Saturday, April 18, 2015

Linear phrases in 5/4, mixed rhythm — 02 - inversion

I feel bad posting more practice stuff, when I've barely gotten to hit the drums myself this week, what with taxes, dental work, teaching, painting the house, and on and on. But back in the mists of last week I was hitting these pages pretty hard enough that it was doing something nice for me, so here's the second part of the last entry. The same patterns from before are offset one note, so each measure begins with a bass drum. The given phrases, 3/3/3/5, 3/3/4/4, etc, begin on the second note of each measure... you don't need to worry about that; just play the patterns as written.

Have I drilled my page-at-once mentality into your head enough? Try to cover all the patterns in one reasonable-length sitting, say, 10-20 minutes. Shoot for 4, 8, or more repetitions per phrase. If you do that every day, you should feel some kind of noticeable change in your playing after a few days to a week.

Get the pdf

Friday, April 17, 2015


Your feelings are like an unaturally-torn piece of
paper held by a hand model with weird thumbs.
Recently, on a drumming forum, a question came up about feeling bad, not liking your playing. Ideally we would all feel happy and confident always, enjoying every phase of learning, and of our careers. Unfortunately it don't work that way, and most of us spend way too much time feeling bad our playing and ourselves. Here are some thoughts about how to deal with that:

Like good music. Your actual playing is just behavior. The music you listen to is really the center of who you are as a musician— it's the “real you”— so, you have to have something of substance in there. A lot of music is all surface. It's got a case of Yngwie-itis— it sounds amazing one time, then the indifference sets in, and you never want to hear it again. The Internet is burgeoning with shit like that, across all genres. Be real by finding something real.

Like music that is somewhat matched to your current abilities. If you're only listening to stuff that you are years away from even being able to approximate at a professional level, of course you're going to feel inadequate. When I took up painting, the only reason I was able to do it was because I was into Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg— paintings that at least looked like I could do them (even if I couldn't really). That gave me the possibility of making pictures that I liked, and that matched my idea of what I thought good was, even when my technical skills were weak.

“No way,” you protest, “I'm just into *fractional/avian death-core. That's who I am, man!” Well, a) No, it isn't. b) Refer to our first item. c) There is great music in just about every genre; liking it, hating it, or ignoring it is a choice. Choose to like things. **Hating/ignoring whole genres is for amateurs.

Play good music. Bad music badly played makes everything you do sound bad, hey? First, get with better players; ideally, everyone else in the group should be better than you. Just so they're good at playing the style you're playing... I don't care if it's a polka band, anything. Then you can look at the actual quality of the music— just be aware that it can take some experience to recognize music that is unredeemably bad, vs. music you're just not knowledgeable enough to be able work with.

Turn off drumming media. You know how to hold the sticks, and you know what it looks like for someone to play one million times more amazingly than you will ever be able in your most harebrained fantasies. If you turn off the YouTube and get out and see some real drummers play, you'll see that real world drumming, good, great, or bad, is usually not amazing; and you'll get a much better idea of your abilities, and of how much, and what kind of, work you need to do. That won't necessarily make you feel good, but at least you'll feel bad realistically.

Respect simplicity. We all say we do, but I don't know about that. I don't think we fully believe it.

Keep practicing. Even if you can learn to play to a basic professional level in a-few-to-ten years, it can take a lot longer to get to where you feel you really have a command over what you play. Be patient with yourself and realize that it's a process.

You sound better than you think. For a lot of us, it's hard to think of anything other than what we would have played in a world where we were more amazingly great. But if you're able to play pretty good time, cover the broad outlines of the song, and make some basic fills, you're doing 100% of the job anyone else wants from you. The audience is thrilled just to have someone hitting the drums up there. So relax, and let yourself be solid.

*- I refuse to learn the actual names of the alleged “genres” of Metal. -tb

**- Does not apply to Metal, sorry. -tb

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Quick takes: MD's 25 timeless drum books list

Perhaps not the best superlative for books on drumming, but we get the picture. Here I have some “hot takes” (to use Twitter parlance) on the entries in Modern Drummer's list of 25 timeless drum books. I've bolded the titles I think everyone should own. Hit the links if you want to purchase them in my Amazon store; I get a minute commission when you do!

Stone (Alfred)
Every drummer should own this, that's all.

MASTER STUDIES by Joe Morello (Modern Drummer Publications)
Great technical snare drum book, which extends some ideas found in Stone's Stick Control and Accents & Rebounds (which was actually ghost-co-written by Morello). There's also a Master Studies II— best to own both volumes.

THE NEW BREED by Gary Chester (Modern Drummer Publications)
The major book for post Dave Weckl-style fusion drumming, and all-around pan-genre studio funk— I've started to get the feeling that that type of playing is a bit of a plague, and I rarely crack this book. And you know I'm not really down with the open-handed stuff. Whatever. It's a great book.

ADVANCED FUNK STUDIES by Rick Latham (Latham Publications)
More a collection of licks and ideas than a method book. That's not a bad thing, but I was never able to do much with them in the form they're presented here. It's probably a decent book for getting your fusion clichés together.

REALISTIC ROCK by Carmine Appice (Alfred)
I really dislike the archaic drum notation in this book, and so have never used it— I would need to see an updated edition with modern notation to really give this one a fair shot.

Much more after the break...

Monday, April 13, 2015

Half-time feel funk: basic method

Here's a basic method for working with the half time feel funk grooves from the other day. We'll be reading out of Syncopation, by Ted Reed, pp. 10-11 (from the old edition) or Lesson 4 (in the new edition).

Start by getting used to the feel of the foundation pattern, with the right hand move to the snare drum. Then play through all fifteen lines of exercises, plus the 20 bar exercise, from Syncopation, with hands only. Just keep playing the quarter note foundation pattern with the RH, and add any LHs needed on the &s to make the rhythms in the book. Then play through all the patterns again, adding a bass drum hit on beat 1— pattern 1 from the basic cut time funk grooves page. You should be able to repeat this with the other first four bass drum patterns without too much difficulty; grooves 5-18, with the BD on the &s, may be more of a challenge.

Finally, when you're able to play straight through all of the exercises with all of the bass drum patterns, play them again omitting the circled bass drum notes from the grooves page. It sounds like a lot of stuff, but once you learn a few key patterns, the rest of them become very easy.

Get cracking, the hip things we'll do with this are yet to come...

Get the pdf

DBMITW: Cherry / Blackwell / Gurtu / Wolcott / Shankar

From the same YouTube user who posted yesterday's Ed Blackwell videos, here's a totally amazing concert recording of Don Cherry playing in Neuwied, Germany, with Ed Blackwell, Lakshmi Shankar, Colin Wolcott, and Trilok Gurtu, probably from the 1979— Cherry references Margaret Thatcher's election in some improvised lyrics. You'll recognize things from El Corazon and Mu, Cherry's great duo albums with Blackwell, as well as a tune from Playing, by Old & New Dreams— Mopti, a 6/8 tune which I've been playing since this 90s.

Much more after the break— there are eight of these total:

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Lost Ed Blackwell

Jon McCaslin @ Four On The Floor has posted some obscure (I've never seen them,anyway) Ed Blackwell videos— that's all you should need to know to get over there and checkum out.

Linear phrases in 5/4, mixed rhythm — 02

UPDATE: pdf download link fixed!

Another batch of Chaffee linear patterns, in a different mixed rhythm than before, in 5/4. There will be four pages of this one; two of the basic phrases, two of the inversions.

At one point my attitude was “Why should I practice in 5/4, which I rarely have to play, when I haven't yet mastered 4/4, which I have to play all the time?” As I've been doing a whole lot of practicing in 5 in recent years, I'm realizing that it's definitely not a zero-sum thing; my practicing in 5 does help my playing in 4. Mainly, it forces you to concentrate, and breaks up patterns of being too squarely “in 4”, or of habitually falling into an Elvin-style running dotted quarter note cross rhythm— a few of you know what I'm talking about here. The point is, if you're able to play pretty well, and mindlessly, in 4, you won't be detracting by spending a lot of time in 5.

This ends up being a lot of patterns to cover, so I keep it simple. I start each pattern with the right hand and alternate, moving the hands around the drums. You could swing the 8th notes, if you want.

Get the pdf

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Basic cut time funk beats

Today we have a page of basic funk grooves in 2/2— cut time, half-time feel, whatever you want to call it. I haven't given a cymbal part, because we'll be doing some different things with it, using Syncopation.

For now, play them with any cymbal pattern of your choice. You'll probably want to start with quarter notes, 8th notes, half notes, and 2 and 4. Once you have the basic groove, continue playing it while omitting the circled bass drum note. Then improvise your own grooves. You could also combine first and second measures from different exercises, but that will eat up a lot of practice time, and I think it's unnecessary.

Get the pdf

Donald Fagen on Whiplash

I'm kind of done with this movie, but I'll keep sharing choice quotes about it when they come up. Here's Donald Fagen:

“Last night some of the guys in the band were talking about that movie, Whiplash. After watching this cloddish potboiler about an aspiring drummer's experience in jazz school, the jazz players I know either go berserk with indignation and/or howl with derisive laughter. Many jazzers, including pianist Ethan Iverson and Richard Brody of the New Yorker, have written about this ignorant and mendacious film, so I won't belabor the point.

Suffice to say that Whiplash has nothing to do with actual jazz unless you consider it to be a species of martial arts, as Buddy Rich often did. It makes Paris Blues with Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier look like a golden edifice of verisimilitude. I'm not saying Whiplash shouldn't be seen in theaters, though. It should, at midnight, along with Plan 9 from Outer Space and, especially, Glen or Glenda.”

(h/t to OpenTune @ DW)