Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Feel in samba

I'll start this post with an enormous caveat that Brazilian music is not my field of expertise at all.  Many people around me are learning Portuguese, making trips to Brazil and being very serious about it, making me feel a little like the guy who sat next to the class clown, as I mentioned to someone recently. Still I thought this might be helpful to people who are, like me, seeking to put together some understanding from multiple, imperfect bits of information. See my "samba builder" download for applications for these concepts.

First, for reference:

The subject of feel in samba is intimidating because it has never been clearly and fully analyzed, at least that I've seen. Here in their entirety are three of the most helpful things I've read about it:
Duduka da Fonseca/Bob Weiner in Brazilian Rhythms for Drumset: One of the keys to understanding Brazilian music is feel the pull towards a "triplet pulse" against the 2/4 feel of the samba.
Eliane Elias quoted by Peter Erskine in The Drum Perspective: "You Americans don't know how to swing samba; you all sound like TI-KA TI-KA TI-KA TI-KA." I smirked and said, "Well then, how should it sound?" She sang, "DO-goosh-ga, DO-goosh-ga, DO-goosh-ga, DO-goosh-ga."

Peter Erskine in Drum Concepts and Techniques: Remember to accent on 2. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The DNA of swing drumming

I picked up this interesting book- Charley Wilcoxon's Drum Method- as one of my local sheet music stores was going out of business. I'd been working with Wilcoxon's more advanced Rudimental Swing Solos, but this seems to be the true key book (as far as a book can take you) for understanding pre-modern jazz drumming.

The emphasis here is on rudiments and syncopated phrases, in the the 30's swing drumming mode, before before four-way coordination, and before use of the ride cymbal and hi-hat were universal. The approach to rudiments is different than in traditional military-style drumming, as in Haskell Harr. Even the march-like etudes have a distinctly swinging feel absent from the other style.

Most of the book deals with quarter and 8th notes in 4/4 and cut time, plus 3/4 and 6/8. Syncopated and even meter-within-meter rhythms and accent patterns are introduced early, in the quarter note section, and exercises generally have a swing lilt. Remarkably, 16th notes in #/4 meters are not fully explored until page 91. Notably absent are the mathematical/logical sequences of exercises that became a primary feature of many drum books after George L. Stone's Stick Control. Often sequences of exercises will be related by embellishments, or sticking variations as in the single page of 16th note exercises, which shows the unadorned rhythm, then several sticking, accent, embellishment options. Usually they just follow a musically-related progression.

It's somewhat easy to miss the fact that this is a drum set method book. The bass drum is used simply throughout, playing either quarter notes or half notes, and occasionally filling in breaks or supporting an accent pattern in the hands. Aside from a few dedicated hihat exercises, most of the book uses only the bass drum and hands. Jazz ride cymbal and hi-hat patterns are presented as stand-alone time feels, with no comping in the modern Kenny Clarke/Max Roach/Chapin mode. Brushes are mentioned, to introduce the left hand sweep, and to mention that "brush technique is usually developed individually by each drummer." There are a number of multi-voice exercises and etudes using tom toms and cowbell.

I've found it to be very useful in my own practice- I'm very fond of the pages of two bar breaks, "rhumba studies", 3/8 studies, 16th notes, and triplet/8th note combinations. Along with several of the later etudes, which are less dense and more focused on a single idea than those from Wilcoxon's other books. And it's nice to see earlier versions of the the type of phrases used in more modern books, like Ted Reed's Syncopation. The history lesson plus the dozen or so pages I actually use make it well worth the purchase price.

Purchase the Wilcoxon Drum Method.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Todd's Methods: Samba builder

Here's a little method I improvised for developing some flexibility with the samba- I put this together pretty quickly away from the drums, so I'm sure I'll add to it as I work with it in my own practice. The idea here is to get comfortable with bringing the feet in and out, making changes in dynamics, and using the bass drum independently, like a surdo player, instead of being locked into the usual dotted-8th/16th pattern. Check out the notes at the end for some fairly important things about interpretation. A good first approach is to work from a base of the most comfortable hand part, and practice making adds and changes to that.

