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:

These two are from the "hands only" part of the book:

Properly beamed this becomes:

And this pattern:



  1. I have always been frustrated by that very measure in the Funky Primer.....thanks for writing about it. --MF

  2. Um, I looked up DFB on, and most of the meanings were kind of disturbing...

  3. hey todd - i love this blog, your content and your writing a great.

    my impression has always been that the funky primer stuff was accurate as written. i think dowd is just introducing some basic mixed sticking stuff.

  4. He never mentioned it one way or another when I was studying with him-- I can't remember having to play them in front of him in a lesson-- so it's possible. But as written, they are totally out of context with the other things on the page, and anything else in the book, and he introduces them without any preparation or follow-up, while everything else is in very logical order. So it just seems more likely to me that the copyist screwed up a couple of patterns. There's no reason not to play them as written, though.

  5. Wow! Those are good fixes. Do you know of a list of songs that match the beats marked with (*)? In the introduction he mentions that those are beats from actual songs. Always wondered. Excellent site, btw!

  6. Thanks! I don't know about those (*) beats-- he never mentioned them in lessons. I don't get the impression that he seriously researched it.

  7. Fascinating information on this page. As a song writer, I deeply appreciate the emotional connection with the importance of music and accuracy and all that goes along with passion . . .

    My dad wrote "Primer" with a sharpie by hand. My mom typed and edited all the text. All while young and full of that same passion. One of dad's goals (with a percussionist good buddy at the time of home I won't mention by name) was to chart the drum licks and patterns used in James Brown's band.

    It's great to see so many people continue to dig this book. It's not perfect, but who is . . .?