Monday, October 24, 2016

Daily best music in the world: Paul Motian Trio / Lisbon '86

We're very lucky. When I was first getting into this group around 1989, the only way to see them was to fly to New York, or catch them at a festival in Europe or maybe Japan. I was too poor to be spending money on travel, so I just had to listen to the records— barely plural, because you actually had to buy the things, and there weren't too many used Paul Motian records floating around.

So appreciate this very cool, free, available video of a great band:

I believe those are some famous cymbals he's playing, there— on the right a 22" Paiste “transitional” Dark Ride (so-called because it was manufactured between the 602 and Sound Creation versions of that cymbal, and was not assigned to any line), and on the left a 20" A. Zildjian sizzle cymbal, which he had been playing since Bill Evans days. I believe that cymbal is on those famous Evans recordings. It looks like he's also got an 18" 2002 China Type. The drums he's playing are 70s Sonor Phonics, in what looks like a 13/14/16/22— or maybe even 14/15/16/22— configuration. He's got Remo Pinstripes on the tops. They've detuned themselves from all the rim shots, and by his solo in Pannonica, they sound terrible.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Paul Motian documentary

Alerting you to a filmmaker raising funds to complete a documentary on the great Paul Motian. It looks pretty awesome, OF COURSE, and includes interviews with Bill Frisell, Joe Lovano, Gary Peacock, Masabumi Kikuchi, and more. Go to his site, check out his preview video, and donate if you're able.

Also follow them on Twitter @MotianInMotion.

Bossa/Samba bass drum workout

It says “workout”, like it's some kind of technical challenge, but it's really a page of exercises for opening up some musical possibilities with your bass drum when playing sambas and bossa novas. A lot of drummers (I like to diagnose people's playing issues en masse) get ostinato-itis with these styles.

Play the page straight through, without stopping, 1-4x each exercise, along with the samba/bossa nova recording of your choice (I've given some suggestions at the bottom of the post):

Play the cymbal part with the right hand on the closed hihat, any cymbal, or on the snare drum with a brush. At tempos faster than about HN=100 you'll probably have to play with both hands— alternating, or in a RLLR/LRRL sticking. Or whatever mixed sticking you like. The cymbal rhythm can be played at an even volume with no accents, or accented on 1/3 and &-of-2/&-of-4 when playing alternating/mixed stickings. You can also do this very standard, Baiao-type rhythm on the hihat:

While you're at this, you might take a look at a similar page I did back in 2011. Don't neglect listening to recordings to get the feel and interpretation overall.

Get the pdf

Playalong suggestions after the break:

Monday, October 17, 2016

Three Camps in 5s

Another variation on the very famous old rudimental piece Three Camps, this time based on five-note groupings. We're in 10/8, counted in 2— 5+5/8:

All forms of this piece are excellent for working on endurance and speed. Play as written, with an alternating sticking, leading with the right and left hands— I've outlined the stickings for RH lead only. Also play with doubles or multiple bounce strokes on all of the unaccented notes.

Get the pdf

Friday, October 14, 2016

Transcription: Gerry Brown / School Days

Here's a funk/fusion classic: School Days, by Stanley Clarke, with Gerry Brown on the drums. Along with Weather Report's Teen Town, and Donna Lee, this was one of the most-learned fusion things by electric bassists more many years. Brown was a high profile session drummer in the 70s and 80s, and he's still busy doing big gigs. Here he's sounding rather Cobham-like, especially in the tom sound. Steve Gadd definitely won the great 70s tom sound war [note: that's not a thing] with his punchy, low, small-drum sound. The sound here is a little higher, more tonal... and to me more aggressive, actually. If you want to try it out, tune your drums medium to medium-low, with the bottom heads looser. Fiddle with it.

I've written out just the opening vamp, up to the 1:55 mark. It's one long crescendo of intensity:

Part of this will be a little difficult to read, where Brown plays cymbal bell with his right hand while playing the hihat and snare drum with his left. It's not difficult, it just looks bad on the page. We also have some extra sounds present: China/swish cymbal (whatever happened to riding on the swish cymbal?), and three extra tom toms, which I've put on the lines surrounding our normal tom tom spaces (which correspond with the A and E on a treble clef staff).

Get the pdf

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Daily best music in the world: OH S___

In writing about playing the drums, you tend to focus on what is definable. You write the things you can say for sure, and you don't write about things you can't. That can give people the mistaken impression that the only things that matter are the quantifiable things. With that, here's Tony Williams playing Big Nick:

That's from the Tony Williams Lifetime album Turn It Over, blowing everyone else on the planet away in under three minutes.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Basic funk ideas in 6/8: four iterations - 01

I'm not happy with this title for this series, but I'm going to hang with it as long as we're posting on the blog. It's rapidly evolving into a Stick Control-like system for funk drumming (only way more fun), and the possible subject for a book (“FUNK CONTROL”???). I'm feeling very good about this system, and believe it's worth dedicating significant effort to working through it thoroughly. I think this is a more direct route to playing modern, creative funk than I've seen in any book.
So let's expand on it a little bit, with 16th notes in 6/8:

To review the practice routine:

Practice one line at a time. Learn all four lettered patterns individually, then play them in all combinations, one to four times each:


You might play these along with a slow 12/8 recording at first, like Led Zeppelin's You Shook Me. Maybe you can fit them over a fast, modern jazz waltz or 6/4— you could make your own loop of Footprints. In writing them I've been playing along with an Afro 6/8 loop like this. They look an awful lot like sixtuplets in a */4 meter, but I wouldn't start there— playing them with a sixtuplet groove in 4/4. Hell, you could do them along with Natural Woman, really concentrating on finding a pocket— it's slow, but it's not easy.

Get the pdf

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Orchestrating and embellishing backbeats

What do we do with this?
Someone bored with playing backbeats all night asked this question on the Drummerworld forum: “What do you do to spice up the 2 & 4?” 

My answer is: I don't think anyone should ever be bored just because they're playing backbeats— not if they're doing them with the right attention and attitude. It's one of the high arts of drumming, which the best players take very seriously.

With that caveat, I wrote up a list of things you can do with your backbeats with the purpose of adding something to the music. It's all basic drumming vocabulary you've probably already learned in the course of normal practicing and playing, but it's good to reference these common moves in relation to the backbeat. Sit down and try them out— playing a basic rock beat, go through the list once or twice and see if you can do all the suggestions in a way that sounds good to you.

Some things can be done on any beat 2 or 4; others, which I've specified, are more conventional to do specifically on one or the other. Of course you can play them however sounds best to you. Many of them can be combined. The list is not exhaustive— it's just everything I could think of in the 15 minutes it took to write them down.

Change the sound:
Rim shot
Rim click
Play a tom tom
Play a flam
Play a double stop on the snare and a tom
Play the snare and a cymbal accent together (on a different cymbal)
Play the snare and bass drum together
Play the bass drum only
Open the hihat, closing on the following down beat, the following &, or the following e
Leave the snare out (usually 2), continue cymbal rhythm
Leave the snare out, accent on the hihat, open or closed
Play a buzz
Play a roll ending on the following beat

Ruff (short buzz, unmetered triplet, two sixteenth notes, or sixteenth note triplet) or ending note of a short roll (5, 7, or 9 stroke, starting on the before, e before, or beat before)
Add bass drum or tom tom before: &a&-a
Add bass drum or tom tom after: &ee-&e-&-a
Add bass drum and/or tom tom in any combination of the above
Put it in the middle of a longer fill
Play ghost notes on the following e, the e-&, or the e-&-a, decrescendoing, for an echo effect
Play the echo effect with both hands in unison on the snare and a tom, or the snare and a cymbal

Add notes: 
Play the 4-&, 2-&
Play the &-4
Play the 4-a, 2-a
Play the e-4
Play other rhythms or combinations of the above

Displace— do not play on 2 or 4 with these: 
Play the “backbeat” on the & of 4 or 2
Play the backbeat on the & of 3
Play the & of 3 and the & of 4, making a brief double time effect
Play the a of 1
Play the a of 1/3 + & of 2/4; Soca-like
Play the e of 4, or e and a; rare
Play the e of 3 and e of 4; rare, Maracatu-like, play BD in unison

Saturday, October 01, 2016

EZ Tony Williams-like method: another setting

Here's something that was leading me into a very modern, hiccupy, vaguely Chris Dave-like jazz concept. I was practicing along with the Coltrane recording of  Big Nick, a medium-slow swing tune, and found myself doing this variation on my EZ Tony Williams-like method— double-timing it, so the rhythms are predominantly 16th notes and straight 8th notes. It's easy conceptually and technically, very modern in effect.

Read the original method, then proceed. We're using Progressive Steps To Syncopation, pp. 32-44— the “Syncopation” section. Here's the first line of the well-known p.37 exercise from that book, as played in the original method— in a fast 4, with straight 8th notes. Short notes (untied 8th notes) on the snare drum, and long notes (quarter notes, tied 8th notes) on the bass drum, with cymbal in unison with everything:

With today's thing, in a medium 4, but with the Syncopation part double-timed, it would be played like this— the dashed barlines show where the barlines were in the original part:

With 16th notes in jazz you want to think legato, but be sure your coordination is clean— it's easy for things to get mushy around those hihat notes on 2 and 4. So, legato, but not sloppily executed.

It's a good idea to also play the interpretation with a straight quarter note cymbal rhythm:

...and with a regular jazz beat on the cymbal— with a dotted-8th/16th rhythm on the skip note:

See the original method for ideas of what to do when you get into multiple 16th notes in a row on the snare drum— I prefer to play them alternating on the snare drum— without the cymbal, of course. Bring the cymbal back in on the first bass drum note after the run of 16ths on the snare. Or wherever you like.