Update: my man Boomka over at the forum offered a couple of excellent links- an interview with Duduka da Fonseca where he discusses the importance of a sensitive approach to the bass drum, plus a video demonstrating the feel of the repinicado part (video embedded after the break).

Download the pdf.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Page o' Gadd

Still slow getting my own stuff completed this week, so instead you'll have to enjoy this nice page of Steve Gadd motifs from Bang! the Drum School, a Brooklyn teaching studio. They have a blog over there as well, with a bunch of other good things.

Get the pdf from Bang! the Drum School.

Krupa G.P.

Still light posting, but listening to the Mel Lewis history of jazz drums interview and they're discussing a favorite move of Gene Krupa's- during a shout chorus leaving a dramatic silence where there would normally be a fill. Here he does it at 0:38:

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Massive Mel Lewis interview

More great stuff from Jon McCaslin at Four on the Floor: extended radio interview of Mel Lewis by Loren Schoenberg, discussing the history of the drums in jazz from Baby Dodds to Elvin Jones. An essential document for all jazz drummers, and anyone serious about the drums, period.

2020 UPDATE: You can now get the interviews on the University of North Texas site. Thanks to Manuel, our man in Augsburg for the notice!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hal Blaine interview

Great article and interview with Hal Blaine at Jazz Wax, absolutely worth reading. If you haven't heard of him, Marc Myers'  introduction should pique your interest:
Except for the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and a few other groups, most rock bands of the early and mid-1960s didn't play on their own records. Which groups? Try the Beach Boys, the Mamas and the Papas, the Byrds, Jay and the Americans, Gary Lewis and the Playboys and dozens of others.
Who did? Hal Blaine and a tight-knit ad hoc group of about 30 highly skilled Hollywood studio musicians known as the Wrecking Crew. They could read anything put down in front of them and could nail the song the first time through, bringing enormous snap to the results. For years I've been fascinated by this little-known secret hit-making machine.
How big a deal is Hal? He recorded on 39 No. 1 hits on Billboard's 
Hot 100. Which hits? Here are just a handful: Can't Help Falling in Love, He's a Rebel, Surf City, I Get Around, Everybody Loves Somebody, Help Me, Rhonda, Mr Tambourine Man, I Got You Babe, My Love, These Boots Are Made for Walkin', Monday Monday, Strangers in the Night, Cracklin' Rosie and The Way We Were.
Hal also was the drummer on six hits to win the Grammy for Record of the Year for six years in a row. A staggering stat. Which six? A Taste of Honey, Strangers in the Night, Up, Up and Away, Mrs. Robinson, Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In and Bridge Over Troubled Water. Hal also was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.
Like Detroit's Funk Brothers who backed up virtually all of the Motown groups, the Wrecking Crew did the same in Los Angeles. The difference, of course, is that everyone knew the Funk Brothers, and the artists they played behind were singers. The Wrecking Crew, by contrast, was a phantom band of killer musicians, and their vast contribution wasn't disclosed on albums until recently on CD re-issues.

Visit Jazz Wax to read the entire piece, including video and more.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Why we transcribe

Yes, I look the same
when I'm transcribing as Duke
did when he was copying
parts- immaculately-coifed, reclining
in my suit surrounded by reams
of parchment.
I'm a pretty big transcriber, and I thought I would offer some thoughts about it- some whys, why nots, and things I have to think about when doing it. This is not a how-to- that will be coming soon as a separate post. Please excuse the laundry list format- I don't have a lot of time to go real in depth right now. I guess that's why God gave us blogs...

Why I transcribe:
- To facilitate listening. All the other whys follow from this.
- To see exactly how a drummer does his job. How he handles the craft end of things- time feel, ensemble figures, set ups, fills, comping. This is a short entry, but a really big thing.
- To get a sense of the size of tool box a drummer brings to a performance. How many types of things does he play? How many ideas?
- To clarify mysterious things. Some drummers play things that are easy to understand, some play things that defy real instant analysis- Elvin Jones and Jack Dejohnette are examples of that. In the case of Vinnie Colaiuta, I might want to see how in the hell he gets through an extended guitar solo in 19/16.
- To get statistical information- how often he make strong crashes, how often he uses the toms, how often does he vary or leave the ride cymbal. How much space he leaves, how long he stays at certain dynamic levels. I just want a better impression of those things than I might get just from listening- I'm not actually counting up cymbal crashes.

What I don't do:
- I don't transcribe to learn cool things to play on the drums. Musical context is the entire point. So I don't transcribe burning "set piece" drum solos that have nothing to do with anything musically.
- I don't play my transcriptions. My feeling is that on the drums especially, it's a little bit like trying to forge someone's signature- you can mimic the outward appearance, but not the true process.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Best Books: Basic Drumming by Joel Rothman

In case you haven't figured it out already, I'm a big fan of Joel Rothman's books. His many, many books- I think he has written about a hundred of varying lengths since the early 60's. Basic Drumming is probably the most widely-owned, and contains more than a little of just about everything, without being in any way dumbed-down. A drummer who mastered everything in this book, with an equal amount of performance experience, would be cooking indeed. So the word "basic" is a little misleading.

Rothman has a unique logic to his presentation, which he follows selectively, with a bias in favor of practicality. Often he will use a common performance pattern as a starting place, and then compose a number of variations based on it, which gives the student a starting place, then a number of musical directions to go from it.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Transcription: Joey Baron - Child at Heart

This is one of my favorite pieces of Joey Baron's playing, from Bill Frisell's Where In The World, playing some of the more prodigious snare drum backbeats in jazz. The “hip”, backwards, rhythmically-displaced part during the drum break at measure 41 was always the hokiest part of it to me, but I learned to love it by listening to the record again and again. Somehow it makes more sense to me when he does the same sort of thing again at measure 65.

Transcription begins after 3:40 in the recording.

Get the pdf

Friday, March 18, 2011


Just go here.

All About Jazz interview: Alvin Fielder

Here are some extended excerpts of an interview by Clifford Allen with drummer Alvin Fielder. Fielder was a student of Ed Blackwell's, and a founding member of AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, a 60's Chicago free jazz collective). He played with Muhal Richard Abrams, Sun Ra, Roscoe Mitchell, and likely everyone else associated with AACM at one point or another. He talks about influences, the history of the drums in jazz, his interactions with some great drummers, and his time in Chicago.

...Blackwell practiced all day... all the Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Max Roach tunes, all day.

[...]He used to sit down and play Max licks... and... it was strictly that. They weren't experimenting then as they would later on, and I never thought of Blackwell as a New Orleans drummer. I always thought he played very differently from the other drummers. He was a bebop drummer. [...] you didn't hear much of Blakey, Roy Haynes, or Kenny Clarke. Everything was Max Roach let me tell you...

AAJ: And all those other guys—Max, Roy, Klook—were playing melodically, which is different from what I think of with Blakey's style.

AF: Well... Blakey's a melodic drummer too. Blakey plays a lot of form, and Roy Haynes does too. My contention is—and sometimes I get a lot of arguments from it—modern drumming, and by modern drumming I mean bebop only, we aren't talking about swing drummers, or one foot in swing and one foot in bebop. We aren't talking about Big Sid Catlett or Shadow Wilson, even though they are modern drummers. I'm talking about from 1945 on up, every drummer, every modern drummer, and it's still true: Max Roach, Kenny Clarke, Art Blakey and Roy Haynes—every modern drummer is a combination of those four drummers. Whether they know it or not, drummers today really owe a big debt to Roy Haynes and he owed a big debt to Kenny Clarke and Papa Jo Jones.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Two simple rock applications

You've probably noticed by now that I do a lot with Ted Reed's Syncopation? Here are two more methods which I have developed (along with my Rock beats with Syncopation piece) to introduce my intermediate students to interpretive reading, and to begin teaching them to think like improvisers rather than beat-regurgitators. The resulting patterns have a sort of 60's bubble gum feel, with a strong quarter note pulse throughout. Some of them will make good, simple grooves on their own, some can be used as fills, some are only good for reading practice.

Once you're able to play the exercises (including the 16/20 bar exercises) all the way through without stopping, practice improvising with concept, changing patterns every measure. To play the exercises as fills, play one or three measures of a rock beat of your choice, then one measure of the pattern, and repeat.

Download the pdf.
Buy Progressive Steps to Syncopation for the Modern Drummer, by Ted Reed

Bill Bruford on Joe Morello and Brubeck

Another nice podcast from Jazz Online, this with King Crimson and Yes drummer Bill Bruford discussing Joe Morello and Dave Brubeck's Time Out.  The conversation is from 2009, when that album turned 50, but is just being released now.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Jimmy Cobb on Trane

This is part of Jazz Onlines's "Tranumentary", discussions about John Coltrane, mostly with people who played with him or knew him (though not all- a surprising inclusion is Anton Fig of the David Letterman band). The entire series is worth a listen, but the talk with Jimmy Cobb caught my attention first. You'll also want to check out what Sonny Rollins and McCoy Tyner have to say.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Drum chart: Mamblues by Cal Tjader

Here is a chart of Mamblues, from Cal Tjader's album Soul Sauce, transcribed by me. It's a pretty straightforward (but burning!) salsa tune on a blues form, with a cascara groove, mambo on the vibes solo. If you haven't played a lot of this type of chart, note that the written grooves are for illustration only- you should play whatever version of the grooves you have together, making sure to follow clave. The roadmap is straightforward- take the repeats for the solos, then the DS and coda.

Download the pdf | get the mp3 | get the CD

YouTube clip after the break:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Zildjian cymbal set-ups of the 70's

In the mid-70's the Zildjian cymbal company put out what has become a classic booklet of cymbal set-ups of their pro endorsers. Who were all using those same bright, middle-of -the-road 70's A's across a variety of genres, apparently. It's hard to believe Kenny Clarke would've left his K's at home when he was working, but drum catalogs don't lie.

When I was in junior high school, I inherited a copy from my brother, and I used to pore over it, seeking out the most enviable array of cymbals, or the most inexplicably modest. What was most intriguing, without me really being aware of it, were the photos, which were mostly not very good or flattering to the subject. The fashions are deep in the early-mid 70's, with many afros, a rhinestone-encrusted peacock baseball jersey, a few splashes of psychedelic paisley, and a whole lot of mustaches- that was another day at the office at the time. But they made you wonder, who is this ugly Art Blakey guy who only uses two cymbals, and why did think enough of him to put him in this book? My brother told me "he plays really loud", which really made me want to find out what was up with him.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A lot of hip LP covers

Jazz specialist for the US Library of Congress, writer, and blogger Larry Appelbaum has a couple of huge galleries of LP covers which you should be looking at right now. Emphasis is on jazz of the 50's, but there's plenty of other fun stuff including Metallica, Black Sabbath, and my favorite band, the Butthole Surfers.

I'm pretty sure this one- "Contrasts in Hi-Fi" is in my dad's old record collection. More after the break-visit Larry on Facebook to see the complete galleries with hundreds of covers.

Joe Morello news and tributes around the web It is with great sadness that we report Joe's passing on March 12, 2011. His impact on the world of music and on all those whose lives he touched will live forever.

More metric modulation: 4:3 warm-ups and more

My last hastily-slapped together piece on 4:3 metric modulation was such a hit with my poeple, that I thought I should backfill some preparatory exercises for it. Here the emphasis is on keeping the hi-hat on 2 and 4 in the original tempo- you should also try them putting it on the 2 and 4 in the implied time, as in the previous pdf. In addition to some very basic and explanatory examples, I've given some practice phrases in 3/4 and 4/4, and some ways of filling out the time Elvin Jones-style, with a couple of bonus "hot licks".

I haven't been exactly systematic with either of these pieces- when and if I hammer this into a complete and coherent presentation it will be going into a book or magazine submission- but I'm a big advocate of incomplete information anyway. You learn better this way.

Download the pdf.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Processing black & white film

I was going to write up a how-to for developing your own black and white film, but it wouldn't really be any improvement on the one I started with, from Justin Ouellette's It's actually very easy, once you get the hang of putting the film on spools in the dark; you can buy everything you need to do it for about $50, and you do not need an actual darkroom. If you're not into exactitude, the process is pretty forgiving for the most part; you do need to load the film in total darkness, and you should follow the developing time closely.

First, you should understand that this is for turning the film in your camera into a negative; making a print from that negative is a second process, requiring more gear and expertise, and a dedicated darkroom. Usually I scan my negatives with an old Epson Perfection 2450 scanner, and take them to a specialty lab when I need a print. Your neighborhood 1-hour place can also make prints from your B&W negatives.

You'll need to go to Chromogenic to read the whole thing before attempting this, but here is the overview of the process once you have the film in your tanks:

Andrew Cyrille interview by Ted Panken

Here's another in my series of choice, drummer-relevant bits of other people's interviews, this time with Andrew Cyrille, by Ted Panken:

Ted Panken: Are there different challenges for you in dealing with, let's say, the less pulse oriented forms of drum music? Did you have to develop new techniques or a different vocabulary?
Andrew Cyrille: That's an interesting question. Most of the time, I think about myself as using pieces of the language that I have learned from seeing and hearing the traditional greats, like Jo Jones, Max Roach, Philly Joe Jones and Baby Dodds or Frankie Dunlop and Rufus Jones in the big bands. Buddy Rich, to some degree, who was a speed merchant.
Ted Panken: That came in handy with Cecil!
Andrew Cyrille: Well, that's right! When I was working with Illinois Jacquet, he had Jo Jones in his head, and I had to give him some of it. On "Robbins Nest" and "Flying Home," certain things would happen that brought forth certain climaxes things that you might say were scientifically proven! They reached certain peaks, made certain descents, and returned to those peaks. You had to know what to do. Of course, I was young and didn't know a lot about Jo Jones, and sometimes I got frustrated because I couldn't give Jacquet everything he wanted all the time. Then, again, I don't necessarily think that I had to, because I was trying to find my own place and do my own stuff, which maybe he didn't like. He was stronger than I was. He was the bandleader, and I was finding my way. But still, he hired me.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wilcoxon rhumba studies in 5/4

Here I have rewritten a page from the Wilcoxon Drum Method, which I've been using a lot lately. I've put his "swing or rhumba" studies (p. 31, two-measure syncopation and accent studies in 4/4) into 5/4. The book offers a lot of insight into the background and methods of the swing and early bebop drummers- they all worked through Wilcoxon- and I'll be giving it a full review soon.

Download the pdf.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

1997 BBC interview: Tony Oxley

I could not locate my Tony Oxley Modern Drummer interview, so instead here is a BBC interview with him, in which he discusses his unique set up. There seem to be quite a few of these orphaned things floating around the internet- it seems about time to go spelunking into the usenet archives to see what I can pull up for you. Read the interview at the source page to hear the sounds played during it:  
AS begins by saying that he asked Tony for a quick tour of his kit:
TO: The small hi-hats; I'm not into an obsession with small things, as you see...
AS: You've got the largest cowbell in the world!
TO: Right! ... some of the cymbals are quite large. But one of the things with drummers that perhaps takes a while for them to get to the point is that, when you have even in the jazz kit, ride cymbals, crash cymbals and a hi-hat, if those sounds that they produce are mainly in the middle of the spectrum they're not going to mean much because they're all more or less on the same vibratory level. So of course, with a hi-hat like that [SOUND], no matter what I actually play on the rest of the kit that will penetrate

Tony Oxley

Excerpts from a Modern Drummer interview are coming, but in the mean time I thought I'd share some clips of one of the more unique drummers living, the UK's Tony Oxley. As you can see, he takes things into sort of a "jazz multi-percussion" direction:

More after the break:

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Basic big band set-ups

Another in the recent series of easy stuff, here is a page of basic set-ups for ensemble kicks on the & of 4. You can apply these to my earlier piece, Kicks and Set-ups Using Syncopation.

Download the pdf.

The cheapest 35mm rig.

I want to say cheapest and best 35mm autofocus SLR, but my knowledgeable friends would no doubt descend and tear me apart like a Thanksgiving turkey on prom night. So let's say best "cheapest : best ratio"- the most camera you can get for the least amount of money. What I use is a 1990's Nikon N90S with a 28-85mm f3.5-4.5 AF zoom lens (as you may be aware, an SLR is a component camera- you need to purchase a body and a lens seperately). It's bulky and noisy, with questionable styling, and it takes gorgeous pictures. Though it was eclipsed by the F100 and is utterly out of favor now, in the '90's you would've seen a whole lot of pictures taken with an N90S if you looked at a little magazine I call National Geographic. The lens is an utter pig, and ancient- manufactured from 1986-99- but also happens to remain one of the best Nikon lenses of its class.

My reasons for choosing Nikon over the other brands were mainly: 1) their metering system, which makes getting an excellent exposure nearly idiot-proof- it's much smarter than most photographers. And 2) their lenses- with digital things have changed somewhat, but basically every Nikon lens works on every Nikon camera ever made. People also say they're the best lenses in the world, so there's that. Nikon is by no means the only option- Canon is reputed to have better autofocus, for example.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Alan Greenspan won't let me give make-ups

Via Steve Korn, here is an economics professor's opinion on make-up music lessons:

[...] I'd like to explain to other parents why I feel - quite strongly, actually - that it is unreasonable of we parents to expect our teachers to make up lessons we miss, even if I know as well as they do just how expensive lessons are, and, equally importantly, how important that weekly contact is with the teacher to keeping practicing ticking along smoothly. I think that it is natural for we parents to share the point of view that students should have their missed lessons rescheduled, but if we were to 'walk a mile' in our teachers' shoes, we might change our minds about what it is reasonable for us to expect of our teachers.
Like many parents, I pay in advance for lessons each term. In my mind, what this means is that I have reserved a regular spot in the busy schedules of my sons' teachers. I understand - fully - that if I can't make it to the lesson one week (perhaps my son is sick, or we are away on holiday, or there is some other major event at school) then we will pay for the lesson, but that my teacher is under no obligation to find another spot for me that week, or to refund me for the untaught lesson. And this is the way it should be.
In my 'other life' I am an economist and teach at our local university. Students pay good money to attend classes at the university; but if they don't come to my lecture on a Monday morning, then I am not going to turn around and deliver them a private tutorial on Tuesday afternoon. When I go to the store and buy groceries, I may purchase something that doesn't get used. Days or months later, I end up throwing it out. I don't get a refund from the grocery store for the unused merchandise. If I sign my child up for swimming lessons at the local pool, and s/he refuses to return after the first lesson, I can't get my money back. So there are lots of situations in our everyday lives where we regularly pay in advance for goods or some service, and if we end up not using what we have purchased, we have to just 'swallow our losses'. On the other hand, if I purchase an item of clothing, and get home and change my mind, I can take it back and expect either a refund or a store credit.
So why do I believe that music lessons fall into the first category of 'non-returnable merchandise', rather than into the second case of 'exchange privileges unlimited' (which I think is one of the advertising slogans of an established women's clothing store!)?

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Brice Marden talks about painting

Here are some excellent YouTube clips of one of my favorite current painters, Brice Marden. The comments are entertaining- people are affronted when you talk about art as if it matters.

To weed out the kids, we'll start with something hard to watch from when he's younger- great insight if you can ignore the alcohol and the fedora:

Contemporary clips from his studio and a museum visit after the break:

Todd's Methods, pt. 3: Rock beats with Syncopation

Most drum books present their stuff fully written out verbatim for the drum set, which is fine for learning patterns, but not for thinking like a musician. This is something I made up to introduce the idea of taking a melody line (which could be the melody of the tune, the bass line, or a rhythm part) and making a drum part of it. It's simple enough that it probably exists elsewhere, though I've never seen it.

It's a good idea to already be able to play at least a few basic rock beats; that will isolate this as a thinking problem rather than a technical one. As always, we'll be using Ted Reed's Syncopation:

Get the pdf

Friday, March 04, 2011

Basic triplet solo ideas for jazz

I've been posting a lot of hard stuff lately, so I thought I should throw a bone to the earlier-stage people. So here is an introduction to soloing with triplets in jazz. Learned thoroughly in a range of tempos, this can cover your filling and soloing needs pretty completely:

Download the pdf.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Todd's Methods, Pt. 2: triplet partials in Syncopation

The second in a series of quick, sketchily-outlined demonstrations of my practice methods. Here I give a couple of my variations on common ways of using Ted Reed's Syncopation. If you've worked with that book much, you're aware that it can yield some very dense results. What I've done is simplify them a little to make them more musically appealing (and more Elvin-like), and to allow them to be used at faster tempos.

Download the pdf.

Circumstances of a Monk record

From Jazz Wax, here's a nice piece about Thelonious Monk's Genius of Modern Music Vol. 2, recorded for Blue Note in 1952. The album included the first recordings of the horrifying Skippy, the underplayed Hornin' In, and the beloved Let's Cool One- that latter a delicate tune that is nevertheless a session favorite, often ending up something like a kitten petted to death.

 Audio after the break:

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Transcription: Zigaboo Modeliste - Stay Away

Another older transcription, Zigaboo Modeliste on Stay Away by the Meters. This one has a lot of fills.

Get the pdf

4:3 metric modulation in jazz

Here's a little thing I put together to develop the 4:3 cross rhythm/metric modulation in jazz. Normally you actually want to explain an advanced concept like this, but really, if you don't recognize it right away, you're not at a stage where you should be working on it. Improperly applied, it's a recipe for all kinds of bad playing. Plus I screwed up my back a little bit today, and oddly enough explaining things makes it worse.

So here we are- basically I've translated the first batch of exercises in Jim Chapin's Advanced Techniques into dotted-8th pulse:

I recommend running each line very slowly, counting out loud in 3/4- the hardest thing about this modulation is remembering the original pulse. You could also do a few measures of jazz waltz time in between exercises.

As it gets more comfortable, put it into 4/4: count two lines of exercise as three measures of 4/4 (still counting quarter notes- at no point do you count in the "implied" meter). Then play one (or three, or five) measures of jazz time in 4/4 and then two or four repetitions of each exercise.

Download the pdf.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

How fast can you take your time?

The Discipline of DE, from William S. Burroughs' Exterminator!, reprinted in it's entirety via Melancholia, which appears to be a Dutch literary blog. For me this is right up there with Zen in the Art of Archery:

DE is a way of doing. It is a way of doing everything you do. DE simply means doing whatever you do in the easiest most relaxed way you can manage which is also the quickest and most efficient way, as you will find as you advance in DE.
You can start right now tidying up your flat, moving furniture or books, washing dishes, making tea, sorting papers. Consider the weight of objects: exactly how much force is needed to get the object from here to there? Consider its shape and texture and function. Where exactly does it belong? Use just the amount of force necessary to get the object from here to there. Don't fumble, jerk, grab an object. Drop cool possessive fingers onto it like a gentle old cop making a soft arrest. Guide the dustpan lightly to the floor as if you were landing a plane. When you touch an object weigh it with your fingers, feel your fingers on the object, the skin, blood, muscles, tendons of your hand and arm. Consider these extensions of yourself as precision instruments to perform every movement smoothly and well.

Drum roll, please...

My best drum roll story: playing an 8 AM party on Christmas in Hong Kong for about a thousand Chinese children. The emcee let us know through a combination of broken English and strange hand gestures that they were going to need a drum roll at some point in the event, apparently for a drawing. Yes, of course- I'd be delighted. After leading us through literally two dozen choruses of Song For My Father, the pianist stops us in the middle as a bouffanted woman steps to the microphone and starts speaking in rapid-fire Cantonese. We get the sense that it's definitely time- probably- but no one's giving me a cue, and I don't understand what she's saying.

At some point our singer starts urgently signaling me to roll, which was surprising, because I knew for a fact she had less idea than I did of what the hell is going on- she always made a point of mentioning that the only Chinese she knew was "ho" ("good") and "ho ho" ("very good"). So now I have to try to detect some flicker of a cue from the speaker as well as mouth at the singer "LEAVE ME ALONE, YOU FREAK, I AM NOT GOING TO START PLAYING THE DRUMS AT RANDOM WHILE THIS WOMAN IS SPEAKING", or something to that effect. Then suddenly, it was all over- the drawing was done, and a child came to the stage to claim some impossible fruit basket. I defy anyone in that situation to figure out where the roll was supposed to go. The talk was totally seamless, with no detectable change in emotion to signal something was about to happen. No one so much as glanced in my direction, ever. After it was over they all seemed to feel that it came off splendidly, and we went on to play about a hundred choruses of Sugar until the end of the party.

With that, I'll announce the Stanton Moore DVD winner after the break: