Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Paradiddle shift with bass drum

This is something I've been working with, and finally had the time to write up. The paradiddle shift is a pretty common exercise involving the displacement of the paradiddle by one 16th note. Most people get it through Stone's Stick Control; I first started using it after seeing it in a Modern Drummer article featuring Fred Sanford, in the early 80's. Usually it follows the sequence from Stone (p.5, ex. 5-8), with the paradiddle starting on the beat, then the 'a', then the '&', then the 'e'.

What I've done here is make the shift by adding a 16th note on the bass drum, which makes the displacements happen in reverse order. The order is not a big deal, the means of making the shift is:

I've included two exercises, one with single accents, and one with two accents per paradiddle. Follow the road map- play the repeated measures one or more times, and the non-repeated measures only once; when you get to the double bar, go back to the top, reversing the stickings- start with the left the second time through. You can and should move these around the drums and add flams, drags, or whatever embellishments you want.

Get the pdf.

YouTube clip with Fred Sanford's version of the paradiddle shift after the break:

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Daily best music in the world

Twice in a row makes this a feature, I guess. Because I don't have time for much else, here's Weather Report from 1971, with Alphonse Mouzon on drums and Dom um Romao on percussion. Plus Miroslav, Wayne Shorter, Zawinul, and Alphonso Johnson of course:

Monday, August 29, 2011

J.C. Moses

Ted @ Trap'd mentions and posts audio from a drummer I haven't thought of in awhile- J.C. Moses, drummer with Archie Shepp's New York Contemporary Five, Andrew Hill, and Sam Rivers, among other people. Along with Andrew Cyrille, Beaver Harris et al he was one of the main avante-garde guys in the 60's, though he didn't get on as many records as the others.

I could never find a NYC5 record until early in the '00's (you used to have to go to record stores and flip through a lot of LPs and "compacte discs" to find these things), and knew him better from Shepp's double LP Further Fire Music, which had a trio with David Izenson and Moses on the first two sides. I guess I'll have to dig it out of the archives and make mp3s- I can't find it available for sale or download (legal or illegal) anywhere on line.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Favorite albums: Billy Higgins

I guess I could've called this Higgins and Haden. These are four records from what is for me the classic phase of Higgins' career in terms of his sound- he's got that heavy-ish rivet cymbal and floppy snare drum sound, and is nice and present in the mix. The advances in recording technology since the classic Blue Note and Ornette records of the 50's and 60's really agree with him, and his delicate touch really communicates. There's also a sense of a new level of mastery in his playing- it feels as natural as breathing.

Pat Metheny - Rejoicing
With Higgins and Charlie Haden. Word is that Metheny wasn't thrilled with this record- he thought the band played better on other occasions. We'll have to take his word for it. It's hard to pick a favorite track from the first side; I think the wash of brushes on Lonely Woman is the star of the show, though. 

Don Cherry - Art Deco
Cherry and Higgins plus Charlie Haden and James Clay. One of the most relaxed and unpretentious drum performances ever- I wish more people would emulate that. Tunes include Cherry's Art Deco, Bemsha Swing, When Will The Blues Leave, Body & Soul, and The Blessing.

Joshua Redman - Wish
The Rejoicing band together again. I guess people don't dig Redman at this early stage of his career, but that doesn't matter- it's a great ensemble performance. Moose the Mooche is the standout, along with some nice originals I don't know the titles of. 

Don Cherry - Brown Rice
This is an older record than the others, and very much from the 70's- quite clearly- I mean to tell you there is no ambiguity whatever on that question- none. Like doing macramé at a Bahai temple while tripping on LSD, I imagine.

Audio after the break:

Friday, August 26, 2011

Page 37

From my torn-up original 1982 copy of Syncopation, still in use:


Best books: The Essence of Brazilian Percussion and Drum Set by Ed Uribe

The Essence of Brazilian Percussion and Drum Set is the little sister of Uribe's massive volume on Afro-Cuban percussion. I've been using it almost daily for several months now, and not only is it a model of what a genre book should be, it's quickly turning into one of my favorite drum books, period. It reads and operates- very appealingly- more like a professional manual than a typical drum book (Ralph Humphrey's Even in the Odds would be another one with that feeling about it).

In 144 pages it presents a huge amount of information in very concise, manageable chapters. In addition to practice material, there are sections with historical background of Brazilian music and history, notes on sound of the instruments, explanations of the various song styles, examples of rhythm section parts, and a very useful glossary. Styles covered include bossa nova (in 4, 5, 6, and 7/4), samba (in 2, 3, and 7, plus batucada-style, samba with brushes, samba cruzado) , baiao, samba marcha, partido alto, marcha and frevo, choro/chorinho, afoxe, and catarete. With a number of simple but very robust creative methods presented, it has an extremely open system, and I think no two players approaching it would come out sounding the same.

A large portion of the book is dedicated to introducing each of the common percussion instruments used in samba, which is important even if, like me, you aren't particularly interested in learning to play them all. They are the basis for each of the parts of the drum set grooves, and being familiar with them is one of the keys to playing creatively with any authenticity. That does seem to be Uribe's major point in including them- he does not give a lot of instruction on how to run or play in a bateria.

In some genre books, there is a fairly inescapable feeling that the user is an outsider to the music, and that a high degree of deference is expected. Rather than presenting the music in a folkloric manner, in which the music is more or less fixed, this book has improvisation at the core of its method; the music is presented as very much a living thing, and though not of the culture, the user is treated as a creator and participant.

One of my few reservations about it is that the unique Brazilian swing feel is handled imprecisely, with only general instructions that are maybe a bit misleading (or which at least require a demonstration)- the essence of Uribe's explanation is to slur the "a 1 e" of the repinicado rhythm, and "pull back a little on the time". As you can see from my posts on the subject, my philosophy is that, like with swing in jazz, it should be reduced to something quantifiable and reasonably close- from there it's a short leap for the player to get to an authentic feel through listening and playing. It's one of the most difficult subjects related to this music, so it's an easy shortcoming to forgive, but it would've been nice to see the usage and relationships between even 16ths, triplets, and "tripteenths"- all of which occur in Brazilian music- explored and explained more deeply.

But this is a great book- a true player's book. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Day of the Podcasts! Airto on Jake Feinberg's show

They just keep coming. Here Jake Feinberg (of the great interviews with the likes of Mickey Roker, Richard Davis, Dick Berk, and much more) talks to Airto, who I've been listening to and thinking about a lot lately.

This would also be a good time to go back and read my excerpts of Airto's great 1983 Modern Drummer interview- I think I'll do that myself...

Podcast - Episode 4: Charlie Parker heads

Today's podcast is a selection of practice loops made from the heads of well-known Charlie Parker tunes:

Billie's Bounce
Yardbird Suite
Donna Lee
Scrapple from the Apple
Au Privave
Crazeology (actually by Bud Powell)
Dewey Square

Each tune repeats a number of times to add up to about five minutes. Mostly they loop in the correct spot to maintain the form, except Cheryl and Quasimodo- each have pickups at the beginning which would overlap with the ending. What I've done there is add a couple of extra measures of rest at the end of each of those loops. The space at the end of other tunes is part of the form. This will all be clear if you use the lead sheets.

A good starting place if you're just learning them would be to play the rhythm of the melody on the snare drum (you'll need lead sheets for that- see below). Also you can just play time along with them, and start making punctuations as you hear them. But you can really play anything and everything along with these- I'm using them for snare drum practice, and played through Haskell Harr with them last night. The common Reed/Syncopation methods also work well- you'll be surprised at how well the Reed parts fit with the tunes.

Download the podcast | stream podcast at Podomatic

Most or all of these should be in the three volumes of the Real Book- which you should own- if you don't have them handy, you can look at the lead sheets on line at Links for that and for purchasing Charlie Parker mp3s after the break:

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Light patch

Here are some good things to look at while I have a couple of busy days. I haven't had a lot of time for much serious book learnin' or ritin' recently, but I'll have some substantive things coming up. There's a Tony Allen transcription that will take about five minutes to finish, when I have the time. Meanwhile:

Interview with Montreal drummer Andre White @ Four on the Floor.

Dueling rudiments-of-the-moment at Trap'd and FOTF.

Via Larry Appelbaum, here's a piece where several jazz writers are asked "Do jazz critics need to know how to play jazz?"

Destination Out gives us Lost Tones, The Unheard Sun Ra parts one and two, complete with free sample mp3s.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Everybody Paice out

A couple of old favorites from the heyday of the cowbell and the four-stroke ruff down the drums ending on the bass drum (there's got to be a better name for that lick):

Get Lay Down, Stay Down | Get You Fool No One | Get Deep Purple - Burn

(h/t Polyanna @ DW)

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Not that easy a life.
Here's a note I received from a British drummer currently working on a ship in the Mediterranean:

"I’m presently doing a stint as a cruise drummer in the Med and stumbled across your page.  I’m 8 weeks in and the life is interesting!!!  Parties, people, places and lots of performances.  I’m playing in one of the lounge bands doing 3-4 45’s a night.  7 nights a week.  Haha I’m sure you can appreciate that my body seems to be taking a bit of a pounding.  I was just wondering if the creeping sense of lethargy is normal!?
 I’m feeling pretty bushed most of the time,  I’ve not got cramping issues but I’m certainly noticing that the later sets and the louder sets outside on the pool deck are getting harder.
 If you’ve got any advice – or can think of any pad routines to help me keep a lighter dynamic I’d be really grateful.
 Keep up the great work on the blog, you’re keeping me sane!
 Kind Regards from another drummer in the high seas
 - Edgar in Livorno"

What you need is a month in the Mediterranean. It's hard to think of recommendations that don't involve me flying to Rome, taking a week or ten days- two weeks max- to get "acclimated", renting an Audi and driving to Livorno- via Orvieto, Firenze, side trip to Siena so I don't wear myself out driving- and relieving you for a month or so, but let me see what I can do.

First, you  may want to read my cruise ship drummer survival and playing quieter posts, if you haven't already.

Friday, August 19, 2011

I am so smart

This from The Telegraph, a couple of years ago:

'Drummers are natural intellectuals'
Drummers are better known for their beats than their brain power, but research has suggested that they might actually be natural intellectuals.
Scientists who asked volunteers to keep time with a drumstick before taking intelligence tests discovered that those with the best sense of rhythm also scored highest in the mental assessments.
Prof Frederic Ullen, from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, concluded that there was a link between intelligence, good timing and the part of the brain used for problem-solving.
He said: "The rhythmic accuracy in brain activity that is observed when a person maintains a steady beat is also important to the problem-solving capacities measured with the intelligence tests."
For the study, Prof Ullen and Guy Madison, from Sweden's Umea University, asked 34 right-handed men aged between 19 and 49 to tap a drumstick at a variety of different intervals.

I don't know why this made me think of this- pretty much instantly:

(h/t to Gruntersdad @ Drummerworld)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Billie's Bounce deconstructed

That sounds a little sexier than it actually is- I was working on this tune with a student recently, and we ended up breaking it down phrase by phrase. I've written the lesson up for him, and to share with you:

One of the things that throws people is the 16th note triplets; just play them evenly- don't try to make them swing. Also, play them legato- don't over-articulate. When you count through the tune, just count them as 8th notes.

Get the pdf | Get lead sheet for Billie's Bounce from

After the break a few examples of the tune, for getting the phrasing:

Four cassettes

During the time I was living in LA in '92 there was a period of about four months when I was working for a messenger service, driving around making deliveries to minor celebrities. I was absorbing a weird combination of music for a good chunk of that time, with exactly four cassettes to listen to 8 hours a day: John Coltrane's Live at the Village Vanguard and Live at Birdland, along with Locust Abortion Technician and Psychic, Powerless... Another Man's Sac by the Butthole Surfers.

Occasionally I'd turn on the radio and would get some Steven Jesse Bernstein, or the Rollins Band, Helmet or some such. A notable experience was having In a Silent Way come on while being stuck in traffic on one miserably hot afternoon, running way late on a delivery to Gary Shandling (eventually got there around 7:30, when he answered the door in his bathrobe, looking a little pissed. Hey, I got other deliveries, and I'm not making a 75 minute detour to Topanga when I'm in the middle of a swath of stuff between West Hollywood and Venice. You want to try to route this mess? Shandling?):

But mostly it was these tunes coming up again and again for weeks:

Continued after the break:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How we used to learn the open roll

I just got a very nice note from Jim Buckley about the following comment of mine from the Jim is a major figure in corps- he marched snare with Ghost in one of the greatest drum lines in history- the early 60's Boston Crusaders, was an instructor for the 27th Lancers in the later 60's and 70's, and a DCI judge, among other things. I can't speak for him, but he was enthusiastic ("Ghost would be proud of your literary treatment of experiencing the long roll, the intro to percussion trauma.")- so I guess the way I describe it- as a pretty miserable but effective process- is the way it's really supposed to go, more or less. So here we are:

The way I learned the open roll- from 70's Santa Clara Vanguard guys and the corps legend Bill "Ghost" Linen- was pretty brute-force and unscientific, but definitely worked. We used to do doubles single-handed, slow to fast, in a triplet rhythm (leaving out the middle note), taking about 10-15 minutes per hand.

...and repeat.

You start out doing full strokes from the wrist; your back fingers are relaxed but always on the stick. As you get a little faster, you follow through on the second note of the double with a little arm lift from the elbow- your forearm raises with the rebound after the second note and drops on the first note of the next double. As you increase the speed, you play lower and shift from primarily two wrist moves to a single forearm move with a little wrist assist; if you started out with very open back fingers, you also close that up somewhat (again, at no point in the process do your back fingers leave the stick).

At some point, you will encounter the "break" where it's too fast to play the notes individually, but you can't quite make a good sounding double happen yet. You'll start feeling out of control, and that will generate tension at first. By the end (at well over 200bpm) you'll definitely feel like you're just hacking away at the drum with your forearm. Even though it feels like you're just punishing yourself, it's important to go through this part of the process- you need to put your hands in that zone so they can learn to adapt. The precise means of navigating the break was never explained- that's wilderness you need to pass through on your own.

Once you can make it over the break without losing it, and your doubles at the fast end sound clean and solid, you can practice shifting some of the forearm move back to the wrist, if you want.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tune of the moment: Eiderdown

Eiderdown is a great tune  by Steve Swallow that deserves to be played a lot more, and has been coming up a bunch  lately in sessions and in my listening. The lead sheet is available free, along with a lot of other great stuff, from Swallow's publishing site, shared with with Carla Bley, So there's no excuse for not having it in your book!

John Stowell likes to play this one a lot, but he hasn't recorded it yet, that I know of. The version I've been listening to is from Jack Dejohnette's 1975 record Cosmic Chicken. It's been out of print for years, and was never reissued on CD, so good luck finding it. It is available through some of the LP ripping blogs, if you google around for it.

One version that is legally available is from Pete LaRoca's Basra:

Get Basra | get Eiderdown

Saturday, August 13, 2011

I love German drummers

First, the aptly-named Jaki Liebezeit of Can:

Gunter Summer of Dresden, Germany's answer to Tony Oxley, or maybe Hans Bennink:

Paul Lovens doing a fun thing with Eugene Chadbourne:

More after the break:

Oh, hey

Oh surprise, it looks like my 2009 record, 69 Année Érotique, is still getting some occasional radio play. The first tune here is us playing Serge Gainsbourg's Bonnie and Clyde on good old WFMU (91.1 New York, 90.1 Hudson Valley):

I should mention that if you like the music and want to support the blog, you could purchase the CD (hit that link or the purchase link under "my sites"). It made three different jazz writer's best of 2009 lists, including Larry Appelbaum, the jazz specialist for the US Library of Congress.

After the break is a YouTube clip of the original version of the tune:

Friday, August 12, 2011

Dick Berk interview on the Jake Feinberg Show

Another great interview from the Jake Feinberg show, this time with Dick Berk of the prodigious ride cymbal. Dick was Billie Holliday's last drummer (after Jo Jones left the group), in a band that also featured Mal Waldron- I think my parents must have seen him with her at the time- and has played with just about everybody- particularly on the west coast- since then. He's also an actor, and had small parts in Raging Bull and New York, New York, and- somewhat strangely- was cast for the role of Sgt. Schulz' son in the canceled final season of Hogan's Heroes. He has been in Portland for years (minus some time in Vegas in the early '00's), and has been one of the anchoring cats for the city.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Eric Jones 1970-2011

I just got news that an old friend from the U. of O. percussion department, Eric Jones, has died. He obviously went on to do a lot of things since I knew him, but I remember him as the rocker kid with the bleached mullet (we all had them then, and they were called bi-levels) from Randal Larson's studio, who would turn up at percussion events around 1987 or so.

There were a couple of other extremely precocious talents who Randy was teaching at the time, and it was easy to be overshadowed, but Eric was no doubt inspired and challenged by those guys, and fortunately had a couple of important traits for anyone doing music- persistence, and the ability to grow. That latter being key; rock guys don't tend to do well in the college percussion environment, and I've seen a lot of them falter for not being able to get beyond their initial thing.

So, he went on to get his doctorate and have a real career performing and teaching percussion at Hillsdale College in Michigan, but I remember him more for being someone working hard to prove something, which is something I relate to more than instant success.

He was also a fun guy to hang with, and his Charles Dowd Halloween costume was an instant perc department classic, and I'm very sorry to hear that he's gone.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

The Hawaii 5-O fill

That's the term I use for that universal 8th-grade-style fill down the toms effectively applied, ever since it was coined by Ralph Hardimon regarding a concert tom run of mine when I was in Santa Clara Vanguard's pit in 1986 (for you non-corps people, the pit is the non-marching concert percussion section that sets up along the front sideline). The piece is "The Hut", from Pictures at an Exhibition- it starts at 7:00, and the fill is a few measures after- my most exposed stuff on the show was during this piece- the concert toms are all me on that one:

When he said it I recognized it instantly, but listening back to the actual theme, with John Guerin on drums, nothing like the fill actually happens until late in the tune, at 1:13, so maybe he was just talking about a general vibe:

Other examples after the break- share your personal favorites in the comments:

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Quotable Bob Moses

A few stand-alone quotes from Drum Wisdom by Bob Moses:

[T]ake one idea and expand it., instead of playing a lot of ideas. The greatest musicians are those who can take one idea and make the most of it.

[O]ur goal is to groove. As far as I'm concerned, that's the only goal. Creativity is not a goal; creativity is. Everybody is creative, but not everybody grooves.

There should be a musical idea behind everything you practice, just as there should be a musical idea behind everything you play. [...] Music includes melody, harmony, and rhythm. Having just the drumistic things without having the rest of music is certainly incomplete.

What types of things do I hear internally in my mind? What I think about- the internal hearing- is always the simplest possible idea.

[W]hen it gets to the second chorus and one of the lead instruments starts playing an improvised solo, I am still internally hearing the original melody and almost ignoring what the soloist is playing. Many times a drummer will try to duplicate the ideas, abstractions or extensions of the soloist, but that is not your job. Your job is to be aligned with the structure and provide a cushion for the soloist to work off.

Trying to play with the soloist is like two people trying to get into the same end of a canoe- it's going to tip over.

Re: "independence": Instead of playing two rhythms- one on the ride and the other on the snare drum- think and play only one rhythm. When I play, even though I have one hand on the cymbal, I'm still playing only one rhythm- not two against each other.

I believe that you should be able to sing everything you play on the drums.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Transcription: Tony Williams - Madness - ride cymbal only

Madness is the first track I heard on the first Miles Davis record I actually went and bought- before that I just had the old copy of Kind of Blue from my dad's record collection. Either my teacher at the time, Tim Stodd, or my brother- probably both- told me this guy Tony Williams was the master of the ride cymbal and I should listen to him. So here's just the ride cymbal from the first 100 or so measures of the tune. The metric modulation in bar 11 is a simple double time, which you will no doubt hear. Swing the 8th notes, of course.  

This is inspired by the Vinnie Colaiuta interview- I also used to sleep with this record going, though I didn't use headphones- I just put the turntable on infinite repeat and it would go all night. Usually it was either this record or side 1 of Filles de Kilimanjaro.

There's no YouTube clip of the tune available, but why don't you own it already?

Get the pdf

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Vinnie Colaiuta interview - Percussive Notes, 1995

Vinnie with friend, c. 1982.
From Vinnie Colaiuta's web site, an interview from 1995 issue of Percussive Notes, by Rick Mattingly.

My other big Vinnie thing on the blog is my  Packard Goose transcription, which is a pretty insane piece of drumming. And if Drum! magazine doesn't print my epic transcription of the guitar solo from Keep It Greasey soon, I'll be posting that, as well- maybe when I do my first fund-raising drive...

As with all of the interviews I post/link to, I've pulled out the things that are most significant to me; definitely go read the whole thing.

...regardless of how many pulses a bar happens to contain, you're going to play it with the same consideration of feel that you would if you were playing 4/4, meaning that you're going to make it feel good no matter what it is. A bar of seven or eleven is not going to feel like four, but it may have subdivisions that give you the feeling of a backbeat for enough of a moment to get that same kind of feeling. By the same token, you can take 4/4 and stretch it like a Gumby.

Some people write in odd times just to be experimental and they actually want it to have a jerky feel. But odd times can inherently be that way unless you approach them from a different angle, not necessarily defining the downbeats in every bar. It becomes a question of, do you want to make the audience a part of this or do you want to lose them? How much of it has to be an intellectual exercise all the time? We played some odd times on the Sting record [Ten Summoner's Tales] but I don't think Sting intended for people to sit there and count the stuff out. He wanted to make it as musical as possible.

It's strange because you hear something driving and feeling good, so you transcribe it and see that there aren't a lot of notes on the page. Sometimes you are surprised by that because it sounded like a lot more than it was, but that's because you can't transcribe drive and attitude.

The other thing is that no two drummers play 4/4 exactly the same way, you know? That's a mystery in itself to me - how you can identify someone through something so simple. It's way beyond how many ticks per beat and all that garbage.

Much more after the break...

Monday, August 01, 2011

Jon Christiansen @ 4OTF

Go read this post about Jon Christiansen at Four on the Floor- I haven't even had a chance to read it yet, but it doesn't matter. One of the great facilitators in drumming, I think of Christiansen as kind the Billy Higgins of the 70's, for his supportive, relatively egoless playing, and beautiful light sound. He also epitomizes the ECM style and sound.

Here's one of my transcriptions of his playing, Long As You Know You're Living Yours, from Keith Jarrett's Belonging.

They have a bunch of clips of him, but here he is playing with Michael Brecker in the '80's:

Tony Williams clinic

Here's the full 1'06" of Tony Williams' performance/clinic at Zildjian Day in 1985. That was my Tony year, I guess- I got to see him give a clinic at PASIC in LA that year, where he was a little testy about having to play at 9 in the morning, and also ran into him on the street in New York on our day off during a drum corps tour.

 (h/t to Ken Marino)