Wednesday, May 30, 2012


This Wednesday [Update: That's tonight], at the Secret Society Ballroom in Portland I'll be playing music from my new record, Little Played Little Bird (which you can listen to, and more importantly purchase in the sidebar), along with Tim Willcox, Weber Iago, and Dan Schulte.

It's a fairly rare for me all ages show, starting at 6pm, and my group will hit at 7. Cover is a sliding $5-20. The venue is located at 116 Northeast Russell Street Portland, OR 97212.

If you're in Portland, come on down!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Transcription: the Birthday break

For once there's not much to say-- here's one of my favorite drum breaks in the world, played by Ringo Starr on Birthday, by the Beatles:

Get the pdf

YouTube audio after the break:

VOQOTD: Keltner on Ringo

Ringo, Keltner, Levon Helm
I will always be there to support him. He's more than a dear friend. He's like an idol. He's everything to me. I still think of him musically every time I sit down and play drums. He's a very important guy to me.
-Jim Keltner on Ringo Starr

(h/t to Anthony A./Gvdadrummasum)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Groove o' the day: Paul Motian's tango

I like this feature, and I'm going to try to do a lot more of these this year. Here's a hip modified tango played by Paul Motian on the tune When We Go, from Rambler by Bill Frisell. I wish I had paid closer attention to this track back when I was having to play a lot more of these:

If you listen to the recording, you'll notice that his variations track the melody pretty closely. Note that he sometimes leaves off the snare hit at the beginning, and does some different things with the last two beats of the groove. Many of the single snare hits are double stops-- unisons played with both hands.

This isn't available on YouTube, and they've gotten too good at instantly blocking the videos I put together for these things, so I guess you'll have to spring for the track, or better yet, buy the album-- you should own this one, anyway:

Get Bill Frisell's Rambler | get When We Go

I believe you can also get this track on Works, Frisell's ECM compilation.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Scholar's corner: Elvin Jones plays the ride cymbal

We'll see how long this new feature lasts. I've been coming across a good number of scholarly works online, most of them not worth sharing-- in fact, I have a draft of a long post collecting some analyses of swing interpretation, which I somewhat unfairly gave the working title "The Mother Lode of Suck." I wasn't trying to be mean; it just seemed like a natural fit.

But here's a good one we'll be seeing more of: a 225-page Master's thesis by Canadian drummer Barry Elmes, titled ELVIN JONES: DEFINING HIS ESSENTIAL CONTRIBUTIONS TO JAZZ. There's a lot of good analysis in it, and his writing is more accessible than you might expect, and I encourage you to visit his site and download the complete pdf. Here is a part of his discussion of Elvin's use of the ride cymbal:

"Listening to Jones perform (on his recordings and in person) one is struck almost immediately by the prominence of his ride cymbal. In terms of balance within the ensemble, it seems to be consistently in the foreground of the music, clearly audible at all times regardless of the dynamics of the rest of the band. Jones made sure of this, often resorting to using the butt-end of the stick for more power when necessary. Jones has commented on his use of the ride cymbal:

I always try to sustain some kind of continuity with the cymbal. That’s where the consistency really is, because we no longer use a strong 4/4 bass beat, or that rigid, up-and-down, 2 and 4 on the hi-hat. So the emphasis is on the consistency of the tempo and, of course, on the continuity of that cymbal. That provides what would be the clave [the central pulse] in a Latin orchestra. 

The listener’s attention is fixed, not just by the volume of his ride cymbal, by what he chooses to play on it. Instead of the usual statement of quarter-beat pulse or the common ride cymbal pattern, Jones offers a line comprised of eighth-note phrases that feature both rhythmic and dynamic variation. These phrases are rhythmically designed in the same fashion as those of a melodic soloist: using eighth notes and/or quarter notes, placed on downbeats and/or upbeats. In the absence of pitch capability, Jones infers a certain musicality to his phrases by accenting over a much wider dynamic range than is heard in the drumming of his contemporaries or predecessors."

Continued after the break:

Saturday, May 26, 2012

DBMITW: Can YouTube do this?

See, another reason I like my turntable is that I can just reach over and hit one button and it will replay side B of The New Miles Davis Quintet for the tenth time in a row. It takes two seconds. I can keep that up all day. I defy anyone to get that kind of listening in by using the mouse to pull up this window and click the maddeningly balky YouTube play button every 5'30" for the next few hours. It's not going to happen.

And don't try throwing your iTunes up in my face. Granted, you can play the record that way too, but let's suppose you somehow forget the title, but you know Philly Joe Jones is on it, so you open the beloved program, click past the ads, and search their store for records he played on. Oops, better use the "power" search to get the really good results! You're no fool. Here's what they give you-- open this up and take a gander at it:

You are not hallucinating. They did in fact just give you a grand total of fifty tracks from one of the most recorded drummers in jazz-- mainly the relatively minor stuff he recorded as leader. As far as iTunes is concerned he did flip-all apart from that. Yes, I know this has nothing to do with my earlier gloating about my turntable, but it's something about iTunes that really irks me. Sometimes you just have to complain about things.

Anyway, here's side B of The New Miles Davis Quintet for you to enjoy. Listen through it as many times as you can:

The rest of the side after the break:

Friday, May 25, 2012

Groove o' the day: alternate Afro 6/8

Here is a another, simplified Afro 6/8 groove as played by one of the major session guys for Blue Note Records in the early 60's, Roger Humphries, here on the tune Mary Lou from Horace Silver's Jody Grind:

As you can see, he breaks it down West Side Story-style into a measure of 6/8 and a measure of 3/4. The 16th notes at the end are played more like a ruff embellishing the following beat 1 than actual 16ths. You can omit the hihat, as he does on the intro, or add it on the first 8th note of the first measure and the second quarter note of the second measure, as he does as the tune develops.

YouTube audio after the break:

Favorite albums: Impressions by John Coltrane

Cover from my version,
the 80's reissue.
Impressions by John Coltrane
1963 - Impulse!

John Coltrane - tenor and soprano saxophone
Eric Dolphy - alto saxophone, bass clarinet
McCoy Tyner - piano
Jimmy Garrison - bass
Reggie Workman - bass
Elvin Jones - drums
Roy Haynes - drums

This record has become kind of a dark horse in recent years, due I think to its pieced-together nature-- the two tracks that form the bulk of the album are from the famous 1961 Village Vanguard recordings, and are included in the box set that was released early in the 2000's, stealing a lot of its thunder. But this selection of tunes is very special, and there's something to be said for experiencing the music the way it was by the many, many players who have lived with this record in the nearly 50 years since it came out.

Up 'Gainst The Wall is an extremely important track for drummers-- right up there with Miles' Billy Boy, with Philly Joe, or Pat Metheny's Turnaround with Jack Dejohnette, or Miles' Seven Steps To Heaven with Tony Williams, or... anyway, transcribing it is pretty much a rite of passage; I did mine straight off the LP, which I don't recommend. 

Impressions is of the style that Leonard Feather famously called "anti-jazz" at the time, referring to Chasin' The Trane from the Village Vanguard record; very open extended blowing basically on one chord, without piano accompaniment. Here they're playing over So What changes, with a bridge that goes up a half step, so it's not entirely formless, but the effect is the same. This used to be an extremely popular jam session tune, but doesn't seem to get played much any more. You also don't hear players going for this burnout type of thing much, do you?

India got hurt the most-- at least as far as my own listening was concerned-- by the release of the Vanguard box set, which included several competing versions. This one is still the best, and I've listened to it so many times it's like classical music to me. People need to make more music with too many cats blowing all at once.

After The Rain gets overshadowed by the blowing tracks, but is a tiny, impressionistic masterpiece in its own right.

Dear Old Stockholm is a bonus track on the newer reissues, but I've never heard it.

Some YouTube audio after the break:

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Lessons are a whole different thing

Metaphor for complexity.
It's easy to wonder if drummers online are giving away the away the entire store with all of the free video lessons, blog posts and whatnot. With such a massive volume of free information available, what do students need teachers for?

Plenty, actually. Ignoring the fact that most free video "lessons" frankly suck (and that most blog posts are golden), learning even a straightforward written exercise is a complex process of coordination, technique, reading, comprehension of rhythm, touch, general physical posture, dynamics, and tone production, for starters. Most students are aware that those are words, but do not know how to implement them and balance them with each other in practice. In helping a student find an entry into some materials, there is a lot of:

"Do this-- no, not that, this-- no, this-- not quite, fix this one thing... good, almost... take a second and work that out, but pay attention to this, not this... wait, there's something you're doing that's very subtly wrong, let's fix that-- good, now you understand it well enough to practice it on your own." 

That's when things are going well; often you can throw into the mix some:

"OK, this isn't working, let's take it slower--- no, slower--- no, slower. Right, you need to take this slower. Good, it's still not happening. Let's break this town a little bit-- that's not working-- try it this way instead... still no good-- try just this piece of it. Great, add one more note..."

Beyond that, there is the matter of placing the practice item in context: How and how much does should he practice it? What more can he do with it? How does it connect to other things? How does he integrate it into his playing? How is it going to turn up in real-world drumming?

It can take considerable knowledge and ingenuity, instantly accessible. Most self-teachers can't cope with the multiple levels of real-world uncertainty in the process. And no written item or video, no matter how detailed, can address all of things that come up. Even if it could, the student would have to be able to digest it, and accurately self-monitor all of this stuff. Both of which are highly dubious prospects.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Three Camps: all inversions in one

I was trying to work this up on the fly at the drum set, and it wasn't happening, and I needed to write it out-- so here we are. This is a slightly more practical version of my long Three Camps inversions piece; here I've packed all of the inversions into one time through the piece. Hit the link above for practice suggestions.

Get the pdf

DBMITW: all Elvin, all the time

This current Elvin binge really snuck up on me. It's easy to lazily categorize his playing as a style-- but then you listen to something like this, which we've all heard a thousand times, and it just blows that mental image away-- you're just struck by the livingness of it:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Stick Control in triplets

Here's a good library companion to my Stick Control implied rhythms piece. This was suggested to me by my friend Steve Pancerev-- I'm not sure if it's something he thought up, or if it was suggested by his old teacher, Ian Froman. The concept is simple enough-- just apply the stickings from the first section of Stick Control to a triplet rhythm-- figuring out on the fly how that lays is more challenging, though, so I've written it out. You might pencil in phrase marks to outline the four note groupings where they're not so easy to make out.

Usually you just run exercises 1-13, but what the heck, I went ahead and wrote up the whole page. The big challenge here is to play the RH part on the snare drum and the LH part on the bass drum along with jazz time on the cymbal and hihat. You could also play the RH part on the cymbal, doubled with the bass drum, and the left hand on the snare drum.

Get the pdf

Google is really starting to piss me off.

They have implemented this annoying thing of not always giving direct links to items in my search results-- so if I do my usual thing of right-clicking on a link and hitting "copy link address", when I paste the link it gives me crap like this:

...which is not the actual URL of the site. Worse, the link was to a pdf file, and when I use Opera's handy "right click>save to download folder" option, it just downloads an html file of that stupid Google link, not the pdf.

I don't know what Google is playing at-- I guess they want to be the sole gateway to the entire Internet. At this point I highly recommend switching to Duckduckgo as your default search engine;  it appears to be the choice du jour for Linux people, and is basically what Google was before they started avalanching features all over me.

Monday, May 21, 2012

DBMITW: Trio Jeepy

I feel like I've been pretty unimaginative with my filler lately, but what am I going to do that's better than this?

That's from Branford Marsalis's late 80's record Trio Jeepy, with Milt Hinton and Jeff Watts. Listen for Watts's crazy displacement chorus somewhere in the middle-- you need a really powerful bass player to pull that kind of thing off without causing a trainwreck. Hearing this track-- along with Sonny Rollins' Blue Seven and the album Coltrane Plays The Blues-- really got me thinking about blues as more than just a twelve bar form.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Hemiola basics

UPDATE: I have since written an updated version of this page.

The hemiola-- also called the 3:2 polyrhythm-- is a basic polyrhythm using layered even two and three note rhythms. What I've done here is outline some ways of building it, and begin relating it to some of its common forms in a variety of time signatures. There's a lot of meter-shifting trickery going around these days, often as a somewhat crass effect, but that's not what this is. It is actually a DNA instruction, a foundational part of all drumming with African origins, including all music using the drum set. Without it, American drumming would just be marches, two-beats, and ye olde four on the floor. In fact, when you hear a drummer sounding a little too squared-off in his approach, I believe it usually comes from lack of understanding of this concept.

I suggest repeating each measure of line 2 by itself as well- that didn't make it into the final pdf for lack of space.

The idea is not to learn these as a lick, so I've specifically not given any complete drumset parts. Just play (and count) through the examples, using all combinations of limbs, and let it enter your playing "on background." If you want to take them a little further, you could play them along with a simple one- or two-limb ostinato. It might also be worthwhile to experiment with accenting, or moving hands between sounds.

Get the pdf

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Groove o' the day: Zigaboo Modeliste - People Say

Today's groove o' the day is Zigaboo Modeliste's part from People Say, by The Meters:

The 16ths are half-swung in the New Orleans style ("in between the cracks", as Stanton Moore calls it). Listen to the recording for variations in the bass drum part- often he'll add it on the "&-a" of 1 of the first measure. The variations in the hihat part are basically optional- it would sound just as good with 8th notes all the way through.

YouTube audio after the break:

Look, just take whatever they want to give you

Something no one needs,
yet strangely not free.
What better way to welcome a new (he's actually been doing this longer than me) colleague to my blogroll, and thank him for linking to my Playing Quieter post, than to disagree with him vehemently about something else? I came across Steve Goold's blog, and was about to dive into his nice fat list of archive topics-- which includes a lot of substantial pieces about just the sort of stuff we're interested in here-- but I got waylaid on his front page by this post about whether you deserve to get paid:

"Listen, the world doesn’t owe you anything. Just because you practiced and studied and composed doesn’t mean that what you do is valuable to anyone besides you. The worst thing you can do for your music career, from my humble perspective, is to adopt a sense of entitlement. That is the fast track to becoming jaded and burnt out and a failure.

Music is not a business. It’s not a good or a service. It’s an ART. Art expresses, art probes, art challenges, and art entertains. Expression/challenge/entertainment are not things that anybody really NEEDS. The entertainment industry is by definition expendable.

No one NEEDS entertainment, but many people WANT entertainment. And it is from that angle that I humbly suggest to you that your job as a musician is to demonstrate to anyone and everyone that you have what they want." 

Hmmmm. More of this, and my comments after the break:

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Learning Wilcoxon with Philly Joe

Another thing I stumbled across completely by accident here. Writing in Modern Drummer in 2011, Jim Payne tells about studying with Philly Joe Jones- specifically, on working on a Charles Wilcoxon solo with him, Rolling in Rhythm, from Rudimental Swing Solos:

"We broke the solo into four-bar phrases. Philly Joe was very particular about the accents. He played them about twice as loud as the other notes, which were treated more like filler.
The first two bars of "Rolling In Rhythm" are based on 16th-note double-stroke rolls. Starting on the "&" of 3 in bar 3, we have three successive five-stroke rolls. Each roll takes up three 8th notes, creating a three-over-four feel. This motif is used throughout the solo and is a very useful technique for adding rhythmic interest to any style of playing.
Philly Joe would also play the solo on a pillow so there was no bounce at all, or he would use brushes. Practicing that way definitely helps strengthen your hands and wrists.
Measures 5 and 6 are pretty straightforward. Just make sure the accents come out strong. Measures 7 and 8 are fairly easy to play because of the long roll in bar 7. The three-beat five-stroke roll happens again in measure 8. The phrase ends with an accent on 4. The two 16th notes at the end of the line are a pickup into the next measure. When I practiced this solo. I repeated each four-bar phrase until I got it down.
Philly Joe talked about how you don't hit down to make the sound-you pull the sound out of the drums."

Continued after the break...

Monday, May 14, 2012

A treasure trove: WKCR Soundscape project

I just googled this up, from the WKCR 89.9 New York radio site: a duo performance by Ed Blackwell and saxophonist Charles Brackeen, recorded in 1980 at:
Soundscape[,] a New York performance venue founded and curated by Verna Gillis. Between 1979 and 1983, Soundscape offered specialized programming of Latin Jazz, Afro-Cuban music, avant-garde improvised music, and “world music” performers from many nations. Many Soundscape shows were recorded and the library of recordings has been donated by Gillis to the WKCR permanent archives, for broadcast on air and to be made available on the web.

There are a bunch of other interesting things- a group called Commitment, featuring Denis Charles, who we talked about a few days ago, a Sunny Murray solo performance, a Rashied Ali duo concert, a very cool Tito Peunte concert, and more.

And digging a little deeper into the WKCR site, there's also a page of interviews and in-studio performances by people like Don Cherry, Milford Graves, Archie Shepp, Lee Konitz, Dewey Redman, and others. Definitely worth spending a bunch with this one.

DBMITW: Jazz at the Philharmonic

This is from a Jazz at the Philharmonic album from 1949 that I dug out of my father's record collection back in the early 80's, and I've been carrying it around ever since. It's got Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Roy Eldridge, Hank Jones, and Buddy Rich playing some pretty honking jam session style stuff. That trombone player is a guy named Tommy Turk.

That's what they used to call dropping bombs, what Buddy is doing there.

The record is labeled "New Volume 7 (formerly Vols. 12 and 13)"; you probably can't find the LP, but you can get it from Amazon. 

After the break is Lester Leaps In, from the same record, which I have to include because I love Lester Young's solo on it.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Your own drumming blog: final thoughts

...or on the blog. Thanks
and Timothy Vollmer.
A few final thoughts on writing your own drumming blog, and things I forget to mention in our previous entries. I know I promised to outline my workflow for a downloadable post, but this writing-about-non-drumming stuff is getting to be a grind. If you want to know about it- how to use ftp, or accomplish any of the obscure Finale tasks you need to know to make a decent-looking pdf- email me your question and I'll do a dedicated post about it in the future.

Copyright, fair use, and just not being a jerk
This is largely a sharing medium, so it's a good idea to get at least a passing acquaintance with this, so you do it legally, ethically, and gentlemanly-ly. In general:

  • Credit and link to non-original material- both the original author and your online source- or chain of sources. Like if someone on the Drummerworld forum posts a link to something written by someone else, published in a magazine, and posted on the Four On The Floor blog, it's good to credit and link to the referring DW user, FOTF, the author, and the magazine.  
  • Don't copy the whole thing. You're allowed to excerpt; you're not allowed to republish without permission.
  • Don't link to copyright-infringing sites. I've mostly stayed true to that one, though I've bent it occasionally for the greater good, when it's basically harm-free. That's what I tell myself, anyway. But linking to pirated material that is currently available commercially, especially by living artists, does actually hurt people. And by people, I mean artists. Not corporations.  

Quite a bit more after the break:

I love my records

And yes, that is a copy of Judas Priest's Hell Bent For Leather in there...

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Elvin's Afro-Waltz: in 5/4, part 2

Man, I've been writing way too many words recently. Let's get back to the drums. I'm still spending most of my time with page one of this series, but here's another variation on the Elvin Jones Afro-Waltz, again adapted into 5/4, this time using "my" hihat part  (it's just a little unusual and I happen to play it a lot) of dotted quarter notes starting on beat 2:

I'll say again that it's I strongly advise doing these with the tom moves. It's had a not-insignificant effect on my playing, in areas and ways I did not expect.

Get the pdf

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Your own drumming blog: software

Continuing our little series on getting your own drumming blog going, today we'll look at the software I use , and that might be helpful to you. I try to use free software whenever possible. Your computer OS may include acceptable versions of some of these; and if you don't like my choices, you can look for free alternatives on Sourceforge. Lifehacker is also a good source for software recommendations.

Apart from routine web browsing, and things that can be done within the Blogger interface, the tasks I have to do include writing (text and music), transcribing, notating music (is it still called copying when you do it on the computer?), generating pdfs and jpegs of notation, editing pdfs, editing images, uploading files to the server, editing audio, and creating/editing videos. Here's what I use to do all of that:

Transcribe! is the best transcription software I've found. Not free, unfortunately. There is an open source program which came bundled with my new Free Geek Linux box, Transcriber. It's made for transcribing speech, but could easily be used for music.

Audacity. Audio editing software. Can replace Transcribe!, though it may be a little more ungainly to use for transcribing. I mainly use it for making sampled playalong loops, for assembling podcasts, and for making excerpts of recorded music.

Finale, Sibelius, or the free MuseScore. Or other music notation program. I use Finale, and frankly the program is a behemoth and all-around big PITA, but I've figured out how to do most everything I need to do fairly quickly, and it will likely take me more time than I will save to relearn it all with another program so, so it looks like I'll be with Finale for awhile. People say Sibelius is easier to use. I haven't heard a lot of feedback about MuseScore, but it's free and open source, which we like.

CutePDF is what I use to generate the pdfs you download from the site. It operates like a pseudo-printer- you print the file in Finale, selecting CutePDF as the as the printer instead of your regular hardware printer.

Continued after the break:

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Metronome perspectives

There's an excellent piece on the Modern Drummer site getting views on metronome use from a number of top drummers and educators. I've excerpted some of the best bits, but go read the whole thing.

David Stanoch:
One tip for making friends with your metronome, which comes directly from a 1984 Modern Drummer interview with [Andy] Newmark, is to imagine the click to be your friend. Andy said he thinks of the late, great studio percussion icon Ralph MacDonald playing a cowbell. By making that his mindset, he could relax and play comfortably with the metronome’s time.

George Marsh:

As a practice tool, I like to use the metronome as a guide to help check rhythmic accuracy. And it can be used in creative ways. Back at a recording session in 1973, I had the pleasure of hearing African master drummer Kwasi Badu play a bell pattern using a metronome to mark the third note of each pulse in 12/8 meter. He heard the metronome as a representation of the beginning of one of the supporting drum parts, which didn’t start on the downbeat. Badu then proceeded to build on the bell pattern with the metronome still playing in its displaced position. The piece was a version of the West African dance Adowa. Kwasi overdubbed all of the parts this way.

From then on, I tried to think of many ways to make use of the metronome more creatively. One way is to set the metronome to any tempo and then play completely freely, with the only rule being that I keep listening—but not adhering to—the metronome. I just let myself fly around the beat. After doing this for a few minutes, I then land on the beat and play in time.

Jeremy Hummel :
Going around the turns. Most drummers, at some point, struggle with speeding up when playing fills, especially in transitional moments (verse to chorus, chorus to bridge, etc). Fills should be played in time, with taste and musicality. I find the best fills to be an extension of the groove, rather than a disruption. Practicing beats and fills with a metronome will help to keep the heads bopping—and not stopping.

More after the break:

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

DBMITW: more Cecil

This is from my other favorite Cecil Taylor record, Looking Ahead!, with Denis Charles on drums.

Charles plays his cymbal (in 1950's, at least) in a way you would have a hard time getting away with today- he really drops in the 1's and 3's. At the medium tempo blowing in the middle of this tune he plays a very "dotted-8th/16th-y" rhythm as well- which works well with Cecil's playing.

After the break is a couple of excerpts from a documentary about him that looks like it was filmed shortly before his death in 1998, and completed shortly after.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Elvin's afro-waltz: in 5/4

I've been working with Elvin's waltz daily since I first posted about it, and have been getting great results- and not just with playing this particular type of feel. So let's keep developing it. It converts easily into 5/4, which is what I've done here:

It's actually quite a bit harder in 5, and the exercises escalate in difficulty faster than before, so this should be a little bit of a challenge. As always, apply the tom moves I outlined previously. That really seems boost my results with these, either from the extra time spent, or from the extra concentration required.

Get the pdf.

How to play the brushes

Now we're talking- here's something substantial for you: I was able to shame Ted @ Trap'd into finally labelling his posts, and now I can link to his entire great series on playing the brushes. I plan on working through it this evening:

I've lost all patience with 95% of all "lesson" videos, but I love these things.

A little more after the break:

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Your own drumming blog: useful skills

I'm determined to follow my own instructions in the previous entry and tackle this starting-a-drumming-blog series in manageable pieces. Blogger's interface has actually made doing the work very nearly idiot(?)-proof but maybe this will help you get your work done a little more efficiently. Today we're going to look at some useful skills:

You don't have to be blazing with it, but you can't hunt and peck your way through a blogging career. Get acquainted with the touch typing method- if you aren't already- using one of the billion-or-so free typing tutor programs around. I'm partial to GNU Typist; you could maybe get yourself a copy of Typing of the Dead for fun, too.

Along with writing, using search engines effectively is really a primary skill. Here at CSD! we produce a lot of original content, but in most of the rest of the blogging world much of the job consists of seeking out things online and writing about them, and sharing a link. Google is pretty fool/idiot/lazy person-proof in that regard- you can just type in any old thing and get some kind of useful results- but it's worthwhile to take it a little further and learn to use the various query operators / wildcards / whatnot to open up some of the actual power of the search engine.

Using the keyboard
Put down the mouse- well, it's already down, but take your hand off it- and get used to doing a lot of tabbing, ctrl-c-ing, ctrl-x-ing, and ctrl-v-ing, and alt-whatevering to access the menus. Highlight text with the arrow keys, in conjunction with the ctrl key. Find out what the little bank of keys above the arrows does- Page Up, Page Down, Home, End, etc:

Over your blogging (and computing) career this will save you countless hours of waving the little pointer around the screen, hours you could spend practicing, writing, getting to know your family, etc.

Read on, fun stuff after the break:

DBMITW: with a big hat tip to Chip Stern

I just got a couple of nice notes from drummer and writer Chip Stern  (Modern Drummer, Jazz Times)- he's made a bunch of big contributions to the literature of drumming, including an interview with Papa Jo Jones, and some things I've excerpted here- like the piece on Billy Higgins' gear,  and the Ronald Shannon Jackson interview. He actually forwarded that to Jackson, and Jackson's response to me and I had to check fast to make sure I didn't write anything especially stupid that day. Phew.

He sent me this video of Papa Jo Jones playing with Coleman Hawkins and Sweets Edison. He said the ride cymbal used here ("A 20" A. Zildjian, pitched in A up to Bb.") is in a Connecticut drummer's collection. As you can see from his bio above, he's been around a lot of great musicians, and will hopefully be sharing some of that history with us via his own blog soon- I'll link to it here as soon as it's available.

Friday, May 04, 2012

HFS, part two

Last time I was moved to so eloquent a title I had just received the massive Paiste 22" 602 dark ride; today I received a massive library of 180+ dense pages in three volumes by Marvin Dahlgren, newly available from Really Good Music Publishing. I'm just trying to get my head around the enormity of what I'm dealing with here, but here's my immediate impression:

Drum Set Control by Marvin Dahlgren

This is the one I was looking for when I turned these up. It mostly consists of studies for getting around the drums in 8th notes, triplets, and 16th notes, in singles and rudimental stickings. It's sort of a Joe Cusatis' Rudimental Studies on steroids, with incorporated bass drum, and the distinct mathematical/logical bent you would expect.

One thing: I'm happy to report that Dahlgren's names for made-up rudiments are no better than mine; his 5-note paradiddle is called "par-e-a-diddle", which is arguably worse than my "paradiddle-a". I guess we could compromise and put the 'e' sound into mine, and call it "paradiddle-y". 

Variations on Three Camps, Book 1 by Marvin Dahlgren

I was never aware of this, possibly because it appears to have been pulled directly out of the author's personal library. Each page is notated by hand, signed by Dahlgren, many handwritten notes. 60ish pages of Three Camps rendered in a variety of different stickings, meters, and rhythms. It has a little bit of the feel of a Bhagavad Gita of drumming- many years of accumulated materials, gathered from many sources.

There's much too much here to summarize, but he applies a number of rudiments and stickings to the piece, and translates it into 3/4 and 5/4, in triplets and 16th notes.

Two more books after the break:

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Your own drumming blog: general practices

Three easy steps, followed
by a bunch of other steps. 
A lot of new drumming blogs have been cropping up recently, which suggests to me that there are even more people thinking about starting blogging, but haven't yet. That's a good thing- there are a hell of a lot of knowledgeable people out there, and the more information circulates the better and stronger the musical culture.

This series of posts will outline how to go about it, first dealing with general practices, then with useful/necessary skills, software, web sites; finally I'll outline my workflow for making a single post with a downloadable pdf.

General practices:

Post often.
It helps generate traffic and cultivate a regular audience. This means you have to:

Keep it brief.  Because brevity is the soul of not wasting everyone's damn time. Every post cannot be a dissertation, nor should it be. This is blogging. Every extra word is a barrier between your audience and the point you are trying to make. This goes quintuple for video lessons, should you choose to include them.

Research. Blogging- or even "real" writing- is not just about being a fount of knowledge: it's about finding and recognizing things that are good, and directing people to them. Your message and identity as a writer is a composite your knowledge and of the things you recognize as good and pass along.

You should hopefully have a fair amount of original work in you, too.

Links are currency. The lifeblood of blogging. Maintaining a blogroll and linking to things in your posts- videos, articles, and other blogs generates traffic for yourself and others. You're doing something nice for someone every time you do it. I need to do more of it, in fact...

Read on after the break:

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Inversions of Three Camps

So I have basically a one-track mind. Maybe a two-track mind. Three closely-related tracks. Right now it's all  the Elvin waltz and Three Camps. What we have here is a little thing I improvised while playing the latter on the drums- it's an easy way to get a little more mileage out of it. What I've done is simply to offset it by one 8th note (or one triplet partial, if you're thinking of it that way) each time through; so the first time is the piece in its regular form, then it is displaced so the primary accents fall on the middle note, and then the last note of the triplet:

I've written it with the modern fp long roll at the end, rather than with the traditional ending. I think this is most effective played on the drumset, with the hihat on 2 and 4, and the bass drum either doubling the accented notes, or playing (lightly!) on 1 and 3, or on all four beats. You can also play the accented notes on the cymbals. This is easy enough that you should be able to toss the print out after two or three times through it.

Get the pdf

Observations about the volume of things

One of the things on my mind a lot lately has been the issue of projection- making your performance be heard clearly by the other musicians and by the audience. While performing and hanging at the Ballard Jazz Festival recently, I got the opportunity to play with and hear a number of groups in close proximity, in the same room, often on the same set of drums- mine. The circumstances were a moderate-sized, crowded club, with unmiked drums and horns, and amplified guitars and bass. Here are some of the things I noticed:

Guitars are loud, penetrating, and present. They can make unmiked drums sound very small, and hurt the audience's ears. The veteran guitarists know how to get a big sound without blowing everyone away. The veteran players in general have a big sound and play big dynamics, without being obnoxious.

Saxophones are pretty loud. They need to be monitored on stage- they decidedly do not sound loud to the people playing them, or to people sitting behind them, but they do penetrate.

Basses can be loud. At least on stage. I had one experience where the bass wiped out all the dynamics the rest of the group was trying to create. Getting any definition from the audience's perspective is much trickier.

It is not difficult to play the drums under a club-volume amplified acoustic bass and guitar.

Unmiked drums are moderately soft, and can suffer from poor definition. Even when played strongly, they are not very present- they can sound a little distant, not full. Everyone thinks the drums are loud, but when played to their true dynamic range (that is, not lashing the hell out of them, or always hiding in the background, barely touching them), and heard from a reasonable distance, they sit right in the middle of the audience's natural comfort range.

A younger generation of players is getting used to the idea that the drums are supposed to be quiet. When you play at a venue-appropriate full volume with them, they tend to panic and turn up. Or assume that it's rock & roll time and we are dispensing with dynamics altogether, and turn up.

Inexperienced, not-very-confident musicians will track your every upward dynamic move much too closely, and often blow past your downward moves. Veteran players will not instantly jump in volume when you do something big, and recognize opportunities for dynamic or textural changes when you bring it down.

Thin, dark cymbals sound very weak from the back of the room.  At best- several drummers' performances were mostly wiped out because of their cymbals, which were just not up to the task at hand. You have to play them very strongly, while playing the drums gently to get a good balance within the instrument, and they will still sound weak at the back of the room. The few moderately heavier and brighter cymbals present fared much better- you were able to hear what the drummer was doing with them musically.

China-type cymbals are god. Along with the guitar. They really cut, and the right cymbal played injudiciously can wipe out everything else on stage.