Thursday, September 29, 2011

Something stupid

I hope you're ready for a descent several circles deeper than usual into pure drumming geekdom today, as I've been fooling with devising a sticking system for all limbs, and combinations of limbs. I don't know what the practical utility of this is yet, if any- we'll get into that later- it's just something I started working on.

The rules I gave myself were that the symbols should be keyboard characters found within Arial font, with normal available capitalization and formatting (bold, underline, italics, upper and lower case), that the logic of the character assignments should be not be completely arbitrary or obscure, and that they have to consist of one character only.

The system so far:

R - right hand
L - left hand
R - right foot
L - left foot

H - both hands
F - both feet

So far, so good. For other combinations of limbs the characters form a little diagram the logic of which should be clear:

X - all limbs
< - right hand and foot
> - left hand and foot
/ - right hand and left foot
\ - left hand and right foot

The combinations of three limbs are a challenge. Some possibilities:

L - left hand and both feet
7 - both hands and... left foot?
/ - (underlined slash) right hand and both feet
\ - (underlined backslash) left hand and both feet

Reversing and/or inverting an L (or 7- I think I would prefer that, actually) would cover all of those, but there does not seem to be a way of doing that within normal keyboard functions. There are some little jive web applications for doing that, but that's not an acceptable solution- the most involved I would want to get is some kind of special character (for example, you can enter alt-0169 to make a © symbol). I'd prefer to follow the same logic as for the other combinations of limbs, and to not use Greek/Cyrillic/other foreign characters. If anyone has any suggestions for something in Arial font, I'm all ears- get out your character maps or ascii table...

So, what's the point?

So, assuming we get that last thing ironed out, what's the point of this? What's it good for, if anything? We'll get into that after the break:

Setting aside the fact that the system says nothing about assigning a hand to a part of the instrument, I guess you could try to use it to write out normal things:

Of course, having to make a note that says "oh hey, you need to play the right hand on the hi-hat and the left on the snare, except when you don't", kind of undercuts this as a replacement for standard notation. Not that that was my intention. The problems really become apparent when you try to write out something as straightforward as a standard Bossa Nova:

And you get something this absurdly arcane-looking:

Obviously the least of our problems here is that we don't have a symbol for 'both hands/right foot'. Forget about writing out a cascara with clave in the left foot, or the 50 Ways groove, or anything else where your hands have to move.

Probably it would be most useful as a substitute for "tabs" when sketching something out something easy in text only. There is also some potential for Stone/Dahlgren & Fine style pure coordination exercises, for example:


You can only read so many pages of that sort of thing in standard notation before you want to look at something else, as anyone who has worked with Four-Way Coordination or Rod Morgenstein's Drum Set Warm-Ups or similar materials can tell you. It's possible that relating unisons between limbs to a single symbol rather than notes on a staff could help the player's internal concept of the physical coordination. I'll write some up in the near future, and we'll see how this system compares.

That's about as much as I can stand to think about this sort of thing at one sitting. I'd be happy to to hear anyone's comments on applications for this, or for the three-way unisons, or anything else related to this.

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