Sunday, March 31, 2013

Transcription: Philly Joe Jones — Locomotion

I've been working through Philly Joe Jones's intro on Lomotion, from the Coltrane album Blue Train; a student was given the fairly nutso assignment of learning this verbatim off of YouTube. We worked through it by rote/aurally, but I thought I'd do my own transcription of it, so she can see what's going on with it that way:

It's not clear what's happening within the rolls in measures 5-8— something with a triplet rhythm, probably; but we simplified the part there by fitting accented doubles to the rhythm Philly Joe is playing there. It doesn't exactly resolve to a normal rhythm, but the tempo is fast, and it's easy to throw it in there and land the accents in the right spot:

Get the pdf

Audio after the break:

Saturday, March 30, 2013

VOQOTD: Dave on practicing

If you come to my house and walk into the room where I'm practicing, you're going to hear me sound like I can't play. That's because I'm working on stuff that I can't do so I can  improve. 

— Chris “Daddy” Dave, Modern Drummer interview, Feb. 2010

Friday, March 29, 2013

Transcription: Ivan Conti — Linha do Horizonte

OK, I may be really blowing what's left of my credibility with you guys with this one, but I'll just have to live with that. This is a goofy little thing with a nice drum performance, by the Brazilian fusion band Azymuth. The fact is, I've learned to really love light music, and as I mentioned before, nobody does light like the Brazilians. I guess I've paid my dues through many years of listening to a lot of Cecil Taylor, Albert Ayler, late Coltrane, and all other manner of hard listening, and now I've also learned to appreciate things that effectively create a mood. Especially when they have big tom tom fills.

The drummer, Ivan Conti, has at least four toms tuned in pretty tight high and low groups. I've tried to put the fills on the correct drums, which can make them a little obscure to read. Which drums you play them on is not important; instead, go for timing and sound. He plays the fills at an even, strong volume. Like many of my favorite Brazilian drummers, he is a master of dynamics, so you'll often have to make a big jump in volume going into and out of the fills.

A couple of minor points: The occasional ghost notes on the snare (the ones in parentheses) are usually played as a rather sloppy double— you can feel free to leave them out, or add extra ones. Later in the tune, when there is a mixed rhythm on the hihat, accent the 8th notes strongly; the 16th notes happen essentially randomly, so don't get too hung up on getting the hihat part exactly right; he's playing mostly 8th notes, but is likely doing an arm motion for accented 16ths, and some extra notes are creeping in. You can just play running, accented 16ths, or plain 8th notes during that section if you want.

Get the pdf

Audio after the break— you're going to love this one:

Thursday, March 28, 2013


You are Tom Bosley.
From one of my political blogs, here's a Twitter exchange highlighting something I've become increasingly aware of. First, Carl Newman of the New Pornographers:

The distance in time between '77 punk and right now is the same as the distance between '77 Punk and the attack on Pearl Harbor.

 Response from Atrios at the Eschaton blog:

@ACNewman distance between now and Please Please Me is same as distance between 1963 and Archduke Ferdinand being alive

My version of this observation is to notice that difference in time between the period in which Happy Days was set vs. the time it was actually on TV is roughly the same as the time between now and Kurt Cobain's death. That would make me, horrifyingly, Tom Bosley.

Note: A panicky Wikipedia check reveals that Bosley was in fact older in 1975 than I am now, so I'm safe on that front. But still.

Anyway, Atrios writes:

Obviously the big takeaway is holy crap I'm old (I was born 9 years after Please Please Me, but still), but I think there's a broader point about us olds not getting just how distant stuff is for The Kids Today. More than that, I also think there was a kind of continuity between people born, roughly, from the beginning of WWII until about 1993. The discontinuity here is the internet, a society transforming technology change. 
 I probably started listening to The Beatles (aside from randomly hearing them on the radio) in 1986 or so, when I was 14. Some 14 year old kid today listening to The Beatles would be equivalent to my 1986 self getting into music from 1939 or so. Those "old movies" weren't actually all that old, some of them anyway, when I was a teenager, but I sure did think they were old, even movies from the 70s! Imagine what they look like to The Kids Today. 

Well, a lot of them seem to think they are pretty hip. But this feels like a little bit of an issue, because so much of the music we deal with here is— I guess— old.

Continued after the break:

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Phrases for Chaffee linear patterns: triplets in 3/4

Here is one set of practice phrases for the Gary Chaffee linear patterns, in one or two measures of 3/4, with a triplet rhythm. For the sake of brevity, I've given only the two measure phrases that have a pattern crossing the barline; you can make additional two measure phrases by combining the one measure phrases— it will make sense as you get into it.

You can work on these with just the pdf, the patterns, and the examples below, but you want to get the book this is derived from, Patterns, Vol. 3, by Gary Chaffee.

Get the pdf

Many examples after the break:

DBMITW: Bill Withers on BBC

Here's a complete 30 minute Bill Withers concert on BBC from 1973. I'm not sure who's playing drums with him— he gets almost zero screen time, and is severely under-lit. It's not James Gadson, doesn't really look like Al Jackson, and I don't know who else Withers might have been touring with at the time. If you know, please comment...

[UPDATE: Bethany-and-Joe in the comments tells us his name is Fred Casey, who I've never heard of, and about whom I can find no more info.]

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Oh, hey...

Judging by this check I just received in the mail, I apparently have an article in the April, 2013 issue of Drum! Magazine— my third. Hopefully that's still in the stores. The piece is my transcription of Vinnie Colaiuta's playing on the guitar solo from Frank Zappa's Keep It Greasey, in 19/16, along with a short analysis and tutorial on how to approach playing in that crazy meter.

My previous Drum! pieces are available on line, too.

Gary Chaffee linear patterns

In the coming days we'll be doing a little extension of a thing found in vol. 3 of Gary Chaffee's Patterns series— an appendix, really— and since that's not an everyday title like Reed or Stone, I need to show you the core of the idea as presented in the book. Patterns is one of the major entries in the literature of drumming to come out of the 1980's. Chaffee was Vinnie Colaiuta's teacher for a time, and seems to have had a big influence on his playing; the books seem very Vinnie, handling a lot of heavy Zappa-esque rhythm. I've been working with them off and on since the later 80's, with periods of years when I'm not able to do much of anything with them.

We'll be working with the linear patterns, found on pp. 40-53; they are three to eight notes long, played with the hands on the drums, and ending in one or two bass drum notes:

The sticking and orchestration on the drums is indeterminate; usually I play them alternating, starting with the right hand, and improvise moving them around the drums. The book presents combinations of these patterns in 16th note and 8th note triplet rhythms in 4/4— for my own practice I've written out the combinations in 3/4 and 5/4, which is what I'll be posting this week.

There's much further exploration of this in the book than I will be doing here, and you will of course want to get these together in 4/4 as well, so it's highly recommended that you buy the book— it really belongs in every serious drummer's library.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Page o' coordination: in 4/4 — 01

Extending this coordination series a little further, way out there into 4/4. What he have here is a little Elvin Jones-like phrase, ending with an accent on the & of 4, with a space at the beginning of the pattern, for the cymbal to ring through. If you've been putting off getting into this series, I encourage you to take it up; the learning curve is steep but short— you should find the environment reasonably comfortable after learning one or two of these pages. The language we are developing is advanced, but not so advanced you can't use it all the time— when it makes sense musically.

Hopefully you know the drill by now: first play the ostinato until it is comfortable and swinging without any snare drum at all; then learn the entire page; then drill the page with the tom moves. The accents written on the plain ostinato are for phrasing; play them lightly, or not at all, when playing the exercises. Notes in parentheses are optional; where they are present, learn the exercise both with and without those notes. If you experience any problems with the rest at the beginning of the pattern, you can play the snare drum lightly on 1 until you get the timing. You may also find it easier to start the exercise playing the ride cymbal on 1, and then playing the pattern as written on the repeats.

Get the pdf

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

From the zone: Weckl's paradiddle-diddles

It took awhile, but I finally stumbled across some old scribbled-out exercises conceivably worth sharing as part of this from the zone series. So far the only person brave enough to submit anything has been Marco from the Netherlands— and he sent me a few more cool things I'll be sharing soon. So, once again, if you have any hard, weird, scribbled-out relics of your personal woodshed time, I invite you to hastily scan them, or take a digital photo of them, and send them in. That they look like hell is kind of the point, so don't worry about your penmanship. I can even share them anonymously if you're embarrassed to ever have conceived of such a thing.

I think this is from about 1987, scribbled in the margin of Vol. III of Gary Chaffee's Patterns. It's a thing I call (starting now) Weckl's paradiddle-diddles, with some variations. There's probably at least equal justification for calling it Gadd's or Elvin's or somebody else's paradiddle-diddles, but I got it from Dave Weckl. It's a RLRRLL pattern, beginning with two accents, with the final left hand double played on the bass drum. Some of the variations put the left hand accent before the right, or put the bass drum double right after the accents, but the basic idea is the same:

This came up when I was transcribing a bunch of stuff with Weckl on it— Why Not? by Michel Camilo, Gdansk by Paquito d'Rivera, whatever else I could get my hands on— and it turned up a lot. He really seemed to favor the first two: RLRRBB and especially RLLBBL, which he would play RLLBBR-L, ending with a left hand accent on the snare drum or tom. It occurs here at 0:28 and several times after 0:44:

VOQOTD: Stephen King

From Stephen King's On Writing:

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.

There's a musical parallel to that, and it is exact:

If you want to be a musician, you must do two things above all others: listen a lot and play a lot.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Odd meter samba?

This line from Peter Erskine's The Drum Perspective is pretty much an instant classic:

I've felt strongly, for a long time now, that instead of seducing and encouraging the younger and learning drummer to practice, among other things, funk-rock beats in 7/4, odd-time sambas(!) or other marginally important aspects of the craft, young drummers should be encouraged to think. To play creatively. To compose on the instrument.

That parenthetical exclamation point speaks volumes— what the hell are you thinking, it says. This is an abomination. You're taking one of the most perfect, human dance musics of the world and turning it into an intellectual game, or a vehicle for exercising your technical prowess. It was compelling to me, and though I've never been much of a thinker in my playing, I've tried to live by that statement in my own way, particularly with regards to playing creatively, and not bothering with stuff that was marginal to what was going on in my own musical world.

And yet here we are. Let's listen:

Here's the primary groove, from the beginning of the tune; there is a lot of variation in the left hand part:

More transcribed grooves, and a few thoughts on this after the break:

Monday, March 18, 2013

DBMITW: Manguiera

The sound quality is not great, but this is worth watching all the way through— I just watched it three times:

One of my favorite tamborim rhythms occurs here several times— you can use that in your left hand (or both hands together) when playing samba or bossa nova:

Sunday, March 17, 2013

“Amazing” vs. “hired”

Received this in my email without comment from Portland drummer Ron Steen. Ron is an accomplished jazz musician, and has been running jam sessions locally for decades now, and has been the first gatekeeper encountered by many, many young would-be jazz drummers in the region, myself included.

I'm not sure if this went out to his entire mailing list, or if he's trying to tell me something:

The thing illustrated here is never far from the mind of anyone who has spend more than a couple of years in the field, though as the professional situation has gone full rust-belt in recent years, you get the impression that a younger generation of players is less aware of it. For them, there's nothing to be hired for, so all they're left with is:

End of story. I think the amazingness problem is worse out in drummer-land than it is among jazz players— most of the under-30ish jazz guys I know are taking advantage of the freedom of unemployment the same way I did, by making “artists” out of themselves. But I also paid a decade of dues living on a boat, playing 30's tunes, among other things, and I think these players would be better off if they did some of that, too— you can hear its absence in their playing.

To be clear, nothing we do on this blog is about being amazing, or about working on complicated things because we like being fascinated by them. On the whole I think we do a good job of keeping things real.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Free shipping on book orders

I should let you know that Lulu, the company that prints our books, is offering free shipping on book orders over $50 through March 17— tomorrow night. So you can save big if you order, oh, both of the Cruise Ship Drummer! books, plus one of the many other drumming books available through the site.

Two of the more interesting-looking things I found:

The epic The Drummer's Workbook by Jay Lawrence, a 223 page, “six pronged” approach to nearly everything to do with drumming.

Chordal Drumming by Maximilian Oepen, which looks like an interesting reinterpretation and refinement of the things found in the middle, “harmonic” section of Dahlgren & Fine.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Groove o' the day: DC Go-go

In the late 80's my old friend and cohort Kirk Ross went off to Berklee and brought back some tapes of Chuck Brown & the Soul Searchers, and Trouble Funk— Go-go, Washington DC's special variety of funk. All the songs had this same swinging groove on them, and the word was that bands would play all night over this same beat without breaking. The version of it that stuck with me the most was Ricky Wellman's, playing with Chuck Brown, which is what we're going to look at here.

The hihat is generally played two handed, with a lot of embellishment and improvisation over the relatively static snare and bass groove; the hihat part here is just a starting place— listen to the music to see where to go with it. Swing the 16ths on all of these, and play the open hihat strongly. Catch the snare with your right hand.

I forgot to put in the key to the staff, as I sometimes do— see the other GOTD's if you don't know what to hit.

Here's an alternative place for the open hihat:

Here's a favorite variation of mine— this occurs at 2:10 in the audio. Play the hihat strongly all the way through on this one:

The same thing with a triplet embellishment; stick that RRL, accenting the left:

Audio after the break:

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Bembe Wheel coordination

Here are some generic snare drum and bass drum coordination/performance patterns for use with the bell patterns in the Bembe Wheel. Each one of those patterns deserves at least one individually-tailored “page o' coordination”, but these will get you started:

Play each exercise individually along with every bell pattern in the Bembe Wheel, then combine bass drum and snare drum patterns with the bell patterns. Actually, that's no small assignment. If you're having any trouble reading the 12/8, note that the hihat part keeps a steady dotted-quarter note pulse throughout every exercise.

UPDATE: The author of the Bembé Wheel idea is Gary Harding, a percussionist, scholar, and teacher from Washington state. For more background, visit his site, .

Working up even a simple independent line vs. a complex bell pattern is challenging, but often there will be just one beat per measure that is actually difficult to coordinate. You'll probably have to break each measure down a bit, just adding one or two beats of the coordination part to the bell part at a time. Look for places where the hands play in unison, or where the combination can be converted to a sticking— adding the 'B' (for Both hands) to your sticking repertoire is helpful:

That's the fifth snare drum pattern from this page combined with the well-known “short” bell pattern from the BW page. The sticking ignores the hihat part, obviously.

Get the pdf

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Clive Burr 1957-2013

Sorry to hear that original Iron Maiden drummer (he played on the first records, anyway) Clive Burr died yesterday, of multiple sclerosis, at age 56. Heavy metal drummers tend to be pretty anonymous sounding to me, but I always thought he managed to project a personal voice, and I was sorry when he didn't appear on Piece of Mind, the last Maiden record I ever bought, in 1983.

Here's one of my old favorite tracks of his, from the band's early, punkish days. Listening back to this stuff, there is so obviously a tight band chemistry; no doubt they were playing together a lot, doing a ton of gigs, and made this record in a few days:

Monday, March 11, 2013

African bell pattern and its inversions

What we have here is the familiar 12/8 or 6/8 bell pattern (here called “short”; in the US it's commonly called “Afro-Cuban”, or Naningo, or Bembé), run through several common inversions, each starting on a different note of the pattern. Users call this the Bembe wheel (or Bembe Wheels, or the Wheels of Bembe). It's not my original thing, but it has been kicked around the web enough that I'm not sure who to credit for it, other than the Ewe people of Ghana.

UPDATE: The author of this methodology is Gary Harding, a percussionist, scholar, and teacher from Washington state. There is further information on his site, which you can regard as authoritative— if there's any conflict with anything I say about this, go with Gary's info.

You can find it easily in “tab” form, but here it is for people who read music:

The patterns called “long” and especially  “short” will be most familiar. I always thought I was pretty sophisticated, African-influenced cat for occasionally using the long pattern, but as you can see there's quite a bit more to it than that.

Here's an article comparing the inversions of the bell pattern with the melodic modes in European music, which you could say are formed in a similar way. Use with caution— there is no actual connection I am aware of between the two things in practice or in history. I guess the conclusion we are meant to draw is that humans apply similar logic to music across cultures and media. But it wouldn't be a bad practice to think of the inversions as rhythmic modes, each with its own special color. And it may be that that is what is done; I'm a simple jazz drummer, and this concept is as new to me as it is to many of you.

Coming up we'll look at a few ways of developing this on the drum set.

Get the pdf

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Much more on the Baby groove

Here's more than you ever wanted to know about a song you never heard until a few days ago, “Baby” by Caetano Veloso. It's not exactly the most important thing ever, but it's on my mind right now, and it's interesting because it's written in 3/4, and performed with a built-in 4:3 polyrhythm. And we don't see enough Brazilian tunes in 3 to know what to do with them when they come up.

With this song, there is a built-in tension between feeling it this way:

 ...that is, in 3/4 with a superimposed 4 in the guitar/keyboards/higher-pitched percussion, vs. feeling it this way: a triplet feel in 4, with the 3 in the bass drum/bass line. In the recording from the “page o' coordination” the two are pretty evenly balanced, but as we'll see in a moment, they aren't always.

First, here is a lead sheet for the song— I suggest following along with it while listening through the original Gal Costa recording:

Much more after the break:

Friday, March 08, 2013

Groove o' the day: Ed Blackwell — Lop-o-lop

Another Ed Blackwell 6/8 today, from an album you may have some trouble finding, Dewey Redman's Tarik, on Aktuel. The drums play in two, and the bass (Malachi Favors, I think?) plays a fast 6.

He moves the left hand around quite a bit— either tom, snare, snare with snares off. This version includes some variations he does, usually not all at the same time:

That is a fast left hand double between the toms at the end there. He'll occasionally just play the left hand in unison with the bell part.

Audio after the break:

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Writing drum charts

I just happened across a couple of nice posts on how to write a drum chart— that is, a handwritten page of notes sketching out whatever information you need to play through a song or arrangement.

My own MO is to write the charts, and then not look at them when I'm actually playing, so I'm probably not the best person to write about the subject. Usually the listening I have to do to make them is enough homework to get me through the rehearsals. But writing them is educational, and if you want to do a lot of work for hire you do need to learn use them effectively, so here:

How to write a drum chart, part 1, from Adam Silverman

Fast parts, from Mike James

And looking for an image for this post I found this excellent piece by Michael Green on the Mel Bay site.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

2013 Europe tour taking shape

This way to Hot Club
Dates for my November, 2013 Europe tour are starting to firm up:

Tuesday, November 12
Hot Club de Gand — Ghent, Belgium

Sunday, November 17
Hannut Jazz Festival — Hannut, Belgium

Saturday, November 23
Lokerse Jazzklub — Lokeren, Belgium

Tour personnel will be:
Jean-Paul Estievenart — trumpet
Weber Iago — piano
Olivier Stalon — bass
Todd Bishop — drums

Page o' coordination: “Baby” groove

Well, it took long enough, but I finally have a name for the post-Elvin phase of this coordination series. I don't expect many people will follow me down this particular rabbit hole, but whatever. This is based on the groove for one particular Brazilian tune, “Baby”, by Caetano Veloso, as played by Gal Costa. There are plenty of bossa tunes in 3, but Americans don't seem to play them much; probably the only way I'll end up playing this particular one on a gig is if I put it in my own book.

But no matter. There is a special thing going on with the groove; there is a 4:3 polyrhythm is built into it, with the bass playing in 3 and the guitar in 4, and the percussion mixing it up between them. Maybe that's a common thing, and I just haven't heard enough Brazilian music in 3. There's actually very little drums on the recording, so I put together some parts that seem to work, and are reasonably correct.

The left hand parts are meant to be quasi-functional. I think there's enough activity here to do these without the tom moves, but if you want to go crazy with this— crazier— I can't stop you. If you need more action, I would try experimenting with the tonality on the bass drum, playing the 1 and the 3 as dead strokes, and 2 as an open sound. Note that the e of 3 is accented in the percussion on the recording— do what you will with that information.

More likely you will need to simplify. At first, try losing a) the right hand floor tom note on 2, b) the accent/hihat splash on 2, c) the left foot altogether. Or just play your left foot in unison with the bass drum. Don't freak out when you get to the last line; take it slow, and apply what you know about the dotted 16th/32nd rhythm. I've also written that pattern in half time, so if you need to, you can use that to get the coordination together.

Obviously, on the real tune the feel is very delicate, and sparse. Learning these by playing them with the 1969 recording of the tune by Gal Costa will help keep this a musical study and not just a goofy coordination workout.

Get the pdf

Audio after the break:

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Basic 16th note rhythms

Have I ever told you I like using the easy parts of Syncopation? Here's part 2 of that library piece from the other day, in this case converting the quarter note exercises to 16th notes in 2/4, presented for no other reason than to flesh out that book a little more fully. And I have a few students who can use it right now.

Get the pdf

Monday, March 04, 2013

Got my Chick cymbal

The original, signed by Roy Haynes.
The nice thing about Paiste cymbals— most of them— is that when you hear a sound you like, you can duplicate it almost exactly by just buying the same type and model of cymbal. They're very consistent, even across decades; my circa mid-60's 20" 602 medium ride, though a little played-out, is obviously the same basic cymbal as the current reissued 602s.

So after many years of listening to Chick Corea's Now He Sings, Now He Sobs and Return To Forever I was very excited the other day when the type of cymbal used on those records, an 18" Paiste 602 Flat Ride— in this case a 1975 Medium Flat— arrived in the mail. There seem to be some differences of opinion as to what the cymbal was, exactly— whether it was a medium or a thin. I always thought it was a 22", based on a random comment by my brother, but the consensus is that it was an 18", and comparing my cymbal with the recordings that makes sense.  My medium is definitely on the lighter side of that category, and crashes better than you would expect, and is still a very light-sounding instrument. Chick's cymbal is a “pre-serial” model, meaning it was manufactured before Paiste started stamping serial numbers on them.

Continued after the break:

Saturday, March 02, 2013

5/4 jazz ostinato with snare drum — 01

Another in the Dahlgren & Fine-esque, post Elvin's Afro-Waltz series of stuff, here with a slightly more normal jazz ostinato. I keep writing these because I like practicing them, and learning them gets a lot easier after you've done a couple. I also need to do some easier ones for my students. Hopefully, if you're actually working on these, you've gotten to the point where you can deal with them as entire pages, or even series of pages, rather than as a lot of randomly difficult one-measure patterns.

As always, apply the tom moves. Swing the 8th notes. Since the feet pattern is slightly less dense than the other entries in this series, you might try substituting another cymbal pattern for the given one. As you get very comfortable with this page, you can occasionally accent the & of 5, tying the note through the following downbeat— so you won't be playing the 1 on the BD/cym.

Get the pdf

Friday, March 01, 2013

Basic 8th note rhythms

This is a straight library piece— I've just transcribed the quarter note exercises from Reed into 8th notes in cut time, which will be more useful to me than the original. This same basic collection of rhythms certainly exists elsewhere, but I like connecting things to Syncopation, and following its format.

The bass drum part is included for the sake of tradition, I guess; I never use the written BD part when working with Reed. At the end I've included the Reed's 16 bar exercise, which is now an 8 bar exercise, but is still called “16 bar exercise”, which is certainly going to be confusing, and I should probably revise that.

Get the pdf