Tuesday, March 21, 2023

EZ Fast Rock Lesson

This page functions both as a page of easy stuff for beginners, and as basic vocabulary for fast-tempo rock drumming. There are a lot of patterns, deliberately. This'll be many students' first shot at processing a lot of stuff quickly. 

Like it says, learn the page, then combine patterns to make two measure phrases. Probably obvious groove patterns (like 1-2, 4-5, 10-11) are best to have as the first measure, and fill-like patterns are best for the second measure. Use the ride cymbal half the time, don't just hang out on the hihat all day. 26-27 want to be up on the top cymbals— the ride and crash— they're slightly awkward coming off the hihat. 

19-23 are all in aid of doing a one-beat 16th note fill, so observe the sticking on 19-20. 

Get the pdf

Monday, March 20, 2023

Limitations of loops

There's a good post about playing along with recordings, that everyone should read, over at Ted Warren's Trap'd blog.

Since he commented about playing with loops vs. whole tunes— and I do a lot with loops— I should clarify some things.  

2. Try to play with whole tunes rather than loops.

I've mentioned this before, and I don't want to step on anyone's toes around this, but I feel playing with loops never gives us the whole story. By loops I mean just taking a small section of an already existing tune and have it playing endlessly. When we do this we miss out on a lot of form. Not only the structure of the tune (AABA, 12 Bar Blues etc.) but the form of the whole performance. How do we differentiate between sections of the song like in head to solos, different solos, and last solo to out head? Does the tempo of the tune change from beginning to end? What about the relative volume of the drums at differing sections of the tune? These are important issues!

He's absolutely right. In jazz form is not dispensable, it is the whole thing. A jazz environment is not complete without considering form. All of my jazz loops will include at least one complete time through the form— except when there's a special purpose involved, like learning a figure, or learning to hear the connection from the last A section to the first A section on Stablemates

Once or twice through the form looping is still not the complete picture of performing a jazz tune, but I think we're talking about different practice goals here. Most of what I use the loops for is to take regular focused drumming practice— like, stuff from books— in a more musical direction. So we can hear these book ideas in a context, and try to match them to a musical vibe, and play them in a way that makes sense within a musical phrase, with some continuity. To an extent it's about concentrated exposure to a single figure or vamp, or a single solo. 

Ted's concerns above are bigger picture items re: playing a complete performance of a tune. For me it's hard to do the kind of practice above with complete tracks— the temptation is to just play.  

But it's true, no one should have any illusions that playing with a recording is a replacement for playing with people. They're really entirely different things. The track doesn't listen to you and fall apart when you play something so dumb you caused a train wreck. Or get mad at you and never call you again because you played selfishly. You don't learn anything about support playing with a track. So you have to be very cautious about the lessons you take from playalong practice to playing with people. 

Also see my previous post on this topic, that I wrote in hectoring screed form

Sunday, March 19, 2023

3/16 Control - 02

A very dense page today, but it's not for you, it's for me. I was practicing the original 3/16 Control pages along with my Watermelon Man loop, and thought some of the permutations would be better written down. 

You should just play the ink and not worry about it, but here's what's happening there: 

Instructions 1 and 2:
Play the 3/4 patterns, starting on each note of the pattern (unnecessary if you're playing them along with a loop in 4/4, as I was). 

Play each two beats of the pattern together in 2/4: beats 1-2, 2-3, 3-1. 

Instruction 3, written permutations in 4/4:

First line:  Play 3/4 pattern starting on each beat of the pattern, adding the starting beat at the end to make a measure of 4/4. I cut off the last 16th note of the measure because it sounded good. 

Second line: Starting on each beat of the 3/4 pattern, play the beats of the pattern in this order:

1st beat / 2nd beat / 1st beat / 3rd beat

That seems weird/artificial, but isn't. 

Bonus item: the patterns in 3/4 with a Tony Williams-like open hihat thing: 

I think I was doing the 4/4 exercises in a phrase of three measures of the pattern, plus one measure improvised fill. And of course improvising fills whenever I would make a mistake.  

I should probably say what I was doing this for— the individual three-note patterns here are all very ordinary modern drumming vocabulary. This page is a drill for doing it in a non-formulaic way. Some people practice out of Stick Control decade after decade, I do things like this. 

Get the pdf

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Very occasional quote of the day: the way they got built

“I’ve never really been interested in the books that do things like analyze Sonny Rollins or Coltrane solos because I’ve never seen one that breaks them down in the same way they got built.”

- Melvin Gibbs on Twitter

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Counting system overhaul - 02

I was working on this last year, and never posted part 2, because it was an unreadable mass. Still is. But for people who teach and deal with this subject every day, here we go:  

Lately I use a counting system I improvised when I thought about it for five minutes. It's based on speakability and familiarity: the only syllables are the beat numbers, e&a, and da, usually spoken in that order. Some may prefer to use ta instead of da, especially with sixtuplets and 32nd notes. I find it works very well. 

See part 1 from November for my complaints about other ways of counting. I've bolded some syllables to help make this mess more readable— don't take it to mean you should accent them with your voice. 

8th notes:
 1& 2&

8th note triplets/compound 8th notes:
1&a 2&a

16th notes: 
1e&a 2e&a

1e&a-da 2e&a-da
Alternative, phrased 3+2: 1ada-&a 2ada-&a

Sixtuplets / 16th note triplets: 
1ada-&ada 2ada-&ada
Problem: Slightly ungainly when speaking running sixtuplets— could use ta instead of da.  

Compound meter 16ths: 
1e&a-&a 2e&a-&a
Alternative: 1e&a-ada  2e&a-ada

Problem: Syllables are different for 8th notes and 16th notes. The 8th note becomes a second when 16th notes are involved. Also difficult to articulate the a-& syllables when isolated in a rhythm

Solution: Count compound 8th notes 1&& 2&&, or don't prosecute people making that mistake when counting a mixed passage. Or use the alternative 1e&a-ada, which has the 8th note syllables in their original places— but which will make some common rhythm combinations more difficult to pronounce. 

Saying the a-& syllables in isolation, I would say da-and.

Admittedly, this area requires the most tolerance for inconsistency and ambiguity. I still find this way of counting to be better than any other system I know of. 

1e&a-&ada 2e&a-&ada
Alternative, phrased 2+3+2: 1e-&ada-ada
Phrased: 3+2+2: 1ada-&a&a or 1ada-&e&a 

32nd notes: 
1da eda &a ada -2da eda &a ada  /  1ta eta &ta ata 2ta eta &a ata
This will be most useful when just a few 32nd notes are involved— you can just touch the extra syllables and communicate the rhythm. Of course it will be difficult above quite slow tempos, or with long runs of straight 32nds. Use the harder ta syllable at faster tempos.  

Counting complex passages of mixed 32nd notes and 16th note rhythms, it's probably best to count them in half time— using the more familiar 16th note syllables. 

PROBLEMS/COMPLAINTS: Parts of this bothered a couple of people on line. 

•  Reusing syllables with different subdivisions— as if the should be the platonic 4/4 forever, and saying any other time is confusing. Like when speaking you use a duh sound in the word dog and everyone's cool, but then you say diaphragm and everyone says Huh? What? Did he say dog? 

Obviously absurd. Anytime it's not clear from the context, you can distinguish the subdivision you intend by mentioning the subdivision— the triplet &, the compound a, the quintuplet e, the second &. Complex situations will be complex situations no matter what, no counting system will make them into non-complex situations. 

•  Teaching people a non-standard counting system, I am dooming them to be unable to communicate rhythm to others. To which I say:

a) It's not that non-standard.
b) I'm not a cultist, I don't pretend to my students that there are no other ways of doing things.
c) There is no standard counting system for most of these things.
d) Most people you talk to will not know the convention you're using, and you have to clarify anyway. 

• By what authority do I just make up my own way of doing things? There is no authority, the entire literature of drumming is nothing but guys figuring stuff out and publishing it. Players and teachers (and communities thereof) adopted what worked, or what they liked. 

CONCLUSION: This system has been very useful in my teaching, clarifying some areas of rhythm that were previously a little mysterious, that had to be “just gotten”, or counted in an unsatisfactory way— especially compound 16ths, and odd meters like 5/8 and 7/8. No doubt I'll continue refining it. 

Monday, March 13, 2023

CYMBALISTIC: New cymbals are in!

I just picked up a small order of cymbals from Cymbal & Gong, videos for which will be coming at the end of the week. There's some very interesting stuff— here are my first impressions of the two major items I got:

22" Extra Special Janavar
This is a custom project of mine— what if we did the very cool Janavar series cymbals with hammering and lathing similar to an old K.? Last summer I had them do some 20s that were very cool, now I have the light 22s— with heavy patina and three rivets. The 20s were a nice variation on the usual Holy Grail jazz ride— stronger bell, fuller sound generally.  

The 22s are lighter in proportion to their size, are generally low pitched, each with a unique funky edge. To me it's a very “vintage” sound— I don't know how else to put it. Lovely response to the stick— years ago I played several Turkish Ks with a similar quality, a soft feel under the stick, which these cymbals have, too. I would still call it basically a bright sound— not unlike a 40s/50s A— but the most mellow bright sound I've ever heard. Crash sound is beautiful; big but not obnoxious. Easy to play, very forgiving, to me this is basically a perfect jazz cymbal.    

I got two of them today, and there are two more at Cymbal & Gong. 

20" Holy Grail with hammered bell
There are a lot of options for 20" Cymbal & Gong jazz cymbals right now. As an experiment I suggested making some Holy Grails with hammered bells— I saw some old Ks with that. These aren't exactly the same thing, but the result is very cool. It seems to make the cymbals play a little lighter than their weight. They're about 1800 grams, same as the regular HG jazz rides, but the hammered bell cymbals open up faster. The bell sound is also mellower, and stick definition is perhaps a little softer. 

So the hammered-bell Holy Grails would be possibly the mellowest, most open 20s. The regular Holy Grails are perhaps a little stiffer, more tolerant of “digging in” (which is generally what I like most), and the Extra Special Janavar 20 is a little fuller and little louder, a little more cutting— and of course the thin 22s Extra Specials above have a different, mellower character. 

And we're talking degrees here. If I found one of any of these cymbals in a shop 20 years ago, I would have flipped and bought it and used it forever. There are so many great cymbals from this company, it's easy to lose sight of that. 

Video coming at the end of the week! See what else I currently have in stock at my site Cymbalistic.com. 

Also: there is a lot in stock at Cymbal & Gong right now— an excellent time for me to pick something out for you, if you need something not in stock on Cymbalistic. 

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Cymbal size vibe war!

Photo stolen from the cover of 
The Cymbal Book by Hugo Pinksterboer, 
which you should own.
At last, the definitive guide to the vibes we all get from the various sizes of cymbals. I don't know why most of them relate to cars for me. File this with my previous tom size vibe post

...mind you, what follows is rated 100% pure BS, so don't let it dissuade you from getting the cymbal you want or need. There are no “dumb” or “serious” cymbals, they're all instruments serving a musical purpose. But it's fun to let fly with these kinds of judgments.  

Let's do this from little to big: 

<6" - Finger cymbals, bells, crotales, Necco Wafers, other rejected Halloween candy.  

6" - Do you need something that goes ki? Looks ridiculous if not carefully placed, like putting a tiny hat on your drum set. 

8" - Normal splash, slightly suspect economy vibes, Honda Civic.  
10" - True normal splash.  Ford Bronco of splashes.

12" - Serious splash. BMW 5-series of splashes. Or, from another perspective, a big dumb splash. Hihats on a child's drum set, or for really trebly Dixieland, with a guy singing through a paper megaphone. 

13" - Sport hihats. Either Ferrari-like or Suzuki Samurai-like, depending on your perspective, abilities, and quality of the cymbals. Meinl = Suzuki. 

Tiny hat cymbal

- Normal hihats— Volvo 240, Gap jeans. Small crash or splash for serious people.   

15" - Alternate normal hihats. The viola of hihats, slightly bigger, dumber. Enticing/intriguing crash size. 

16" - Normal crash, most people's first crash cymbal. Now looks slightly inadequate in its former spot on the left side of the set. Fiat Panda, Volkswagen Rabbit/Golf. Big hihats for when you want people to know you're serious about “pocket.”  

17" - Sporty, agreeable-looking, the optimal size for a crash cymbal. Stupid looking hihat size, trying too hard. Like somebody really late to the party with the 80s wide leg jeans phase. 

18" - Platonic normal universal all-purpose cymbal size, though currently out of favor as such. People want their crashes either smaller or huger, and want their rides— left side or otherwise— bigger. Smallest size for a ride cymbal without getting weird. 

19" - Compact ride, big crash. Subaru Forester of rides, Oldsmobile 98 of crashes.  

20" - Normal ride, junior ride. The Ford Taurus of ride sizes. People are unsettled by its universality, interpreting it as a mundane rather than classic vibe. A little out of hand as a crash cymbal— you'd better be playing a lot of Billy Squier covers in that case, with a Pinstripe on your snare drum.     

21" - Compact master cymbal, Ferrari-like vibe, when a 22" would just bog you down, hold you back.  

22" - Master cymbal. Big, substantial, serious cymbal for grown ups. Full size Mercedes. I refuse to acknowledge that people buy crash cymbals in this size. 

My '70 Buick Elektra,.en route to Las
Vegas from Los Angeles, 1989

- There are a few of them around. Contrarian. You're not like those regular 22 and 24 inch cymbal using clods. 

24" - Big dumb cymbal— 1970 Buick Elektra, or DUKW aquatic military truck. I drove an Elektra when I went to USC. Driving it to LA with my brother, five minutes outside of Eugene, we passed a flaming hulk on the side of the road, then the Elektra's crumbling vinyl top peeled back and was flapping behind the car like a sad cape. We had to tear it off and keep driving. That's the 24" cymbal experience. 

>24" - The block long Hummer limo of cymbal dimensions. For the kind of person who's always looking for a hoppier beer. Looks like elephantiasis.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Reed Linear Quarters - beat 4 displaced

With a student I've been working on a Blue Note type groove a la Cantaloupe Island, and the linear quarter notes lesson (pp. 8-9) in Ted Reed's Progressive Steps to Syncopation* seemed a good place to start. Just teaching somebody a finished beat off a record and saying OK, now you know “the song”— it don't work that way, there's a creative language involved.

* - I think Google will like me better if I write out the whole title like none of us have heard of it.

So we'll start building that with the linear quarter notes from Reed. A good place to go from there is to do the same thing, but moves some notes around. Like, let's play the note on beat 4 late— put it on the & of 4: 


The easy drum set application for this is to add 8th notes or quarter notes on a cymbal, maybe add hihat with the left foot on beats 2 and 4, or on all four beats. Play rim clicks on the snare drum and we've got some variations for a loose-form boogaloo beat, maybe a cha cha. 

Get the pdf

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

Groove o' the day: Grady Tate Afro

Grady Tate playing a heavy Afro-Cuban style groove, or Afro 6, as I've been calling it, on Grant Green's The Final Comedown movie soundtrack. The track is Soul Food African Shop, and the transcription is of the percussion break starting at 0:48. 

Bar 7 is probably the cleanest shot of his baseline groove here. He's hitting the bell of the cymbal, except in bar 6 where he moves his hand between a couple of cymbals. He hits the the drums strongly all the way, with a feeling of building into the next beat 1, a standard thing with this style.

Feet are in unison on the dotted quarters throughout— there is some dynamic variance in them, mainly occasional ghosted notes in the bass drum, which I wouldn't call accidental. I think he's very aware of the dynamic movement from beat to beat, and is sometimes getting the bass drum to help with that, mainly coming down with it in the middle of the measure, or on beat 3 as he builds into the next downbeat.  

Get the pdf