Saturday, May 25, 2019

Lots of action

Details at
Several big things coming up, mostly cymbal-related, one performance related: doing a couple of events with the Ballard Jazz Festival, then doing another Germany tour, delivering and showing Cymbal & Gong's wonderful cymbals, ending with a trip to Istanbul to meet the company's cymbal smiths, and visit some other cymbal foundries. 

A lot cymbals will be going to Germany, so if you want to order a cymbal, now is the time to do it— stock will probably be limited for awhile after the tour. Go to to see what we have, and let me know what you like.   

If you're in Germany and want a particular cymbal, let me know, and I will bring it. Prices are lower if you pay in advance. I will be limited to what I can carry, so choices may be limited by the time we get to Munich. Another reason to order in advance! 

Wednesday, May 29 - SEATTLE
Celebration of the Drum - Ballard Jazz Festival
Company owner Tim Ennis and I will have a display of Cymbal & Gong cymbals for people to see and play. There will be a drawing for a free 24" Holy Grail ride, which you will stand a pretty good chance of winning, depending on how many drummers are present and visit the booth. Performing will be D'Vonne Lewis, Steve Korn, and Jeff Busch, emceed by Michael Shrieve. 

Starting 8:00 pm at Conor Byrne Pub - 5140 Ballard Avenue NW 

Saturday, June 1 - SEATTLE
Brittany Anjou at Egan's - Ballard Jazz Festival
I'm performing with pianist Brittany Anjou, formerly of Seattle, now of New York, and doing stuff all over the world. Part of the Ballard Jazz Walk, and there will be a lot of other great music happening around the neighborhood that evening.
10:00pm-12:30 at Egan's 1707 NW Market St, Seattle, WA 98107 - (206) 789-1621

Thursday, June 6 - DRESDEN
drummer meeting 
At the meetings I will be meeting drummers, delivering cymbals, letting people see, play, and buy Cymbal & Gong cymbals. 

Starting 2:30 at Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber - Wettiner Pl. 13, 01067 Dresden

Friday, June 7 - BERLIN
drummer meeting
In the afternoon at private studio, Brunnenstraße, Mitte - contact me for details 

Tuesday-Wednesday, June 11-12 - MUNICH
drummer meeting
Time and location to be announced; get on the Cymbalistic email list for updates.

I hope to see you there!

Oh, here are the cymbals for the drawing in Seattle— giving away one, winner gets to choose. It's about a $500 value.

24" Cymbal & Gong Holy Grail rides

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Filling a Mozambique

This is something I was working through with a student recently: filling during a Mozambique groove. Latin grooves need to be worked out more than other things, so it's a good idea to break it down substantially, so you can get back to the groove after the fill. Start by practicing these mostly non-repeating: play them one time, stop, and play them again. I've put all of the fills on the high tom tom in these examples; you can move them around however you like, vary the accents, play rim shots, embellish with flams or ruffs, use whatever sticking you like.

Here's the basic groove— for hands only. Learn to play it, if you haven't already:

There are a few key points: the & of 4 of the first measure, where we'll be breaking to get into the fill; the & of 1 of the second measure, where we'll be starting the fill; the 2 of the first measure, where we'll often be getting back into the groove pattern.

First, practice starting the groove on 2:

Then build a simple fill with alternating 8th notes, starting with two rights. Practice each of the following phrases repeating, then add two measures of the groove at the beginning, making a four measure phrase with the fill at the end. Note that the first four notes of the fill have the same rhythm and sticking as the second measure of the groove pattern: RRLR.

Then grab some rhythms from the book Syncopation, and play them as a lead-in to the groove pattern, accenting the last note of the syncopation rhythm— if possible with a cymbal in unison. If the fill ends with running 8th notes, just end it with a rim shot. Then come in with the groove on beat 2:

Then play some syncopation rhythms as a fill, with the complete context. Use rhythms that start with an 8th rest, and start the fill with your right hand. So these fills all start the same way as the previous one. Play the first measure of the groove, break on the & of 4, play the fill, accenting the last note as above, and come back in with the groove on beat 2:

I suggest practicing these last two things non-repeating; stop after a couple of measures of the groove at the end, and restart. You can easily use this same structure to practice hitting a bass drum/cymbal accent on beat 1 after the fill, which isn't that hip, but you will do it a lot.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Practice loop: Attica Blues

This will put some intensity in your playing: a practice loop sampled from Attica Blues by Archie Shepp.

For that I also recommend my loops of Sivad, The Free Design, and Magdalena.

By the way: One nice feature of YouTube's royalties system (maybe the only one?) is that with all of these quasi-legal uses of other people's music, the copyright holders still get paid. One of my brother's groups, the Seattle piano trio New Stories, has had an mp3 of theirs included with every copy of the Windows OS since 1999. So it's convenient for people to grab and use when they make their cat videos for YouTube, or whatever. But since the file is imprinted, they get paid when any part of it is used. They've made several tens of thousands of dollars that way.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Harmonic coordination practice notes

Hard on purpose.
A few notes on practicing my recent harmonic coordination improved thing. I can write a lot of verbiage about this system because it's very abstract and time consuming, and I want to be clear on how to do it productively, and the reasons for doing it.

You could play the original materials in Dahlgren & Fine with the illusion that you're going to learn something the authors call “complete independence.” Whatever those words mean to you, it doesn't really work that way. The only thing we're really accomplishing is to learn to play the cymbals with both hands, along with the bass drum— a standard, core drumming orchestration— and learning to get to the drums and back to the cymbals at inconvenient times. And we're developing some facility with the left foot, in coordination with the bass drum.

Mainly we're creating opportunities for unexpected things to happen. If the premise of the Syncopation-based method is to do things in the easiest, most natural way, the premise here is to do things in ways that make no sense. Most of the stickings do not make the easiest way to execute the notes of the exercise. We're practicing inconvenient ways of playing things, systematically.

So, it's hard on purpose, and you can't do it all at once. You really have to be oriented around finding a reasonable workout for today. There is no finishing it— there's nothing to finish—  and no particular way of doing it that is going to make you great, while another that will screw you up. I don't see a particular need to develop a lot of speed, or to work on the harder exercises much more than the easy ones. As long as practicing the method is a moderate pain in the neck, that should mean there is improvement happening.

Terms in the following notes: the system is a combination of exercises and stickings. The exercises are sets of notes played on the drums and cymbals; the stickings are which limbs you use to play them— specifically, which hands; the parts for the feet are preset by the exercise.

General attitude
People seem to like the idea of “setting and forgetting” an ostinato, and then playing other things “over” it. For this system, I think it's better to pay attention and account for every single note— learn the exact sequence of combined limbs, and hit them accurately. This can mean sometimes working through things only a few notes at a time.

All exercises, one sticking
Play through the entire page of exercises using one sticking. To get your initial basic familiarity with the system, do that with the first set of stickings.

One exercise, all stickings
Run all the stickings with one exercise. This may be necessary as you get into the more complex exercises— one at a time, learning all the stickings for it. Again, early on, you could learn the first two exercises this way, using all of the stickings.

Make obvious edits and additions
To keep the introduction to the system a manageable length, I did not include every sticking combination forwards and backwards. Sometimes it will make sense to reverse the sticking with a particular exercise. There will also be duplicate stickings with some exercises, which you can skip.

A lot of people like to start complex exercises beginning with an ostinato— by playing the easiest part, and adding other things. I'm not convinced it's the most productive way of practicing this system. I think you should work on starting the exercises complete, with all the parts at the same time.

Another small thing that can nevertheless cause you a lot of grief. Try to go from one exercise or sticking to the next without stopping.

Open hihat
If you play the hihat with your hands, any BD/cym note immediately before a SD/foot hihat note will naturally create an open sound. It's a common drumming effect, and you could spend some time focusing on it. You may have to adjust the timing of your left foot motion to get a good open sound.

Moving around the drums/cymbals
Moving the drum notes between the snare and toms in a systematic way would be adding another level of complexity— and length, and unfinishability— to this system. I just improvise moves, or work on them occasionally with a few exercises, moving to a different drum on every note, according to the stock moves listed in the link above.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Guaguanco - two ways

A little more on general fluency with a Guaguanco-type groove on drumset. It's not a style that authentically uses a drumset, but the groove is a hip alternative for non-traditional situations. It has a nice melodic element that is at first a little confusing in how it relates to clave; mainly, it sounds like aligns with the 3 side, but it's really on the 2 side. On recordings of Cuban musicians, usually the melody is on the 2 side. But I've heard some recordings— seemingly authentic situations— where it does actually align with the 3 side.

I'm not expert on Cuban music, and don't regularly play with people who are, so I'm not going to try to draw any conclusions on it. I can say the first way is correct, but sometimes it is done the other way for reasons unknown. With these exercises we'll learn to play it both ways, with some small variations in the melodic part to give it a little life.

For an authentic sound, play the RH/palito part on a dry sound— jam block, rim, floor tom shell, or hihat. Or play it on a cymbal, cymbal bell, or cowbell. You can see that the variations are very small; we're just doubling different notes of the melodic part. Learn to combine them freely when playing the groove. Also see my previous page of Guaguanco, and other related posts.

Get the pdf

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Holy Grail

A video shared by Sebastian Merk, a great drummer living in Berlin, who teaches at the Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber in Dresden. He's playing a 20" Holy Grail jazz ride by Cymbal & Gong, which he bought from me on my last visit to Germany in December '18. It's a fairly funky cymbal that was given a special patina that gives it a drier sound. It sounds really great here, with him playing it— just a perfect, classic, dry jazz sound:

Check out the videos of the cymbal before the special patina, and with the patina.

I'll be returning to Germany, with cymbals, between June 6-12. Visit and get on the mailing list to get updated tour info.

Friday, May 17, 2019

EZ fill developer

This might be more of an item for teachers. This is a sketch of a method I've found to be effective for teaching younger students to play fills, and play them in time, with both hands at an even volume. I teach this verbally, and by demonstrating it. The hand motion is virtually the same for the hands-in-unison version and 16th note version of each exercise; the left hand just falls later on the 16th note version.

A few notes:

•  On all of the exercises, the right hand does not change speed— it plays 8th notes throughout. As a warmup, some students might have play the hands-in-unison exercises with the right hand only.
• Exercises are written in 4/4, but most often I count Ex. 1 in 2/4, and Ex. 2 in 3/8. I try to minimize the counting element with this lesson.
•  When both hands are played on the same drum, flam them a little bit— rock & roll-style, with both hands at the same volume. Make sure the right hand falls first.
•  Start with three different basic ways of moving around the drums: both hands on one drum; LH on snare, RH moving; both hands moving, to the same drum. Both hands can also move to different drums independently, but it's best to do the other ways first.
•  Line 2 is really preparation for line 3, which is a common rock figure. Unless the student is already playing 6/8 or triplet feels on the drum set, there's no reason to turn this into a lesson on playing in 6/8.
• Line 4 is meant to be played non-repeating.

Get the pdf

Thursday, May 16, 2019

CYMBALISTIC: Cymbal videos up

Individual videos of our new cymbals are up. Picking out cymbals in a storage room at Cymbal & Gong HQ is not really an optimal acoustical situation, so when I get them to my studio to make the videos I'm always blown away.

With this shipment I added:

Two 20" Holy Grail jazz rides
Two 20" Leon Collection rides
Two sets 16" Holy Grail hihats
15" Holy Grail hihats
14" Holy Grail hihats

All great cymbals, but the Leon Collection cymbals really impressed me. It's a series created by Cymbal & Gong's lead smith, and until now they have been mostly crash cymbals. The few rides they've delivered have been really cool. These two are surprisingly light (~1575-1600g @ 20"), for how well they perform as ride cymbals— I've found extremely light rides by other brands to be mostly useless. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Harmonic coordination improved - preparation

UPDATE: Here are some additional notes on practicing this.

For some time I've been trying to work out a way to practice the very difficult “harmonic” coordination section of Dahlgren & Fine's 4-Way Coordination without feeling driven to murder somebody and trash my office. That's what those half-baked harmonic coordination whatsis posts were all about.

Problem: The materials are hard, and they are presented in a way that is utterly pitiless, unconscionable. Otherwise the book is lovely. But the authors essentially make you play one stick control pattern with your hands while playing a different one with your feet. That's what it is. It's presented according to a mathematical logic, and they didn't try very hard to soften the learning curve, or make it look anything like musical reality. And it's notated on a staff system they made up. It's a giant nightmare.

It took me years of brutally hacking through it to make some sense of it, and devise a method that actually starts easy and gets harder, and that relates to the way the drums are actually played.

The answer is, you have to orchestrate it: play a cymbal in unison with the bass drum, and play the snare drum in unison with the hihat. You move your hands between the cymbals and snare drum, according to which foot they're in unison with. Obviously the parts of the feet are set, since they're on pedals attached to one instrument. Doing this orchestration seemingly makes the system more difficult, but it gives it a raison d'etre, a drummer logic. To me it's harder to play things that make no drumistic sense, because they don't sound like anything, and you can't use your ears to tell if you're doing it right.

So, these exercises: This is a set of warm-ups for a larger system— or, for most people, this could be the entire system. For the real nutjobs we will go on to create an actual Reed-based method. Here are various basic cym+bass / snare+hihat combinations, with which you use some different stickings to play the cymbal and snare.

When playing the cymbals, use the closest cymbal for that hand. There are four sets of stickings to play through. Practice one set at a time, moving onto the next one when you can play them at a reasonable speed, say around half note = 50-60 bpm. The first set is easy; normal stickings used by all drummers, for basic familiarity with the practice patterns. The second set introduces some independent moves. The third and especially fourth sets will take some practice.

The end result is that you will have more flexibility in playing normal stuff. You may find yourself moving around the instrument in new ways; your musical impulses may resolve themselves in in unexpected ways. Mainly this will influence your funk, ECM-type jazz, and Latin playing. Complicated Cuban-style independence will get easier to learn.

 Get the pdf

Postscript: More about the logic of that orchestration system— cym+bass, snare+hihat. Cymbal and bass drum playing a rhythm in unison is a normal part of drumming. So is filling in between those notes with the snare drum. The odd element is the hihat in unison with the snare drum; there's no normal musical effect associated with that— and it'll help you do those funk “barks” with the hihat. There's one. Doing the system this way wasn't my idea; it's Dahlgren and Fine's. I'm just telling you how their thing works in practice. There are creative possibilities with it which you'll discover through playing it.