Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Groove o' the day, plus fills: Mandrill — Tee Vee

There was a period in the 70s when funky music had a kind of unbridled quality you don't much hear any more— there was a lot of screaming, and everyone seemed to be fully embracing having a really good time. I was a kid then, but I got a definite impression of that feeling in the music. Today's song is a good example of that vibe: Tee Vee, by the New York funk band Mandrill, from their album Solid. The drummer, Neftali Santiago, is a complete badass— he's right up there with the Tiki Fulwood and Jerome Brailey for the quintessentiality of his funk. To coin a phrase. Until the orgy of James Brown sampling at the end of the 80's, this was funk, in my mind: slow tempos and fat backbeats. Aside from David Garibaldi, I don't know who was doing the more hyper thing people have been so in love with since the 90s— that style was a part of history, and had to be revived.

Here I've transcribed a representative sample of the type of variations to the groove occurring throughout the song, along with a few of the big fills:

The hihat is played open in all the examples, and all the way through the song. The snare hits are at a fairly even volume— maybe the 2 and 4 are a little stronger, and the 32nd notes a little softer, but do not ghost the other notes. I don't know what sticking you would use to play the fill at 2:51, after the opening paradiddle-diddle, but it's not real important— I do think I have it on all the right drums.

Get the pdf

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Locking with clave — 01

This is derived from an idea discussed by David Peñalosa in his book Rumba Quinto. In rumba, an Afro-Cuban genre, the quinto is the highest-pitched conga drum; the quinto player is the lead player, improvising much of his part interactively with the dancers. What Peñalosa calls the quinto lock is the basic quinto part— so-called, apparently, because rather than stating clave rhythm directly, it largely interlocks with it, filling in the spaces around it. You can read more about this concept on Wikipedia— I believe the entry was written by Peñalosa— or purchase the book (link is coming— Amazon is being weird right now).

Today we'll use the general idea as a jumping off place for soloing over clave, on the drum set; I've written a page of rhythms to be practiced along with clave— either a metronome, sequencer, or play-along track:

At first just clap the top-line rhythms, focusing on the composite rhythm of your part and the clave track; then play them on the drums as a solo line— timbale-style, as rim shots, flamming some of the notes, and varying the accents. You can then add whatever ostinato you want with your feet— 1 and 3, 2 and 4, or all four beats with the left foot, and/or the & of 2 with the bass drum, or the & of 2 and beat 4. You could also play clave as an ostinato, but that is not really our focus here— our purpose is to fit the solo line with clave played by someone else.

Get the pdf

If you don't have a metronome that plays clave, a sequencer, or a suitable playalong track— or a friend to actually sit there and play claves for you— there are instructions after the break:

Monday, April 28, 2014

Page o' coordination: hihat splash in 3/4 — 02

Hey, I kind of like these things— we'll see several more pages o'... with hihat splashes, in the near future. This format has become one of the major things we do here, as I've had less time to do a lot of heavy transcriptions, and such— so I hope people are digging it. I use these pages a lot, and while I don't think the format is the ideal one for getting your basic vocabulary together (that respect goes to all of the methodologies surrounding Ted Reed's Syncopation), it is a good way of getting some things into the mix, which would be difficult to acquire another way.

...and for polishing certain things you play with your feet— like with today's page, it looks like we're working on left hand independence, but we're actually getting really comfortable playing both sides of beat 1 with your feet, in 3/4. By making you learn all of these left hand parts, we're forcing you to do that with your bass drum many times, to help you not be one of those players who always hits the bass drum on 1 when playing a waltz.

Another fresh link for the tom moves. In my own practicing, if you want to know, I've been playing down several pages, without the moves, per session. It's a good idea to change gears once in a while.

Get the pdf

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Now offering: Skype lessons!

OK, it's formal announcement time:

I, your blogger, Todd Bishop, am now offering live online lessons, via Skype.

I'll be happy to work with you on single lessons— say, if you'd like help with something you saw on the blog; in a focused burst of several lessons, to work on one problem; or on an ongoing basis, as a regular student.

At home, I teach all levels of players, from little kids, to adult beginners, hobbyists, on up to teachers and other professionals. My personal style is very easy-going, and I like working with beginners and novices, and solving problems, and helping people with things that are jamming them up. So, even though we deal with some hard stuff on the blog, there's no need to feel intimidated.

Cost is $50 US per hour, or $30 per half hour, +10% for non-US students, to cover transaction fees. If you're in the UK or the eurozone, the weak US dollar gives you a substantial discount— $50 US is only £30, or €36. See below for exact costs for all countries.

More details and policies after the break:

Three Camps in first inversion paradiddles

Here's an adaptation of the traditional snare drum piece Three Camps, played with first inversion paradiddles— the very useful RLLR/LRRL sticking. They are easy to play fast, and the natural accents are hip. Lately I've been doing a lot with converting triplets to 16th notes in this sticking— they're naturally sort of analogous; the singles in the paradiddle are close in placement to the notes you normally accent in a triplet, the first and third. This sticking works well played in the repinicado feel, swinging the rhythm so the first and last note of the paradiddle line up exactly with the first and last notes of a triplet— follow that link for a more complete explanation.

It feels like a betrayal, but I've eschewed the modern ending I originally learned— a long fp roll— in favor of the traditional, three-beat tag. Aside from the ending, there are really only three two-beat licks that happen in the piece. This:


And this:

Get the pdf

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Site update!

Normally I try to make big site changes at the beginning of the year, but, the heck with it, I was getting tired of looking at the old design. The big template change is self-evident, but a couple of smaller things will make the site look better, and be a little easier to use. The search box is now at the top of the sidebar, rather than at the top of the page with all of that “next blog” noise that nobody ever, EVAR uses. The background photo was taken from the stage at a club in Lokeren, Belgium, during my 2013 tour; and I've replaced my profile picture with something stupider.

 I've also dumped the AdSense ads— the money I got from them is not worth how much they ugly-up my site. So now, the only income I will receive from the blog will be from book and CD sales, and from what you voluntarily donate. So, as always, as you root around our unparalleled archives, please consider purchasing a hard copy of the materials, or making a cash donation— look for the “donate” button in the sidebar.

Or you can sign up for private lessons via Skype! We'll be getting started with that any moment now.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Page o' coordination: hihat splash

Here's a relatively easy jazz waltz page o' coordination, with a minor twist— we'll be incorporating an open sound on the hihat, played with the foot.

This is a jazz feel, so swing the 8th notes. I would probably play the hihat heel down, though there is a technique for making a splash with your heel up— you'll have to just fool around with it until you find it. Here's a fresh link for the tom moves I do with all the pages o'..., in case you don't have them memorized yet.

Get the pdf

Monday, April 21, 2014

Son clave basic coordination

Here's a companion piece to our page of Rumba clave coordination, this time using Son clave. The format is basically same: the first patterns are logical, and the later ones build a few common Afro-Cuban bell patterns. The main exercises are for the hands only.

Once you can play down the entire page at a moderate tempo, repeating each exercise several times, I would find a Salsa/Afro-Cuban recording you like, not too fast, and play the exercises along with it.

On the second page there are several basic patterns for the feet, which you can add individually, and then in combinations after the hands-only exercises are grooving. There are also a couple of alternate left hand parts if you want to run the main exercises again with your left foot playing clave.

Get the pdf

Friday, April 18, 2014

Playing in Seattle tonight...

Hey, if you're in Seattle, come on down to Egan's in Ballard tonight— my group will be playing at 10:30, as part of the Ballard Jazz Festival. The band includes Richard Cole, Jasnam Daya Singh (née Weber Iago), and Chris Higgins. Before us at 8 is George Colligan's group, with Matt Jorgensen on drums. There's a whole lot of other music going on in the neighborhood, too.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Transcription: more Serge, more Dougie

What the heck, let's do some more Dougie Wright. The last thing was a little goofy, but today's transcription is for me a minor classic of 70's studio rock drumming. The album again is Serge Gainsbourg's Histoire de Melody Nelson, and the song is L'Hotel Particulier. We're very much in post-Ringo mode, meaning: fat bass drum and snare drum, light hihat, big, simple melodic fills on the tom-toms.

The dotted-8th/16th rhythm is slightly swung, in an irregular way; on the other 16th note rhythms, and on the fills, the 16ths are straight. Play the hihat very lightly (sometimes it may even drop out) through the breakdown at the bottom of the first page, then play it more strongly, and half-open through the end of the song. Note that in measure 52 there's one note on a third, lower, tom-tom. And there's a typo on the fill in measure 44: the last note should be snare drum and floor tom together— I'll have to fix that for the next year's book...

Get the pdf

Audio after the break:

Monday, April 14, 2014

Groove o' the day: Dougie Wright — En Melody

I spent a lot of time listening to French songwriter Serge Gainsbourg as I was working on my album of his music a few years ago, and came to appreciate a very British, very 70's, session drummer named Dougie Wright, who frequently recorded with him. This is the drum groove from En Melody, from Gainsbourg's famous concept album Histoire de Melody Nelson. You get the feeling here that Serge told the band to do something très extrême, they did this in a couple of takes, and then went off to do whatever musicians did in their off time in those days. It was kind of Gainsbourg's style to do these things almost as if he couldn't be bothered, and the entire album is under 28 minutes long.

As it says, the circled bass drum notes are optional— his most frequent variations in the groove are to play or omit those notes, especially the first one. The 16th notes are slightly swung. There are a lot of sixtuplet fills throughout the song, which no doubt use that same RRL sticking used here.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Straight 8ths within Afro 6/8

I keep feeling like I have to justify doing so much with the Afro 6/8. I'm just working with it a lot, and here we are nothing if not personal and idiosyncratic. I also feel that this is an essential rhythm— meaning not that it's a drumming style you'll be asked to play a lot, but more that it's a rhythm that has been around for a very long time, and our bodies just want to play it. In doing so much heavy coordination work with this feel, we're building some subterranean structures that will surface in other areas in interesting and unexpected ways. You could do that with anything— there are numerous methods out there— but using this rhythm we're basing it on something real.

So, what we're doing here is developing one of C.K. Ladzekpo's basic polyrhythms played with the 6/8 bell pattern— straight 8th notes. The first kind-of-hairy one:

Run the exercises as written, then add the feet. It wouldn't be a bad idea to keep play the left foot part the whole time, if you're at all shaky with the bell pattern. The very bold can try playing the exercises with the feet, along with the left hand part at the bottom of the page. If you want to get really silly with it, you could split the independent part between limbs— that's getting into the realm of pure abstract independence practice.

Get the pdf

Friday, April 11, 2014

Transcription: Rick Marotta plays a waltz

UPDATE: The download link is working now.

Here's a portion of Spirit of Summer, from the album Deodato In Concert. If you don't know who Deodato is, he's a Brazilian pianist, composer, arranger, who was big in the US for a moment in the 70's, maybe best known for his pre-disco rendition of Richard Strauss's Also Sprach Zarathustra— the Space Odyssey theme. It's regarded as kitsch now, but it's actually a great piece of arranging (with Billy Cobham on drums). Rick Marotta is on drums here, playing what you might call modern-functional; sort of a simplified Elvin feel. The transcription starts just after 2:20:

Swing the 8th notes. He's playing a couple of crash cymbals and a ride cymbal, but I didn't bother distinguishing between them, and put them all on one line; a house top accent usually means a crash cymbal. Airto is a featured performer on this record, but doesn't play much on this tune, and is way back in the mix— you will hear him playing some fills not in the transcription, though.

Get the pdf

Audio after the break

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Some observations on an Ari Hoenig performance

A few weeks back I saw Ari Hoenig play in Portland with Kenny Werner's trio, and scribbled down a few notes after the fact. Hoenig is one of the leading current guys, but I haven't been exposed to a lot of his playing; mainly the technically mind-blowing highlights, which to me are the most meaningless part of anyone's playing. So I went in feeling that I didn't know his playing, but expecting to be shocked and awed. I was happy to see he's playing the same game as the rest of us, more or less; the gig could've been played nearly as well by a number of drummers I know— non-famous ones.

For whatever they're worth, and in the spirit of my previous concert reports, here are a few thoughts on what I saw and heard at the performance. Some of this may look like criticism, but it isn't— I'm just reporting some neutral observations, and my own feelings, which really have nothing to do with Hoenig:

He plays the ride cymbal with a flatter wrist than most— more of a German grip, so-called.

It was good to see someone good drop sticks in pretty random places, like I do.

He's a very tasteful, deliberate player with a funny stage presence.

He's a very wrist-y player. Downstroke-y. Apparently very little finger, and very little arm. Very refined technique, very precise, very practiced.

He moves the sticks at an uneven, rather slow velocity, as if he's refining his timing mid-stroke.

Certain people do things that defy analysis; you don't know where the things they play came from, and you don't know how you would duplicate them— Steve Pancerev, my brother, John Bishop, Jim Black, etc. With Hoenig you feel you understand what he's doing, and that it largely would make logical sense on analysis; he seems to be very intellectually engaged.

Just as a matter of my own taste, I like a little more of a chaotic/organic edge, like I see from players like Elvin Jones, Roy Haynes, Jack Dejohnette, Billy Higgins or Paul Motian. I think I need that quality to be present to get really excited about a player.

Hoenig definitely has a 21st century drummer's touch— very well-adapted to playing softly, very fine control at the lower end of the dynamic spectrum.

He will do a thing which many good, well-known players do, but which I feel is not good practice— matching the soloist's rhythm exactly.

Is it a New York thing to cultivate an uncomfortable-looking stage presence? I feel like I see this a lot. Angular, shoulders slightly hunched, and a funny glower that reminds me a little bit of Animal, the muppet drummer. But it's good to be memorable. Remember the Terry Southern rule.

An issue I have with many jazz drummers is that they operate on such fine gradations of pulse, with so much action in the subdivisions, that the broader groove loses some depth. That seemed to be a little bit in effect here. I don't believe it's just a necessary result of jazz's faster tempos, because I've heard Dannie Richmond (later in his career especially), and Brian Blade, and Idris Muhammad, for example, maintain a broad feel while playing those tempos. Al Foster, too. Steve Gadd.

Here's the group playing in New York in 2010:

Monday, April 07, 2014

Groove o' the day: Idris Muhammad — The Windjammer

Here's a funk groove with a couple of unusual touches, and a New Orleans flavor, by Idris Muhammad. The tune is The Windjammer, from Grant Green's 1970 album Green Is Beautiful. On the intro Muhammad plays the ride cymbal— sounds like a little 602 Flat Ride, in fact. The ruff at the end of the second measure will be a little technical challenge:

The main groove, played on the hihat, with a 7-stroke roll at the end of the second measure:

 And, what the heck, the first big fill:

The rolls here are 5-stroke, played quiet and loose. The bass drum hits on beat 4 of the second measure are pretty sloppy, but this seems to be what he was going for.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

A few old photos

Digging through my archives for imagery for the cover of my new record, and rescanning some of my old negatives, today. Here are a few pictures I took in Rome several years ago: 

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Swing coordination: Dahlgren & Fine format — 01

In the swing section of their book 4-Way Coordination, Marvin Dahlgren and Eliot Fine created a fairly ingenious framework for writing related exercises in multiple time signatures. With my Pages o' Coordination I've been following their basic approach— writing an ostinato for cymbal, bass, and hihat, plus independent snare drum parts— but in one meter only. So, I thought I would try writing in their actual format, using here an ostinato we've explored before, distilled from Elvin Jones's groove in 6 on Out Of This World.

I should mention that reading single measures of fully mapped-out drum parts is not the ideal way to practice— it's not the way we read and play actual music. What we are doing here is acquiring things that can't be arrived at through more practical/realistic Syncopation-based methods; the patterns are a little too hard, or are too irregular.

Swing the 8th notes, and do the tom moves. Play each measure individually, then combine measures to make other meters; the main ones are given on the first line, but there are other possibilities. There are a couple of ways of making 7/4, for example.

Get the pdf

Tuesday, April 01, 2014


From a drum book with the questionable premise and title of Rhythmic Illusions:

There is no Chapter 15, FYI. Don't let this happen to you.