Monday, May 16, 2022

Max on the bass drum

An exchange on the evolution of the bass drum in jazz, from Max Roach, circa 1981, from his Modern Drummer interview with Scott K. Fish.

SF: Back in the '50s and '60s jazz drummers were primarily using the smaller size drums: 18" bass, 12" mounted tom and 14" floor tom. I've heard that one of the main reasons drummers used that size drum was because they were easier to transport than larger drums.

MR: Exactly. It made it easier to get from town to town. Pack up your gear, put it in your car, and off you go. That was one of the main reasons I think.

Plus, the bass drum had begun to become less and less an integral part of the whole musical set-up. It's different now. The bass drum, at that time, would stamp out what was happening with the acoustic bass. Even the pianists would leave that part. They would voice their chords so the bottom of the piano would be in thirds and sevenths instead of tonics and fifths. They left that part for the acoustic bass. So, your bass drum would only be used for accents and supports.

So the small drum was great, plus, you didn't have all the electronics around you, so you didn't need that power there. There were many reasons for it. But, today you do need that power with the electronic scene.

The italics are mine, and it's maybe a revealing part of the comment. Max typically played the bass drum in the way we now call feathering, but he doesn't bring it up as a role of the bass drum in modern jazz. It's important to note that at the time of the interview, larger bass drums were generally in favor— usually 20-22". And at that time bebop was not the only thing happening in jazz— many big players of the 60s had moved in a more fusion direction. 

But imagine Mel Lewis addressing this topic— well, we don't have to. He's rather strident on it. Art Blakey said something similar in his '80s MD interview: 

Like playing the bass drum: A lot of drummers today have no bottom. They talk about punctuating, but they don't keep that feeling in there, and that bass drum is the basis of the whole thing. And if you let that go it sounds like s*t to me. 

I don't know what Max would say if he was asked specifically about it— he absolutely might agree with Lewis and Blakey. Maybe somebody reading has talked to him or studied with him, or been to a clinic. But feathering the bass drum in a bop setting has become such a dogmatic thing, especially with jazz hobbyists on the internet, and I thought it was an interesting omission.

I originally wrote about this in 2012, and my thinking has changed a little bit— maybe it's time to revisit that. 

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Reed interpretation: Matt's double bass method - 03

More of an expansive double bass method using the book Syncopation, that I've been developing with a student. Here we'll get into 16th triplets on the bass drums. The method is a little obscure to read, but it's still the best way to get realistic playing vocabulary.

You can do this with all the usual major sections of the book: quarter notes (pp. 4-5), 8th notes (pp. 9-10), 8th rests (pp. 30-31), syncopation (pp. 34-45). 

Do that with as many of the variations from the last system as you see fit— the won't all work equally well with the triplets.

Note that triplets on an & will start with the left foot, so the downbeats always fall on the right foot— I imagine some people will be more comfortable starting every run of triplets with the right foot, which is fine, you'll just have to work some things out when you integrate the triplets with the rest of the system.

For example, if you A-B the 16th triplet and 16th note versions of the following rhythm, starting that last 16th triplet with the left foot foot, that puts the 16th note measure lead normally with the right foot:

If you started that last triplet with the right foot, the 16th note measure would lead with the left. Maybe that's fine with you, you'll just have to make a decision about how you want to handle it. 

Another way of doing this system that would be easier to read, would be to invert the above thing— play the book rhythm on the snare drum, fill each 8th note worth of spaces with a 16th triplet:

That generally creates a different kind of vocabulary than the first way— it more suggests ensemble figures with the bass drum filling. If you want to emphasize that, you could play the cymbal as accents only (on a crash or China), along with the snare drum, and play the bass drum filler by itself, with no cymbal. 

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Friday, May 13, 2022

Stewart Copeland: complete clown

Stewart Copeland's statements about jazz came up on line recently, and I was curious about that, so I dug around and found some things. He dubiously claims to have a jazz background, but as we'll see, I don't think he learned anything from it beyond how to ding on a ride cymbal. 

This video sums up everything that follows. He makes some provocative statements and uses Miles Davis's and John Coltrane's names as punchlines for riling people up and showing how much he doesn't care about that type of music, because it's self-indulgent. And then he non-self-indulgently jumps around and clowns for the audience and plays way too much drums on some music he calls jazz, and then collects a big non-self-indulgent check for his time:  

In case you're in any doubt about what you're hearing with his playing there— it's nothing. He's not playing shit. To be clear. 

Moving forward, he famously said some things in Modern Drummer magazine, that elicited a pretty stern rebuke from Peter Erskine. MD was doing a blindfold test type column, where they would play records for a famous drummer, and have them respond. They talked to Copeland in the March '94 issue. 

They set him up with some pretty weird recordings— Kenwood Dennard playing duo with Marcus Miller, an Alan Holdsworth track with Vinnie Colaiuta going bananas, some bad early King Crimson. I don't know what the idea was. I can see how it would put someone in a bad mood. But then they played him a really good track (It Is, from Motian in Tokyo) from Paul Motian's trio with Joe Lovano and Bill Frisell, about which Copeland said: 

[mocking the melody] Daa-daa-doo-daa-doo, daa-da-do-da-doo... I tell you what here's the problem: All the good melodies have been written, so let's write some bad ones. Any old shitty secquence of notes will do as long as it's screwed up. The drumming's not bad; it's got sort of an anarchic, “Boy, this is a screwed-up melody,” sort of feel. With a melody like this, I'd be playing like that, too. We call this “washing up” at the end of a song— the crescendo before you go out. These guys are washing up— and they haven't even got any dishes. This is completely predictable, right in a very narrow band of what you have to play if you're a jazz musician. Utterly conservative, utterly un-groundbreaking. A better man with a better ear than I would be able to hear something out of this shit. 

In the June '94 issue they printed this letter to the editor from Peter Erskine: 

While I can appreciate the candid and forthright quality of Stewart Copeland's remarks concerning the various recordings he listened to for Ken Micallef's Impressions column, I feel compelled to state my objection to his terming the music performed by Paul Motian, Bill Frisell, and Joe Lovano as “shit.” It takes all kinds of music to make up this world, Mr. Copeland, and mssrs. Motian, Frisell, and Lovano have explored and created more than any musician's fair share of compelling, innovative, enjoyable, exciting, and beautiful music.

Stewart: Music such as what you heard from the Motian In Tokyo recording might be a lot of things to a lot of people, but I can't imagine how you could possibly label it as “Utterly conservative, utterly un-groundbreaking.” I'd be willing to cut you some slack, in that the “blindfold test” / grab-bag nature of listening to randomly (for the listener) selected tracks can possibly skew one's perspective. But, since you make your commentary polemical, and direct it at my colleagues and the art form I care most about, I decided to write.

Your comments about jazz... “This is completely predictable, right in a very narrow band of what you have to play if you're a jazz musician...” show that your arrogance is almost as outstanding as is your being ill-informed. If nothing else, I don't think you're very qualified to judge what a jazz musician can or has to play, in whatever bandwidth— just as I would not presume what a reggae/ska/pop musician should “have to play” in his or her field or style of music. Whether one likes a performance or a particular type of music is another matter. I certainly have enjoyed your drumming over the years, but I think you have a big mouth when it comes to something you don't understand. 

In searching that up I came across some other comments he's made, like in this 2004 MD interview:

MD: Speaking of listening, and Trey [Anastasio, of Phish(!!!)] called you a better listener than any of the jazz drummers he’s played with.

Stewart: Hah! Well, the problem with jazz musicians is that they’re all crap!

MD: Yeah? Can we quote you on that?

Stewart: Oh, yes! It’s an old favorite of mine. And I don’t mean it, of course. I just enjoy saying it. But most jazz players are crap.

MD: Trey said that for a guy who doesn’t listen to jazz?

Stewart: and the reason I don’t listen to jazz is not because jazz people are bad, or because I’m a jazzist, or something, but because I was raised to play jazz. I was brought up to be a jazz drummer. My dad’s trumpet is sitting right there. But to me, jazz was safe, Sunday-lunch-with-the-family music. It was the opposite of rebellion. And my whole musical angst comes from rebelling against jazz. Occasionally I’ll rub elbows with someone who calls themselves a jazz player – stanley Clarke, Tony Williams, Branford Marsalis. But apart from about ten guys who are friends of mine, the rest of them are all shit! With attitudes. That suck. They play music of the mind. Music is not of the mind, music is of the heart.

MD: And the classical music that you’re writing for Orchestralli, is that music of the mind or heart?

Stewart: Ahhhh – you got me. It’s a mental exercise, and my heart is gladdened by non-libidinal things. I was just soaring into a pontification, but you shot me right down there [laughing]. OK. Let me regroup here for a second.

What I’m saying here is that even the philosophy of the music of Stewart the composer is different from the philosophy of Stewart the drummer. The basic credo is different. The composer guy is some other artsy-fartsy intellectual jerk! He’s a jazz musician! [horrified laughter] Wow. What a strange realization.

So he's a Hollywood blabbermouth who has been famous for a long time and is used to being around piles of money, and he believes that makes him the center of the universe. And certainly he's done a million interviews and has his technique down for appearing interesting and “punk” without saying anything. 

In this interview from Drum! Magazine he really shows his ass, in this humble blogger's opinion. He's talking to someone called Brain, who was the drummer for Primus at the time: 

Brain: Remember when we were talking about attitude and you made the comment about Miles? I know you liked the early jazz stuff like big bands …

Copeland: Big bands. As soon as they stopped going “ting, ting-a ting,” that’s when they lost me.

Brain: You didn’t like the attitude that Miles had?

Copeland: I liked Tony Williams, but after that, fusion stuff started getting too cold for me.

Brain: So after the period of Miles in the ’70s, when he was just gone, and it was all about experimenting, and –

Copeland: It did nothing for me.

Brain: You just hated that.

Copeland: I went through a period, in fact when I was moving in here, I went down to [a record store] and bought Thelonius Monk, Miles, all the real icons, and I’m sitting here unpacking boxes, listening to these records. I’ve done these jams. There’s nothing magical. I can just hear five guys stoned out of their brains. They’re on smack. I was on pot. What’s the difference? It’s just totally self-indulgent. “A Love Supreme.” Get the hell out of here! There was some cool Miles stuff, though. The early stuff where he had Tony Williams with him. You get the vibe out of that. Have you ever been through a Mahavishnu thing?

Brain: Yeah, a little bit. But I was never a Billy Cobham fan. He just bugged me.

Copeland: Really?

Brain: Yeah.

Copeland: I liked the first album and the second album. Then I lost it from there. He’s quite stiff. He doesn’t groove at all. If you listen to his albums now they don’t survive well at all. 

I want to take a moment to say how much I appreciate criticisms of jazz musicians from guys who played with Phish and Primus.

Anyway, it's very rock & roll: two bros in LA, at the top of their respective scenes, acting like masters of the universe, talking absolutely vacuous shit about Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Billy Cobham.

I can't help notice they're all black artists— and the only jazz musicians Copeland talks about with any fondness in that first video are white. People can infer from that what they want. At minimum it displays zero respect for Black culture, without which Stewart Copeland would be  N O T H I N G. He can't even pretend to respect it, and is happy to denigrate the greatest Black artists' names in service of his media image. 

It's disappointing, because I do love his drumming with Sting's band from 40 years ago, The Police. I expect good players to have respect for other players, and to respond to music thoughtfully, even music they don't like or understand. Musicians are supposed to care about music more than they care about running around with their pants down to elevate their image as a 75 year old “bad boy.”

And it totally discredits him as an artist. You can't be that bad a listener and have anything to say. If you put on a Monk record and hear nothing, and have no desire to figure it out, you're done. Stop pretending to be an artist. Go score another Charles Schwab commercial, count your money, order somebody to polish the windows on your limo. Go make life hell for your lackeys. 

POSTSCRIPT: In the same MD issue as Erskine's response, Paul Motian was interviewed, and was told what Copeland said. Motian responded:  

[hard laughing] That's great— just too much! 

I doubt Motian was familiar with anything Copeland has written, and don't take his further comments completely at face value:

I can understand Steward Copeland's criticism. He's coming from a totally different way of playing. You have to remember that those are my tunes and my melodies. Some of them may be crappy. I don't have anywhere near the knowledge he has of writing. He's great. But I'd like to see him make a jazz record. Let's see what he can write.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Syncopation rhythms - quarter note triplets

The need for this arose when I was practicing yesterday, so here we go— two pages of syncopation rhythms including quarter note triplets and inverted quarter note triplets. 

You know what to do

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Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Page o' coordination: quasi-samba - bass drum variations

More student stuff! Someone needed a Latin rhythm for a tune he's playing in a rehearsal combo, and this repeating quasi-samba pattern is what he came up with. So in the lesson we worked through some bass drum possibilities, so he'll have some options for developing the groove over the course of the tune. It's a jazz tune, so the rhythms do not need to be stylistically “correct”, they need to fit and adapt to what's going on with that particular arrangement. 

Repeat each pattern until it settles into a relaxed groove. Hihat can be played on beats 2/4, on all four beats, or on the &s. We discussed that you don't need to assemble a full-blown four limb part for a static groove like this— every change you make to it is a big deal. Adding hihat, taking it away, moving to a different cymbal, switching from rim clicks to hitting the drums normally, adding bass drum, adding slightly busier bass drum.  

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Sunday, May 08, 2022

Converting 3/8 hemiola patterns to 2/4

That's it, CRUISE SHIP DRUMMER! is now an all what-I'm-teaching-in-lessons web site. I'm preoccupied with other stuff right now, travel plans and whatnot. 

I started doing this around 2013, and quite a bit lately— changing time signatures of practice materials by repeating beats in the written part. Here, I'm using the hemiola patterns in 3/8 page with a couple of students, which we can expand into a pretty comprehensive basic funk vocabulary for a regular 4/4 environment by just repeating some notes. 

We're putting the 3/8 patterns into 2/4 time by repeating the last 8th note (or first two 16ths) in the measure; or by repeating the first 8th/two 16ths; or by adding the first 8th note/two 16ths in the measure to the end:

We're teaching people that patterns are portable, and about working with patterns without having to see them written out, and about generally being not too boxed in by time signatures.  

I do this only with students who can do it easily— to some people, at some stages of development, it will be confusing, and possibly undermining. There's no need press them to get it if it doesn't immediately make sense to them. 

While we're moving things around, many of the resulting patterns will work better as funk vocabulary if you reverse the beats, starting them on beat 2. For example: 

Try that if the pattern has snare drum on the first note. If that results in a pattern with no bass drum on the first note— like with the last pattern on the fourth line on the page— I'll often have students add bass drum on that note.  

Get the pdf, if you need it. 

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

More Tiki Fulwood funk fills

Another item I was working on with a student, for everyone waiting for the other shoe to drop on that 2013 Tiki Fulwood/Funkadelic fills post. It's a fun, low-intensity thing to do with Syncopation pp. 22-27, played in cut time— all the funk stuff I do with Reed is in 2/2. 

Here's a basic groove to use as an environment— we'll play one or three measures of this, one measure of fill: 

The fill is just one measure of the book rhythm, played on the snare drum. You can start the fill on the 1, or after. The fill here is line 5 on p. 24 of Reed.  

We settled on going to the fill on the & of 2— that sounded hippest. It also makes a good lead in— you can jump in with that while they're counting off the tune. Here's the practice phrase: 

And the fill portion of some lines from Syncopation:  

It usually works best if you start the fill with the right hand, and alternate— most of the time that will have you land on the cymbal with your right hand on beat 1. Drill it with this Betty Davis practice loop

We were talking about fills, and how they're difficult to teach, and how most books on the subject are not helpful— too specific and too “drummery.” The later parts of my rock drill are helpful for a kind of non-specific textural thing with unisons and singles, which is a lot of what filling is. But a lot of it is just listening and getting a concept in your ear. Ringo Starr's thing is easy to mimic. What we're doing here, copying Tiki Fulwood's 32nd note fills on the slower 16th note grooves on Maggot Brain is another thing. Ndugu Leon Chancler's tom tom fills with George Duke is another one for me. Now we just have to listen to a lot more records and get about 50 more like that. 

Monday, May 02, 2022

Afro 6 - advanced bass drum ideas/coordination

A page of patterns I'm playing around with, in an Afro 6 feel, that are difficult or unusual for varying reasons— either the bass drum is in unison with the left hand, or the actual rhythm is unusual. Use it as a companion to a similar page I wrote a couple of years ago, to develop some possibilities for soloing and blowing, with maybe more of an African vibe. 

Before even getting into this, you should develop line 1 as standalone groove. Vary the bass drum by playing it along with the cymbal, like on this page. The left hand part fills in the gaps in the cymbal rhythm— play it as rim clicks, or move it around the drums, varying the accents and articulations. Or do it funk style by accenting the snare on beat 3, and ghosting the rest. Add hihat however you like, on all four beats, or on beats 2/4. 

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Sunday, May 01, 2022

Reed interpretation: Matt's double bass method - 02

Continuing a double bass drum method I'm developing with a student. I don't play double bass, and have very little to teach on the subject, but we're building a pretty substantial drill out of it. That's been my focus lately, putting together a set of stuff you can work on for about an hour at a time, that covers most of the fundamentals of a style— see my recent jazz drill and rock drill

As always, use Syncopation pp. 30-45, interpreting the top line part only, ignoring the stems-down “bass drum” part.

Step one is to play two 16th notes for every note sounding in the book rhythm— it doesn't matter what the note value is, just play two 16ths instead of the one note. Play that rhythm on the bass drums, add quarter notes, 8th notes, or offbeat 8th notes on the cymbal. Add snare drum on the 8th note gaps in the bass drum rhythm, or on beats 2 and 4, or on all of the &s, to make a double time feel. Play all combinations of the above. 

Combine this with the previous post, and play all parts of it in one continuous drill— no breaks, focusing on polishing each individual thing, and on being able to switch from one to the other without stopping.  

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