Thursday, August 25, 2016

Basic 12/8 grooves

Before we get too deep into the heavier triplet-slash-12/8 stuff, here's a page of basic grooves. Gotta make sure everyone is taken care of. 12/8 is a compound meter (meaning it has a “triplet” feel— each beat is divided into three notes rather than the usual two), and is counted in 4— don't count it in 12. If you played a measure of 8th note triplets in 4/4, you'd have basically the same thing, for all practical purposes. Here I've written a number of grooves with running 8th notes on the hihat, and some with a shuffle rhythm.



Play these many times each, until you relax and your hands and feet begin to know what to expect. Then start memorizing the grooves, or more importantly, the things that happen during them: What kinds of things happen at the beginning at the measure, going into the first snare hit? What happens between the two snare hits? What happens at the end, going into the 1? Begin improvising new, varying grooves by playing with those things, switching them around on the fly as you recall them.

From last year, this page of “studio triplet” grooves/ideas is a good companion to this page.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Page o' coordination: “Afro Blues” bell - 02

Another page of coordination patterns for this Afro/shuffle cymbal pattern, which I'll go ahead and call “Afro Blues” because I feel like it. It came up in my own playing, and I'm not aware of it being used as a set part in African or Latin music, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was, either. I'm not using it as a set, repeating thing, either; the purpose of these pages is more to develop some freedom within a shuffle feel, and to be able to move freely between the shuffle rhythm and the “quarter note triplet” rhythm on the cymbal, while doing other things.

So here's entry 2 in this series, which is considerably more challenging than the first, developing some linear patterns between the snare and bass drum, along with our bell pattern:




As a warm up, you could try playing either the shuffle cymbal rhythm or the “quarter note triplet” cymbal rhythm for the entire measure— which could be difficult to do without having it actually written out. Maybe I'll be nice and write it up for you. Since stylistically we're in a Blues/Shuffle feel, I tend to stay on the snare drum and not to do our usual (for the POCs) left hand moves so much. No reason not to do them, though.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Reed interpretation: triplets with breaks

I don't why it took me over 30 years to figure this out— I'm always looking for ways to simplify things, to make them more playable. This is an alternative to a very common, popular, and useful Reed method— the one where you play the melody rhythm with RH on ride cymbal together with BD (in a swing rhythm), and the LH fills out the triplets. One of the most useful things I ever learned for soloing .

One of its challenges is that on any note/rest values longer than a quarter note, you have to fill in multiple triplet notes— severely limiting your maximum tempo if you do them all with your left hand. You can do it much faster if you break up the multiples by bringing the right hand to the snare drum, to make only singles and doubles— I outlined the way I do this in this post from 2013. But I really don't like to think about execution at all when I'm playing, and even that very functional method is a little more technical than I like.

So the solution that finally dawned on me after three decades of playing this method: hey, let's just stop when we get to the multiples. Why not? There's no secret difficulty police that's going to walk onto the gig and escort us out for not doing something in the hardest way possible. As it turns out, by introducing some space, this method actually sounds more musical than the old one. It's a win all around.

So get out your copy of Syncopation, turn to the famous page 37 (or whatever page it is in the new edition— it's the first long syncopation exercise) and compare it with what I've written here. You can see that we stop on the melody note at the beginning of a longer space— any note+rest equaling a duration of a dotted quarter note or longer. If the next melody note is on the beat, come in normally with the melody-plus-triplets; if the next melody note is an &, play an accent on the snare drum on the 8th rest before it. Wherever there are one isolated note or two isolated notes an 8th note apart, just play the written notes and don't fill in the triplets. You should be able to figure this out by comparing the two pages:




Alternatively, you can play the snare drum on any 8th rest in the melody part. So the first two measures of the fifth line:



Would be played as follows:



Not a bad idea to stick those two-in-a-row snare hits RL, and move one or both of them to the tom toms. Of course the right hand part for this entire method can also be played on the snare and toms, without the bass drum. And as a general rule, we want to accent the RH part and play the LH filler notes quietly and legato (a lot of students try to over-articulate them), so the written melody line is emphasized.

I'll put a single snare hit on the beat after those hanging &s— melody hits on an & with a space after them. this will help get the timing, and keep a solid quarter note pulse throughout. I wouldn't do this on isolated hits on the &, like in the previous example. These two measures from the third line:


Would be played:



I don't accent that note. See what sounds good to you.

Also, where you come in on an & after a stop, instead of the single hit on the beat illustrated on the main page, I also like to play the first two notes of the triplet, with an accent on the first note. Sticking is usually LL, but it could also be RL. It makes it a little more Dejohnette and a little less big band. These two measures from the second line, then:


Would be played:


Figure out what sounds best to you and have at it. I think you'll find Exercise 4 on page 40 (old edition) to be the most challenging with this new interpretation.

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Monday, August 08, 2016

Page o' coordination: Afro shuffle bell pattern

This is something that came up in playing Back At The Chicken Shack, a shuffle by organist Jimmy Smith . We play a pretty open interpretation of the style on that tune, not a strict Blue Note shuffle, and I found myself playing this cymbal rhythm repetitively quite a bit. It's quite similar to the Afro 6 bell patterns we've been working with extensively over the last couple of years:




Here's the same rhythm written as 8th notes in 12/8:




I've written up a page of left hand independence patterns based on that, with a couple of standard bass drum and hihat rhythms. “Afro shuffle” is not a real style or type of groove that I am aware of; the name just sounded good because of the similarity to that Afro 6. We could've called it “Afro Blues.” Just know the name is made up, and no one else is going to know it or use it.




You could do our standard left hand moves (do you have them memorized yet?) with this page, but I don't feel it's strictly necessary; my goal is to get a more open texture within a standard shuffle feel. It wouldn't be a terrible idea to practice beats 1-2 and 3-4 of each exercise separately— looping those two beats for each pattern before doing the whole measure.

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Saturday, July 30, 2016

Friday, July 29, 2016

Transcription: James Black - Hook And Sling, pt. 2

This is something very special— it's probably classical music to anyone well versed in New Orleans music, and anyone in the sampling world, but I only heard it for the first time recently: James Black playing Hook And Sling, by Eddie Bo. It's an extended funk jam taking up both sides of a 45 rpm single, and the drumming on it is something else— very much in the Zigaboo Modeliste zone, and roughly contemporaneous with the early Meters stuff we know and love, though Black was a little older.




The record is one continuous recorded track split in two, and they chose a very strange spot to split it— take a look at the first measure. There's quite a bit of wiggle room in the hihat and cymbal parts; someone's playing some tambourine, and it obscures it to some extent. There's also a good amount of half-open hihat, and the cymbals in general are pretty rough sounding and not always easy to pick out or notate accurately. Do take some care where there's something linear happening with the hihats, but in general, the cymbals can be a suggestion— focus on the drum parts. The accents, too, are not critically important: all of the parts of the instrument are played pretty strongly all the time. You'd be more true to the original if you played everything the same volume than if you exaggerated the accents. The rolls and ruffs are played very closed; he really digs into the drum for them. Play the 32nd notes as singles.  

As always with the transcriptions, if nothing else, give the track many listens through while following along on the page.

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Page o' coordination: displacing a jazz groove

As the heading on the page says, this is a fairly ill-advised endeavor we're covering today: displacing a jazz groove, by shifting the cymbal and hihat rhythm over to the last note of the triplet. Not exactly a core thing. Jeff Watts very audaciously did it on Branford Marsalis's album Trio Jeepy. I also think it was covered in a book I don't own, Gavin Harrison's How To Crash The Band And Get Fired, For The Soon-To-Be-Formerly-Professional Drummer.

I'm sorry, I don't know where I got that. The title of that book is Rhythmic Illusions. Listen: I wrote this just to mess with one particular bass player I work with, a strong player who likes to fool around playing the middle of the triplet— which I take as a compliment, that he is comfortable enough playing with me to do that. Maybe it will end up helping the music go someplace new and special, or maybe it'll just be me messing with him briefly. Probably the only reason a normal person will want to do this is just to refine the internals of your jazz feel by shifting perspective. In that way it's a reasonable technical exercise, worth spending a few hours with.




Do our standard left hand moves— my full CSD! workout is to play each exercise 2, 4, or 8 times with each of those moves. You'll need to work closely with a metronome on this, and it's an excellent idea to count the quarter notes out loud, too; you never want to be guessing where the beat actually is.

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

New Orleans street beat - Reed method

As promised, another method for developing a NOLA street beat, this one perhaps more musical than the last. Definitely. Here we'll be using Progressive Steps to Syncopation, by Ted Reed, pp. 33-44— the “Syncopation” section of the book.

Similar to the Stone method from last week, we'll be playing alternating 8th notes on the snare drum throughout. Following the music in the book (stems-up part only, ignore the written stems-down part), you'll add a snare drum accent on any written short notes (untied 8th notes), and add a bass drum note on all the long notes (everything else— quarter notes, tied notes, dotted notes).

Once you can do that fluidly, you can begin making two-measure phrases that approximate a real groove. On the last long note every two measures, accent with the hands (whichever hand the note falls on), and roll— just continue playing the running 8th notes, but play multiple-bounce strokes for the duration of that long note. Here, it's all on the page:




Instructions from before still apply, mainly: 1) Swing the 8th notes slightly. 2) Listen to recordings to get the feel, and to get an idea of the amount of variety professional drummers use with this type of groove. Actual bands from New Orleans may not do a lot of variations on the basic groove; jazz drummers playing it as a style may play a lot of variations.

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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Kenny Clarke at 100

[Oh heck, this is from 2014— oh well. Just saw it on Famoudou Don Moye's Facebook feed today. Whatever.]

Good of NPR's Kevin Whitehead to take notice of Kenny Clarke's (“inventor of modern jazz drumming”) 100th birthday. He doesn't quite accurately describe the nature of Clarke's innovation:

Before him, jazz drummers kept time lightly on the bass drum. Kenny Clarke used bass drum sparingly, often tethered to his snare, for dramatic accents in odd places — what jazz folk call "dropping bombs." He drew on his playing for stage shows, where drummers punctuate the action with split-second timing. Clarke kicked a band along. 
With those twin innovations, Kenny Clarke invented modern jazz drumming. 

Before Clarke— I'm not going to call him “Klook”, like I knew him— drummers kept time often quite heavily on the bass drum, and the snare drum, too, with a swing-style march rhythm. They also played the familiar thing on the hihat— that was Papa Jo Jones's thing. You can get a more detailed idea of what he did in his Modern Drummer interview with Ed Thigpen— I've excerpted the relevant passages. This post about Charley Wilcoxon's Drum Method, as well as the Mel Lewis's history of jazz drumming interviews, and, hey, records, can give you an idea of what swing-era drumming was in the early part of Clarke's career, before Bebop.