Monday, March 31, 2014

Todd's methods: Reed with RB and BR

Playing Latin styles, you end up using a lot of sticking combinations of RB and BR— B meaning both hands together— so here's a basic way of using Ted Reed's Syncopation to work on that. This will help not only with Latin, but with linear funk and fusion, broken jazz time, “ECM” feel, whatever. Mainly we're playing the melody line from Reed (pp. 33-44, old edition) with your right hand on the ride cymbal or hihat, and adding a left, on the snare drum, to the first or second note of any double— that's any 8th note followed by another note. 

Adding the left to the second note of the double, using the RB sticking, the first line of p. 37 would be played like this:

Going into the last measure, there are three fast notes in a row; in that case I add the snare to the end— RRB. But you could play those three note groupings as RBR if you wanted to. 

Line 8 of that same exercise: 

And line 1 of the second long syncopation exercise, page 38: 

Continued after the break: 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

VOQOTD: the drummer's job

I just try to play the compositions, not so much imposing any particular kind of rhythm on any particular tune or composition—but to try and interpret the composition as if I’m an accompanist, fundamentally. And in addition to that, I’m responsible for the consistency of the tempo. And in addition to that, one has to try to give impetus and support and dynamic support to the different soloists and not to overwhelm them in some way that would make them uncomfortable with themselves and with the music in itself.

— Elvin Jones, interview with Chip Stern

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Do your verry best

From Edward B. Straight's The Straight System, a drum method from 1922, here is a page of performance tips so you can thrive as a society/theater band drummer in the 1910s and 20s:

Some of those are still relevant today. It's sort of an interesting anthropological piece— it gives you an idea of the bad habits of the average working drummer of the era. Not to mention the negative phrasing—obviously of a moralistic time when people were constantly being berated about things they mustn't do. Straight doesn't get talked about much any more, but he's basically the father of modern drumming literature. His books anticipate by several decades things you see in Syncopation, Accents & Rebounds, and Master Studies.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Groove o' the day: Lenny White — Red Clay

Here's a fusion classic, Red Clay, by Freddie Hubbard, as played by Lenny White. For a time this was one of the most-played tunes in the world among college-age jazz musicians:

Lenny plays really on the front of the beat here, in a way I think a lot of people would be uncomfortable with today. That's the way I tend to play, so I like having some hard data on what the best people before me did. I took a close look at it in Audacity, and calculated that the second measure of the vamp consistently averages out to being a couple of BPMs faster than the first measure. The tempo overall does pick up in a minor way; at Lenny's entrance, the tempos on the first two measures is 64 and 66. By the middle of the head we add about 3-4 BPMs, and the tune ends around 69/70. I took a look at the double time during the sax solo, and they do maintain the established tempo— there's no dramatic tempo shift with the feel change.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

CSD! listicle: seven useful rudiments

People always seem to want to know what's the deal with rudiments, what do you use them for, and which ones are the best, coolest, most valuable. So here I'll just shotgun some of my favorites:

Four-stroke ruff
Just a super-useful embellishment. Indispensable when playing brushes. A proper, classically-executed 4SR is three very soft grace notes and a main note, played as tight as you can make them— it should not sound like a rhythm. On the drums we have more freedom with them. You can also do them rock & roll style, and make a 16th note triplet out of them, a la Neil Peart. And you can put them around the drums to make a lick that was very popular in the early 70's.

Six-stroke roll

Either 16th note or sixtuplet form. Hip, and fun to play. Steve Gadd plays them a lot, as does Dave Weckl.

Here's how they are played, and how they are usually written in 16th note pulsation form— a Stewart Copeland-like thing is to play these on the hihat:

Paradiddles — first inversion

It's just a hip rudiment. It's all over this performance, which basically defined modern fusion drumming— just move your right hand to the cymbal or hihat, and add bass drum. You can also mix up the accents between the two single notes. Useful for sambas.


This very old-fashioned rudimental flourish happens to be very good for getting your shuffles together.

Continued after the break:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Rumba clave basic coordination — hands only

Per the title, here we have some basic coordination with rumba clave, for hands only. The first set are just logical patterns based on clave— notes in unison with it, before it, after it, or filling in all of the gaps in it. The other sets build some common bell patterns from scratch, one part at a time, so you can be sure the coordination is completely solid.

If you want to add your feet, some obvious default patterns would be:

Hihat: 2 and 4, 1 and 3, or all four beats
Bass drum: & of 2 of both measures, or & of 2 of the first measure.

You could also do the exercises with your right hand + your left foot playing clave.

Get the pdf

Monday, March 24, 2014

Frankie Dunlop plays an intro

Not much to say about this, except that one of my favorite things ever, Thelonious Monk's Bye-Ya, from the album Monk's Dream, came on KMHD today, and that Frankie Dunlop's opening is just a perfect piece of drumming:

Swing the 8th notes, and use whatever sticking you like— on the triplet licks either LRLRL or RLLRL will work best.

Audio after the break:

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Page of ten stroke rolls

Here's a pretty straightforward page of ten stroke rolls, open, in a variety of rhythms and meters. A ten stroke open roll consists of four doubles and two taps— one at the beginning and one at the end, or both at the end, or both at the beginning. In a few cases there is a third tap, which traditionally would make the thing into an eleven stroke roll— according to Wilcoxon, anyway— but I'm not going to go there; I'm reserving the eleven stroke name for a roll with five doubles and a tap.

If you don't have it already, my page of six stroke rolls is a good companion to this.

Get the pdf

Friday, March 21, 2014

Afro 6/8: a Stone-based method

First, sorry if you want to read about stuff other than this Afro 6/8 thing— you can always do a fresh root-through of our voluminous archives— I happen to be working with this a lot, coming from a lot of different angles. So here's a little Stone application which occurred to me while playing this 6/8 groove (Rumba Columbia, specifically) out of Ed Uribe's The Essence of Afro-Cuban Percussion and Drum Set:

I thought it would be easy/fun/challenging to apply stickings from the first section of Stick Control to the eight notes of the snare and bass drum parts. I play the Rs with the right foot, and the Ls with the left hand, so you would arrive at the above pattern with exercise 4, on page 5 of Stick Control, LLRR LLRR.

Here's the basic right hand/left foot ostinato; the accents will apply only to the bell pattern throughout this method:

Playing exercise 1 on page 5, with a sticking of RLRL, would look like this:

Just to be clear, the written sticking just illustrates how the pattern reflects the exercise out of Stone; you're not playing the sticking with your hands.

Exercise 5, RLRR LRLL, would be played like this:

And exercise 14, RLRL RRLL:

This is should just be an easy little change of gears from the sorts of things we've been doing with the POCs, and should introduce a slightly different way of improvising within this feel. Since there a lot of exercises in Stone, with a lot of redundancy, I would not bother doing our usual tom moves here— I would just plow through as many exercises as possible.

You know what, I think I'm over this whole gun thing.

George Wasson
Non-musical post today, sorry. A cousin of mine, and one of my older living relatives, was murdered with a gun this week in Eugene, Oregon, in the house where he lived since I was a kid, about a 7 minute walk from the house where I grew up, and where my mother still lives. George was a peaceful guy, a scholar of Native American history and culture in Oregon; it's remarkable to me that one guy with a firearm— inherently a cowardly weapon; I see guns primarily as enablers for cowards to commit violence— can, in a second, wipe out a whole lifetime of learning, knowledge, and experience. There aren't many people studying the histories of the tribes he did, and not that many tribal elders period, so a not-insignificant part of the living knowledge of their history is gone. From the University of Oregon's remembrance

George Bundy Wasson, an elder of the Coquille Indian Tribe, renowned storyteller and longtime fixture at the University of Oregon, died Wednesday at his home in Eugene under tragic circumstances. He was 79.

Eugene police say they suspect Wasson was killed by an acquaintance, Ricardo Antonio Chaney, at his home, and that Chaney subsequently set fire to Wasson’s house, according to news reports.

Wasson first enrolled at the UO in 1953 as an undergraduate, studying music. By his own account he struggled, so he took a break before returning in 1968 to complete his degree. He went on to earn a master’s degree in education in 1971, and it was while studying for his master’s he was hired as assistant dean of students, and served in the Office of Academic Advising and Student Services until retiring in 1989.

“Even now I have a number of students tell me my advice or guidance changed their lives,” he said in a 1996 interview. “A lot of students have become some of my best friends. I have gone through their marriages, births and deaths. That is special and rewarding.”

He earned another master’s degree in 1994, and received a Ph.D. in anthropology in 1996. After earning his doctoral degree, he was an assistant professor in the UO’s Central Oregon program in Bend, and in 2006, he was an adjunct professor of history. From 2004 to 2011, he was an adjunct instructor in anthropology.

Wasson helped found the Native American Student Union at the UO in the late 1960s, said Gordon Bettles, a longtime friend of Wasson’s and steward of the Many Nations Longhouse.

George was the son of my grandmother's sister, Bess Finley and George B. Wasson, the senior— a charismatic Indian affairs attorney— who ran off together in the 1920's. He was the grandson of a “real” Indian, a woman who spoke a number of Indian dialects, and, in the early part of her life, would've worn indigenous clothing of deer skin, grass, and cedar bark; who married a white immigrant logger, a George Richardson Wasson, in the 1860's. The generations have a long reach into the past with my family, and its offshoots. Our late George's life overlapped with his grandmother's, and must have been one of the last few people to have known “stone age” members of his tribe first hand, and whatever knowledge he had of them, that did not make it into his scholarly works, has now been annihilated.

I don't know if the small, cowardly, rage-addicted person who killed him would have done so by another means if a gun was not readily available to him (he had several, including one of those useless pieces of garbage, an AR-15 military rifle), or if he would've gone to the trouble of acquiring one illegally. I do know that the gun industry and gun lobby is hell bent on getting as many firearms as possible into circulation among the American populace, and on enabling and normalizing their use in everyday situations, via things like “Stand Your Ground” laws. It's fucking sick, and their mythology of self-defense against rampant crime— a thinly-veiled appeal to racism— and of checking government oppression is a joke. I'm fresh out of patience with it.

You can read the rest of the U of O remembrance after the break:

Monday, March 17, 2014

More Guaguancó

OK, my new record is done, my taxes are done, and it's time to get back to business as usual. Here I've found here an interesting version of Guaguanco, a very popular traditional Afro-Cuban rumba style. The usual approach drumset people take with these things is to make a complete beat out of them, but I think it's better to learn the parts one individually, and in twos, and then adding the remaining limbs/parts; it gives you more flexibility in orchestrating the parts on the drumset.

We should listen to this first, then look at the notation:

Here's the cascara pattern— the same as our bell pattern from our previous page of Guaguanco; usually on the drumset you'll play this on the shell or rim of the floor tom, on cowbell, or on the bell of the cymbal. Be careful how you handle the accent on beat 3 of the second measure; when I've seen this written, the accent is given on the & of 3, but that's not what I'm hearing in this case. I've included the clave rhythm (3-2 rumba) for reference, but you could also play it with the left foot or left hand.

 Even though I've written this in 4/4, the feel here is played “in 1”, with one primary pulse per measure. On the recording one of the drummers is playing a slap sound on the rhythm given below; you can play this as a rim click on the snare drum:

The familiar Guaguanco tonal melody on the drums is present here, oriented to the 3 side of clave, which I associate with non-traditional versions of this feel. But the group on this recording, Conjunto Clave y Guaguanco, is definitely traditional, so I guess it's a legit thing. There are also some cool some muffled tones, which I've included. The staccato notes are muffled (you could play them as dead strokes), and the long notes are open tones. The short strokes could also be played on the high drum instead.

Typo alert— I've given Son clave in the next few examples; shove the clave note on beat 4 of the first measure over to the & of 4, like in the other examples.

Much more after the break:

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

DBMITW: My Bloody Valentine

Recovering from yesterday's pretty grueling recording session, and catching up with other work, so enjoy some My Bloody Valentine:

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Page o' coordination: the middle of the triplet

[UPDATE: download link is working now!]

This is the first of two rather punishing entries into this Afro 6 series of stuff; this is actually preparation for the next one, which is really hard. Here our ostinato has both feet played in unison on the middle note of the triplet (6/8 is counted in two, with a triplet subdivision), along with the Afro-Cuban/African bell pattern in the right hand. Be careful the time doesn't shift on you— you don't want to start hearing the feet notes as being on the beat; you may have to count out loud, in 2 (1 is on the first 8th note in the measure, 2 is on the fourth), to keep it straight.

This is not a performance ostinato; we're cutting some new coordinational pathways, and getting better acquainted with the middle note of the triplet, which is more strongly felt in African music than in American music.

Here's a fresh link to the left hand moves I do with all of the POCs. If you're just getting started with these things, I suggest you start with this page, this page, and then this page. Then root around under the Page o' Coordination-labeled archives for the more challenging stuff.

Get the pdf

And once again, here's a track I like to play along with:

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Groove o' the day: Tamba Trio — Negro

Posting is going to be a little spotty for the next few days; I'm recording my new album at the beginning of next week, and until then I'll be preoccupied with stuff related to that. Someone will be hearing from me today or tomorrow about a free Skype lesson, so there's still time to get in on that, if you're interested.

Here's a Brazilian adaptation of our now-very familiar Afro 6/8 feel— or 12/8, in this case. The song is Negro, from the album Avanço by the Tamba Trio, with Hélcio Milito on drums.

A pianist I work with, Weber Iago, from Rio De Janeiro, tells me this style is not actually native to Brazilian music— there is not a major Brazilian equivalent of that Afro-Cuban triplet groove. The band here is copping a foreign style, either Afro-Cuban or African. Being a provincial, I always thought American musicians were somewhat unique in our eclecticism— our inauthenticity, if you want to be critical of it— but it's really a worldwide thing in commercial music.

Here's the whole intro, which is played twice:

After the intro, the band breaks into straight Bossa Nova, at a slightly faster tempo.

Audio after the break:

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Free Skype lesson at the end of the week.

If you want to get in on the drawing for a free Skype lesson, now's the time to become a member of the blog (see the sidebar), and/or complete my user survey. I'll be picking one or two people at random for the free lesson at the end of the week; maybe more, if it takes longer to get the tech thing figured out.

Groove o' the day: Jim Gordon — Jump Into The Fire

Here's a cowbell groove from the studio legend, tragically insane, Jim Gordon. It's Jump Into The Fire, from Harry Nilsson's album Nilsson Schmilsson, which for people not around in the 70's will be best known from the “last day” scene from the movie Goodfellas:

Kind of like hearing them on Bugs Bunny is my only connection to a lot 30's songs that are now jazz standards. There's no shame in it. Anyhow, the groove:

There is some layering of percussion parts going on, so it's possible he's not playing the cowbell live with the drumset track. Early on, the bell drops out during the drum fills, consistent with it being played with the drums, but later there seems to be a ride cymbal sounding (it's low in the mix, and the sound is possibly from another source) while the cowbell continues, and the bell seems to continue through the drum fills. Generally the 16th notes in the first measure are played stronger than the ones in the second measure, hence the parentheses on the latter notes. Gordon's feel is totally different than what you hear from drummers playing similar music today. He's absolutely solid, but with an edge— there's a quality that's absent from later players who are more perfectly metronomic and squared away.

Audio for the complete tune after the break:

Monday, March 03, 2014

Too high

There's this thing about the way drummers think: they're prone to feedback loops. They'll find something cool, and say “That sounds good! Let's do that, only more so, forever.” It's the same impetus that leads Metal musicians to say, hey, we liked it when Metallica started playing really fast, so let's just keep going faster. But you can't just keep going in the same direction forever; at some point the the thing turns on you. That bi-level haircut that looked modern and punkish in 1981 has morphed into a ridiculous-looking mullet. Or you run into natural limits. Like Too Much Coffee Man, you thought that since drinking a cup of coffee made you feel good, then drinking six must make you feel really good. So let's talk about snare drum sound.

Around 1980, inspired by Reggae drummers, Stewart Copeland was tuning his snare drum very high, and it sounded great, and fresh:

Some New York R&B guys, took this further with their little Brady drums— here's Charley Drayton, sounding great, but with a snare sound that is getting a little stylized:

A couple of decades later you have this. There was a period in the 90's when everyone was using piccolo snares with a regular tuning, but here we're in true piccolo range. The drum here shows off Eric Harland's snare drum work beautifully, but the sound is very insubstantial. The tune needs more power:

Continued after the break:

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Pad practice fodder

In a dream world, a perfect world, we would all do our “pad” practice— I call it snare drum practice— on an actual drum, and giving it our undivided attention. Somewhere along the line I got the idea that it should also be done formally, standing up— in Charles Dowd's program, playing Portraits In Rhythm from a sitting position wasn't a done thing. But the reality for me is that, to continue putting in my time with Stick Control year after year, I need do it on a silent pad, seated comfortably on my drum throne, and with a little media helper— like, I need to have the TV on. Nothing I'm going to get engrossed in, so I'm not paying attention to what I'm playing, but just a little narrative thread to help the time move.

So, the character actor Kevin Pollak, maybe best known from the movie The Usual Suspects, has a little podcast chat show on which he has talked to a lot of great people, mainly comic actors— great especially if you're a comedy fan, and/or of my generation. He's done a couple of hundred shows, all watchable on YouTube, with way too many interesting and funny people to list: Larry David, Fred Willard, Thomas Lennon from Reno 911!, and on and on. They're all in the 90 minutes-2+hours range, and are interesting without commanding your attention all the time— good for practicing.

So let's get cracking— here are the Spinal Tap guys, to start you off:

Christopher Guest:

Michael McKean and Harry Shearer after the break: