Friday, December 19, 2014

Hell of books

This has been sitting in my drafts folder awhile, and seems timely, as I'm encouraging you to buy my new Bossa/Samba book, and am discounting my previous ones:

One thing there is no shortage of, right now, is of drum stuff to work on. On this blog, we're barfing up mass quantities of new stuff on a quasi-daily basis— more like quasi-weekly, recently— and there are hundreds of books out there, and reams of new stuff in the drumming magazines every month. It can be overwhelming for students, who feel bad because they're not learning all of their books cover to cover, or because they haven't really “learned what they already have in front of them.” And writers like me can wonder just what the hell is the point of doing more. Hasn't everything been done already?

These feelings are wrong. I own over a hundred books, and may work out of out of 15-20 of them in the course of a week, and I still need to write more stuff.

Drum books are an incredible value. If you learn one thing of real value from it, what did it cost you? Around $8-25, usually. And by “learn”, I mean you acquired something in your playing, and maybe some verbal information about music, and/or gained some kind of general understanding that actually helps you in your playing. If you're able to dedicate dozens or hundreds of hours of practice to a single book, you've really gotten value much greater than the book's cover price.

Format and organization matter. Especially when you start using your materials creatively. Little changes in format, can make big differences in what you can easily do with the materials, how productively you are able to use them, and what you learn in using them.

Remember, it's a multi-year, multi-decade process. You're going to have these books around for the rest of your life. Maybe you'll find a use for some other parts of them in five years, ten years, or twenty years. Don't think of a new book as an assignment, think of it as an addition to your library; a resource that will be instantly available if, someday, you need it.

Limiting yourself to one book you are really limiting yourself to one author's vision, to the extent that he was able to put a complete vision accurately into book form. No one is able to cover everything, and not everyone is that good a writer; nor are everyone's methods are good enough to dedicate years of your life to working on. And just because of the nature of communication, you may need to hear the same message put several different ways to really understand it. So I'm extremely skeptical of very expensive all-in-one collections that claim to cover everything you'll ever need to know and practice.

The exception to that is the body of methods associated with Ted Reed's Syncopation— an $8 book. Most players could just learn that really well, listen a lot and play a lot, and be done with it. You can become a great drummer with just that, and you'd be missing very little of practical importance. Still, it doesn't cover absolutely everything.

You're supposed to have a lot of books. Especially if you're teaching. As a professional, you're supposed to build and maintain a personal library both of books and recorded music. It's just part of your infrastructure.

Just what is the point of writing more stuff is a larger subject I may have to save for another day. I think that if you're thinking about the playing process, and the practicing process, and writing for contemporary needs, there will always be room for more materials.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Soul drumming history with Yogi Horton

Here's an incredible video which I never knew existed: R&B legend Yogi Horton talking and playing the history of soul/funk drumming— this is just the best thing ever:

h/t to my brother, John Bishop, for this one.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

New CSD! e-book: Bossa Nova / Samba Field Manual

UPDATE: Thanks for the review, Kenneth!

Time to unveil one of the things I've been doing instead of delivering the promised Book of Intros, which is languishing maybe 3-5 hours of work away from completion, stupidly...

...but, yes, I say, it's time to unveil a new Cruise Ship Drummer! Kindle book:

Playing Samba and Bossa Nova: a field manual for drummers

It's a concise, practical guide covering the essential information you need to play those styles on a professional job, in a jazz band or lounge band context. The format is a little different than regular drum books; in addition to the drum patterns, it tells you all of the other things that go into actually perform music in the style: your job as drummer, how to play with a band, and a lot of other important background info for playing the music creatively and authentically.

The level is approximately high school, through college, through professional who just doesn't know a whole lot about these styles (which is a lot of them, actually!). An excellent resource for teachers and band directors, too.

Right now it's only available as an e-book for Kindle, or for Kindle apps on your tablet, phone, or computer— you can get the app free of charge from the book's Amazon page. I do believe in owning real paper books, so we'll see about making it available in hard format, at some point.

Get yours now! Price is an extraordinarily reasonable $6.95.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Holiday special on books and Skype lessons!

Scroll down for new posts— I'll be keeping this pinned to the top of the blog this month.

What the hey, let's do a little holiday discount on Cruise Ship Drummer! books for the month of December, let's say... 15% off... I was going to have a coupon code but Lulu doesn't offer them, so... everybody! Everybody wins! And, yes, that is on top of the 15% discount already in effect for the 2011 Book of the Blog.

What we have available are:

100 Grooves — $11.01 with discount
One hundred (give or take) transcribed drum grooves, with performance notes, by Zigaboo Modeliste, James Gadson, Clyde Stubblefield, Mike Clark, Elvin Jones, Ed Blackwell, and many more! Difficulty ranges from very easy to very challenging.

2013 Book of the Blog — $12.71 with discount
120 pages. All downloadable material from the blog in 2013, with additional commentary. Includes fat sections on jazz, pop, snare drum, polyrhythms, Afro-Cuban and Brazilian styles, more! There's a lot of good practicing in this book.

2011 Book of the Blog — transcriptions — $10.47 with discount
138 pages. All the transcriptions posted on the blog in 2011, including things by Elvin Jones (Big Nick, Tunji, more), Jack Dejohnette (God Bless The Child solo), Vinnie Colaiuta, Roy Haynes (famous In Walked Bud solo), Max Roach, Tony Williams, Zigaboo Modeliste, and a whole lot of other great players. The highlights of the book are two Vinnie Colaiuta transcriptions from Frank Zappa's Joe's Garage: the drumming during the guitar solos from Packard Goose and Keep It Greasey— that latter in 19/16... that's the time signature. It's insane. Neither of those are available on the blog anymore, by the way— you can only get them by buying the book.

