Sunday, February 14, 2016

Groove o' the day: Elvin Jones - Rose Marie

Something from the record I've been running in my car all week: The Peacocks, by Stan Getz and Jimmy Rowles. The tune is Rose Marie, a song from the 20s which was a country hit in the 50s. Getz's studio band, with  Elvin Jones on drums, plays it as a samba. The drum performance is interesting because Elvin plays a running dotted quarter note rhythm— which loops at three measures long— rather than a standard Brazilian rhythm:

Actually, just the first two measures form a very conventional and familiar Bossa Nova rhythm, but he extends it to make the unbroken dotted quarter note pulse. He plays that with his left hand on the snare drum and toms, so the complete groove looks like this:

It's a familiar feature of Elvin's playing that he will emphasize the dotted quarter note, essentially playing in 3 while the rest of the band is in 4, but it's still rather striking that he does it so aggressively here. Just so we're clear, the tune has normal eight-measure phrases— if you're going to practice this groove, you have to emphasize the eight-measure phrases of the tune, not the three-measure phrase of the drum pattern.

You can move your left hand to the toms where the music builds. There's nothing significant going on with the left foot— you can play it conventionally on 2 and 4 if you want. At a few points Elvin breaks up the bass drum part like this, accenting the bass drum strongly, further emphasizing the cross rhythm. Listen for this in the middle of the saxophone solo:

He maintains this groove pretty consistently, but he does break it up to fit the tune, like with these phrase-ending fills early in the track— these are each measures 7 and 8 of their phrase:

And this:

At the beginning of a new phrase, after playing a fill, he usually does start the pattern at the beginning, with the rim click on 2. But not always— he begins the piano solo with a rim click on the & of 2, continuing the dotted-quarter rhythm from there. If you're going to use this in your playing, don't over-think it— use your ears and play instinctively. We want to know what Elvin is doing, but in real playing just learn the patterns, and then put all your focus on playing the tune at hand.

Monday, February 08, 2016

NOW AVAILABLE: 2015 Book of the Blog

2015 Book of the Blog
UPDATE: I'm going to keep this pinned to the top of the blog a little while longer, so scroll down for new posts. 

The 2015 Book of the Blog is now available! It's 102 pages of intermediate-to-professional level practice materials from the blog in 2015, printed up in a single handsome volume. If you're a follower of the blog, yer gonna want it...

Highlights and the complete table contents are listed after the break:

Transcription: Connie Kay - Billie's Bounce

Here's a basic bebop study, looking at how Connie Kay plays the head of Billie's Bounce— we've got the drums transcribed, along with the melody rhythm so you can see how they intersect. Kay was the drummer for the Modern Jazz Quartet, and was sort of a quiet work horse— I've not come across a lot of records with him giving big performances like drummers like to hear. But my listening habits are kind of narrow and not encyclopedic. The album is Stan Getz & J.J. Johnson At The Opera House, from 1957.

The 8th notes here will swing, of course. The cymbal rhythm is played on an open hihat, with a few punctuations on a small cymbal— maybe this is Kay's famous 17" Medium-Heavy. It doesn't really matter— play the cymbal part wherever you want it.  Nothing is apparently happening with the left foot. It's likely he's feathering quarter notes on the bass drum, when he's not catching the melody rhythm exactly. He generally stays so close to the melody that there may not be a whole lot of that.

He makes many of the accents with unisons between the cymbal, snare drum, and bass drum, which is a little unusual— that gives a very heavy sound, and he underplays the snare drum a bit on those; the accents are predominantly bass drum. I think rather than making those unisons, you could catch those accents with either bass drum and cymbal, or snare drum and cymbal.

Get the pdf

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Would somebody please buy these drums?

...before I have a moment of weakness and do something stupid? This set of 70s Sonor Phonics in all the right sizes has been on eBay for a couple of months now, for a pretty darned reasonable price. It's got 10, 12, 13, and 14" toms, and a 20" bass drum. The finish is not the most desirable in the world, but it's not terrible either— it seems to be pretty common, so you stand a reasonable chance of finding an orphaned 18" BD or 16" FT— the only other drums you could possibly want to add to this. The seller says the BD and FT are Centennials, and the other drums are regular Phonics, but they're all the same thing. Exact same drums.

I fell in love with Phonics several years ago when I borrowed a bop set for a jazz tour, rock recording session, and one rock gig in Belgium. It had been a long time since I had gotten really excited about a particular brand of drums. After a couple of years I found my own set, and they've been great. Very punchy with a low tuning, almost pianistic with a high tuning. The 18" bass drum is a monster, and the 20 must absolutely rock. Very early 90s Joey Baron.

If you're a player, and DGAF about a finish that's slightly dated, I'd be contacting this guy and trying to finagle free shipping on these suckers.


By the way, folks, I encourage you to follow us on Twitter— I think I'm finding my groove there at last, with a mix of new and past stuff from the blog, music, art, comedy, and music business related links. I do get into some politics-related stuff, which you may or may not be into. It's a fairly vapid medium, to be honest, but it's easy/good for sharing little things that don't merit a full-blown blog post. Get with us @shipdrummer.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Groove o' the day: Elvin Jones - Zoltan

Wow, we've done a lot on Elvin Jones. And why not— everyone loves his playing, and wants to play like him at some point. I should put all of this into a single volume print book, or something. Anyway, here's a Latin groove of his, from a very famous track: Zoltan, from Larry Young's Blue Note album Unity. That's an essential album for any drummer.

He plays it with a lot of variation, so I wrote out several versions. These all happen within the first A section:

Play the snare drum notes as rim clicks— I should have written those with the traditional xs, but I hadn't had my coffee yet, and don't feel like correcting it right now. The floor tom notes aren't played real strongly— especially not the second one. Accent the & of 4 of the first measure, and to a lesser degree the & of 2.

Here's the track. The tune has an intro played as a march, Latin A sections, and a swing bridge:

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Write your own book

Like this, but words— throw them down.
Here Jeff Goins, a writer, gives 10 Ridiculously Simple Tips For Writing A Book. Here are the ones I like most— and these apply to many other things in life. Do hit the link and read the whole piece.

Start small. 300 words per day is plenty. John Grisham began his writing career as a lawyer. He got up early every morning and wrote one page. You can do the same. 
Have an outline. Write up a table of contents to guide you. Then break up each chapter into a few sections. Think of your book in terms of beginning, middle, and end. Anything more complicated will get you lost. If you need help, read Do the Work by Steven Pressfield. 
Have a set time to work on your book every day. If you want to take a day or two off per week, schedule that as time off. Don’t just let the deadline pass. And don’t let yourself off the hook. 
Ship. No matter what, finish the book. Send it to the publisher, release it on Amazon, do whatever you need to do to get it in front of people. Just don’t put it in your drawer. 
Embrace failure. Know that this will be hard and you will mess up. Be okay with it. Give yourself grace. That’s what will sustain you, not your high standards of perfection. 
Write another. Most authors are embarrassed of their first book. But without that first, they never would have learned the lessons they did. So put your work out there, fail early, and try again. This is the only way you get good. You practice.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Very occasional quote of the day: the drummer's job

“Your job is to make everyone in that band feel like playing. It’s a very idealistic way of looking at it, but you have got to. Because that’s your outlet.”
— Ed Soph, interview with Scott K. Fish

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Make your own practice loops

I have a saying: Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day; teach a man to fish, and you shift the burden away from yourself and wash your hands of all responsibility when he starves to death. Thus completing your shameful descent into moral bankruptcy.

I forget what my point was, but here's how you make practice loops! This will be oriented towards Windows users— I assume you Mac people already know how to do everything in the world, and will never get sick or die. If I am mistaken in that assumption, you'll have to look in your menus for the equivalent Apple keyboard shortcuts for the ones I give here. But here we go:

1. Get some music in computer format: mp3, wav. If you're like most people you must have a few terabytes of pirated music lying around. Use that.

2. Get Audacity. A very handy free audio editing program. You will probably also want a version of LAME, an open-source mp3 encoding program which will let Audacity export your finished tracks as mp3s. Otherwise all of your loops will just be giant uncompressed wav files.

3. Open your digital track in Audacity. I don't need to tell you how to do that. OK, looking at your mp3 file in Windows Explorer, right click on the file name, go to open with, select Audacity.

When the program opens, you'll see this: the Audacity interface, with your audio track visually represented on a timeline:

I know we're kind of light on things you didn't already know so far— the useful part is all after the break. Read on...