Saturday, March 31, 2012

Groove o' the day: Gainsbourg

I love 70's studio drumming. I was just re-listening to some old Serge Gainsbourg stuff- I made a record of his music in 2009 and did a couple of  little Europe tours with it- and this groove jumped out at me. We played this on the tour in 2010, but I guess I never listened to the groove that closely, even though I transcribed arranged the tune for the band. The drummer is an English session player named Dougie Wright


The hihat part is played with both hands, natural sticking, I guess (RH on the 8th notes, LH on the e's and a's); it's a little bit reminiscent of Cissy Strut, which uses the hihat the same way. The rhythm of the accents makes a little partido alto rhythm- I don't know if that's intentional; I suspect not. I think it's just a universal rhythm. The bass drum notes in parenthesis are optional.

Get Par Hasard et Pas Rasé

YouTube clip after the break:

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Playing in 2

I got a nice note from Ben at the excellent Melbourne Drumming Online blog (adding him to the blogroll- be sure to pay him a visit), requesting that I write something about playing in 2- that is, playing in a jazz format when the bassist is playing half notes. You know: the thing people do while they're waiting to go in to 4. God knows I've done enough of it, but never much analyzed what makes it work- or not. And those who have are not really sharing, because I haven't seen much in print about it. I'm sure if you got a lesson with Peter Erskine or Ian Froman or John Riley or Kenny Washington, they could give you some hard and fast rules/suggestions about it.

But since I'm just a field rat, and just learned it by doing it, I know of no consensus theory of playing in 2. What I'll offer instead, then, are some strategies for going about it. For starters, here's the basic, universal time feel, played on the hihat:



Swing the 8th notes on this and all examples, of course. Note that the cymbals open on the & of 2 and the & of 4. Go into your record collection to get an idea of the sound.

Much more- the entire body of the piece, in fact- is after the break:

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Groove o' the day: Elvin afro-waltz

I've been working on a transcription of Elvin's playing on John Coltrane's Your Lady, from Coltrane Live at Birdland, but it's not going to be ready today. Here's a little teaser, though- the closest thing there is to a main groove for the tune- it's sort of a stripped down version of the familiar triplety Elvin afro three. You can hear several measures of it at the end of the first time through the melody.  As is usual with Elvin, emphasize the & of 2 on the cymbal:

And swing the 8th notes, natch.

YouTube audio after the break- transcription of the intro and complete head coming soon...

Monday, March 26, 2012

DBMITW: Mingus

I am one lazy blogger- but what am I going to write that's 2% as good watching Eric Dolphy during Johnny Coles' solo?



If that isn't enough for you for today, go read Andrew Hare's series on how to play a shout chorus, or visit Trap'd, where Ted Warren was kind enough not to laugh at me for the hubris of my waltz post, and links to another new drumming blog I hadn't heard of.

After the break: Mingus plays Mood Indigo.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

That was fast

I received my Book of the Blog order yesterday- remarkably fast turnaround from "thing on my computer" to "real paper book", considering I only completed it and placed my order on Monday. Lulu.com makes a nice quality product, too. So far I've found it to be mostly free of giant screwups on my part, except that on the back cover Ndugu Leon Chancler is named Ndugu Leon Taylor, and Art Taylor's name is missing altogether- the result of a cutting and pasting mishap. Something for me to fix in the revised edition...

Anyway, thanks to everyone who has ordered- if you haven't yet, you can still avoid the humiliation of being the last kid on your block to get yours by ordering today! It's 139 pages of transcriptions from 2011, including substantial pieces by Vinnie Colauita, Elvin Jones, Jack Dejohnette, Tony Williams, Zigaboo Modeliste, and a whole lot more.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Todd's methods: triplet funk with Reed

I guess it's going to be nothing but Todd's-this/Todd's-that this week. Fine. This is preparation for an old thing of mine I was just working through with a returning student, and I realized I had never written it up. I like using the easy parts of Syncopation- this uses the opening quarter note section to make a half-time feel triplet funk groove:


Play that until you can read exercises 1-15 plus the 16 bar exercises without stopping, and then improvise; I'll get to work on the second part, which sounds much hipper.

Get the pdf.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Todd's waltz

Or, the presumptuously-named Todd's waltz, as I call it. I'm not attempting to claim the radical innovation of adding a hihat on the & of 3, it's just how I often play a waltz, and I haven't seen it written- or noticed it being played, consistently- anywhere else. I started doing it when I was listening to a lot of Elvin and almost no one else, and that's certainly where it came from, though I don't remember a specific example of him doing it, except at the beginning of Inchworm.


You can do the usual ride pattern variations with this- 1 2& 3&, or 1 2&, for example. Also add the bass drum on beat 1, or playing patterns 2-3.

Get the pdf.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Four in three in four in 4/4

This an item inspired by Elvin Jones' rolling triplet thing, written by my friend Stephen Pancerev- we just spent an afternoon rifling through his notebooks of original exercises, cryptic scribblings, etc, and this is the one we decided to write up. "The illusion of speeding up and slowing down is rooted within," he tells me, somewhat enigmatically. It uses accelerating rhythms, with a three note pattern (RLF applied to duple rhythms), or a four note pattern (RLFF applied to triplet rhythms), hence the four in three / three in four title.


There are some instructions at the end of the piece for places you can go with this- changing the pattern of limbs, starting at a different place in the pattern, or changing sounds you play. You could also try adding the hihat with the foot on quarter notes, or on beats two and four, or doubling one part of the pattern with it. Or you can add sixtuplet, half note triplet, or dotted 8th note rhythmic values into the mix.

Get the pdf.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Now available: Book of the Blog 2011 - Vol. 1: Transcriptions

UPDATE: I'm keeping this at the top of the blog this week- scroll down for new stuff.

OK, it took me longer than I had hoped to wrap this up, but it's  finally ready to order, professionally printed and bound from Lulu.com. This very fat first volume of stuff from 2011 includes all of my original transcriptions posted during our first year as a dedicated drumming blog. Volume 2 will contain the technical pieces- now that I've done one of these, it will hopefully be much faster coming together.

Included are transcriptions of the playing of Elvin Jones, Jack Dejohnette, Vinnie Colaiuta (epic!), Zigaboo Modeliste, Tony Williams, James Gadson, Philly Joe Jones, Frankie Dunlop, Ringo Starr, Paul Motian, Max Roach, and a whole lot more.

They're bargain-priced at $14.95 for 139 fully-packed pages, so, ah, "order your copy today!"

Several big band drumming books

A couple of new/old big band drumming books dropped into my lap recently, so what the heck, I thought I'd round them up for you:

Studio & Big Band Drumming by Steve Houghton - 1985

This has been the definitive book on the subject for almost as long as I've been playing. Includes an essential, very concise but thorough explanation of terms and notation in professional charts. There are one or two page introductions to swing, rock, "Latin" and country styles. The swing section is good, the single page of Latin grooves is pretty dated; people have gotten much more serious about authenticity with those feels since the mid-80's. Probably most important for drummers are the pages on articulating a horn part, the "eighth note rule", and jazz phrasing. There are also many pages of sample ensemble figures, and authentic playalong charts.

College level. 68 pages, with 2 CDs of recorded figures, ensemble passages, and studio charts.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Jazz comping roundup: part 1

Hmmmm.

I was curious about what kind of information there is on the web regarding jazz comping, so I googled "jazz comping drums", and here's part of what turned up. As usual, I've mostly avoided the raft of online video "lessons" that come up with any Google search- a couple were sort of, um, thrust upon me, though. The best of these are actually jazz drumming overviews- the worst are, well, representative of their type...

Jazz Drumming Jumpstart
A reasonably strong introduction to jazz drumming, though it starts inauspiciously with a reference to jazz as an "aural" (rather than oral) tradition. I have a few quibbles, and there are a few clues that the author is longer on education than actual field experience (like I've never heard a jazz drummer refer to the time feel as an ostinato). Swing is dealt with as triplets and only triplets, which is not the whole story- I'd prefer more explanation of such a critical concept. But he presents the basics clearly and with some subtlety. B+/A-

Example text:
Comping is short for "accompanying". Comping is how the rhythm section instruments, such as piano, guitar, and drums support the soloist. Comping provides rhythmic variety and impetus for the soloist. The drummer's job is to support the soloist. As a drummer you should play a variety of rhythmic ideas which contribute to the flow of the solo you are accompanying. Comping is a give-and-take between soloist and accompanist (i.e. drummer). Sometimes the drummer will interject new ideas to push the soloist. Other times he may lay-back and respond to ideas played by the soloist. As a jazz drummer, comping will be your main improvisational activity. You will spend a great deal more time accompanying other soloists than you will playing solos yourself. For this reason, it is critical that you understand the basics of comping. Comping seems to be one of the primary areas where novice jazz drummers encounter difficulty. Repetitive, plodding and uninteresting comping is a dead give away of an inexperienced jazz drummer. In the sections that follow, I'll try to explain the basics of comping on the drumset, and also give some suggestions on how to make your comping sound like that of an experienced jazz player.

Several more after the break- and more coming in part 2.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Jazz percussion

This is a concept I've been kicking around for years, I think since the term first came up for me in reference to Tony Williams in the history section Jack Dejohnette/Charlie Perry book:

Tony didn't use the bass drum and hi-hat in the conventional way [...] to state time. [...] Nor did he on the standard ride rhythm for his cymbal pulse. Rather he played a succession of quarter-notes interspersed with two- and three-beat figures which he generally wove into the overall rhythmic and tonal composition consisting of drums and cymbals. With this collective unit he stated the time and pulse: Jazz drumming had moved decidedly toward jazz percussion.

It's a compelling idea, even if I still don't know what it means, exactly. Usually percussion in a jazz context means hand or Latin percussion; but in reference to the drumset it evokes for me an approach more along the lines of modern concert percussion, which I think is what he is getting at. Beyond providing the traditional functions of timekeeping, fills, setups, punctuations, and comping, the drums would be a more independent coloring and sometimes co-soloing voice, as happens here:





A little more after the break:

DBMITW: Elvin Jones

I was going to include this as an example in the jazz percussion post, but it really needs its own entry:



It feels wrong- totally point-missing- to bring it up, I couldn't help noting the little 5let figure that happens after 0:50. Away from the music it's easy to think of Elvin as playing a style, but when you actually listen he's always surprising you with little stuff like that.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

DBMITW: Billy Cobham

Here's a live version of another fusion classic: Billy Cobham's "Anteres" - The Star, from a record I stole from my brother a long time ago, Alivemutherforya:



That's a rare use of the Tama Octobans you hear there. After the break is the original studio version of the same tune from Billy Cobham's Magic:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Really on the stands for real this time.

By the way, my new Drum! Magazine piece, Cross Rhythms Using Stone, is on the stands now- for real. Not a false alarm. Four action-packed pages, and we even made the cover. In the April, '12 issue with Stanton Moore.

Six stroke rolls around the drums

I'm just cranking them out today. I've been using the last paradiddles around the drums thing so much I decided to write up something similar using another familiar solo pattern, the six stroke roll (as it's often called) in a sixtuplet rhythm: RLLRRL. What they really are is a paradiddle-diddle inversion. I've written them in 6/8, but you can play them in 2/4 as sixtuplets, or as 16ths in 3/4, giving a 6/8 feel, or as 16ths in 4/4, for a meter-within-meter thing. Or as triplets within a fast 4/4. I'll write up an outline of the possibilities when I have the time. This rudiment is usually played with accents on the singles- I suggest playing these with and without them.

Refer to the paradiddles post for more ways of practicing these.

Oh, and go see Andrew @ the Melodic Drummer- he's put up some around-the-drums conditioners of his own.

Get the pdf

Groove o' the day: Freddie Waits

This is a hip stick-and-brush thing Freddie Waits plays on the intro to If You Go Away, from Ray Bryant's 1967 album Slow Freight. The regular note heads on the snare drum line are played with a brush in the right hand, and the Xs are rim clicks played with a stick in the left. I've transcribed the entire intro, plus the opening groove of the tune:




Get the pdf | get Slow Freight

YouTube audio after the break:


Monday, March 12, 2012

VOQOTD: Mel Lewis


"...you should start with a crash and end with a crash. I see drummers ending with a crash cymbal, but then choking it. When you hit that big chord at the end, let it ring. Hit that bass drum and hit that cymbal—"POW" instead of "pop." That's exciting. There should be a finality to that final blow, unless it's a soft ending, of course. Then you don't even need a cymbal at the end, although I like to hit one softly. But that's always been a thing of mine: Start with a crash and end with a crash." 
- Mel Lewis

Kernels of Cascara

My students have been doing so well with my "kernels" concept that I've decided to write up a real challenge for them: cascara with the clave in the left foot. It was the hip thing du jour two years ago, and it will still blow away the other kids around the band room. The kernel of the kernel concept is to find the natural clumps of notes within a pattern, and practice them in isolation at the final performance tempo, or close to it, and then stringing them together.



As I've said before, the cool thing about this approach is that it helps fairly inexperienced drummers to get difficult things up to speed in fairly short order. It also insures that the internals of the pattern are solid. I've found it to be a nice addition to the usual slow-to-fast  way of overcoming coordination challenges, and much more effective than the equally common (in the practice room, anyway) brute force approach, in which students inevitably spend a lot of time practicing mistakes.

Instructions are in the pdf; it's a good idea to count each kernel out loud as written as you play them. After mastering the coordination by this method, it's important to bring it back around to perceiving the groove in its usual musical sense, paying special attention to how you are interpreting the palito pattern in the right hand and the clave in the left foot.

Get the pdf

Sunday, March 11, 2012

@ The Blue Monk in PDX, 8pm

I'm off in a bit to play at the Blue Monk with composer/pianist Andrew Durkin's sextet tonight. The group features some excellent players, including fellow blogger David Valdez and Scott Hall on saxophones. We'll be doing a set of Durkin's krazee arrangements- with all kinds of odd meters flying- and a set of blowing. 8-10pm. Come on down if you're in Portland.

Bob Moses on "dependent" drumming

Or as he called it a little later in Drum Wisdom, "non-independent" drumming. This is relevant to some of the things I brought up both in the ECM feel post and the open-handed post:

"I have a philosophy of playing which involves not working too hard. It's not a technical thing as much as it is a conceptual thing. My playing gives the illusion of independence. But, I don't use much independence. My playing is what I call the dependent style of drumming. This means that I don't separate limbs and play "gangdig-a-dang-dig-a-dang" with my right hand and then my left hand will do whatever it can do against it. I would never play with just one hand. I'd never play a rhythm with just one hand or one foot. I use all four of my limbs constantly, in a melodic fashion. Consequently, I can play fast tempos easily without, but it's not because of any technical innovation. It's a conceptual thing. I play the flow, between my hands. If it's an eighth note flow I play eighth notes between two hands. Not just one hand. I get the same effect because what I'll do instead of putting both hands on the drum is put the right hand on the ride cymbal. So, I get the feeling of a ride beat. I play the flow whether it's eighth notes or triplets. I realize that the whole right side of your body wants to work together. So, I put the right foot exactly with the right hand, which also is a great sound. It gives the cymbal sound a bottom and it's also very easy. Your right hand and right foot want to hit together. Your body works that way. If I play it at a really fast tempo I don't catch every single beat with my right hand and right foot. I pick key ones that I want to bring out. My right foot and my left hand never stop when I play. I'm not one of those drummers who can swing a band with just their right hand. I need all four of my limbs, that's why I call myself a dependent drummer. But it makes it very easy to play. If you play very fast tempos using just that one limb, either you're going to tighten up or the tempo is going to go down."

From the Dec./Jan. 1979 issue of Modern Drummer. Get yourself their digital archive- it's quite an incredible resource.

Friday, March 09, 2012

DBMITW: Lenny White

Speaking of technically-monstrous maverick types, I finally found a copy of Lenny White's fusion classic Venusian Summer yesterday. And yes, that really is the album cover, not the side of some dude's Chevy van:




More after the break, including one of the best indulgent fusion-synth soundscape pieces ever:

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Son Ship 1952-2011

Oh, man- I was surprised/delighted today to find an early-80's Charles Lloyd record featuring the great, under-rated drummer Son Ship for $4 at Crossroads Music. I got the thing home and while I was listening looked online to see what he's up to these days, and found this August 2011 notice on Modern Drummer's site:

Woody “Sonship” Theus, whose credits include work with McCoy Tyner, Charles Lloyd, John McLaughlin, Woody Shaw, Freddie Hubbard, Michal Urbaniak, and Pharoah Sanders, passed away this past March 18, at age fifty-eight. Among the pallbearers at his funeral were the world-renowned drummers Ndugu Chancler and James Gadson.

Apparently, like Ed Blackwell, he had long-term kidney problems. I think he was mainly known and beloved for his explosive performance on McCoy Tyner's 1978 album The Greeting:



More Son Ship after the break:

On "open-handed" drumming

Fine, now spend another hundred
years learning to do it almost
as well with your left hand.
This is a discussion I have to re-litigate- helplessly, predictably- on the Drummerworld forum every six months or so: the "open handed" thing. That is, playing the hihat with your left hand to avoid the crossover that happens when you play it normally, with the right. As you'll see, I have some, ah, reservations about the efficacy of it as a primary technique for most drummers.

It's a question that comes up with many students in the first five minutes of playing the drums: Why not play the hihat with your left hand? If all you have to do is tap-tap-tap the hihat and occasionally tap the snare drum thingy, wouldn't it make more sense? I generally put the subject to rest with a 1-minute explanation, and never hear about it again. The student understands that it's the normal way of playing and adapts.

 But for some people it's just intolerably compromised and irrational-seeming; they complain about having to "cross your arms", about the left hand being "trapped", and the impossibility of hitting a lot of crap with your left while in that posture. There seems to be something of a rigid engineer's mentality at work; the people who seem to be drawn to this way of playing are the types prone to conceiving of the drums (and music itself, ala prog) as some kind of elaborate contraption, and often seem to be more into tinkering around, devising and "perfecting" systems and theories than into actually playing.

I have several big problems with it:
  • Lateral coordination = easy, cross-lateral coordination = hard. Your body is wired to play your right side together, and the language of drumming is built around the coordination of the leading/"ride" hand and the bass drum. It's not as apparent in the early stages of development, when the roles of the limbs can seem arbitrary, but much of the more advanced improviser's language hangs on it. 
  • Your lead is your voice.  Jazz drummers- who spend years or decades developing a swinging touch with their right hand- know this, but it applies to everyone. Your lead hand is your primary conduit for musical ideas- you develop a certain refinement and ease of expression with it, and largely orchestrate the rest of your playing around it. You already have a well-developed lead- use it. If you don't have a well-developed lead- get to work getting it together and stop fooling around with marginal techniques.
  • And it's a pointless duplication of effort. Are we really going to learn what is physically an entirely different beat just to switch from the ride cymbal to the hihat? Really? 



More ranting after the break:

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

MD column: hi-hat technique

OK, I'm not meaning to turn this into a fair-use abusing, exclusively old Modern Drummer stuff blog, but a longer post is taking its sweet time getting finished, and this is just what I happen to have on deck. This is from the January 1983 issue with Peter Erskine on the cover. I like doing these Tony Williams-style, adding the snare drum on the open notes and the bass drum on the foot notes, or the inverse:




He makes the jazz exercises by just swinging the 8th notes from the first twelve patterns, but note that the "funky" 12/8 pattern from the top of the right hand column on page two is comprised of the eight 8th notes of pattern 1, plus the first four notes of pattern 2 from page one, played in a triplet rhythm. That's a good thing to do with the rest of the exercises as well. If you're one of those thirst-for-patterns types, you can easily make similar things out of the one-measure syncopation exercises in Reed, selectively opening the hihat on the long notes and closing it in the gaps in the written part.

Get the pdf.

Monday, March 05, 2012

DBMITW: John Zorn

Here's more Ronald Shannon Jackson, playing on John Zorn's blues epic Two Lane Highway, from his Spillane album. Bobby Previte is the second drummer.



Part 2 after the break:

Sunday, March 04, 2012

1984 MD interview: Ronald Shannon Jackson

Here are some excerpts from an interview I reread many times on the long bus rides on drum corps tour, about the great avant-garde (that's where he's typically filed, anyway) drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson. From the March, 1984 issue of Modern Drummer, written by Chip Stern. What he had to say about the bass drum and about cymbals was particularly compelling to me- at one point I wouldn't rest until I got hold of a 14" Paiste Rude. Some other people noticed it, too, because years later that line ended up in publicity for the Rude reissues.


THE BASS DRUM
"It's a funny thing," Jackson explains, "because the way I got to jazz was through records; you couldn't see any of those people live where I grew up. Recording technology wasn't nearly as advanced as what we've got today, so when you listened to those records you never heard the bass drum. Consequently, me and a lot of cats grew up thinking that the bass drum wasn't being played. But when I finally got to New York and heard cats like Art Blakey, Max Roach, Philly Joe and Elvin Jones, I realized that the bass drum was definitely played.

"Luckily, I had the good fortune to grow up in a dance band environment, so I was always in control of the bass drum, and I simply had to transfer that to the bebop and jazz bands I encountered in New York. I grew up playing traps in an environment where the bass drum was most important, as opposed to bebop or swing where you're playing a lot of snare, and doing a lot of accenting between the cymbals and snare, and keeping time with the cymbal. Whereas in dance music the bass drum is keeping the time. In blues music, the bass drum pulse is the soul of the music.



Much more after the break:

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Favorite albums: Ballads by Paul Bley

Ballads by Paul Bley
1967 - ECM 1010

Paul Bley - piano
Gary Peacock, Mark Levinson - bass
Barry Altschul - drums

Compositions by Annette Peacock


This is kind of a funny entry to this series. It has taken me a long time to come to fully appreciate this record. It's very open, very impressionistic, and offers few, ah, "conventional satisfactions"; each track is in broadly-paced free time,  harmonically ambiguous (not to say atonal), with little in the way of tension and release, and no explosive performances.  It's nobody's idea of a fist-pumping jazz record.

So, I've had it in my bins since the late 80's, and putting on every few years it's stayed kind of aloof, but it kept its hooks in, and eventually clicked. The record is more an environment than a conventional piece of music, and the perfect embodiment of pure improvised music, and of a certain player's space. 

Barry Altschul is one of the most urgent-sounding drummers ever- pushing even beyond Roy Haynes or Alan Dawson for the amount of forward momentum in his playing- and he manages to keep that quality through this spacious, non-climax-seeking record. There's also a very different type of free playing at work here than the familiar dense style of drummers like Sunny Murray or Rashied Ali, or Paul Motian's naive/primitive thing- Altschul seems to be among the first very polished free players.

Annette Peacock also has become one of my favorite composers for her work recorded by Bley- her bio is rather interesting as well. The compositions here are perfect for this record, meaning they don't immediately jump out and grab you as needing to be played again.

YouTube audio of "So Hard It Hurts" after the break:

Friday, March 02, 2012

DBMITW: Velvet Underground

Oh, hey, it's Lou Reed's 70th birthday today. Artists should make their best creative statement with whatever technical skills they have at their disposal at the moment, and Reed is a good example of that. If he put off doing real art until he felt he was an expert vocalist (or even able to sing consistently in tune), none of this music would ever have gotten made. Do whatever you can with the skills you have now.

This probably isn't at the top of most people's list of favorite Velvet Underground, songs but it's one of mine:



Some more conventional favorites after the break:

First-inversion paradiddles around the drums

This came up in my own practice today, and I went ahead and wrote it up. I've been doing a fair amount of this kind of thing lately- straight conditioning for getting around the drums- mostly using the very traditional Joe Cusatis books. I try not to think of this as learning licks; it's more about programming into my muscle memory some moves that I might not do on the fly. First inversion paradiddles (that's the RLLR LRRL sticking) are one of the key patterns for playing "hip", and I use them a lot, so they're a more logical starting place for me than regular paradiddles.


Notes:
  • Practice measures individually, then in the following sequence:
    Ex. 1-2, 1-3, 1-4... 2-3, 2-4, 2-5... 3-4, 3-5, 3-6... etc.
    On sequences, play each measure once or twice:
    Ex. 1-2-1-2..., or 1-1-2-2-1-1-2-2... etc. 
  • Notes in parenthesis are for making transitions between exercises without a crossover.  
  • Practice these in the quarter note = 120-160 range. You should be able to fly around the drums with these. 
  • Typo alert: Ex.8, second beat- play the right hand double on the floor tom. 

Get the pdf

Thursday, March 01, 2012

More on Pinstripes

The distressed font
indicates rockingness to me.
Ever since reading T. Bruce Wittet's piece about the drumming equivalent of the fusion mullet, the Remo Pinstripe, I've been sort of half-determined to try to them out for the first time since the late 80's, this time with a jazz tuning. I had the opportunity the other day on a visit to Portland's wonderful used/vintage drum shop, Revival Drums with my friend (and great drummer) Steve Pancerev, where I snagged a used set they had languishing in the head dump in the back room.

First impression: I got them home and put them on my drums, tuned them up high, and they actually sound OK. The last two-ply head I've used are Remo Emperors, which always tended to sound a little tubby, with a chunky attack; the Pinstripes have a glued-together outer ~1.5", which minimizes that quality somewhat. The Pinstripes have a fuller, bassier tone than the coated G1 Evans I was using previously, and while I was expecting to sacrifice response and some nuance, they feel surprisingly good with a high tuning. Better than you'd expect. I haven't let an uncoated/untextured head near my drums in over 20 years, so that clear-head tonality is something of a novelty- I can't say I'm wild about it. Something trailer-park about it...

Days later: They're not wearing well. What at first seemed full and round is starting to feel decidedly boomy with further playing. Definition suffers substantially on anything denser than 8th notes. The attack is flabby-sounding compared to the coated Ambassadors, Remo Renaissance, or Evans G1s I normally use. The instrument feels less responsive.

Conclusion: The Pinstripe is not as dead and buried as you might have thought, and worth trying. They're usable in a pinch, at the very least. Someone seeking a rounder tone than you get with the standard coated single ply head may dig these a lot. Overall they don't work for me with a jazz tuning.