Thursday, August 29, 2013

Groove and totally gratuitous lick o' the day: James “Diamond” Williams — Fopp

I was listening to some Ohio Players, and this, from the intro of Fopp, jumped out at me. It's not the greatest thing in the world ever, but it's fun:

The 32nd notes are legato, almost like triplets. Here's the actual groove for the verse of the song, with minor variations:

You can hear that he sometimes catches the snare drum on both of the crashes. The album is Honey, and the drummer is James “Diamond” Williams, who is still playing his butt off with the band.

Audio after the break:

Monday, August 26, 2013

DBMITW: happy 80th to Wayne Shorter

In honor of the 80th birthday of the great saxophonist Wayne Shorter, here is one of my favorite solos of his— or of anyone else's, ever— from Miles Davis's Complete In A Silent Way Sessions box set. Tony Williams is on drums, of course:

(h/t to Rob Scheps for the birthday reminder.)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

More meter-within-meter phrases

Here's a little supplement to the meter-within-meter introduction of a few days ago: some additional two, four, and eight measure practice phrases:

It's easy to get yourself into trouble with this, so it's important to count out loud until you're very familiar with how the 3/4 lays against the longer phrases in 4/4. Once the phrases are feeling good as written, substitute the alternative 3/4 patterns from the previous entry. Also practice alternating each phrase with a few measures of normal jazz time— paying attention to how you get into and out of the 3.

Get the pdf

Friday, August 23, 2013

Transcription: Greg Errico — Anti Love Song

I could've handled this one as a groove o' the day, probably, since the variations over the course of the piece are fairly minor, but I felt like writing out the whole thing, and didn't want to miss any of the fills. The tune is Anti Love Song, by the outrageous Betty Davis (née Mabry), with drumming by Greg Errico, best known for his work with Sly & The Family Stone. His playing here is just what funk is to me:

The 16th notes are swung slightly. There is some very faint ghosting on the snare drum and hihat at various points in the song, which I didn't write out— there's not enough audio information to be meaningful, and it's not especially important. We can assume that some of things he plays as the grooves get busier may be happening inaudibly earlier on. Also see my transcription of Nasty Gal for more Betty Davis, and more of this type of hardcore 70's funk.

Get the pdf

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Why you don't need to get paid

This guy will tell you
what you deserve.
I see that the old downloader “culture”— always a sketchy-sounding crew, even in the early days when they were led by high tech vanguard types writing in Wired— has at last entered its degenerate, snake oil phase. The words nihilistic, parasitic, sociopathic, living in a Libertarian fantasy world come inescapably to mind as I read this thing, written by some Norwegian cat who is the leader of the Pirate Party, which has been getting some press recently.

I've quoted the piece in its entirety, with my comments interspersed throughout. Keep in mind that what follows is the best, most coherent, polished argument they have to offer in favor of piracy:

“How Should Artists Get Paid?” Isn’t a Question, it’s an Insult
Throughout the debate on sharing culture and knowledge in violation of the copyright monopoly, one question keeps popping up. But it’s not a question as much as an insult to all artists.

Pay attention, he's going to tell you what insults you.

We’ve all heard the objection to sharing culture and knowledge many times – “How will the artists get paid, if you manufacture copies of their creations without paying them?”
This question is delusional on so many levels I’ve lost count.
First, artists that are copied do get paid, only not by a per-copy sale but in other ways. I encourage copying of my leadership handbook Swarmwise, for example, because I know the book promotes other avenues of income. The average income for musicians has risen 114% since people started sharing culture online on a large-scale, according to a Norwegian study. Other studies agree with this observation.

The law says the artist authorizes and gets paid for copies. That's kind of the end of the story. Whatever publicity you get from having your work circulated is not compensation.

In case you're wondering what happened to your 114% pay raise, after following several links, I was able to learn that the study is in fact a non-peer-reviewed master's thesis by a couple of Norwegian business students, entitled The Norwegian Music Industry in the Age of Digitalization, which you can follow the link to read if you wish. Norway, for your information, is a country along the subarctic northwestern fringe of Europe, with a population slightly larger than that of the US state of Alabama, but with decidedly smaller cultural influence outside of the world of Death Metal music.

Second, even if they didn’t get paid, people who share still don’t carry any kind of responsibility for the business models of other entrepreneurs. Because that’s what artists are once they go plinking their guitar in a kitchen looking for sales: entrepreneurs. Same rules apply to those entrepreneurs as to every other entrepreneur on the planet: nobody owes an entrepreneur a sale, you have to offer something which somebody else wants to buy. Wants. To. Buy. No excuses, nothing deserved, just business.

Those plinking guitarists he's so plainly contemptuous of are the people making the music he's justifying stealing. He is quite right that no one owes anyone a sale, but he's talking about product he wants. He just doesn't feel like paying for it. Just because you don't want to pay for something you want to have, doesn't mean you are entitled to a free, copyright-infringing copy of it.

There's oh so much more of this after the break:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


I was directed to a musician's blog that's quite good, and seems to be worth keeping up with on a regular basis. The name makes me cringe: it's called The Bulletproof Musician, which I'll say is a really ugly metaphor, and leave it at that. I'm also not wild about the heavy use of sports references, reinforcing the current big misconception of music as high performance. But there's a lot of good, concise discussion of ideas to do with the broadly technical/performance/psychological end of music— sort of a Lifehacker for musicians. Here's a little bit of a couple of pieces I thought were especially good:

Two Things Experts Do Differently Than Non-Experts When Practicing

Best vs. worst
Two researchers from the City University of New York did a study of basketball players to see if they could discern a difference between the practice habits of the best free throw shooters (70% or higher) and the worst free throw shooters (55% or lower).
There were a number of differences, but it boiled down to two in particular.
Difference #1: Goals were specific
The best free throw shooters had specific goals about what they wanted to accomplish or focus on before the made a practice free throw attempt. As in, “I’m going to make 10 out of 10 shots” or “I’m going to keep my elbows in.”
The worst free throw shooters had more general goals – like “Make the shot” or “Use good form.”
Difference #2: Attributions of failure were specific
Invariably, the players would miss shots now and again, but when the best free throw shooters missed, they tended to attribute their miss to specific technical problems – like “I didn’t bend my knees.” This lends itself to a more specific goal for the next practice attempt, and a more thoughtful reflection process upon the hit or miss of the subsequent free throw. Far better than saying “I suck” or “What’s wrong with me?” or “Crap, I’m never going to get this.”
In contrast, the worst performers were more likely to attribute failure to non-specific factors, like “My rhythm was off” or “I wasn’t focused” which doesn’t do much to inform the next practice attempt.

More after the break:

Monday, August 19, 2013

Getting started with meter-within-meter

Playing meter-within-meter— playing in one meter during a tune in a different one— is a very common rhythmic element in jazz, which became fully realized in drumming during the 1960's by Roy Haynes, Elvin Jones, and Tony Williams, among others. It's an essential element of modern playing, and, as I said one of my earlier posts on polyrhythms, it's not a show-offy effect or trick; it's just an ordinary part of the fabric of jazz rhythmic phrasing. It's not a fixed thing, but I see it as underlying much of what we play in a way not too dissimilar from clave in Cuban or Cuban-derived music. Most common is 3/4 (often with a strong 6/8 inflection) played within 4/4, and that's what we'll deal with here:

The methodology here is pretty straightforward: play the waltz figure in 3, then play it in the given phrases in 4, counting out loud the entire time. That last is very important: it's easy to get lost doing this type of playing, at first, and verbalizing the counting while practicing it will insure that that doesn't happen. The snare parts here are simple, but doing the standard tom moves will provide a little interest, and force you to concentrate a little harder. After you learn the phrases with the 3/4 patterns given here, you can try using your favorite patterns from any of the pages o' coordination in 3, or use your own patterns.

See The Art of Modern Jazz Drumming by Jack Dejohnette and Charlie Perry for more about this type of playing.

Get the pdf

Sunday, August 18, 2013

VOQOTD: Al Foster on taste

“I'm trying to play less when keeping time behind a soloist,” Foster says, “not answering every phrase with the left hand and bass drum. You want to be on it, but not on everything. I'm also working on playing as tastefully as possible. That's what's missing from these younger players.”

“Miles told me, 'If you don't hear it, don't play it.'”

— Al Foster, quoted in Modern Drummer

Friday, August 16, 2013

Transcription: Al Jackson — Over Easy

OK, since I do actually feel obligated to offer you something more than perversely elementary groove transcriptions and lectures on the state of drumming, here's a transcription of the build-up section from yesterday's tune, Over Easy by Booker T. & the MG's, with Al Jackson on drums. On this section Jackson plays busier than is his custom, so it's interesting to see how he handles it:

The transcription begins at 2:38 on the recording. As usual, I've given three different dynamic levels for the snare drum: accented, normal, and ghosted. Note that several times the hihat is played with the left hand as the ride continues. The 16th note triplet and sixtuplet rhythms seem to take some kind of mixed sticking, probably RRL. The way he makes the dynamic change into the last line is interesting: he ends the fill strongly with the bass drum only— no cymbal— and then comes in on beat 2 with the original groove, at the softer dynamic.

Get the pdf

See the related Groove o' the Day for audio.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Groove o' the day: now exclusively an Al Jackson feature

I include these Al Jackson grooves not because you can't figure them out for yourselves, but because in this current technocratic, amazingness-fetishizing period of drumming, I like to keep in the front of my memory examples of what the actual best, most real drumming in the world actually sounds like. The tune here is Over Easy, originally from Soul Limbo, by Booker T. and the MG's; I had it on the old Best of Booker T cassette, released on Atlantic:

The cymbal is generally played at an even volume— with no pulse on the quarter notes— a way of playing most good players today are loathe to do— we always have to be putting some inflection on things. And since we are nothing today if not ornament obsessed, it's always refreshing to hear a drummer play as cleanly as Jackson; here he plays the ensemble figures by just tapping the instrument in unison with them, with no set ups. That's when he doesn't just play through them— another skill more of us need to master: playing through figures, rather than having to catch every damn thing to demonstrate how on top of it we are...

Audio after the break:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How to play the brushes, part two

I had never seen this before: Steve Gadd playing on a 2" tape box. Along with Ted Warren's videos, the only instruction you need for brushes:

(h/t to Who Is Tony?)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

On the field with a great drum line

Sorry for the preponderance of video clips of late— what can I say, we're a little scattered this week. This is a remarkable recording made by an old drum corps colleague, Nathan Beck— he wore a tape recorder under his uniform during the finals competition at DCI Nationals in Madison, Wisconsin in 1987, when he was marching with the Santa Clara Vanguard, and now someone has shared it on YouTube. Nate and I were in corps together from 1983 to 1986, that last year with the Vanguard, with Nate in the snare line and myself in the pit. SCV seemed fated to win in the year of the recording— at the time I thought they were the best corps I had ever seen. In the end they came in second, by one tenth of a point, which was later blamed on personal conflicts within the group.

Here's the recording— if you're not a corps person, keep in mind that you're hearing seven snare drummers and six tenors. Of special interest is the percussion feature, Lezghinka, which begins at 5:20.

The poster has blocked embedding for the video, but here you can see the broadcast version of the drum solo from this same performance. Nate is the end snare drummer, closest to the tenors. He's quite an interesting cat— after his drum corps career, he lived in a village in Africa for several years, studying mbira.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Slow tempos: the compound pulse

Following up on the subdiving post: you may have noticed that I suggested subdividing 8th notes at slow tempos— not triplets, as you might expect with music like jazz, that is often thought to be triplet-based. When playing ballads I rarely subdivide in triplets, even if the feel is predominantly “triplety”— instead I play off of a compound pulse of triplets and straight, non-swing 8th notes, something like this:

Minus the embellishments, the composite rhythm of the time feel and felt pulse would look like this:

So I am playing off of a compound pulse like a hemiola, generally feeling the top line in my hands, and the bottom line in my left foot— either by tapping my heel, or somehow silently feeling the even 8th note rhythm in my foot motion; rarely by actually playing the 8ths with the cymbals:

Using this more complex skeletal structure on ballads helps keep the time anchored even when you and the group are outwardly playing with a loose feel; and generally, from moment to moment, I (and/or the other players) may be playing either off of the triplets or the 8th notes, and being clear on this structure will prevent the time from getting distorted. It also sets you up for going into double time, which is widely done, to varying degrees.

A little more after the break:

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

George Duke 1946-2013

There was some kind of magnetism about George Duke that made you think he was going to live forever, but then it doesn't work out that way. Hearing him on Frank Zappa's Roxy & Elsewhere means becoming an instant fan; his big feature, Bebop Tango, is not available on YouTube, so instead here are two adjacent tracks from his 1977 album Reach For It, one of my favorites:

This would be a good time to revisit the other things of his we've looked at.

Monday, August 05, 2013

DBMITW: Manny Oquendo y Libre

Timbalero Manny Oquendo (1931-2009, seen here in red, playing bongos) playing a little gig with his group Libre:

Sunday, August 04, 2013

The slow click

There should really be no such thing as slow to the person playing the drums. Whatever tempo the listener is hearing, the player is going to multiply it as necessary to make a comfortable, easily-maintainable pulse out of it— subdividing, we call that. Making an easy tempo out of a hard tempo. So if a tune is counted off at 40 beats per minute, you would be thinking and feeling 8th notes or 16th notes (pulses at 80 or 160 bpm, respectively), while playing a feel that states that slow 40 bpm tempo. In the practice room, playing to a metronome setting of 40, you would be feeling a pulse of 80 or 160, while you could be playing an actual tempo of 40, 80, 160, or 320.

Approaching tempo in this way, just the bottom 16 increments on a conventional metronome (40, 42, 44, and so on, up to 76 ) will cover all the tempos you reasonably need in actually playing music. Using every other increment is nearly a fine enough gradation for the practice room, since:

40 = 80 = 160
44 = 88 = 176
48 = 96 = 192
52 = 104 = 208
56 = 112 = 224
60 = 120 = 240
66 = 132 = 264
72 = 144 = 288

With just those eight actual settings you are also covering: 80, 88, 96, 104, 112, 120, 132, 144, 160, 176, 192, 208, 224, and so on— above that point, I generally start counting tempos in half notes. The wider numerical gaps at the top of the scale are not important; the real, felt difference between 192 and 208 is the same as that of 96 and 104. If you ever wake up in a panic over always playing 120 and 132, but never 126, you can change things up and practice every other increment starting with 42, for awhile. See if it makes any difference. I don't believe you should be adhering systematically to one set of numbers, anyway; the point is that by subdividing, a fairly small range of tempos will cover the entire spectrum.

In my own practice, I generally try to use the slowest metronome settings possible, often below 40 bpm. This does force you to subdivide accurately, and once you can do that— it's not an advanced skill— it really isn't notably more difficult than using a faster click.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Page o' coordination: metric modulation — 2/3

Part 2 of this little three-page o'... unit. Actually, there are a couple of other previous pages you can work up as well— once you've learned any one page of this series, the others are much easier. See the last installment for an explanation of what we're doing here.

Get this together with swung 8th notes, then as even 8ths— that latter will sound like a straight triplet-based swing feel in two, by the way, so do keep track of the quarter note pulse in 3/4 as you do that.

As always: tom moves, tom moves, tom moves. Do them.

Get the pdf

Friday, August 02, 2013

DBMITW: Steve Berrios 1945-2013

Very sorry that the drummer Steve Berrios, who played a lot of great music, passed away this week.

On this recording he plays trumpet, as well as drums:

More after the break:

From the zone: some diddle licks

Easing back into blogging after being away for a few days, here's something from the notebook of New York-based drummer Chris Stromquist:

Visit Chris at his regular site and his Bandcamp site.

Again, I encourage you to send in, via the email link in the sidebar, any relics of your practice time that you want to share. Readability/usability are not important; we just want to see what people scribble out when the book material isn't cutting it.

After the break is a black and white jpeg of the page suitable for printing.