Saturday, May 17, 2014

Stone method for uptempo jazz — 01

Most of the regular drumming literature is poorly adapted to the special conditions of very fast tempos in jazz; the practice materials are either too dense, or are triplet-based, which obviously isn't going to work. Playing those tempos is a major topic of discussion online— a little bit out of proportion for how often you have to do it in the field, actually— but most of the conversation is centered around technique for playing the ride pattern repetitively— not much about comping and actually playing music. I gave a paradiddle-diddle method a couple of years ago, and there are some good things in John Riley's books, but for the most part what is offered are strategies, or guidelines, rather than actual practice materials.

So here we have here is the beginning of a method, applying the first few pages of Stick Control to a few written exercises. We'll be seeing more of these as I develop them.

Each exercise has four comping notes, to which you will apply the stickings in Stone, playing the bass drum where there's an R, and the snare drum where there's an L. Usually it will suffice to just use Stone exercises 1-13, but you could also do ex. 63-72 to test your fluency. The cymbal pattern is mainly quarter notes; we'll be introducing the familiar three-note grouping strategically, to fit the comping rhythm. You can add extra measures of time (either quarter notes, or the regular jazz time pattern, or improvised variations on the cymbal) between exercise phrases, if you want.

Practicing these in a tempo range of around half note = 143-175 should cover you for almost any situation you're ever going to encounter; I would master that range of tempos before worrying about going into the truly stratospheric tempos. Try not to go below ~HN=120-130 to start, and don't swing the 8th notes, even when playing the exercises in medium-up tempo ranges, where you would normally swing the 8ths in jazz. You can check out my old list of tempos of famous recordings to see how you're doing compared to your favorite drummers/recordings.

Get the pdf


  1. I'm not sure if the Dante Agostini method books are known in the US. But volume 4 deals with "indépendance" and has some of the best up-tempo exercises I know.
    Dante Agostini was a french drummer who co-founded his drum school together with Kenny Clarke.
    Although I don't like all of the books they were very good and musical, especially for the time they were written.
    Some of my favorite up-tempos to pracitce to are: Ezz-thetic from George Russell's recording Ezz-thetics Joe Hunt's playing is flawless and very elegant.
    Whenever I need to get back in shape this is the one I pull out of the cd-shelf most often. (tempo is around 320)
    And when I really want to discourage miself there is an Art Pepper quartet recording of "Straight life" with Joe Morello at around 340 and Morello plays brushes all the way through while feathering the bass drum.
    And "The Song Is You" from Sonny Rollins And The Contemporary Leaders is so fast that Shelly Manne and Ray Brown both wisely decide to keep playing half-time all the way and let Sonny have his fun.

  2. Thanks for the recommendations, Michael. Agostini's books are not widely used in the US, but they are available through Steve Weiss-- I'll definitely grab that one!

  3. Hi Todd, will certainly follow this to see where it takes me

  4. Anonymous10:21 AM

    Hi, yeah Dante Agostini 4 is really a nice "choppy" resource...however John Rileys Books work well...and here not only the uptempo exercises also the (non triplet) solo can nicely be used ...the ideas work well in uptempo mode ansd can also be nicely sliced down to smaller chops...however a structured method is clearly missing...

    BR, Marcus