Aaaand, since December is usually a rather slack month for the private lessons, let's offer 15% off on Skype lessons as well— that's $42.50 for an hour lesson, or 35€ for you Euro-zone folks. We do a lot of hard stuff on the blog, but I'm happy to work people at all levels of ability, so don't hesitate to get in touch! Drop me a line and let me know what you're having problems with, and what you'd like to improve on.

Groove o' the day: Ivan Conti — A Presa

Here's a funk samba groove from a drummer I've really come to dig: Ivan Conti, of the Brazilian fusion band Azymuth. When I was into fusion in the 80s, I got the impression from some people around me that they were a little too easy listening, and I never got into them until recently. But they're great. It's good to learn to appreciate deep mellow. The tune is A Presa, from the album Águia Não Come Mosca.

You can hear that he mixes up the pattern quite a bit, and fills frequently. This would be a good transcription project to get those fills, if I had the time right now. Exaggerate the dynamics; the ghost notes on the snare are very soft, and the accented notes on the hihat are very strong. The tempo is quarter note = 120.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

DBMITW: Glen Moore

Good music for a very windy day here in Portland, from Glen Moore, bassist from the band Oregon, who lives in town:

This record Nude Bass Ascending is basically a perfect album— it has held up through a lot of listening year after year. You can get it here.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Advice for beginning drummers

Obligatory inspirational picture
1. Play every day.
Consistency is the main thing. At some point in your playing career, you will need to put in many hours every day, for several years at least, if you want to become an impressive, well-rounded professional player. If you're not ready to do that now, you can at least continue to improve steadily if you play for a little while every single day, no exceptions.

2. Don't give up.
The other big thing is not to give up. As a beginner you are not qualified to judge your future potential as a musician, so, if this is something you want to do, give it a chance to happen by continuing to do it. Any person of normal physical abilities should be able to play drums functionally at a professional level given time, a considerable amount of practice, and playing experience. This means you.

3. Talent is overrated.
Playing music comes easier to some people than others, but what actually matters is interest, persistence, and a reasonable work ethic (at least when it comes to music). Declaring yourself to be “not talented enough” is not an excuse for not being able to play the drums.

4. Be music-centric.
Everything you do in drumming follows from music you love, and music you play, so listen a lot, and play with people a lot. For all of the fascinating drum junk available to look at and practice— it's boring. Without any musical context and meaning, it's empty stuff, and you're going to get bored with it. Being in love with music is what will hook you to continue playing and improving for the rest of your life.

5. Learn to read music.
It's strange to have to mention this, but this is the Internet, and everyone seems to think they can learn just by watching videos. Video demonstrations are fine, but in 2014, real drummers read. With a little bit of familiarity, you will take in information a lot faster by reading it off the page.

6.  Be around other musicians
Being around other drummers, you're always thinking about the drums, and seeing what other people are doing well, or badly; and it fills out a lot of background knowledge you don't get by just playing alone in your basement and looking at web videos. Non-drumming musicians are the people you're going to actually play music with, so you need to be friends with them to have a chance to do that.

7. Take every playing opportunity.
When you get a chance to play music with people, take it, no matter what. I don't care if it's a country gig, a church gig, a musical that looks really bad, or playing triangle in junior orchestra; it doesn't matter. If your friend who doesn't play bass very well wants to come over and play with you, say yes. Say yes to everything.

8. Playing is sacrosanct.
Treat all playing situations seriously, no matter how bad you think it is, or how much everyone around you thinks its a joke. You don't have to be a jerk about it, showing off how serious you are; just be focused on doing the best, most professional job you can, no matter what. You can joke about how messed up the situation was after you're done playing, after the gig or rehearsal.

Monday, December 08, 2014

70s west coast drum corps guys: do you remember this one?

“Have another beer, have another beer, roll another joint and smoke it, smoke it”?

It's a funny little onomatopoeic 70s thing that goes with a roll exercise, which I overheard an instructor do, once— I think it's probably a Santa Clara Vanguard thing, possibly a University of Oregon marching band thing.

I think it's a coda for a longer exercise, possibly?

Anyone remember this little piece of oral history?

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Snare drum workout in 6/8

I'm all about the one-page workouts these days, so here's another one, for snare drum, in 6/8.

The first goal is just to be able to play each of the patterns individually; probably some of the later ones will hang some people up. After you can play them all at a moderate tempo, then you can begin doing the actual drill, playing each exercises 2, 4, or 8 times, and going on to the next one without stopping, all the way down the page. You could do that every day for a week or two, upping the tempo as you feel like it, then move on to something else.

Sticking is alternating, unless otherwise indicated. Play the drags open, with two notes per stroke. Observe the dynamics carefully— grace notes should be played 1" off the drum, unaccented notes and drags ~2-5", and accented notes ~4-10". Personally, I do most of my snare drum practice with very low heights these days, with 2-4" taps  and 4-6" accents. Remember, 6/8 is a compound meter counted in 2— there are two triplet-feel beats per measure— so set your metronome to click on the first and fourth 8th notes of every measure.

Get the pdf