Thursday, January 31, 2013

From the zone: Elvin 9/8

Let's see if I can make a series out of this— it will depend on people sending me cool stuff out of their personal notebooks. Meaning, you should send me cool stuff out of your personal notebooks. Anything with the stink of the practice room about it— I don't care what it is, or how rough looking it is. A stepped-on photocopy of a scan of a photocopy with coffee stains on it is fine. Even just a digital photo of your page 37.

This page of triplets in 3/4 was sent to me by Dutch drummer and teacher Marco Zondervan:

It looks like it's meant to be played with the right hand and the feet, while playing the cymbal pattern of your choice. Both feet are written on the same space on the staff, except when they're played in unison.

Our series title comes from the short basement dead-end hallway which houses the percussion department at the University of Oregon, which was known (in the 80's at least), as the zone. I have a suspicion that it was given that name in the 70's by Ralph Hardimon, but I would have to call some people up to confirm that. I took my first drum lessons there, and practically lived there during my college years. We would refer to the zone the way many people refer to the “woodshed” or “shed”, except it was an actual place.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

NEW: guide to the archives

This blog covers so much stuff that, if you've just been browsing around hoping to get lucky, you've probably missed a lot of things you'd be interested in; so I want to direct your attention to the new guide to the archives, found at the top of every page of the blog.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Another samba builder

Our previous “samba builder” was very batucada-focused (and probably in need of an update); this has more to do with samba as played on the drums, like in our Milton Banana pieces. The method is straightforward; work up a good feel with the feet/right hand parts, and add the various left hand parts to them. Treat the phrase-ending bass drum variations almost as fills; the left hand part can defer to them when you decide to throw them in.

Keep the feel light, but solid and driving. Play the right hand near the bell of the hihat or ride cymbal. You can play the left hand as rim clicks, high-pitched rimshots near the edge of the snare (not too loud!), or with a variety of accents and articulations; you can also improvise moves between drums. Also play the left hand parts with both hands in unison, along with the first, feet-only pattern. To develop the left hand more comprehensively, see the 16th note section of Louis Bellson's Modern Reading Text in 4/4, pp. 26-46

We've dedicated considerable ink— well, bytes, anyway— to the subject of the special type of swing found in samba, but in most drumset applications the 16ths are basically be played evenly. Exceptions to that would come when emulating the more folkloric styles, or a batucada feel. You can listen to, and play along with, the Salve a Mocidade recording to get an idea of the type of feel we're after here. 

Get the pdf

Friday, January 25, 2013

Drum chart: Salve a Mocidade

This is a chart and partial transcription for a Milton Banana track which I've been playing along with quite a bit this week. It's a lot of fun, and really instills a feel for the samba rhythm as played on the drum set— if your usual approach to samba doesn't groove well with this recording, there's a good chance you're doing it wrong. Our format is a little unusual; it's more of a partial transcription, with the ensemble rhythm included. Since that's pretty long, I also wrote up a straight one-page drum chart, which will be easier to read once you know what's going on with the drums and the arrangement.

I suggest giving it several listens through while following along with the transcription, making sure you understand how everything I've written relates to what you're hearing. It's also a good idea read through it playing the ensemble rhythm part on the snare drum alone. For much of the transcription I've given only the left hand part, to be played with a cymbal part of your choice, over the familiar samba bass drum/hihat pattern:

If you don't know what else to do with your right hand, try playing it in unison with the left hand, or quarter notes, on the cymbal or hihat.

Get the pdfs: partial trancription plus ensemble rhythm chart | lead sheet only

Audio after the break:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The raggedy edge

Here's a great post by Sam Nadel, on a subject I think a lot about— which I alluded to in the recent African ritual music DBMITW— “the importance of being reckless”:

“Part of the problem about being reckless is that it can feel dangerously close to incompetence. By operating at the edge of our artistic ability and experimenting in waters untested we open ourselves up to whole realms of failure. Its really a question of ego. Despite appearances the innovator is often the least egotistical musician on the stage. By having a willingness to fail publicly and triumphantly they often end up making the kind of art we gravitate towards. Paradoxically the musician who doesn't take a risk is most guilty of hubris. By not being willing to make mistakes and clinging on to a projected self image of competence[...]” 

I need to write more about this, but it's a large subject and will take some time. Be sure to follow the link and read the whole thing.

The painting, incidentally, is by Willem De Kooning, an extremely technically gifted artist who had his early training at the extremely traditional, rigorous, arts academy at Rotterdam. He spent his career subverting his technique, putting himself in the creative space Nadel is talking about.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Groove(s) o' the day: Shuggie Otis — Inspiration Information

Once upon a time even music meant for mass consumption didn't necessarily have the same drum beat played repetitively all the way through. The drumming on Inspiration Information by Shuggie Otis is constantly changing, while maintaining the same basic feel. From the 1974 record of the same name. Drums by Otis.

From the first verse:

Beginning of second verse. On a closer listen, he's also playing the hihat on 2 and 4 here, along with the snare drum— I guess I'll have to correct that when I put together the next groove book:

Second time through second verse:

From backing vocal part after second verse, with many variation:

Behind the guitar solo:

And there's a lot more going on— be sure to listen to the audio, after the break:

Saturday, January 19, 2013

More with rock beats using Syncopation

Going a little further with my earlier piece on making rock beats using— say it with me— Ted Reed's Syncopation. In doing this, there will be many duplicate beats, but that's not important— our purpose is not to create new beats, it's to apply a thought process: taking a melody line, converting it to a drum beat, and then doing basic modifications to it. It's the beginning of playing with creative control over what you are doing, rather than just playing familiar beats. It's all simple enough that most people will internalize the concepts quickly, and begin applying them purely instinctively.

Be sure to review the previous thing first, and be able to play it with Reed Lesson 4 (pp. 10-11 in the old edition), #1-15, straight through without stopping. The current exercise involves shaping your phrases by doing things with beat one of the second and fourth measures— omitting the bass drum, moving it to one side or the other, or bridging beat one by playing on both sides of it.

Get the pdf

Friday, January 18, 2013

Another Drum! piece coming up...

It looks like I'll have another piece in Drum! magazine— my third— coming up pretty soon. Just waiting for final, 100% fersher confirmation. The piece is my transcription of Vinnie Colaiuta's playing on the guitar solo in 19/16, on Keep It Greasey from Frank Zappa's Joe's Garage, with a written introduction and analysis. Stayed tuned for street date...

Monday, January 14, 2013

YouTubed: “basic rock beat”

Since I'm often told that the Internet, with its abundance of free materials, is rendering teachers obsolete, I thought I'd put that to the test, searching YouTube for beginning rock drumming “lessons”, and not stopping  until I found a truly good video, or until I thought of something better to do with what time I have left on this planet.

I'm taking these in the order they are returned by the search engine, filtering out a few things that are non-instructional. I've given a few notes, quickly, test-pilot style, on their strengths or shortcomings. My purpose is not to belittle anyone's efforts, or discourage anyone from trying to teach others what they know, but here I'd rather be entertaining than diplomatic; if you see your video here, and don't like what I say about it, be tough, and keep working on your craft, as we all do. If you tire of this faster than me, be sure to scroll to the end and give the winning entry some hits.

Drum Lesson:The Basic Rock Beat
by turdadactyl

Six and a half minute video explaining how to play the Back In Black beat, and not as terrible as you would expect from someone who self-identifies as “turdadactyl.” No tempo consistency between  the demonstration of the the beat and the counting the rhythms of the parts, which will confuse some of the beginners who are his audience. Uses the highly questionable method of speeding up the beat as you go. Not wild about his recommended benchmark for success: the ability to talk to someone while you play the beat. I'd rather students were able to play the beat while concentrating on what they are doing. Great speaking voice.

Many more of these after the break:

Sunday, January 13, 2013

On Jack

There's a great piece on Jack Dejohnette, by someone who plays with him, over at George Colligan's Jazz Truth blog— go read.

Here's a bonus DBMITW:

Transcription: Tony Williams — Hat And Beard

We do all the hits here— this is another very famous piece of drumming, by Tony Williams, on Eric Dolphy's Out To Lunch. The tune is the very unusual Hat And Beard, which is in 9/4 with a couple of beats added/subtracted on the B part. This is a good example of the “jazz percussion” approach I spent a long time trying to get my head around. The rhythmic conception is extremely modern— he handles straight 8th and 16th notes in a way unprecedented in jazz— and there is little in the way of traditional vocabulary. Instead he plays sounds, treating the drum set almost as a multi-percussion set up.

The rhythms are written precisely— don't swing the 8ths. There is a deliberate difference between the dotted-8th/16th swing pattern at the beginning, and the triplet swing pattern he plays on the head out. I don't know what the hell Dolphy was talking about in the liner notes when he says “[The tune] opens in 5/4, but once the whole group is in, the basic count is really 9/4.”, because the whole thing is in 9, except for those couple of odd measures.

I've transcribed the heads in and out only; we'll see about doing the solos sometime soon...

Get this transcription and four more by purchasing my e-book 5 TONY WILLIAMS TRANSCRIPTIONS. Only $4.95.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Dahlgren & Fine in 5/4

This is a way of playing 4-Way Coordination, by Marvin Dahlgren & Elliot Fine, which I've been using while playing along with Jan Garbarek's Dansere, and Gary Burton's Mevlevia— most of 4WC is just too dry for me to use by itself. This is essentially the same simple method of adding quarter notes, which we used in putting Stick Control into 5/4. Since there's a small twist, and the source material is more demanding, I thought I'd better write it out. I've been using it with the difficult “harmonic” coordination section of the book, on p. 15, but you can apply it to most of the book.

We make a 5/4 measure out of the originals 4/4 patterns by adding a quarter note on either beat 1, 3, or 5. The quarter notes are played with whatever limbs were coming next in the pattern— take a look at the pdf, along with the explanation after the break if the meaning isn't clear. By introducing a little stop, and not breaking sequence, this actually makes it easier to learn these exercises in 4/4. I highly recommend practicing these along with music— by placing these very technical exercises in context, you may stand a chance of actually being able to use them musically.

Get the pdf

Explanation and source examples from 4-Way Coordination after the break:

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The melodic drummer

Short and boring, but a melody.
Not to be confused with the excellent blog of the same name. I've gotten involved into some fairly contentious discussion of the role of melody in drumming recently, so I thought I'd elaborate a little bit on this.

I guess I don't need to continuously point out that I'm a player and a teacher, not a scholar. I can't promise that what I say here won't get you in trouble with your Musicianship 101 prof, but he has his job and I have mine. What we're talking about here is something that helps people become better, more musical drummers, using musical terms in service of our creative process: as tools for understanding and applying our craft, rather than for textbook/dictionary correctness. I don't believe I'm playing fast and loose with the terminology, but I imagine it might take some argument to convince certain theory people of that.

First, the idea of melodic drumming— or melodic awareness in drumming— is not meant to replace the normal construction of music, or meanings of terms, or the normal job of a drummer. And it does not necessarily mean a different kind of drumming than we are all familiar with. We just want to add melodic self-awareness to the drummer's purview.

Melody and rhythm are inherent to any musical line; they would be considered primary characteristics— the X and Y axis. A musical line is a series of two or more single notes meant to be taken together as a musical statement. A note is any sound placed in a musical context.

Melody = the pitch element
Every sound has a pitch, even if it's very complex, noisy, untempered, or hard to nail down exactly— the types of sounds we usually deal with as drummers. It's been said that a clearly defined, tonal pitch is required, but I don't agree. Normally there's an implication that the pitches change over the course of a melodic line, but that's not necessary— one note played over and over is still a melody.

Melody with regards to percussion can be a little slippery, not only because of our noisy, non-tonal, untempered sounds, but also because we have no system of melodic organization; no equivalent to scales or modes. We deal broadly in high and low sounds, with varying timbres, organized purely intuitively, according to the creativity of the individual.

Rhythm = the time element
The placement of notes in time. One note followed by another note sometime in the same piece of music = rhythm. From the listener's perspective, the notes would need to be perceived as being part of the same musical statement to be perceived as rhythm. A single cowbell note followed by a second one later in the day, after the listener has eaten dinner and binge-watched season 9 of Matlock, would not normally be perceived as rhythm.

For drummers' purposes, melody also refers to a quality of being tune-like. According to my definition above, everything we play on the drums has a melodic element, but that doesn't mean everything will reasonably sound like a song. It's a challenge hearing a tune in very “drumistic” playing— say, an endless run of very fast paradiddles. In playing music, I use this idea in a very broad way, treating rhythm, articulation, dynamics, timbre and pitch as part of the “tune” of a line I'm playing.

More, including examples, after the break:

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Survival chops: right hand lead

This is the second in an extremely short series covering the bare essentials of what you need for “drumistic” fill, variation, and solo material across a variety of styles— you can read the intro to the previous entry to get a sense of what I'm about here. Usually you arrive at these patterns via a Reed interpretation, but for my purposes here I wanted to present them in their complete state:

Play these with your right hand on the toms, snare, and/or cymbal with the bass drum in unison. Run them in a moderate-to-fast 4 (two or three notes per foot tap, that is), and in a moderate 2 (four or six notes per foot tap). Try to get off of the page as quickly as possible— there are actually only a few basic moves for each rhythm, and you should be able to improvise with these “by feel” pretty quickly.

Get the pdf

VOQOTD: the Blakey hang

“I used to play every night. It didn't matter how much money I was making, I just had to play every night. When  we'd get through playing at night, it was daybreak: 6:00. Then we'd play the breakfast show. After that we'd have a jam session which would go on until like 2:00 in the afternoon. So maybe by 3:00 I'd get to bed, and be back in the club again at 8:30. So I never stopped, really. I was playing all the time so I didn't have to worry about practicing.”

— Art Blakey, Modern Drummer, September, 1984
Interview by Chip Stern

Monday, January 07, 2013

8th notes around the drums — one hand

Here's a conditioning page of 8ths notes played around the drums, with one hand. It's easy enough that most drummers should be able to learn it well enough to play the page straight down in fairly short order, and then begin working for speed.

Play each exercise four times, and go on to the next one with out stopping; it will take about three and a half minutes do play the whole page at 130 bpm. Do them with both the right and the left hand, of course.

As noted at the bottom of the page, you can also substitute a cymbal accent, with bass drum, on the first note of the exercise.

Get the pdf

A few practice alternatives after the break:

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Googled: “Elvin Jones triplets”

What the heck, we haven't done a “round up” style post in awhile. Here's a quick survey of Internet lore, briefly reviewing some of the information returned when you google “Elvin Jones triplets”:

First, the unambiguous winner:

Four on the Floor — Elvin Jones Independence Exercises
Extremely valuable piece in which Jon McCaslin shares some insights into Elvin's approach, learned in a clinic from the master himself. Revealingly, the concepts are fairly simple, at least by current standards of drummeriness. I won't summarize it here— just go read it and live it for awhile.

Drum! Magazine —Inside the Drumming of Elvin Jones
Transcription of the drum performance on the Jones composition Three Card Molly, with a lead sheet for the tune. The tune is found on the recording Genesis— the author neglects to mention that in the piece. This is a good illustration of the gap between all of the things you can say and write about music, and the music itself: it's pretty vast. Even the author, a highly qualified musician and jazz educator who knew Elvin personally, doesn't offer a whole lot of fresh verbal information about Jones's thing. That's because there is no verbal explanation to be had; it all happens in the playing and listening. In fact, most of what you can write about any art is either 1) false, 2) true, but obvious, 3) technical. Literally-stated deep insights are extremely rare.

More after the break:

Friday, January 04, 2013

DBMITW: Tanzania and Kenya witchcraft & ritual music

These are from a Nonesuch compilation, Tanzania and Kenya Witchcraft & Ritual Music, that has made a big impression on me since the 90's. This first clip features a comical-sounding instrument, the “bungo” horn. To people from the European sphere of influence, for whom purity of tone is a big deal, it sounds like a joke. Your classical trumpet professor would hit the ceiling if you came into your lesson sounding like this:

But it triggers this thing of making the listener question for a moment— Is this music? Is he kidding? What's going on? — which is an important thing to me. It's also present, to varying degrees, in some free jazz, in Paul Motian's drumming, Ornette Coleman, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Marc Ribot, Bill Frisell, and elsewhere.

More after the break:

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Transcription: Elvin Jones — Summertime

Let's start out the new year with a more substantial transcription than we've done in a while, in this case a very famous drum solo by Elvin Jones, on Summertime from John Coltrane's My Favorite Things. This is one of those things that everybody transcribes at some point— you can check out Steve Korn's site for his transcription and analysis, and there are probably other examples on line.  

The bass (and some piano) plays through the solo, and I've included its rhythm so you can see what Elvin is playing off of. The 7/8 bar on page one is a mistake— he drops half a beat on that break.

[2017 UPDATE: On proofing my transcription for the e-book release, I discovered that the mistake was, of course, mine— that particular break is just extremely oddly-phrased, and difficult to follow. The band is a little rough coming in off that break, so at least I'm not the only jerk in the world who had trouble with it.]

He does play more hihat than I include, but much of it is very soft and seems to be non-intentional. A few things look a little strange on paper— in those instances you can defer to the recording, and do your best to duplicate the sound of the passage.

Buy our e-book 5 Elvin Jones Transcriptions to get the complete transcription

Audio after the break:

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Another best of 2012 list

Another Best of 2012 list for my CD Little Played Little Bird, this time on the Bird Is The Worm blog, written by eMusic contributor Dave Sumner. We're in the number 12 slot:

So, take obscure compositions from the songbook of a challenging artist and perform renditions… the math for that equation should result in something resembling a didactic lecture of music theory and not the refreshingly listenable Little Played Little Bird. Todd Bishop tackles the music of Ornette Coleman, and without watering down the source material, has created a recording that was both tuneful and a fun listen. It’s an impressive accomplishment, and a solid album when judged on its own merits. I find this album as infectious at the end of the year as I did when it originally came out.

You can buy my infectious record through links in the sidebar, either as a CD, or digital download.

Crossing accents

This very simple idea occurred to me while I was working on an Elvin Jones transcription today— either I had an insight into an underlying concept in his playing, or I was just daydreaming. What I've done here is to just accent every three beats during a repeated one-measure rhythmic idea in 4/4— in this case, good old pp. 10-11 in Syncopation:

Play these with an alternating sticking, in a bright 2/2. Also repeat just the first three measures of each line, noting that on most of the exercises the lead will switch hands each time through. Once you get familiar with the accent pattern, it shouldn't be too difficult to apply it on the fly to some other parts of Reed— the pages with quarter notes and triplets or 16ths would be logical places to start.

Get the pdf