Monday, April 29, 2013

Todd's methods: Tiki's 32nds

This is a little loosy-goosy method I improvised yesterday afternoon while practicing along with Maggot Brain, by Funkadelic. There are several medium-tempo, 16th note-based grooves on the record, and the drummer, Tiki Fulwood, tends to double up his fills, using 32nd notes in them. most frequently in Can You Get To That. I don't automatically hear fills that way, and this helped me get some similar things under my hands.

This works while playing along with Can You Get To That, Hit It And Quit It, You And Your Folks, Me And My Folks, or Back In Our Minds. I'm sure Fulwood is playing the hihat with one hand, while I'm suggesting playing it alternating, but no matter. And the exercises are based on 8th notes in cut time, while the songs are 16th notes in 4/4; just put the backbeat in the exercise in the same place as it is on the recording and everything will fit.

Get the pdf

Oh, and if you're interested, David Aldridge has reprinted an excellent, extended piece on Fulwood at his excellent drumming blog— go read that, too.

Audio after the break, though there's really no excuse for not owning the record...

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Phrases for Chaffee linear patterns: 5/4

Here are some practice phrases for the Gary Chaffee linear patterns, this time in 5/4, in 8th notes, triplets, and 16th notes. I can't promise I've covered every possible combination, but, my God, if you think you need more of this kind of thing to work on, please email me, and we can have a conversation about what you're doing with your life.

If you're just visiting, and none of this makes sense, see the link above, and also the book Patterns, Vol. 3, by Gary Chaffee. You'll also want my set of 3/4 practice phrases.

Get the pdf

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Bass drum variations for Bossa Nova — adding left hand

This is something I've been meaning to do for some time. I like the page of bossa nova bass drum variations I did before, but it's a little difficult to visualize the left hand part along with them, so I've gone ahead and added one here. I've used the partido alto rhythm, which I favor over the standard left hand part— maybe at some point I'll slap this together with that rhythm for you. Once again, these variations are good for phrase endings and breaks— they are not meant to be played repetitively when you use them in actual music. It's a good idea to practice these along with a recording of actual Brazilian bossa nova— get hold of some Milton Banana recordings.

We're actually developing a little bit of excess capacity here, because in most of the bossa nova I listen to, bass drum variations are infrequent, and when they do happen, the left hand does not continue its independent part— it either stops, or follows the BD variation somehow. In fact, a good way to practice this page is to stop the time feel on the second measure and just play the right hand (on the cymbal or hihat) in unison with the bass drum. You can feel free to mix in the left hand (either rim click or on the drum normally) in unison with the RH/RF as well. What you're basically doing there is practicing your ensemble figures— they are usually handled simply like that.  

Get the pdf

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Transcription: Ralph Humphrey — Don't Eat The Yellow Snow

Here's a nice introduction to rock in drumming in 7: Ralph Humphrey's part from Don't Eat The Yellow Snow, from Apostrophe by Frank Zappa. I go way back with this song, to 1974 when I was 7 and my brother brought the record home. I think this was the first thing I ever heard that it occurred to me to ask who it was who was playing it.

It's mostly in 7/4, with a few measures of 7/8. The 7/4 is a half-time feel, phrased as 2+2+3 quarter notes, and the 7/8 is a 16th note rock feel, and breaks down to 2+2+3 eighth notes. The feel change on top of the meter change may be a little confusing, but the underlying pulse is consistent between meters. It's tempting to try to explain it, but you can figure it out if you follow along with the recording a few times. Go ahead and count through the rests at the end— get a feel for how the 4/4 contrasts with the 7/4.

Get the pdf

Audio after the break:

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

DBMITW: wah-wah

Keith Jarrett — Mortgage On My Soul
with Paul Motian, and Charlie Haden rocking the wah-wah. We'll be playing this tune in Seattle this Friday:

More after the break:

Breaking down the Chaffee phrases

Since I have a little breather between finishing my taxes, stopping procrastinating about finishing my charts for Friday, practicing, teaching, and writing up a new Drum! contribution that might actually earn me some money (friendly reminder: contributions/merch purchases = more free stuff for you!), what the heck, let's do some blogging.

If you've been working with the Gary Chaffee linear patterns, you've probably noticed that the practice combinations can make some fairly angular phrases. The way the materials are designed, it's tempting to ignore the meter and rely on the math to make them come out right— that's the way I tried to do them in the 80's, when I was young and foolish— but you really want keep track of the primary pulse all the way through. Here I'll give some examples of how to do that, mainly by putting in some strong stops in the middle of the squirrelly spots.

First, here's how the 3/3/4/3/5 phrase is rendered as triplets in two measures of 3/4— go back and review the previous posts (and Chaffee's Patterns, Vol. III) if this doesn't make sense to you:

The idea is to stop at a strong place, not necessarily to the end of each pattern. The beginning 3/3 is easy, so let's play to the end of the 4, which lands on beat 1:

Then we can add the next 3, which ends on beat 2:

After that you can play the complete pattern one time, ending on the following downbeat. It's also a good idea to isolate that ending 5. Since it begins in the middle of the triplet, add the note before it, which gives you a nice solid beginning:

More examples/ideas after the break:

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Ballard Jazz Walk next Friday

If you're in Seattle, hopefully you're out going to all of the Ballard Jazz Festival events anyway, but my group will be playing at the Salmon Bay Eagles on Friday, at 8pm, as part of the Jazz Walk. The band features, hey, me, along with three incredible players— Rich Cole (reeds), Jay Thomas (trumpet), and Paul Gabrielson (bass). It's going to be good.

More Jazz Walk info.

Get your tickets here.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Jonathan Winters 1925-2013

The great comedian Jonathan Winters has just died— I guess if his name means anything to you, you probably know about it already. As usual, I have nothing significant to add, but there's a very touching notice by Gilbert Gottfried on the CNN site, which I encourage you to read. Here are a few favorite old bits, first from It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World:

More after the break:

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Groove o' the day: Ivan Conti — Questao de Etica

More Brazilian fusion from Ivan Conti, of Azymuth. They really embraced the technology in the early 80's, so a good amount of their stuff is fairly unlistenable, but the records with real drums on them are pretty good, with a strange kind of edge for such highly produced music— that's some kind of Brazilian thing you don't hear in American fusion bands. The groove is from the tune Questao de Etica, on the Partido Novo album— the tempo is bright, around 138:

The whole groove hangs off of the tamborim-like rhythm played with the right hand on the hihat— he's not just playing arbitrary linear junk. There are certainly some filler notes in there with the left hand, but I'll let you find your own way of making them, or not.

Oh, what the hell, here's the whole intro to the tune. We're all about the tom fills this week:

Audio after the break:

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

From the zone: Vinnie's paradiddle-diddles

With this next entry we've got dueling fusion-era paradiddle-diddle licks, this time by Vinnie Colaiuta. This was sent in by fellow blogger Mark Feldman, who transcribed it back in the day from the 1987 Zildjian Day video— I haven't been able to find it on YouTube, but maybe if Mark is reading he can get us a link and time of the lick in the comments.

More iterations of this lick after the break:

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Real world not like the Internet

A little flurry of exceptionally good music this week, Brian Blade on Wednesday, the Dutch avant-garde master Hans Bennink and Randy Rollofson (an excellent Portland drummer) on Friday, and my man Stephen Pancerev and a younger cat named Jesse Brooke last night. Yeah.

So here's a small rant:

Coming back to the computer after seeing all of those great drummers in close succession, you can't help notice that the bulk of online conversation about drumming is very different from what is done by real players in real life. Just off the top of my head: I witnessed no evidence of the limitation of non-open-handed drumming when these drummers played their hihats normally, with the right hand. I saw no over-the-top “creative” drumset configurations, or weird pieces of gear. Zero-to-few instances of anything Moeller-like. No display of the kind of Mayer-esque, or corps-style practice pad chops you see played at fff all over YouTube. Any “ghost notes” were in their proper place as incidental texture, not the main point of everything. No sign of obsessing over gear. No double pedals present, or racks. The players online people obsess over may as well have dedicated their lives to owl rehabilitation, or the appreciation of obscure aromatic cheeses, for all the evidence of their musical influence here. No break beats, blast beats, WTF-beats, or any kind of novelty at all as far as beats were concerned. No “stick tricks.” The spirit of consumerism, and of the various forms of online snake oil, was off tap dancing for gaping yokels in some backwater on the other side of the planet somewhere. I saw nothing lifted bodily out of The New Breed, or the cool drum book du jour. No rhythmic illusions, no multiple layers of parts, and no distant polyrhythms or metric modulations. Nothing that would be recognized as “displacement.” No 22" bass drums, third or fourth toms, third or fourth cymbals. No slamming, rimshotted backbeats. No popcorn snares. No evidence of the criticality of head and stick choice.

Yet they all have spent years or decades totally consumed with playing the drums and making music— I guess there are other things to do and think about than what you usually get online.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Groove o' the day: Peter Erskine — Clint

Because I like challenging you to hear past things that most people perceive as cheese, here's a little relic of the later fusion era, by the great John Abercrombie trio with Marc Johnson and Peter Erskine. Honestly, this is a case where it sounds cheesy to me, too. The tune is Clint, from the album Current Events.

On the head, the only things happening are the drums, the melody, and a little synth pad, so what Erskine plays is very exposed; he treats main part of the tune as something like a commercial arrangement, and it's a good idea to study how how he interprets the whole thing— it's very deliberately constructed. It's really textbook. The groove for the main part of the tune, then:

From the middle section. There's more activity with the rest of the group, and he plays more interactively. Play the unaccented notes very softly:

The triplet at the end is an embellishment; usually he just plays 16th notes through that.

Audio after the break:

Friday, April 05, 2013

VOQOTD: bad wallpaper

“[Things that are] complex and busy and amazing all the time are kinda like bad wallpaper after awhile.”

— Peter Erskine

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Another Brian Blade performance

Since I've established a precedent of writing about it when I see Brian Blade play, I should write something feeble about last night's show. Blade was playing with the guitarist/composer Joel Harrison, in a pretty all-star group including trumpet player Cuong Vu and bassist Kermit Driscoll, and bassoonist Paul Hanson. The band had mostly just met each other a few days earlier, and was playing very hard music. Sitting in the little balcony at Mississippi Studios, the sound was about one million times better than the last time I saw him play.

So, a few hastily-written impressions. I can't promise I didn't miss the big lessons of the performance (they're probably unwritable, anyway), or misapprehend what was really going on, but we have to start somewhere:

Everything he plays has dynamic shape; everything goes somewhere, usually in a way you can't miss. He shapes his lines dramatically, even while staying at a very low volume.

Most of his playing occurred in the pp-mf range— in a zone of very low stick heights for the drumset— and he appeared to be very comfortable expressing the music at that level.  The bigger, more dramatic stuff, in the zone Blade is famous for, was very occasional; the group wasn't quite at an Inglourious Basterds-level  build up : actual action ratio, but they were getting there.

He is a master at following a soloist's line.

Absolute confidence in the other players, that the time and the form will be there no matter what he does. I wonder how he would play with weaker musicians; you would think he would have to play more straightforwardly for them, but you also suspect he does his thing so well that he induces people to play far above their normal level, and that they will be able to play with him in spite of themselves.

He always seems to have a higher gear.

He has a right hand worthy of some of the Brazilian players I've been listening to— capable of playing very fast, very soft 8th notes.

Very little repetition. Gives the impression of very little straight functional drumming; plays his functional things in a fractured way— I want to say “displaced”, but that conjures up an area of drummer-jive that was not at all present in the performance. Let's say he moves things around from where you expect them to be, while still maintaining the feel. Plays more in terms of lines and colors.

Very post-Tony Williams— 60's Tony Williams. Very much in the “jazz percussion” mode I've talked about before— I've nibbled at the edges of understanding it, anyway.

He pays attention to sound, drawing a lot of different timbres out of the instrument.

When he needs to switch sticks during a song, he lays the unused set across his lap. Never used brushes, did use mallets.

He used some interesting— sticks, I guess?— possibly home made. They appeared to be sticks fully wrapped in soft material, with some padding. Laid a cloth across his floor tom during one tune.

Comping instruments should not jump on the drummer's rhythm when the drummer does a cross-rhythm; we've all heard it done a thousand times, to the point that we think it's good, but it isn't. It's a pretty crass form of playing for effect; an easy, highly abused device for giving the audience some tension and release. Still, a lot of very good players do it, and last night there seemed to be a couple of instances where the guitar Mickey Moused (that's Peter Erskine's term for it) Blade's cross-rhythm during a big crescendo, and Blade pulled away, declining to make the easy payoff.

Nothing to to with Blade, but Kermit Driscoll is an incredible musician.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Transcription: Roger Hawkins — Chain of Fools

Let's see if I can crank this out before running out to see Brian Blade play— along with Kermit Driscoll from the Bill Frisell video below. Let it not be said there's nothing going on in Portland; tonight it's Blade, Friday it's Hans Bennink, and God knows what else I'm missing because I've had my buried in making charts this week. There are at least a couple of dozen really great drummers in town.

Anyway, you've probably never heard of the drummer here, Roger Hawkins, but he played on a bunch of huge records, and must have one of the most divergent personal fame : musical exposure ratios ever. The song is Aretha Franklin's Chain of Fools, and Hawkins's playing on it is my idea of a perfect rock performance.

There's a fair amount of repetition, which I've indicated with slashes to make it read a little easier— where those are present, just keep playing the main groove for that section. The snare drum is played strongly throughout, except notes in parenthesis, which are played softly.

Get the pdf

Audio and background on Hawkins after the break:

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

DBMITW: Joey Baron on Night Music

For those of you too young to remember, there was a live music show on US television at the end of the 80's,called Night Music. Hosted by saxophonist David Sanborn, it was some of the most adventurous music ever to make it onto network TV, and truly eclectic, featuring artists as divergent as Sun Ra, Squeeze, Gladys Night, Sonic Youth, Wayne Shorter, Slim Gaillard, and John Zorn. Here are two of my favorite bands from the period playing on the show, both featuring Joey Baron. First, Bill Frisell's quartet with Kermit Driscoll and Hank Roberts:

... and then Tim Berne's Fractured Fairy Tales:

Another nice clip of Baron, with the sans-Roberts Bill Frisell trio after the break: