Friday, October 17, 2014

This / not this: what's a bass drum for?

First, an eerily-passionless video demonstrating the manipulation of a piece of machinery: a pedal mechanism, which is attached to a product called “a bass drum.” We are left to speculate about what purpose these space aliens have for this activity.

Next, an example of this so-called bass drum being used in its former role, as a musical instrument:

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Grooves o' the day: two by Frank Butler

This week I'm hard at work on the new Book of Intros (a collection of transcribed jazz drum intros), and it's forming up nicely. If I don't get bogged down in the text part, it should be ready to go early next month. I know a lot of the transcriptions we do here are rather ridiculously hard, but this book should be quite playable— it should be largely gettable by anyone from advanced middle-school to college level, on up. It also includes very little that has been posted on the blog, and never will be, so you will have to buy thing if you want to get in on the fun. Stay tuned...

Meanwhile, here are a couple of unusual quasi-samba grooves (emphasis on the quasi!) from Frank Butler, a West Coast drummer active in the 50s and 60s. I haven't gotten too deep into his playing, but there are a few Portland musicians who played with him later in his career, and are big fans of his. First, from the tune Numbers Game, by Hampton Hawes, from Hawes's album For Real!:

And then Harold Land's One Down, from his album The Fox:

Written out, they're a little hard on the eyes, with all the drum activity, but they fall on the drums very naturally once you get the sticking. It should be easy to cop Butler's nice, light, relaxed touch.

There's audio after the break:

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Groove o' the day: Art Blakey afro

This is a triplet Afro feel by Art Blakey, one of the major people playing that feel in a hard bop setting in the late 50s/early 60s. I usually call it a 6/8 feel— some people call it 12/8— here the tune is clearly in 4, so we'll call it 12/8. This groove appears to be something he made up, rather than a “correct” African/Latin feel. The bell pattern is derived from our usual pattern, the so-called “short” bell pattern— with the triplets filled out in the last two beats.

On the solos, Blakey goes into a heavy shuffle— the way only he can play it— and stays with it for the rest of the tune, up to the fade out, when he switches back to this feel.

The bass drum is barely audible on the recording, so he could be playing something different for all I know; this matches what the bass player is doing, anyway. The floor tom hit on 4 is softer than the other left hand notes, hence the parentheses.

Listening to the complete track, can you imagine a jazz drummer in a small group today playing as loud as Blakey does, for as long as he does, on this track? He's playing loud. Modern players have basically retired that effect from their playing— that simple, sustained, deep, powerful, groove.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Philly Joe Jones three-beat triplet lick

Following up the Philly Joe Jones drum intro transcription from the other day, here are a few exercises for getting together that three-beat triplet lick we saw there. I've included two stickings: alternating, and a paradiddle-diddle lick shared with us in the comments, by Portland drummer Ed Pierce— I believe his source for that was drummer/author John Riley, so we should give him a little hat-tip as well.

Swing all the 8th notes on the page, so they fall roughly on a triplet grid. Observe the accenting on the lines starting with regular 8th notes; if you play the house top accent a little stronger, the pattern will swing a little more. In jazz, you can use these a lot in the tempo range of around quarter note = 120-220+.

Get the pdf

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Page o' coordination: Afro 6 with feet in 3 — 01

Well, I've written more of these than anyone should rationally need, but did I ever say this was going to be a rational pursuit? And there are more coming, built on this basic idea of playing the feet in 3/4 during this feel. If you've surmounted the learning curve on these pages, each new entry should not be a big deal. Hopefully you're beginning to anticipate what many of the left hand parts are going to be, and are able to play them without having to look at the page too much. I'm not ready to abandon the page altogether in practicing these, though— there's a lot going on coordination-wise, and it's good to have a quick reference to confirm you're playing everything where you want it.

Here's a fresh link for the left hand moves. On any exercises with four notes (or four singles and doubles) in the left hand, I like to also do the Stick Control-derived moves. It's good to be thorough, but it's also good to get through the whole page in a reasonable amount of time. Don't bog down in the moves.

Get the pdf

Monday, October 06, 2014

Blogger suboptimal!

By the way: for some reason, the search engine on the site has really been sucking of late, and you should not trust it at all. You may have better luck finding what you're looking for by browsing the site archives (in the sidebar) or by using the lables (in the sidebar as 'popular topics', and at the bottom of each post. I guess the Blogger people must want me to move this thing to Wordpress.

Infrastructure for shooting film

No jive app needed.
Hey, if you've been letting me rile you up with my film-photography cheerleading, and you want to try your hand at it, here is a general list of things you'll need to get from taking the pictures, to developing them, to getting them to a usable state to do whatever you want to do with them. It seems like a lot of stuff, but it really isn't; it's quite inexpensive once you have your set up rocking.

At first it may seem that, compared to digital, you're getting zapped for more money at every step of the process, but I don't think that's right. True, shooting film you don't have the potential for the limitless gulf of images theoretically possible with digital, unless you spend a whole lot of money. But the real limit on the number of pictures you take won't be due to the cost of film and processing; it will be due to the amount of time you want to spend taking pictures. For a realistic amount of money, you'll be able to take all the pictures you want. It is a good idea to get your basic technique together with a digital SLR, though— that will save you some money, and the instant feedback is helpful. Prices on the obsolete, but still perfectly usable Nikon D-40, are dropping rapidly— you should be able to get one used for under $200.

Losing that instant feedback is another problem people have; but, working with film, especially when you work with your camera in manual mode, you're disciplining yourself more to pay attention to what you're doing, and learning how to get the images you want. You begin to learn when you've gotten the shot, and can move on, escaping the digital-age options tar pit for one step of the creative process, anyway.

So here's my list of things you'll need to get started:

A camera! 
See my previous recommendations (this link or the next one). If you're just getting into film photography, and are getting sort-of serious about taking good pictures, probably 35mm would be the way to go, either Nikon or Canon. 35mm gear is dirt cheap, and there's no reason to buy an off-brand. And lenses you buy for your film camera will be usable on any digital SLR of the same brand— with a few exceptions, every Nikon lenses ever made will work with any Nikon camera body, digital or 35mm, though some newer cameras will lose some functionality. All Canon autofocus lenses should be fully functional with all Canon digital SLRs, and autofocus 35mm SLRs. I get as much of my used gear as I can from— their “bargain” grade gear has always been a legitimate bargain: 100% functional, and looking much better than the dire-sounding description they give.

If you want to try medium format, you can have a lot of fun with a toy Holga or Diana for under ~$30. A Lubitel is almost a real camera, in that you have focus, set the aperture and shutter speed; it wouldn't be a bad option if you can find one on eBay for around $20-30. A lot of lunatics are asking way too much for them, and they really are little more than toys. See my Yashica D post for advice on getting an old TLR that is a real camera; you want to buy as cheaply as possible, and plan on having to have it serviced. Also, certain pro cameras are rather dirt cheap now, and if you shop carefully you can probably get a Bronica ETRS, Mamiya 645, or Mamiya RB67 (huge— for in-studio only!) for under $200, or a Koni Omega/Rapid (a rather bulky press camera) for under $100. Most of these cameras do not have a built-in light meter, but you can use the “sunny 16” rule, or get an app for your smart phone that will work OK; do some homework before you spend money on a real light meter, though.

MUCH MORE after the break:

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Groove o' the day: Elvin Jones — The Trip

Here's Elvin Jones playing a groove that should be very familiar if you've been following our Page o' Coordination series: The Trip, by alto saxophonist Art Pepper, from his album of the same title. On the original tune from which I extracted this basic groove (Your Lady, by John Coltrane), Elvin was playing very intensely, with a lot of variety; here he plays repetitively throughout the tune, except on the bridge, on which he plays a more open waltz feel.

We're swinging the 8th notes here, obviously. At times I'm hearing pretty significant tension between the drums and bass— Elvin is laying back pretty hard, while the bassist playing pretty pointedly driving time— inflexibly so, to my ear; there are places where he could bend a little, for the common good, but he doesn't. For me the groove never quite settles, and pianist George Cables seems to be trying to thread the needle by spreading out his attacks. Maybe it's my imagination...

Friday, October 03, 2014

“Skiplet” analysis— a line of music

Continuing with the analysis portion of this skiplet-based method of jazz coordination-thingy, in which, in order to learn independence vs. a jazz time feel, we orient everything around the three close-together notes of the cymbal pattern:

A reminder: I promise you this is not just a mass of analytical BS, with which to burden your students until they fire you, and quit drumming. The thing we're trying to do is hard, and it is usually handed to students with no strategy for learning it— they are expected to get it by brute-force practice. What we're doing is giving an actual process for this task; we're replacing no-instruction with instruction. So, it may look like we're complicating the task, but what we're really doing is clarifying it.

The goal in these first posts is just to show you the basic idea, and how to attach the independent notes to the cymbal pattern. Do refer back to the original post on this subject if you don't know what the hell I'm talking about.

First, here is a very well known line of music from Ted Reed's famous book:

A common interpretation— the relevant one to what we've been talking about— is to play the top line of the exercise (ignoring the bottom line), while playing jazz time with the cymbal and hihat, swinging all of the 8th notes. Doing that to the line above gives you this:

Here is how we break that up skiplet-style— any notes on the & of 1 or 3 are attached to the skiplet following it. Note that at the end, we play all the way to the 1 of the next line of music— not shown above— which happens to have a snare drum note on it. With this method, we always deal in complete skiplets.

Of course, this is usually done directly, without having the cymbal part written out— the student needs to end up with the complete part, while reading out of Reed. Next time we'll talk about how to get there— how I go about actually teaching this approach.