Monday, April 30, 2012

Three Camps round up

I recently picked up a stack of Mitchell Peters books, one of which contains several variations on this classic, and it seemed like a good time to round up the various sources and variations on it. In case anyone doesn't know, Three Camps is a military drumming piece over 200 years old, based on rolls and accents in a triplet rhythm. I've been playing it since drum corps legend Ghost (known to his mother as Bill Linen) taught me an unusual (possibly mis-remembered) version in 1982. Since at least Charles Wilcoxon's day, drummers have been using it as a template for working on other things- accented singles, paradiddles, ratamacues, etc. Here's what I could find online and in my own library: 


The Moeller Book, and Haskell Harr Drum Method, book 2
Each of these has it written out in the archaic notation, with an unusual ending in Harr- two 5-stroke rolls plus release. Due to the notation they're pretty useless to modern users readers.

Rudimental Swing Studies for the Advanced Drummer by Charlie Wilcoxon
In traditional form, paradiddles, and ratamacues. Unfortunately both the original edition and the typo-riddled Sakal edition present it with the old-fashioned notation, though it's marginally more readable than the Moeller version. (To be fair to Mr. Sakal, I think there are many more typos in his edition of Rolling in Rhythm than in RSS. Still looking for an original edition of RIR to confirm that...)

Intermediate Snare Drum Studies by Mitchell Peters
Includes the usual triplet roll form (in modern notation), and in rolls with a 16th note, quintuplet, and sixtuplet pulsation.

Variations on Three Camps by Marvin Dahlgren
This was an unexpected find. I was continuing my so-far-in-vain search for a copy of Dahlgren's Drum Set Control, and came across Really Good Music, which publishes his books- including DSC. According to the site: "The first half of the book is designed primarily for Snare Drum. The second half is designed for use with Drum Set. As usual with Marv Dahlgren books, one can easily spend the rest of your life perfecting these patterns. This 61 page book is in easy to read manuscript with sticking patterns indicated." Naturally I ordered a copy- along with DSC and a book I had never heard of, Complete Text for the Rock & Roll Drummer. I'll let you know when I get them.

Variazioni in Three Camps by Daniele Sabatini
Never seen this before. Ten different variations. No information on what they are, but the preview has it written in flamacues. Available through a German site.

Online versions after the break:

Sunday, April 29, 2012

DBMITW: Cecil Taylor

Here's another old free jazz favorite from my LP stacks. Andrew Cyrille is on drums. And the title (CONQUISTADOR!) has an exclamation point, which I like.

Transcription: Elvin Jones - Out of this World

Here's another example of Elvin Jones' "afro-waltz"- as I keep calling it- from the intro of the tune Out of this World, from the John Coltrane album Coltrane:

The dotted-8th/16th rhythm you see a couple of times could've just been notated as swing 8ths, but I did want to illustrate that Elvin did not just play an even triplet grid, and that many of the "organic" sounding things in his playing are actually accurately-played 16th notes. But in practicing this, you can treat the dotted 8th/16ths as regular swing 8th notes. There are other little manipulations present which for readability I haven't notated- for example some of the unisons landing on the beat are played very wide, with the hihat landing slightly before the beat, like a flam.

At the end I've isolated a barline-crossing move he does- which can help keep this type of groove from becoming too static- and a couple of examples of the basic groove- one busy and one simple- which is similar to the groove from Your Lady which I presented before, with the same 6/8 part happening between the feet and left hand, and the hihat played on the 1-& of the second measure. I've eliminated the tom moves to show the idea cleanly; you can copy the moves from the transcription, or improvise your own, or apply the moves I gave earlier.

See my book, or the blog archives for last year's transcription of Tunji, also from this record.

Get the pdf

YouTube audio after the break:

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Developing Elvin's Afro-Waltz, part 2

I've been doing a lot of this sort of thing in my own practicing lately- practicing snare drum variations vs. a cymbal/hihat/bass drum ostinato, via Dahlgren & Fine, and my own materials. Ralph Humphrey's Even in the Odds sets up a similar thing, which we'll be working with soon. So here's a variation on Elvin Jones' afro-waltz groove from Your Lady, using my favored hihat part for a jazz waltz, the 2 and the & of 3. I've filled that to make a 6/8 SD/BD/HH part similar to Elvin's groove, and then given the snare drum variations to fit with the other parts.

See the part 1, and my suggested tom tom moves for ways of practicing this. And listen to a whole lot of Coltrane, starting with Live at Birdland, and Coltrane.

UPDATE: Wow, there were way too many typos in there- updated the pdf to correct them.

Get the pdf.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

DBMITW: A Message From Trane

This swings in that avant driving your 1970 Buick Elektra off a cliff at 90 mph kind of way. It's from a record I used to listen to a lot, but which has been languishing in my stacks for many years: Steam, by Archie Shepp- with Beaver Harris on drums and Cameron Brown on bass. I'm listening to it on vinyl now:

5s around the drums

I've enjoying practicing my previous around-the-drums things so much, I thought I'd run it through a few iterations- similar to my multi-page paradiddle exercise- and see what we get. Today it's 16th note 5s, using  the easily-flowing RLLRR/LRRLL sticking:

As I've outlined previously, once the single measures are happening, start combining measures- the notes in parentheses are to facilitate that without having to do a crossover. On the second page I've also given some formats for playing these as 8th notes or 16th notes in 5/4 or 5/8.

Get the pdf

Monday, April 23, 2012

Transcription: Paul Motian - Israel

UPDATE: Download link working now.

Here are a couple of famous drum breaks by Paul Motian, from Israel, a 12 bar tune on Bill Evans' Explorations; Motian and Evans trade choruses before the head out. Note that even though the tune is played with a swing feel, most of the 8th notes on the solos are played straight- listen closely to the recording to hear where you should swing them.

Get the pdf

YouTube audio after the break:

DBMITW: Tootie Heath

OK, there's always time to do one of these. Here's Tootie Heath playing with Dexter Gordon:

Tootie was living in LA when I was in school down there- my combo leader Dwight Dickerson was in his group, and on one occasion they brought him in for a master class. My main takeaway was his response to bassist Jesse Murphy's question about strategies for playing without a drummer, a mode of music making Tootie described as "like masturbation."

Sunday, April 22, 2012


It's been a heckuva week- between releasing a new CD, playing the Ballard Jazz Festival, taxes, and a simultaneous plumbing and roof-leaking emergency in the little rental unit behind my home- and I now need to both take it easy for a couple of days and dedicate a bunch of time to booking my fall Europe tour. So I'll be keeping a low profile here for a moment. I invite you to visit my other new blog with news about my musical projects, currently my CD of the music of Ornette Coleman, Little Played Little Bird, or peruse our absurdly bountiful archives....

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

See you in Seattle!

Heading up to Seattle to play the Ballard Jazz Festival in a moment. Tonight is the Brotherhood of the Drum, hosted by Michael Shrieve, which I'll be playing with saxophonist Rich Cole and bassist Paul Gabrielsen; also featured are Sonny Rollins drummer Kobie Watkins, Eric Eagle,  and the massive King Tears Bat Trip.

Friday is the Jazz Walk, where my quartet will be playing downstairs at the Salmon Bay Eagles- that will be a good hang, because upstairs will be the Table and Chairs Label Showcase, which will feature players like Gregg Keplinger, Neil Welch, Greg Sinibaldi, and more. We play at 8pm tonight (Wednesday) and 8-12 on Friday. See the Origin site for further details.

See you there!

UPDATE:  We got a lot of great feedback on the new CD, and had really fun shows on Wednesday and Friday- thanks to the musicians, to all the nice people who attended (and who bought CDs!) and to Kobie Watkins and Michael Shrieve for being incredibly nice and for buying my book, to Gregg Keplinger for putting rivets in all of my cymbals and for being very supportive, and of course my friends and family, and everyone at Origin for putting all the hard work putting on the event.  

Monday, April 16, 2012

Basic beats

Here's a rare bone for my younger/beginning-er readers. What we have here is a collection of basic "rock" beats- really they're good for many/most varieties of popular music using the drum set. The names I've given them are just for convenience- you can use any of these on any kind of music where this general type of thing is suitable. They're just what I call them.

For clarity, I've also given the snare and bass drum parts without the hihat, along with the combined rhythm of those parts. You don't necessarily need to practice those parts, unless you're having trouble with the complete beat.

Get the pdf.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Waterloo bullet

All right, people, we are going to be on really, truly, unconscionably light posting through most of the next week as I do my taxes, get it together for, and then go play the Ballard Jazz Festival, send Europe tour emails, assemble my Todd Bishop Quartet news blog, and God knows how many other things I'm forgetting. Right now I happen to be reposting stuff from the old MySpace blog, and found the following item I wrote after my 2009 tour:

OK, this has nothing to do with anything, but certain naysayers have questioned the authenticity of my Waterloo bullet [It was Willie and Dan- tb], which I bought at an antiques market in Brussels for one euro. There is of course no way to prove the thing is real, but consider:
1) Acquiring, weathering, and individually battle-damaging 5-cent lead slugs so you can sell them for a whopping single euro to the mostly-local people who come to the weekly antiques market would have to be one of the biggest waste-of-time scams ever. I'm not going to run the numbers, but I bet you could make more money for less effort by working one hour per week at Le Arby's, if such a thing exists.
2) Battlefield debris- like bullets- even from the most famous battles in the world, is not at all rare. Millions of rounds are fired during these things, and they have to go somewhere. Usually they end up lying on the ground, and barring an unheard-of spike in the value of scrap lead, there is no reason for anyone to go out and pick them up, until the passage of time makes them semi-collectible. They actually seem to be about as scarce as beer tabs at an abandoned drag-racing strip- Belgian farmers are always plowing up ordnance from past wars. The seller was blasé about them- "they find them all the time."
3) To an American who has never touched anything more than five years old, "a bullet from Waterloo" is as fanciful sounding as the skull of Henry VIII or a plume from Napoleon's codpiece, and must surely belong on a pedestal in a museum with armed security, but to someone living in Brussels it's more on the level of "oh, yah, drive out to the suburbs and you can find tons of crap like that." Considering that you can buy an honest-to-God Roman coin with a picture of the emperor on it and everything for $1 [OK, a crappy 4th-century emperor, but still. -tb], a euro for a mere 200 year old lead ball is not that big a deal.
That's just been bugging me slightly- tainting the coolness of my WATERLOO BULLET. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tom moves

This Elvin thing is turning into a real epic- well, a very small epic, maybe, if you think about it- and I still have to complete the transcription. Here are the tom moves I would apply to the left hand part on yesterday's post- you can/should do these with any other left hand coordination materials, too, of course.

S = snare drum (normally, or as a rim click)
H = high tom
L = low tom

Between two drums: 

Away from/back to one drum:

Up and down the drums: 

You can extrapolate your own patterns if you have one of those monster drumsets with three tom toms. I like to do things the easy way, so I do the moves when there's plenty of time- I don't split the doubles between drums. Depending on the number of notes in the rhythmic pattern vs. the particular move above, there will often be a little polyrhythmic counter-melody generated by doing these- it's a good idea to count out loud and keep track of the four measure phrase in that case. When doing this Elvin thing, for example, count 1-2-3, 2-2-3, 3-2-3, 4-2-3.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Developing Elvin's Afro-Waltz

Here's a little something for developing the left hand using the feet-and-cymbal part from Elvin Jones' groove on John Coltrane's Your Lady. I always did that type of thing by just going for the sound and feeling- I never had any written materials for it- but I've been doing a lot of similar stuff with the swing section of Dahlgren & Fine, so I guess it's a good time to be a little more systematic about it. The first line shows the ostinato, then the original groove as Elvin played it (sans tom moves). To approximate Elvin's feel, accent the &s of beats 2 and 3.

After these are happening, you can move the left hand between any two drums, then clockwise/counter-clockwise around the drums. If you want to get really fancy with it, you can play the actual two-measure foot pattern Elvin frequently plays on the original track- see the related "Groove o' the day" post for that.

Get the pdf.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My new CD is out now

Oh, hey, my new Origin Records CD of obscure tunes by Ornette Coleman, LITTLE PLAYED LITTLE BIRD, is out now and starting to get some radio play.

It features my same smoking tenor player from my Serge Gainsbourg record, Rich Cole, plus 2009 Latin Grammy-nominated pianist Weber Iago, from Brazil, and also my long-time friends, collaborators and  co-cruise ship drones Tim Willcox and Bill Athens on sax and bass. The tunes are all things you'd have to be a pretty serious Ornette fan to know well, plus the very famous Lonely Woman, which I couldn't leave out- I've been playing that one forever.

Right now several tracks have been added to the avant-garde channel at, and who were the first to add the last record as well, and KKRN 88.5 in northern California, and a student just reported hearing something on KMHD 89.1 here in in Portland. The CDs were only mailed out to the radio people recently, and I expect we'll be seeing quite a bit more in the coming weeks.

If you'd like to buy it (it's a great way to support the blog, you know!), you can order a hard copy via PayPal at the "purchase CDs" area in the sidebar; you can also purchase a download through my page.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Todd's methods: triplet funk with Reed, pt. 2

In case you were playing through part 1 and wondering what the big deal is, here's the actual thing. It looks complicated because there's a lot of ink on the page, but each step of the process is very simple, and the working assumptions should be real obvious: fill in the triplets with the left, play a back beat on 3, add bass drum on 1, drop the bass drum on 1 every other measure to make a longer phrase.

It's all on the page. I could've given more examples, but I need to select and print out a bunch of charts for a rehearsal for my Ballard Jazz Festival appearances. Play these fast enough for the half time feel to come through. The left hand should be very soft all the way through.

Get the pdf.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

More Reggae lead-ins

Here's a nice companion for my transcription of Sly Dunbar intros from his recordings with Serge Gainsbourg. These are some drum lead-ins from a weird little record by a 70's London group called Creation Rebel, album titled Pschotic Junkanoo, with drumming by "Eskimo" Fox (a.k.a. "Charley Mus'come", according to Read more about him at the On-U Sound site.):

You can apparently only get the record by illegal download, or very expensively in vinyl, or on iTunes, so I guess I need to link to iTunes.

Get the pdf.

After the break are as many YouTube links as I could find for this album:

Friday, April 06, 2012

How much to practice something

1. Get wood chisel.
2. Remove everything that doesn't look like
Billy the Kid deftly gunning down Bat Masterson
before the throng of stunned onlookers, a yapping
yellow hound at his feet.
One of the big persistent things nagging drummers is the question of how much to do. When have you practiced something enough to call it learned, so you can move on with confidence? Some teachers and other not-very-helpful individuals will tell you to just do everything, a lot! You have to be good, man! Were you aware that Weckl practiced 12 hours a day for X years? 

That's great, thanks. You make a mental note to dump a drink down his back soon, and you go back to living with the uncertainty. It's a familiar story.

Here, then, are some guidelines; when, in general, you can begin to feel you've learned a thing— enough, for now:

It's memorized 
At least so you don't have to look at the book while you play it. You don't necessarily need to be able to pull up everything from memory at a later date. And this doesn't apply to reading practice, like the long exercises in Syncopation.

You can play it in a practical range of tempos
for the associated style. Part of your job is to listen to music so you know what that range is. If you're playing through some, for example, bossa nova related materials, you should feel good with them from about 88-180 bpm, and especially from 120-150.   

“...a relaxed groove develops” 
A great suggestion from Ralph Humphrey in his book Even in the Odds. Play it until your muscles uncoil a bit, and you don't feel like you're on the verge of screwing it up every second. Try to achieve that at some tempo in a single practice session.

You have control over your dynamics
You can play it louder and especially much softer than your “generic” practice volume.

You can play it from a stop
The complete thing; no starting with one or more limbs and adding the hard part last. This is very challenging for a lot of students; often you can do it by just isolating the first few notes of the pattern.

You can get into it from something else without stopping 
At least be able transition into it from the previous exercise, but maybe also from a generic time feel in the style of the exercise. If you're working on an elaborate funk beat, be able to transition to it from a more basic funk beat.

You can recover from mistakes
Without losing track of where you are in the measure— you should at least know where the next down beat falls. An intermediate step towards this is to at least not lose the tempo you were playing (assuming you weren't using a click) and jump back on it. 

Your mistakes stop sounding like mistakes
and more like variations. They are accurate and in time, and played with a good sound— you played a good note in the “wrong” place, in the opinion of the stupid book. I don't call those mistakes, actually, I call them “musical development trying to happen if you would just let it.” Or “Free variations.” You should try to harness those accidents a little bit- try to repeat them when they happen, or at least understand what you did.

You can improvise variations
or fills, and get back to the original thing. Formats for practicing this could be:

||: 1x as written | 1x variation :||
||: 3x as written | 1x variation :||
||: 2x as written | 1x variation | 1x as written :||     

At that point, you can consider yourself basically competent with a piece of practice material, and can safely move on to the next thing. Some things you'll want to work on much more than that, either because they're so fundamental to drumming you should just do them forever; or because you need to have them highly developed for the kind of drummer you want to be; or because want to make them a special part of your personal thing.

In general, you don't need to trouble yourself with:

Learning everything at extremely slow or extremely fast tempos.
These are a real productivity-killer. In actual playing, each of those situations are somewhat special circumstances that call for dedicated practice time apart from your regular routine. Keep in mind that you do need play new things slow enough that you can do them perfectly— that may put them at a very slow tempo, or even out of tempo, for a short time. When you can play the notes, move it into a real tempo for the style as soon as possible.

The millions of variations/modifications you can do on any written thing
I could pile on so many things to do with a basic rock beat that you would never get past page 1, exercise 1, if you tried to do them all at once. Don't practice that way, exploding everything to encompass the entire universe of drumming. Get the one thing at hand, and move on.

All of the above don't necessarily apply exactly equally to every single thing you do. You (and your teacher) have to be able to judge the difference between core things on which your entire drumming career depends (which you need to practice a lot), and things that are more background facility-developers (which can grind you to a standstill if you try to do too much with them). For jazz drummers, most of the things done with Syncopation would fall into the first category; Dahlgren & Fine would fall into the second.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Typos in Funky Primer

Time to get out your white-out again. This is something that had been bugging me for many years of working with A Funky Primer, by my old professor, Charles Dowd. Most of the book consists of bass drum and snare drum combinations along with 8th notes on the hihat. A few places, though, there are these oddball patterns where the hihat falls on the e's and a's:

There's nothing wrong with the pattern, I guess, except that it makes no sense in context- there's nothing else like it anywhere in the book, except these few random measures. After a couple decades of just ignoring those patterns, it dawned on me that when you beam the notes this way:

The result is exactly what you would expect for that page of the book. I imagine the copyist was getting in a groove with his work, and got a little cocky about knowing where the beams were supposed to go without double-checking his master copy, and screwed it up.

A couple more of these after the break:

Monday, April 02, 2012

VOQOTD: on learning jazz

Following Andrew Hare's Why learn jazz? post:

"[I]t seems to me that playing jazz gives a drummer more sensitivity for the drumset and much more of a rounded concept. It's hard to explain that without someone feeling like I'm trying to say that I want them to play jazz. I'm not. I'm saying, "What I want you to do is play the drums better." It just so happens that, if you learned a lot about jazz, practiced for two or three years and really tried to be good at it, you would become a better drummer.
- Tony Williams

Sunday, April 01, 2012

DBMITW: Lonely Woman

Maybe I shouldn't be posting this so close to the release of my own CD with this tune, but it's too good let go. Would you have the nerve to do what Paul Motian does at the end of Dewey's solo?

I'm going to be in big time work mode getting stuff together for the imminent release of my CD of Ornette Coleman tunes, Little Played Little Bird, so posting may continue to be a little a light this week.

I remember when I was 21

First beer.

Note: I wrote this a couple of months ago and set it aside, thinking I didn't really need to go here. But then I saw that Ted Warren has written about a similar situation with some lesser young players in Toronto- and I thought I'd go ahead and put it up as a companion to his better piece

Here's an article I stumbled across when I googled "crazy jazz chart" while casting around for a suitable image for the getting lost post. Some young avant cats in New York talk about what they see as the sorry creative state of jazz, and indulge in the time-honored tradition of complaining about their education, and a clueless writer blunders around the subject, dumping on artists too lame to have "seized" him by his lazy ears. Aside from being smarter than me, the players sound exactly like I did when I was in school. In the name of personal expression I've edited it down willy nilly- you can go read the original for context:

Darius Jones, alto sax: "They say you need to play what you hear. But if I do, they say, 'oh, you can't be hearing that.' "
Mary Halvorson, guitar: "I couldn't listen to jazz for eight years after I went to jazz school. I'm serious. I could not listen. It turned it into this terrible exercise. And I couldn't listen until about four months ago, when I got into it again, and remembered why I loved it initially. It becomes so formulaic. It all sounds the same and you're taught that the end goal is to perfect a style. Creativity is not emphasized. You're in school and you're being graded on how well you can perfect a style. I don't think it's bad having these structures. It's just overdone, and overdone in a crappy way. There's such an oversaturation of mediocrity."

Read on after the break: