Monday, September 30, 2013

More technique

This is one of the more memorable quotes from the pianist Kenny Werner's book Effortless Mastery— I think a lot of people noticed it, and fully embraced it:

Once after playing a concert an interviewer asked me, “If you could add anything to your playing, what would it be?” Without hesitation I answered,  “More technique.” He looked at me strangely because I had shown a lot of different skills in this performance, and that didn't seem to be my most pressing need. Also, it was not the most politically correct answer. He asked why, and I replied “Because I love to let the great spirit manifest through me. She only gets stuck when I go for something that's not there technically. That distracts me from the bliss I am receiving.”

I don't disagree with it, but in light of the current wave of obsession with pure technical prowess, maybe we should throw this into the mix, from William S. Burroughs:

I am frequently asked, “What would you do if you were President? What would you do if you were the dictator of America? What would you do if you had a billion dollars?” In the words of my friend the late Ahmed Jacoubi, “This question is not personal opinion.” A prior question must be asked: “How did you get to be the President, a dictator, a billionaire?” The answers to these questions will condition what you will do. For one is not magically teleported into these positions; one gets there by a series of discrete steps, each step hedged with conditions and prices.

Friday, September 27, 2013

VOQOTD: Lew Tabackin on Billy Higgins

“Playing with Billy was like heaven. He was the greatest collaborator in the history of jazz. He played exactly right for you at exactly the right time. His dynamics were perfect, he balanced his energy off of your energy. It was the perfect ratio between his intensity and your intensity. I remember one time a friend of mine played with Billy. I said 'hey how was it playing with Higgins.' He said, 'you know I was expecting more energy.' I said, 'no man that's not the way it works. He plays off your energy. He your energy is low, he's not going to kick your ass.'

I did a month tour with Billy and Charlie Haden and every night was perfect. There wasn't one time where you thought; 'we'll he's not having a good night.' I've never experienced anything like that since. That consistently musical swinging creative reality. I could hear the harmony when he would play the drums.”
—Lew Tabackin on Billy Higgins

Quote courtesy of the Jake Feinberg Show. He's got a ton of great interviews with famous jazz musicians at his site. You can also follow him on Facebook.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Page o' coordination: 6/8 clave in the right hand

Hey, we haven't had a page o' coordination in awhile. I've been spending a lot of time with the Afro-Cuban stuff lately, via our page of Mozambique, the 6/8 page from last year, and with Ed Uribe's massive book; and I don't know why, but the POC format doesn't seem real necessary for the Latin styles. But here's one: 6/8 Rumba clave in the right hand, with a bombo-style bass drum part. 

The parenthesis on the bass drum note indicate that it is optional— run the exercises with that note, and without it. I don't put left hand accents in any of these “pages o'”, but when I practice them I do add them to varying degrees, based on what feels and sounds good. Also on the the Latin feel pages especially, I'll feel free to make rim shots out of some of them, and to generally vary the sound I'm getting out of the drums.

Don't forget to do the tom moves— they're good not just for helping you get around the drums, but for making you play enough repetitions to really learn the patterns.

Get the pdf

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Groove o' the day: Bill Withers — Lovely Night For Dancing

This is by 70's session drummer Alvin Taylor, who's fairly little-known, but is on a lot of stuff. Here he's with Bill Withers, on the album Menagerie. The song, Lovely Night For Dancing, is kind of a high-70's, feel-good, throwaway number— Ain't No Sunshine it ain't— but I appreciate it on its own terms, and for the craft of it. Here's the groove Taylor holds for the whole tune almost without variation:

Like a lot of our recent GsOTD, there's not a lot of drummery interest here, but this is almost our whole job. Laying down time is exciting. It's exciting to listen to someone do it well.

Audio after the break:

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Good reading

Ignore the model's bad posture, tucked-in
muscle shirt, and Bay City Rollers
hairdo, and buy the book. 
If you've worked with Ted Reed's Syncopation in any serious way you've probably sensed that it has a few limitations. It's also such a central text— you can and should do nearly everything with it— that you can get to the point where you feel you've worked its raw material to death, if not its possibilities. The style of notation can be a little formulaic, and there are a few subjects that aren't given the famous page 37 treatment: 16th notes, triplets, and any meter other than 4/4, for starters.

A good supplement, then, is Syncopated Rhythms for the Contemporary Drummer, by Chuck Kerrigan. It's 101 pages long, written in a similar style to the middle part (about pp. 29-44) of Syncopation, and has sections dealing with quarter notes, 8th notes, triplets, and 16th notes. It's mostly in 4/4, but there are also exercises in 3/4 and 5/4. Exercises are one, 12, 16, and 32 measures long. One-measure ideas are presented in four-measure phrases, with varied notation and accenting:

This varied way of writing the same basic rhythm is very helpful— it's not the same rhythm, actually, because the lengths of the notes are different; but the notes all begin in the same places from measure to measure— so the exercises read more like a real piece of music than do those in Reed, and gets you (or your students) thinking about how to handle variably long and short notes. A similar thing is done in Louis Bellson's Reading Text in 4/4, another popular Reed alternative, but the notation in that book is so far out that it is, for me, impractical— you're not likely to see rhythms written the way they often are in Bellson, and if you did, they would be considered extremely poor practice on the part of the copyist. Kerrigan offers a nice, realistic middle ground.

You can see that he includes written accents, which are not present in Syncopation— I haven't incorporated them into any of my own methods, but they add another level of possibility to the exercises.

The triplet section will be welcome to a lot of people, as drummers seem to be getting serious about dealing with triplet partials in a systematic way. In Reed, the middle note of the triplet is purely incidental— it is only present with the rest of the triplet, or as an un-notated filler note. Which is actually the correct place for it; it's not normally used in jazz, except along with the rest of the triplet, or as part of a quarter note or half note triplet, or as a “late” note— an effect. But now drummers like Ari Hoenig* are making it a regular part of the language, and Kerrigan's exercises will help develop that. It's more a native thing to African and Afro-Cuban music, which is how I use them— along with the Afro 6/8 bell pattern, for example.

Likewise, people working a lot with The New Breed, or who are just more accustomed to thinking in terms of 16th notes, will appreciate the 16th note section.

In the Reed tradition, Kerrigan includes a simplified bass drum part, which will likely be ignored by everyone, the same as it is with Reed. He has also added a hihat part, with notes in parenthesis indicating optional notes, or silent notes “played” with the heel of the foot when playing the hihat with a stepped, heel-toe type of technique.

Self-teachers will also appreciate the included summary of interpretive methods— sixteen of them—  for applying the rhythms to the drumset. I know the Internet is rife with people who bought Syncopation on the recommendation of, well, everyone in the world, but then didn't know what to do with it, because they didn't have a teacher, and the book doesn't really explain itself.

Now that I've sold you on the book, you'll be happy to know that it appears to be out of print! Hence the goofy mid-late-80's cover art. But there are ample links to it on Google, and you should be able to pick up a used copy on Amazon, Ebay, or somewhere else for about $10 or less.

* - It's not really fair to credit Hoenig with that, because drummers have obviously been messing with it for quite some time now; but he's the main guy who's make a point of talking about it lately.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Page of polyrhythms

I'm bogging down in a couple of very wordy pieces, so a little light fare today— just a page of two-voice polyrhythms written out in the simplest possible form. They are written in the form of a ratio: x:y— meaning, x number of evenly spaced notes played simultaneously with, and in the same space as, y number of evenly spaced notes. I only ever use 3:2 and 4:3 in actual playing, but it's fun to fool with the further-out ones, too. These should be playable by anyone with a basic grasp of 16th note and triplet/compound-meter rhythms:

We've got all non-reduceable combinations between 2 and 8, except 7:5, because, well, it didn't fit on the page, and the shortest way to write it without resorting to quintuplets or septuplets is:

...and without the measure of 5/8, it would take seven measures of 15/8 to resolve to a unison on beat 1. Kind of a nightmare.

Play these first with just the hands (playing different sounds), and then with all other combinations of limbs. You could also add a third limb playing the downbeats, or on every beat, or every two beats. Or on the major subdivision of that exercise— 8th notes, triplets, or 16th notes. Whatever works. I don't believe there's any special need to become very fluent with many of these, or to worry about bringing them into your actual playing, but working through them does improve your understanding of rhythm and meter.

I'll give you the steps for writing your own patterns in a few days.

Get the pdf

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Page of Mozambique — UPDATED

I've been working with our earlier page of Mozambique quite a bit (yes, I do in fact practice the non-transcription stuff I post here), and thought it could use a bit of refining, so here we are. Mainly, I've included some bass drum variations, and made the order of practice a little clearer:

You can form a concise-to-substantial workout by combining all of the hand parts with all of the feet parts. Ed Uribe says you need to play the entire array of combinations with your right hand on the cymbal bell, and then the whole thing again with your RH on the cowbell, the hihat, and the shell or rim of the floor tom. That may seem excessive, but it certainly forces enough repetition that you will know the pattern. It will also develop your touch on each of those parts of the instrument— playing the shell of the floor tom is not the same as playing the bell of the cymbal.

That's a big workout, and you will have to prioritize at first. Once you've run each measure individually, and are ready to play them with hihat and bass drum together, learn the page thoroughly with just one hihat part, and one bass drum part. Then run the whole page with the same HH part, with each of the bass drum variations in turn. You might start introducing the hihat variations (there is one written, but five implied) at the same time as you are repeating all of the patterns with your RH playing the different sounds. I would put the lowest priority on playing the clave rhythms with your left foot.

Get the pdf

After the break are some good tracks to practice with.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Massive brain dump

Blogger is acting funny this morning, not letting me upload images, so instead maybe you should visit Jon McCaslin's Four On The Floor for a trove of great stuff he has posted under the innocuous heading Monday Morning Paradiddle— surely just a little routine light reading? Included are several clips with the great, late, Steve Berrios, Carl Allen talking about the ride cymbal, and a great clinic video with Adam Nussbaum, which is so good in the first 60 seconds I'll go ahead and post it myself:


He says some really important stuff in that first minute, like:

“Every time I get a chance to play with good people, I learn something.” 

I would say I learn something in any playing situation at all, which I think he would agree with, as he refines that a second later:

“In any situation there's something to be learned.” 

 As much great music as Nussbaum has played, for so many years, you would think he has seen everything and would know everything, but I believe him. Early on you learn obvious things you could state verbally, like: “Oh, Star Eyes has that little figure attached to it.” or “Oh, I guess I need to learn how to play a cha cha.” Or “Oh, I guess sometimes there's nothing I can do to make the music sound good.” On a higher level, you're just adding to your playing intelligence— the thing that functions in the intersection of your ears, your nonverbal mind, and your limbs. That happens any time you negotiate a musical interaction with other musicians, while paying attention and trying to make the music sound good— any situation, with any players, good or bad.  

Also, he states the Cruise Ship Drummer! credo, if there ever was one:

“There's no such thing as a stupid gig, just a bad attitude.”

That's an easy one when you're a comfortable distance away, but people have a hard time following it in the field.

Anyway, go pay Jon a visit while the Blogger people finish dealing with, I don't know, software pixies, and I can post normally again.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Groove o' the day: Vinnie Colaiuta — The Central Scrutinizer

The pdf links for last week's Zappa features are now down, so, to assuage the pain for those of you who missed them, here's Vinnie Colaiuta's drum groove from The Central Scrutinizer, the opening track from Joe's Garage. In 1985, during the long drum corps tour bus rides, and in the following year in school, I managed to transcribe a big chunk of the drumming on that record; I've been coming back to it a bit recently to see if the experience is any different after nearly 30(?!) years.

Note that there are two toms played, and they are written on the top space, and the line below it. There are a lot of variations in the bass drum part, especially on beat 3. These exact variations occur frequently on beats 1 and 4:

I was going to write out the whole thing, but the track is essentially just a 4-bar vamp with a little B-section, and obviously recorded blind, with the vocals and sound effects mixed in later— Zappa likely just had the rhythm section play generically off of the vamp for a few minutes, and that was it— and I kind of lost interest. But Vinnie's fills are fun, and there's a nostalgia factor at work, so maybe we'll get to a full transcription a little later.

Audio after the break:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Our first-ever FUND RAISER

“Hell, I need you...”
—Champ Kind
A hearty “thank you” to everyone who contributed in 2013! And thanks everyone for reading— the fund-raiser proper is over but your support is always welcome. -tb

Well, as we near the end of our third year as a content-heavy, quasi-daily drumming blog, that day has finally come— time to ask you for money:

I think you'll agree that Cruise Ship Drummer! is a unique resource on the Internet— you can scroll through our downloads archive for evidence of that— especially considering we are a one-man, basically non-commercial, unpaid operation. Creating this volume of quality content takes a significant amount of time and energy, and your cash contribution help insure that we are able to continue it as a regular thing.

Any amount you are able to contribute is welcome— just please show that you value us enough to support us with some number of your actual dollars.

Contribute to the blog the price of:

The money raised will be going immediately towards a couple of upcoming recording projects, as well as some light roof repairs. Any larger donations insure that we can keep posting consistently into the future, and hopefully expand our operation.

Transcription: Terry Bozzio — Rubber Shirt

Let's consider this a special feature for the funds drive; like the other Zappa thing this week, I'll be taking it down in a few days and submitting it to Drum! Magazine, so get it while you can.

Rubber Shirt is an improvised duo by Terry Bozzio and bassist Patrick O'Hearn, from Frank Zappa's 1979 album Sheik Yerbouti. Aside from being great music, what's interesting about it is that, seemingly impossibly, it was created by putting together bass and drum tracks from different tunes, different sessions, and in different meters. Recording musicians who worry about loss of “chemistry” when overdubbing parts— even solos— take heed. Things tend to work together and make their own chemistry just because you put them together, and that's a beautiful thing.

The drum track is in 11/8, phrased as 4/4+3/8. There's one measure of 6/4, which is either a mistake by Bozzio, or part of the arrangement of whatever tune he was originally recording. I've forgotten O'Hearn's meter, and didn't have time to figure it out; you can get out your copies of The Real Frank Zappa Book if you want to look it up.

Bozzio is using his large Rototom drumset here; I think I've notated for five tom toms. If you don't have that many, it doesn't matter; just figure out a way to do it with what you do have. There are a few special licks which I haven't taken the time to make head or tail of— I just tried to get what I was hearing onto the paper in a realistic-seeming way; aside from being kind of fast, it may take a little analysis to make them work on the drums. Don't hesitate to make changes if what is on the paper is not playable.

Get the pdf [This was a special thing for the fund raiser, and the link is now dead. I'll announce when/if it will occur in print.]

Audio after the break:

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Groove o' the day: Ndugu Leon Chancler afro 12/8

Here's a very fun tune, with Ndugu Leon Chancler playing an unusual form of an Afro 12/8, on the late, great, George Duke's 1977 album Reach For It. The track is called Omi. There's lots of percussion, and Ndugu mostly provides the foundation, and marks the big phrases. He uses a bell pattern I've never heard anywhere else— I'll start calling it Ndugu's pattern unless anyone can remember hearing it actually being used in Afro-Cuban music. He plays this on the intro:

Here's the variation he plays on most of the tune. The bass drum note at the end of measure is played lightly, often not at all:

From some months ago, here's a transcription of another thing from this record, Watch Out, Baby!, with some great large-drumset funk drumming.

Audio after the break:

Monday, September 09, 2013

Survival chops: six-stroke rolls

Or as I usually call them, “Swiss” sixtuplets— that's my own coinage, based on  an overheard  conversation between two drum corps legends, George Tuthill and Alan Kristensen, who were my corps director and percussion instructor in 1984-85. George was mentioning to Alan that Swiss rudimental drummers play sixtuplets not as singles, as Americans do, but with the RLLRRL sticking. I don't know if that's accurate, or even if I heard him exactly right. It doesn't matter; I still call them that. Usually in the US they're referred to as six-stroke rolls,

I guess we'll put this in the old “survival chops” series; these are very easy to play, and fun, and you will quickly come to rely them as a primary go-to lick for soloing and more dense fills.

Hopefully the formatting isn't not too hard on the eyes. When using these on the drumset, try catching a cymbal on some or all of the accents, along with the bass drum. A hip, fusiony lick of Dave Weckl's is to play the second double in the pattern on the bass drum. Have fun.

Get the pdf

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Transcription: Frank Zappa — I'm A Beautiful Guy

This is a fairly epic two-minute thing I should really be submitting to Drum! or Modern Drummer, but— well, actually, I'm going to do that, so you'd better get this while you can, because I'll be pulling it at the end of the funds drive. After that, you'll have to wait and see if it comes up in one of those magazines.

So: This is “I'm A Beautiful Guy”, from Frank Zappa's You Are What You Is, and it looks pretty scary— it is pretty scary— but it should be well within the grasp of most early college-level drummers. In fact it would make a nice college audition or jury piece. Or you can just make a YouTube cover of it. I've written this to be as playable as possible, instead of an exact note-for-note transcription, but I haven't edited out much. The drummer is the little-known, and highly underrated David Logeman, who kills it all the way through this record.

The chart calls for a drum set with four tom toms, plus two Roto-toms or bongos, but you should be able to adapt it to any sized drumset. If I can be bothered to drag out my 10" tom tom, I'll be working  it up on a five-piece.

To approach this thing, first just listen through the recording with the printed transcription, and try counting through the meter changes. Then you can start trying to reconcile the notes on the page with what you're hearing. The major grooves or repeated figures that occur during the piece happen at measures 1-2, 8 and 11, 28-31, 42-43, 59-60, and 84-85. After you've looped those and can play them at tempo, try working up whole sections: 1-22, 23-38, 39-53, 54-81, and 82-end. You'll probably need to isolate several of the fills, especially the one at 17-18. With those septuplets that occur several times, use the sticking RLRLRLL.

Good luck!

Get the pdf [This was a special feature for the fund raiser, and the link is now down— I'll announce when and if it will occur in print. -tb]

Audio after the break:

It's a flam accent throwdown!

Oh, it's on.* I guess. At least, Sam Nadel has posted a nice flammed triplet warm-up, and, inspired by that, I wrote a similar one of my own, with flam drags, and same-handed flam accents, a pseudo-rudiment I use a lot:

It's short, so you could stretch it out by repeating each line, and the entire four measure “hot lick”, maybe playing the drags on the repeat only. In its complete form it's pretty challenging, so you'll certainly want to leave the drags out at first— and maybe even the flams, and get the lay of it just playing accented triplets, with the mixed sticking.

And just so drag notation is clear to everybody, the first measure would be played like this:

Get the pdf

Friday, September 06, 2013

Transcription: more Frankie, more Jackie-ing

Let's really Dunlop out during this fundraising drive. Here's part 2 of yesterday's most— Frankie Dunlop's actual solo on Jackie-ing, from Thelonious Monk's Live In Stockholm 1961 album:

Note that he feathers the bass drum most of the way through the solo; written bass drum notes are mostly accents. If you've worked through any of my transcriptions, you'll notice that I don't tend to write accents on the toms— they're usually played strongly by default.

Once again, the solo has gone longer than a single chorus— almost by two full A sections; and the ending is sketchy— Monk effectively makes a measure of 2/4 coming in with the melody where he does. Dunlop seems to be simplifying at the end of the chorus (the last measures of page 1), but maybe his cue wasn't strong enough, or the band was thinking about something else, and they don't come back in with the head there. It gets a little ragged after that— the 1 gets a little ambiguous; maybe Dunlop was slightly flustered. He never wavers, though, and is right on it when Monk comes in in a place he probably didn't expect. People get nit-picky/embarrassed about this stuff, but it happens to the best of them.

This would be a good time to re-read Dunlop's comments on playing with Monk, culled from his old Modern Drummer interview.

Get the pdf

See the previous post for the audio.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Transcription: Frankie Dunlop — Jackie-ing

Here's Frankie Dunlop's opening solo chorus from Jackie-ing, on Thelonious Monk's Live In Stockholm 1961— a really great record. As I mentioned, I'm transcribing a whole lot of drum intros this week, so far mostly focusing on 40's drummers— the original bop guys, and swing players who updated their style for the bop era. Clearly all of them did a ton of work with swing bands, and the way they play their intros largely reflects that— in the vocabulary, and in seeming kind of workman-like.

Coming to Dunlop after that, we're suddenly in Technicolor. He's playing the whole instrument, where the earlier players tended to mostly play the snare drum and hihats, and a little bit of bass drum. His playing is fully melodic, and, though simple, fully modern— a little abstract, with no apparent baggage of having slogged through many thousands of hours of playing dance bands (though he certainly did his share of that). He sounds like an artist.

Jackie-ing is a 32 bar tune, but here he plays 36; I thought that might be due to repeating the last four bars on the head out, but Monk always takes it right out, ending on the last note of the melody. Since I have another recording with a 42 bar drum intro, the extra four bars appears to be accidental. Usually the reason for that is that is a combination of the band being lazy about following the form while the drums are playing, and are just waiting for a cue, along with the drummer getting wrapped up in playing the solo, and forgetting to set up the end of the form until it's too late. I guess that can even happen with Monk's band.

Swing the 8th notes, of course. Use the stickings of your choice on the 16ths and triplets— very likely there are some paradiddles, double paradiddles, and paradiddle-diddles in there.

Get the pdf

Audio after the break:

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Groove o' the day: Al Foster — Chick's Tune

I was working on our upcoming Book of Intros, and came across this cool Latin groove from a teenage Al Foster, playing on Blue Mitchell's album The Thing To Do. The tune is Chick's Tune, and he plays this during the brief Latin sections on the head:

This has a nice, relaxed Elvin-like feel, and should work at a variety of tempos— it reminds me of a previous GOTD by Jack Dejohnette. At faster tempos, you can break up the four 8th notes in the first measure, giving you a Mozambique-like bell pattern:

I can see adding a bass drum note on the & of 4 of the second measure, and hihat on beats 2 and 4. Experiment with the feet, and see what works for you.

The book, by the way, is going to be a collection of transcribed drum intros from jazz recordings from the 30's-present. Hopefully we'll have that ready to go before the end of the year.

Audio after the break:

Monday, September 02, 2013

Making bass drum punctuations while feathering

A couple of the problems I have with the idea of playing time with the bass drum (“feathering”) in jazz are: 1) it's easy to play the feathered notes too loud— a very hokey thing in 2013— and 2) it can be restricting; if you don't have a lot of facility, your foot will be so busy playing the near-inaudible feathered notes that you don't play anything else. The latter wasn't a huge problem in 1945, when the drummer's job was quite a bit narrower than it is now, and players could get by just knowing a few stock punctuations; in modern playing we have to do more, and we like more freedom. So here is a collection of exercises to begin developing some dynamic control over the bass drum while feathering: 

Play the hihat and cymbal at an even mf, while exaggerating the dynamics on the bass drum— play the accented notes strongly, and the unaccented notes extremely softly— don't let their volume creep up. At very slow tempos, you might actually practice playing an upstroke on the feathered note right before an accent, and maybe a downstroke on the accented note— or the last accented note.

Get the pdf