusters. It's also just kind of childish to be saying the name of the rhythm while counting it, like: 



Forget it. 

I consider sixtuplets to be generally uncountable, and I never count them— except one time, very slowly, for students who have never played them:

1-tri-plet-&-tri-plet, or 1-&-a-&-&-a

When playing sixtuplets, I count 8th notes. When counting or singing a rhythmic passage, I'll sing something like digada-digada for any sixtuplets in the passage. Digada-dat for a single 16th triplet followed by a release. 

32nd notes
I also do not count 32nd notes, and do count 8th notes while playing them. They're usually played too fast to say a syllable for each note, or to differentiate the partials during a complex 32nd note passage. 

On complex passages (like you see in some etudes in Portraits in Rhythm), we just apply our acquired knowledge of 16th note rhythms, in double time, without counting. A few times in my teaching career, for a student, I've probably counted them out as 1-e-&-a-&-e-&-a.

Again, when counting through a passage, I may sing 32nd notes as diga-diga-diga-diga-datdiga-diga-datdiga-dat:

16th notes in compound meters
That's 6/8, 12/8, 9/8, etc. I've never seen a good system for this, or any system, which may be a hindrance to people becoming fluent in this area of rhythm. We also just don't see much of this type of thing day to day. Usually we just deal with it as best we can knowing what we already know about rhythm. When you know something about rhythm, and use it all the time, that's not difficult.  

To precisely block out rhythms for students new to these meters, I'll sometimes count them out in 6, or 12, or whatever the top number of the meter is: 


That's the only time I count that way. In compound meters generally the dotted-quarter beats are counted, or dotted quarter notes plus the major subdivision: 1-&-a-2-&-a, as in one of the examples above.

After thinking about it for a few minutes just now, I may phase in something like 1-e-&-a-&-a:

I just counted through a couple of snare drum pieces in 6/8 that way, and I like it a lot. It's a little weird to call the last 8th note in a beat a when there are only 8th notes involved, and calling it & when there are any 16th notes in that beat. And there's some ambiguity in having two &s and two as, but it's far superior to the alternatives. It took me about five minutes to become fluent with it. Open up your Podemski/Goldenberg/Peters and give it a try. 

Odd tuplets
This  is the first time I've ever thought about it, but you can try these out: 

16th note 5s: 1-e-&-a-da
16th note 7s: 1-e-&-a-&-a-da 
8th note 5s: 1-&-a-&-a
8th note 7s: I don't know, man. 1-&-a-&-a-&-a 

Hell, why not: 
32nd note 9s or 16th note 9s (triplets nested in a quarter note triplet): 1-&-a-&-a-da-&-a-da

Those all work great. They're nice and flowing, and are easy enough to say fast, that there's no reason not to use them. 

Monday, November 15, 2021

Funky 7s on the drums

Some street-beat style 7 stroke roll related things that came up spontaneously when I was practicing today. This had a little bit of a funky Maracatu-type street beat feel the way I was playing it— usually too slow for a quality 7 stroke roll when using a 16th note pulsation. That's not the concern here. Mash the buzzes into the drum and let it be funky.  

Play all roll strokes closed— multiple-bounce strokes. Find your own way to play these that sounds cool, that gives the vibe of somebody who doesn't live in fear of incorrect technique. 

Get the pdf

I was proud of myself for pulling 80 bpm exactly out of the air when I was estimating a tempo for this. I did that another time during a recording session, and impressed some people— “How fast is X bpm?”, snaps fingers, they check the click, and it's exactly on the money. I'm not saying I can do it all the time, but my time has gotten pretty damn decent, I think. See this time post from awhile back for how to work on that. 

And here's a little Maracatu— I wasn't playing it this funky, but it was in the ball park: 

Friday, November 12, 2021

CYMBALISTIC: New Turks are in!

UPDATE: Videos are up! 

CYMBALISTIC: I just got some great Cymbal & Gong custom Turks in stock— two 20" jazz rides, two 17" medium-thin crashes, one 22" Special Half-Turk jazz ride.

They're quite interesting: the Turks have a thin lathed band at the edge, similar to what Bosphorus does. It seems to give them some more high overtones— they sound like cymbals, they don't just go thud when you hit them, like some Turks we have all played. 

The 20s are light—1651 and 1673 grams. One is high, one is moody. Lively, expressive, playable Turks. Everybody loves playing light Turks because they sound like the record— whatever 60s jazz recording you want to sound like— from the playing position. By their nature they're best for recording and intimate situations, rather than high volume unmiked situations.

At 1167 and 1137 grams the crashes are approximately medium thin. Since they're Turks, they don't fully open up for an huge explosive crash— the crash is available, as you can hear, but it's not a huge sound. They're excellent for riding, should be great for a combo setting where a controllable, reasonable-volume left side cymbal is needed. I'm really favoring a 17" on the left these days. They do everything I want, and they're... agile. 

The 22" half-Turk is really interesting— at 2015 grams it's very light, top is lathed, bottom is unlathed. It's a rather airy, delicate traditional K sound, that decays rather quickly. Small bell. A 22" for lower volume situations— not unlike a Bosphorus Master, but not as delicate as that. It should record magnificently. There is also a 24" of this design available at C&G, if anyone is interested— shoot me a note. 

Visit to see what else I have for sale— I have a number of great 20" Holy Grails right now. Everybody should own one of those.  

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Page o' coordination: basic triplet texture in 5/4

Continuing this little series. You could warm up for this by just playing the original 4/4 page, repeating beat 1 at the end of each measure— effectively playing ||: 1-2-3-4-1 :||. Like we originally played it in 3/4 by just chopping off beat 4. That's kind of fun. 

But I wanted to place the bass drum differently— this page better suits what I want to do with 5/4: 

It's very straightforward. Just play them down, and begin improvising similar textures on your own. 5/4 is a peculiar time signature, and not easy to feel at all at first, so you should probably be counting your way through. See my old series Cracking 5/4 for some pointers on that, and try playing along with my corny Jesus Christ Superstar loop.    

Get the pdf