Friday, May 31, 2013

Groove o' the day: Take Your Dead Ass Home

This is pretty much definitional as to what funk drumming is. Here are another couple of Funkadelic grooves, from Take Your Dead Ass Home, on the album Tales of Kidd Funkadelic. The drummer is the unmistakable Jerome “Bigfoot” Brailey— get his sound in your ear.

As the tune progresses, he hits a fat, very P-Funk, crash on beat 1 every two measures.

This happens on the “limerick” sections, with some variations to support the ensemble rhythm:

NSFW audio after the break:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Page o' coordination: Songo — 02

This is the companion to the recent Songo page, which I thought you might want to work on concurrently— it's the same set of exercises, with the clave rhythm in the left foot:

Reread the previous piece for such practice suggestions as there are. Each of these coordination pages should be taken as the basis for a workout; the real work with them starts after you can play the entire page without stopping. At that point you should be playing each exercise at least 4-8 times at whatever tempo you're trying to master, moving your left hand, and varying your dynamics.

Get the pdf

Ed Shaughnessy 1929-2013

I couldn't possibly improve on what Jon McCaslin has said about the passing of this great drummer, so just go read his notice.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

“What's with that constant cymbal tapping in jazz drumming?”

HEY ROACH, what's with
the constant cymbal tapping?
“...and why do they use the exact same beat on every song?  And who invented this awful, one-man-band percussion concept, with the abrasive and irritating sound of the snare drum leading the charge, and the cymbals clinging and clanging away behind it at full tilt???” 

Inquiring online scholars want to know, but aren't really interested in your answer. I stumbled across this fascinating discussion while looking for something informative, and since I don't like to suffer alone, I thought I'd share it with you. Someone who calls himself Rockist Scientist leads the anti-clinging and clanging charge:

Rockist Scientist: This is one of the things I find annoying in the sound of a lot of jazz. Why did this become so common? Does anyone else find it annoying?

kate: aaarrggghhh, yes, that endless ride cymbal tapping, it drives me NUTS. one of the biggest reasons that i hate jazz. oh, what, apart from it being crap and all.

Rockist Scientist: Well, now, I wouldn't go so far as to call it all crap. I want to like it, and not just for whatever status symbol value it still has. I want to like it because I can hear that there is something going on, but I just can't get into most of it. [...] But I'm glad to know someone else is driven crazy by that sound. It baffles me that it's become such a dominant convention in jazz...

Aaarrggghhh, indeed. There is absolutely no reason for you to continue reading this, but in case you're hurting for empty entertainment calories at the moment, there's more after the break:

Friday, May 24, 2013

Page o' coordination: Songo — 01

Here we'll develop some bass drum variations for playing Songo, a popular Afro-Cuban/salsa drumset style, in case you've never heard of it. The first exercise is the ostinato, played with the hands only— the parts there are very standard.

The exercises are written in the 2-3 clave position; also practice them with the measures reversed, to make 3-2 clave. The “bombo” note— the & of beat 2 on the '3' measure of the clave, the second measure of our pattern— is musically important; if you play nothing else on the bass drum, play that note:

Play the right hand on the closed hihat, ride cymbal, cymbal bell, or cowbell; play the left on the snare drum normally, or as rim clicks. You could also do the left hand tom moves, if you want. Play the hihat on 1 and 3, 2 and 4, all four beats, or just tacet the left foot.

Get the pdf

Example/play along audio after the break:

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Groove o' the day: Shelly Manne — Way Out West

Here are a couple of very famous things by Shelly Manne, from the album Way Out West by Sonny Rollins. Sonny could be a little perverse in his tune selections, often choosing things that would be considered hokey or uninteresting by many jazz musicians; and here, on the occasion of making a record in LA, he did a couple of cowboy songs. Manne, who was by all accounts a funny, creative cat, chose to use a woodblock to give those numbers a little bit of a horsey flavor.

Swing the 8th notes on Johnny Mercer's I'm An Old Cowhand:

On Wagon Wheels he plays a little backwards hemiola thing:

Audio after the break:

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mel Lewis on cymbals

More on cymbals from Mel Lewis's 1985 Modern Drummer interview. This is pretty much the bible of the subject, as it relates to jazz:

Number and type
The average drummer usually uses two to four cymbals. To have any more than that is totally unnecessary, because where are you going to put them anyway, and how are you going to reach them? They shouldn't be there just for looks. I notice that most people have crash, crash, splash, ride, and hi-hat. Very few young drummers play on their hihats, except in the rock situation where they generally play them closed and they play their 8th-note beat on them. They should learn that the hihat is another ride cymbal to be played properly—"ta, da-ka, ta, da-ka, ta," changing rhythms and all that, open/closed, all open, half open, half closed. There are a lot of effects. To me, the hi-hat is another ride cymbal.
Every cymbal I use is a ride cymbal. Every one of my cymbals is also a crash cymbal. I only use three. Three is enough.
But every cymbal should be a ride cymbal and every cymbal should be a crash cymbal. I've been noticing that almost everyone has only one ride cymbal and a million crash cymbals. You don't need the crash cymbals. You need the ride cymbals, because that's where your whole thing is coming from. Crash cymbals are only for accents, so you can hit any cymbal for a crash.  

I find that all the cymbals should be dark. If you want a high-pitched splash cymbal or crash cymbal, fine. That's to your own taste. But darker cymbals are more complementary to horns than any other kind of cymbal. High-pitched cymbals have a tendency to obliterate high sounds. 
 The more high-pitched cymbals you have, the more trouble you're going to give the band. Also, for riding in a big band, I think that the pingier a cymbal is and the less overtone and spread it has, the more empty everything will be. It's important that you have a good, full, fat-sounding cymbal. Finding cymbals like that today seems to be a problem. They are all too heavy. Definition is one thing, but those pings do not cut through. There has to be a little more sound to a cymbal than they're creating right now. They've forgotten how to make ride cymbals with color. They don't know what dark sound is. That's why I still like the old K.'s. They're hard to find, but it seems like they are the only cymbal that was made for music. 

Orchestrating cymbals for big band
[W]hen you hit a high crash cymbal with the brass section while they're up in that high register, you will knock out half their sound. But if you hit a cymbal that will blend with that section—in other words, if there are four trumpets and the fourth is playing the lowest part, you should be the fifth trumpet, which is lower yet. Now of course, we can't go that low all the time, but that's the way I'm thinking musically. Trombones, of course, can go lower than my cymbals can, so I want to be somewhere in the middle register where I don't obliterate the lead and I don't destroy the bottom.
With the saxophones, you want a roaring sound to envelop, because reeds don't have the power that the brass has. That's why I believe that during a sax soli— where you have five saxophone players standing up playing together—nothing sounds better behind them than a Chinese ride cymbal, because there's a blend. Bass violin players love Chinese cymbals because the low sound and the Oriental type of roar make the bass sound spring forward. That's why, when we play big ensembles, I'll go to that cymbal, and you can hear the bass just singing through everything. When you've got a whole ensemble, you want a strong, enveloping, low sound with a lot of clarity as far as the beat is concerned. It's like a picture with a beautiful metal frame around it. It gives tremendous fullness to the sound of the band.

Continued after the break:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Blocking drumming-related spam

Thanks, we get it: “you're a restaurant”,
now please GTFOOMF.
After months of becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the results my drumming-related web searches, this week I installed the Google search results blocker extension to my web browser— I use Opera— and have been delighted with the results.

The problem I was having was that a certain company decided that its path to success was to render the major search engines as useless as possible, swarming them with their own links on every conceivable drumming related topic for which they could slap together a video. “He who advertises most, wins” is the apparent philosophy. Say your name often enough, and enough undiscriminating people will buy your junk for you to be profitable. Sort of the same approach as the Romney For President people had, or the producers of any number of Hollywood bombs. Or the Rosewood Grille; famously the worst, most heavily advertised restaurant in Las Vegas, which finally could not overcome with advertising dollars the horrific word-of-mouth surrounding their business, and closed in 2010.

Anyhow, if I search for "jazz drumming" on Bing, whose results I am not filtering, on the first two pages alone I get:

Drumeo Store - Jazz Drumming System 
Learn How To Play Jazz with Free Drum Lessons
Basics Of Jazz Drumming
Learn How To Play The Basic Jazz Drumming Pattern
How To Play Jazz | Jazz Drumming
How to Play Jazz Drums
Jazz Drumming System - Drumeo
Jazz Drumming Lessons - Master the Techniques and Rhythms

Plus several paid links at the top of the results and in the sidebar; that's about a third of my results from this one company's domains:,,,,, and, all linking to the same not-very-good product I'm never going to buy.

With this browser extension, when one of those sites breathlessly lunges into my Google search results, I can just hit the richly satisfying block link, which, while staying on the same page, gives you the lovely, caressible “oh yes, I definitely want to block them” confirm link, and that's it. They're done. Running the same search now, I mostly get people who are primarily interested in communicating information to me, not in hyping me into opening my wallet to them, and I remember how nice it is to have a functioning Internet.

There are similar extensions for Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. I highly recommend using them.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

VOQOTD: Al Foster's listening habits

 From the Small's interview archive:

“He’s in it all the time. He’s listening all the time. He’s got kind of a small range of stuff he listens to over and over again: Monk, Bird, earlier Miles Davis recordings, Sonny Rollins…he’s addicted to that music. He’s a real student of the music, and a student of the greats. He has no time for anything else. You might put something on that could be killing to you, but he’ll be like, “Eh…I don’t know…” He’s got very particular tastes. I guess as you get older, you develop that. You make your circle a little bit smaller…”

— Bassist Doug Weiss on Al Foster

A follow up question:

Do you think that intentionally narrowing his scope in that manner strengthens his artistic voice?
Yeah, I think so. He’s got a very strong identity, and very identifiable sound and approach to drumming, different than anyone else I’ve played with. Other people share that aesthetic of hearing the “big picture;” he’s hearing the entire piece of music as it’s happening, he’s not just hearing some hip shit on the drums (although he certainly plays a lot of very hip shit on the drums). I think that’s probably the biggest piece- his sense of radar, of being able to anticipate what’s going to happen, and help things go in a certain direction, without being pushy. He’s really not pushy as an accompanist. He’s very giving and selfless in that way, but still able to carry on this little dialogue with himself within the kit. That transfers out to the people that play with him, if they can pick up on it.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

DBMITW: Eddie Palmieri

While we're on the Salsa music, here's a Mozambique entitled Comparsa De Los Locos, by Eddie Palmieri, from his Vamonos Pal' Monte album from 1971. Nicky Marrero plays drums, along with several percussionists.

What the heck, let's do another one— there's a modern cha cha  from the same great record after the break:

Friday, May 17, 2013

Clave capers

Please don't ask me about the title of this piece— I just wrote the first two words I thought of. I think there's a Billy Taylor tune called Cuban Capers I played once... it's not important. Afro-Cuban music is not my area of expertise, so I'll just say that what we're about here is getting better acquainted with the triplet “pull” of the clave rhythm by combining its 4/4 and 6/8 versions. Hopefully we'll all come away from these exercises with a little better sense of the malleability of the rhythm.

I thought I was being a very clever student by devising this exercise, but upon consulting my copy of Conversations In Clave, I see that the author of that book has already written something very similar. But I guess that means we're not totally off base with this:

Play the top line with the right hand, and the bottom line with the left. You should also play each exercise leading with the left hand, and with all other combinations of limbs, and do them all with the measures reversed, in the 2-3 position. You might also try playing half notes in the RH or LF, while playing the exercises with all combinations of the remaining limbs. Play the clave rhythm strongly, and the filler softly, so the clave comes through clearly.

Typo alert: the last note on the first line should be played with the left hand.

Get the pdf

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Annals of wrong things: ride cymbal technique

I try to run a positively-focused, ah, ship around here, and I hope not to make a regular feature out of this, but occasionally things are put before you that you just have to respond to, and crankily so. In this case, it's a video by someone who wants to help us with our jazz ride cymbal technique:

I was with him 100% until he started moving. After about 0:08, I have some complaints:

  • The grip in “position 2” is unlike anything I've seen in drumming, and I don't want to be told that it's “important” to play this way. What he's doing appears to be an exaggerated form of the “whip” stroke some drummers do, in which the arm leads the motion, and the thing that actually contacts the instrument— the bead of the stick— is the last thing to move. I'm not really a fan of it, even when it's done correctly, which I'll go into another time. 
  • I'm in favor of a solid quarter note pulse when playing a swing feel, but this thing he's doing with ff quarter notes and a pp 'skip' note, is not musically viable— utterly useless on a real ride cymbal, playing real music. I don't know where the idea that the skip note should be “felt, not heard” came from— it wasn't from listening to music or from speaking to a professional jazz musician. 
  • The elbow motion he introduces after 1:55 appears to be totally gratuitous choreography, and not a natural part of the the stroke.  
  • The end result does not swing, which is supposed to be the point of all of this. Playing your time feel this way would draw some strange looks from the other musicians in a real playing situation. 

Conclusion: There was a time when you could invent improved ways of doing things and have them utterly fail in anonymity, but now, thanks to YouTube, you get to do it on a world stage, while confusing many more people than was previously possible. The technique described in this video was invented in the practice room, and is only part way through its evolution; the remainder of it— which will occur on its first usage in an actual jazz playing situation— will play out approximately like the aftermath to this photograph:

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

State of things

Here's an interesting preview of Who Owns The Future?, a new book by tech guy Jaron Lanier, who discusses the current free everything/donated labor/winner-take-all paradigm, and what it bodes for the middle class and democracy in general, using the creative class— you and me— as his Exhibit A.

[A] lot of your book is about the survival of the middle class in the digital age, the importance of a broad middle class as we move forward. You argue that the middle class, unlike the rich and the poor, is not a natural class but was built and sustained through some kind of intervention. Has that changed in the last decade or two as the digital world has grown?
Well, there’s a lot of ways. I mean, one of the issues is that in a market society, a middle class has always required some little artificial help to keep going. There’s always academic tenure, or a taxi medallion, or a cosmetology license, or a pension. There’s often some kind of license or some kind of ratcheting scheme that allows people to keep their middle-class status.
In a raw kind of capitalism there tend to be unstable events that wipe away the middle and tend to separate people into rich and poor. So these mechanisms are undone by a particular kind of style that is called the digital open network.
Music is a great example where value is copied. And so once you have it, again it’s this winner-take-all thing where the people who really win are the people who run the biggest computers. And a few tokens, an incredibly tiny number of token people who will get very successful YouTube videos, and everybody else lives on hope or lives with their parents or something.

More after the break— keep reading:

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Groove o' the day: funk samba

Today we have a studio-funk style samba by Ivan Conti of Azymuth, on the tune Manhã, from the group's 1974 self-titled album:

The right hand alternates between the bell of the cymbal, and the regular playing spot. He also plays the hihat with his foot along with the bell notes, but the beat was looking pretty cluttered, so I left it out. Throughout the song he varies this a fair amount— he'll often play the regular spot on the cymbal on the two and four, and play the bell more sporadically.

During the break sections he does this simplified pattern, with the hihat:

From the same section later in the tune, a looser version of that same thing, with some variable ghost notes on the snare drum:

Audio after the break:

Friday, May 10, 2013

Page o' coordination: 5/8 + 5/8 — 01

Another page o' coordination in 5/4. From the amount of time we spend dealing with playing in 5, you might get the impression that I think it's pretty damned important. I really don't, but it just happens to be one of the things I'm working on right now, and there aren't a whole lot of great materials available for that.

Per the title of the piece, the ostinato is composed of two measures of 5/8:

Playing this with a swing interpretation, the second 5/8 sits a little differently than the first one, so don't let that throw you. In fact, you can actually safely ignore the 5/8+5/8 construction when swinging the exercises. This page should also work well with even 8ths, either keeping the triplets, or changing them to whatever 8th-and-16th rhythm makes sense. And be sure to do the tom moves.

Get the pdf

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Saul Bass

Today Google is circulating a “tribute” video to the graphic designer Saul Bass— somewhat randomly, since he died in 1996, and would've been 93 today. Bass's work defined American modernist cool circa 1955-75, and it was everywhere during that period: movie titles and posters, book jackets, and some of the most famous corporate logos ever. I'm not embedding Google's advertisement, so instead here are two of the greatest movie title sequences ever, from Spartacus:

And from Grand Prix:

Take a look at his IMDB credits— if a movie from the 50's-60's especially had cool titles, he probably did them.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Todd's routines: 4:3 with Dahlgren & Fine

Hey, we haven't made up a new feature in awhile, so here's one: Todd's routines. I'll outline any of my current practice routines which are unique enough to be worth sharing, but not original enough to merit inclusion in the hallowed Todd's methods series. This is a thing I've been doing with the beginning of the “melodic” triplet section of 4-Way Coordination, by Marvin Dahlgren & Elliot Fine. The first exercise in that section, on page 10:

I've been running the first three lines of exercises from that page in a 16th note rhythm in 3/4 time, playing along with Gal Costa's version of the song Baby, by Caetano Veloso, which we've discussed before— if you follow that link, you'll see that there's a 4:3 polyrhythm built into the song's groove:

So, played as 16th notes, every four beat block of notes from the above section of 4WC will fit into a single measure of Baby. Here is pattern A, played four times:

One of the things I like about this is that the quarter note pulse in 3/4 will fall on each note of the 3-note pattern, giving a strong reference for checking the accuracy of the internals of each pattern. Playing the patterns in their original 8th note triplet format (which you should also do), the second note of each pattern is always in an extremely weak spot— the middle of the triplet— which is difficult to reference for accuracy.

More examples after the break:

Monday, May 06, 2013

Transcription: Dougie Wright — La Décadanse

This makes a nice companion piece to the recent Azymuth thing— they're both pretty cheezy, with a lot of big tom tom fills. The song is La Décadanse, by Serge Gainsbourg. I can't find a credit for the drummer, but I believe it's the great British session drummer, Dougie Wright, who was working with Gainsbourg a lot around 1970, when this was recorded.

The tempo is slow, so don't flip out at all of the 32nd notes, 32nd note triplets, and occasional 64th notes. Have fun with it.

Get the pdf

Audio after the break:

Sunday, May 05, 2013

State of Minnesota to artists: drop dead

A couple of Minnesota artists, Venus DeMars and Lynette Reini-Grandell, are the subject of a punitive audit by the state department of revenue, for the crime of not making enough money:

“We’ve had several meetings with the auditor since November, and at the last one he said a preliminary determination had been made that we were hobbyists, not artists, and therefore could not write off our expenses,” said Venus, a visual artist, songwriter, bandleader and performer. “This has been unbelievably demoralizing. He basically is saying that if we really knew what we were doing, we should have been more profitable by now, and should have known to give up.”
“They’re arguing that we’re not intending to make a profit on art, that we’re just pretending to be artists so we can indulge in our hobbies and go on vacations,” said Reini-Grandell, a poet and English professor at Normandale Community College who co-hosts KFAI-FM’S Write-On! Radio. “That’s why they don’t want us to be able to subtract any expenses from our profits. They want us to pay back, with penalties and interest, the refunds we’ve gotten previously. Also, they seem to have put a ton of time into our case. They must be thinking they will make a lot of money from this somehow.”

It's a semi-expected thing for revenue people to go after artists in a given city or region every so often, to keep them on the straight and narrow, and increasingly the IRS has been treating self-employed people as “hobbyists” if they don't turn a profit for 3 out of 5 years, and disallowing their operating expenses. But there appears to be something else at work here— it looks like these people are being singled out and punished for their politics. Or maybe, like police going after marijuana growers because it's easier than going after meth labs, they could just be doing it because it's easy money, since artists are poor and isolated, and are unlikely to have the resources or organization to put up much resistance.

The blog Crooked Timber has some comments on this, as well:

“The tone of all these proceedings have been completely anti-art. There has been an emphasis on creating a product, advertising it for sale, and then selling it. …
 Writers do not write a few lines and then advertise they have a poem for sale, making sure that the poem sells at a break-even point of what it cost monetarily to produce it. But this is what the Minnesota Department of Revenue insists I should be doing. It sickens me to have to participate in this because I know it is deeply wrong.”
Sometimes, these apparent miscarriages of justice loom large in the headlines and then kind of fall apart when you look at the detail. Not this one. The further you get into the taxman’s narrow view of capitalism – large record company: good. Independent entrepreneur: bad – the more apparent it is that he believes so implicitly in the winner-takes-all model of capitalism that it’s not enough for musicians in the long tail to bump along the bottom indefinitely. No, they must be shamed for failure and fined a six figure amount in back taxes.
It all seems to come down to intent. Does running your own independent record label and ‘failing’ to sign to a major mean you don’t want to make money? At the consistent but modest level of success Venus de Mars has, the majors aren’t interested and the musicians keep more of their profits if they run their own show. Does allowing your music to be played royalty-free on public radio mean you just don’t want success enough? (Tell that to the Ariana Huffington business model of ‘blog for me for free – you’ll get exposure’.) It’s a Kafka-esque nightmare where the artists must try to prove they are innocent of just not wanting it enough.

Excerpts from the interview with one of the artists after the break:

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Much more to do with 5/4

If you've been using the pages o' coordination we've been doing around here, you're going to like what Sam Nadel has been posting recently— a whole bunch of stuff on playing in 5/4. He doesn't have his labels going, so I can't send you to everything with one link (Sam!); but here's what he's got for us recently. You'll want to page through his archives, too, because there's a lot of good stuff in there. Hit the links to read his explanation and download the pages:

Rolling triplets in 5/4 — Accented triplets in 5/4, based on an exercise from Ted Reed. 
Reed converted to 5/4, with Dawson interpretations — Five pages, and just what it sounds like. 
Jazz ostinato in 5/4 — With left hand coordination. 
Paradiddle warm-up — Not in 5, but a nice daily-user: paradiddles in all inversions, with flams on each note of the pattern. 

Between this and all of the stuff we've been posting, your 5/4 should be pretty cooking by now. If you've been neglecting it, well, time to get on it, kids!

Groove o' the day: Blues in Elf

Here's something from what I'm hoping will be the second volume of books of 100 Grooves, this time dealing with odd meters— we'll see if I can track down enough interesting things to merit a whole volume of them.

This is Don Ellis's Blues In Elf, which is a slow blues in 11/8— it's a slow swing feel with the last note of the beat 4 triplet shaved off. The album is Tears of Joy, and the drummer is either Ralph Humphrey or Ron Dunn:

The snare and bass drum parts are repeated a fair amount, but they do vary— the written groove is a starting place. Regardless of the odd meter, the style of comping on this type of slow blues is a little different from the normal jazz thing— rather than interacting with the soloist, it supports the groove, and the built in tension and release of the twelve bar form.

Audio after the break: