Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Two Stone applications by Alan Dawson

Here are a couple of Stick Control applications by Alan Dawson, from JohnW in Massachusetts, a knowledgeable forum contributor who studied with him in 1982-83.

For the hands:

Use Stick Control p. 5, ex. 1-12, starting ~1/2 note= 72 BPM. Play quarter notes on the bass drum, 2 and 4 on the hi-hat.

Play each exercise one time, followed by 4R 4L 4R 4L after each line.

After ex. 12, go back to the beginning and play ex. 1-12 one time,  followed 8R 8L 8R 8L.

Repeat process, following each line with 16R, 16L, 16R, 16L.

Repeat the process, following each line with a 16th note single stroke roll lasting as long as one exercise line- two measures of 2/2 or 4/4.  End on the downbeat of the next bar, then rest for the remainder of the measure. "The key is to start the single strokes with the OPPOSITE hand of the last note in the line preceding it."

"He also had a shortcut version, where you played lines 1-4 with each line followed by 4 Rights 4 Lefts, 4 Rights 4 Lefts, 5-8 followed by 8R 8L, 8R 8L, then 9-12 followed by 16R 16L, 16R 16L."

For drumset:


Sing "Take the A-Train", metronome at half note=72

Play 4 bars of jazz time: swing pattern on cymbal, hihat on 2 and 4, feather bass drum (or tap heel) on quarters, snare rim click on beat 4.

Follow with 4 bars of ex. 1, swinging the 8th notes, with jazz time continuing on cymbal and hihat.

Repeat process for ex. 2-4, which will take one full chorus of A-Train (A-A-B-A). Repeat the process for ex. 5-8 and 9-12.

After the break, John shares some of his memories of studying with Dawson:

 "Alan wasn't a perfectionist, or rather he didn't expect YOU to perfect an exercise. He wanted you to understand it, demonstrate that you were proficient enough, and polish it on your own watch. His studio was in a finished basement of his house, with a "Will Return" clock sign on the down stairs door (in case he was out cycling) and a pad on a tripod in an outer room waiting area. On the wall there was a narrow, rectangular wooden sign with an frustrated looking gorilla holding sticks and which read underneath, "DRUMMERS IS TOO MUSICIANS!" Inside the studio, there was another pad on a stand that we would could play on while sitting, a Franz metronome and a Fibes drum set for practicing. He also had a set of vibraphones for accompanying lessons. If you ever glanced up at the wall while you were there, you'd see his NARD certification, one or two pictures of him playing, various awards and a picture of Dave Brubeck almost completely covered with praises of thanks for playing with his quartet.

You brought a cassette and he'd record your lesson. First, I'd open close and open the 3 rudiments he gave me on the previous week. He would periodically adjust my hands after I did them, and demonstrate a few tips to improve (not before ripping off a few phrases with his amazing fanning/ push/pull technique!) Then he'd play 3 more rudiments. Then the Stick Control exercise as above. Then Ted Reed, then the Stick Control Song Form exercise. Each time there was a new exercise he would write them on a little note pad with a field drum logo near the top and "Alan Dawson, 5 Winchester Drive, Lexington, MA" and his phone number listed underneath. I used to have about 20 of these note sheets, but someone lifted them from me. Combined with the cassette, you were expected to have whatever he gave you off two weeks later. I always had the rudiments and 1st (non-melody) Stick Control stuff off. More than once however, I slacked off on some of the other reading/musical stuff. He wouldn't say much, but he'd give you a look, and you'd be overcome with dread. I remember feeling physically ill for the rest of the day on those occasions. If I did everything he said to do, it was the easiest day in the World.

Lessons were $30 cash and though many times there'd be students before and after you and that was a lot of money for me in those days, I never felt shortchanged during a lesson. And there are a lot of things of his that I still use to this day. He was also generous if you needed equipment. Early on I mentioned that I needed Hi-Hat cymbals and a stand to play some of his exercises on, so he told me to "assimilate my left foot on the floor" (heel toe rocking on 2 & 4). In the meantime he said he would have something for me the following lesson. Sure enough, two weeks later he fished through some cymbals in a back room and brought out two sets of Zildian hats; one which he said was more for mainstream jazz, and another which could be used for funk. I tried them out (with the practice set), couldn't decide and then asked him to play them. He worked up some swing pattern, started syncopating some phrases and then he slipped into hyperspace, the hippest hi-hat independence, polymetric one bar phrase; whatever it was, I felt like some primitive seeing an airplane for the 1st time. I said, "I'll take these" (they happened to be the 'funkier' of the two pairs, but it didn't really matter). $50.00. That was it?!? The phrase was worth that amount alone."


  1. Anonymous11:54 AM

    Hey I have the Alan Dawson Book and want to get started with this exercise but I was just you play the stick control exercises as 8th notes (as written) or as 16th notes, like the single stroke roll in the second part of the exercise. Thanks!

  2. I've never made this a part of my routine, and I don't know what Dawson's original intent was, but since HN=72 is a pretty fast starting tempo for doing the Stone exercises as 16th notes, I'm thinking he means to do them as 8ths. It certainly wouldn't hurt to do them the 16th note way, too, though.

  3. bduart@icloud2:33 PM

    What an Amazing reflection. I was only able to meet my Grand father once before he passed away. But as an established drummer for 20+ yrs, I have him to thank. If you have any pictures or old recordings please send them my