Saturday, December 05, 2015


Just a service update— I'll be traveling for most of the month of December, and posts will be few. I'm doing a recording in Brussels with last year's touring band— Jasnam Daya Singh (Weber Iago), Jean-Paul Estievenart, and Olivier Stalon. Also playing at La Louviere on Saturday, Dec. 12th, and then Cafe Roskam on Dec. 20th. We had a few more dates, but due to this damnable terrorist activity, were canceled at the last minute, so I'll be jaunting around Italy and France a bit with my newfound spare time. If you happen to be in Paris, Rome, or Florence, and know of a good jam session, please let me know.

For that matter, I will have some free time in Brussels from the 8th-14th— if you live in town or close by, and you'd like a lesson to explain some of the things we do on the site, let me know.

Follow me on Twitter or Facebook if you'd like to see pictures and whatnot from the road.

Very occasional quote of the day: Bohemian Rhapsody

“...sometimes it's just a little voice that tells you that if Bohemian Rhapsody was big in my house, it was probably big in other people's houses too.”

—Mike Myers, fighting to get the song used in Wayne's World

Read Rolling Stone's The Oral History of the 'Wayne’s World' 'Bohemian Rhapsody' Scene

Friday, November 27, 2015

From the zone: Five in seven in six in four

A little Thanksgiving treat shared on Facebook by my friend Steve Pancerev:

Let's walk through this— it's difficult, but not impossible. I see a jazz rhythm there, and a crazy independent part with a double-beamed rhythm, which means the tempo is going to be slow/medium-slow. There are three sounds happening, and we can default to the standard drum set sounds for them:

  • top line = cymbal/right hand
  • black noteheads/middle line = snare drum/left hand
  • bottom line/black noteheads = bass drum. 

You can revoice those however you want, using whatever limbs you want. I always encourage you to move your left hand parts around the drums, either improvising the moves, or using our standard moves which you should have memorized by now.

Obviously the top line is a jazz cymbal rhythm, with quarter notes and 8th note triplets. The black noteheaded rhythm, which is split between the snare drum and bass drum, is sixtuplets— so every other note lines up with a note of a good old familiar 8th note triplet. Looking for familiar landmarks: the first accent in the sixtuplet part lines up with the last note of an 8th note triplet. The last snare drum double in the second beat, and then the doubles and single bass drum note in the third beat all line up with 8th note triplets. Going into the fourth beat, the second note of each double falls on the 8th note triplet. And the first two 8th note triplet partials in beat 2 fall on the second note of doubles. So the lick is mainly doubles with the first note landing on the triplet, and doubles with the second note landing on the triplet. If I had Finale handy while blogging from my mother's house, I could write you a little preparatory study of that. 

The bracketed 5 and 7 notations indicate the phrasing and voicing of the rhythm— we're accenting the sixtuplets every five notes (starting on the second note of the part), and voicing the rhythm between the drums in a seven note pattern— SSBBSSB. So the seven-note pattern (played three times) with the accents every five notes is SSBBSSB / SSBBSSB / SSBBSSB. You'll really want to get the basic coordination and rhythm together before you add that accents.

I've been meaning for years now to post more of Steve's stuff— maybe I'll actually follow through on that in 2016. In the mean time, you can follow him on Facebook. He's already posted one other crazy thing today. 

If you'd like to have your practice materials featured as a From The Zone item, hit the email link in the sidebar and send them in. Crappy photos of semi-legible manuscript is preferred. I just want things you had to write out because they weren't written anywhere else. 

Inverted paradiddle exercises

A page of paradiddle exercises, using the fun and hip RLLR/LRRL inversion. These are written in cut time, and can be played blazingly fast.

You'll notice that the 8th notes are all alternating, except most of the exercises end with a double in one of the hands. You may also want to eliminate that double, which will cause you to play the entire exercise with the stickings reversed on the next time through. You also have the option of adding an accent at the end of each run of 16th notes, or eliminating the accent(s) in the middle of a longer run of 16ths. If you feel like it, you can also substitute the other paradiddle sticking on the 16th notes— either RLRR/LRLL or RRLR/LLRL.

 You can play these fast— a tempo over half note = 100 BPM should be your eventual goal.

Oops, no pdf right now, as I'm away from home for the holiday. You can print it from the jpeg above, though.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Page o' coordination: Latin in 3 — 02

Another page of Latin in 3/4— get the previous one here. You'll notice these are very similar to our 6/8 Latin pages; the use the same bell pattern, but the BD/HH rhythms are slightly different, and they're notated in 3/4, of course. Here we're using the “long” bell pattern, and an offset, 6/8-suggestive bass drum part:

Learn the exercises doing the left hand movesusing this practice loop. Easy.

Get the pdf

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Mario Padilla

Via Matt Chamberlain on Twitter, here's Norteño drummer Mario Padilla. I've been waiting for this one for a long time. If you've ever played the jukebox in a real taqueria, or tuned into working class Spanish-language radio, you know there is some crazy stuff going in Mexican Banda and Norteño music. But it's often so heavily processed, and the drumming is so nuts, you almost think it's somebody going crazy hammering out MIDIed drum sounds from a keyboard. That's what I thought. But it's real, man:

Here's another one:

For awhile, in my ignorance, I was lumping this type of thing in with Metal drumming as something pretty much completely different from the rest of drumming-as-we-know-it. But I'm glad to see here that it's a very good real drummer, and that, wild as it is, it's not actually that different from what we CSD!-types normally do. We'll definitely be seeing more of this.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Transcription: Joey Baron — Cattle Drive

A little transcription of Joey Baron playing in Bill Frisell/Americana mode on Cattle Drive, from Frisell's original music for the Buster Keaton film Go West. It's sort of a beginner's version of the ricky-ticky thing he does on tunes like Pip Squeak. like I've written it in 6/4, but you can just think of it as a waltz. The theme and solo form is 9 bars (of 6/4) long.

Baron uses more sounds than normal on this— including cowbell, woodblock, and an unidentified sheet metal sound— check out the key at the end. Virtually the entire cymbal part is played on the crash cymbal. He generally plays a lot of different articulations— rim shots, buzzes, and a lot of things that are difficult or impossible to transcribe, but here he's pretty straightforward.

Get the pdf

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Wagner in Apocalypse Now

Fascinating piece by Walter Murch, film editor and sound designer on the movie Apocalypse Now, several other Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas films of the 70s, and a lot of other things. Murch tells about fitting Richard Wagner's Ride Of The Valkyries to the famous “Charlie's Point” scene in Apocalypse. A version conducted by Georg Solti, recorded in 1965, was chosen for the scene, and it was edited with that version. But late in the process the record label denied Coppola permission to use it, and Murch had to scramble to find an acceptable substitute, which turned out to be hugely problematic— none of the 19 available stereo recordings of the piece worked.

Here's the scene:

The entire piece is fascinating, but Murch has some things to say about rhythm that are very interesting:

The greatest conductors and orchestras, and Solti and the Vienna Philharmonic were certainly in that group, are able to shape these minute adjustments to the rhythmic signature so closely that they are perceived as regular but in fact are not, thus enhancing the organic, living and breathing nature of the music itself. The problem with many of the versions of “Valkyries” that I rejected was that they were monotonously rhythmic: A metronomic signature had been decided upon and stuck to, regardless of circumstance. The result was a robotic stagger, a simulation of musical life rather than the real thing. 
This is reflected in our intimate relationship with the rhythms of our own bodies, their heartbeat and breathing. We may think that most of the time our heartbeat is regular, but in fact it is not. It is constantly being micro (and sometimes macro) adjusted on a beat-to-beat basis, responding to neurological feedback between the heart, the brain, and the needs of the body for oxygenated blood. And the same applies to our rate of breathing, which is intimately related to our circulatory system. 
The medical term for a healthy but slightly irregular rhythm is “ectopic,” and it is our largely unconscious awareness of this dynamic pulse which reminds us that we are alive. In cases of medical emergency, that closely monitored feedback between the heart and the needs of the body is often weakened or severed, and a machine-like regularity of heartbeat appears, signaling trouble or impending death. 
Similarly, music that lacks this dynamic, quicksilver pulse is perceived, consciously or not, as lacking an essential spark of life. 
Solti’s conducting of the “Valkyries” was instead a sublime example of what we might call ectopic music—a powerful embodiment of the living, pulsing heart and breath of Wagner’s composition.

After the break we'll have the complete recordings of the different versions discussed in the article, and you can get a feel for what he's talking about yourself:

Friday, November 13, 2015

Laughable myth, or laughable math?

Click here if you
can't enlarge this
So here we have a piece called The 17 Most Laughable Myths Of The Music Industry, by blogger Ari Herstand. It's mostly OK, except for laughable myth number 3, which is about streaming:

3) Streaming Is Bad For Music [to be clear, that's a myth, according to the premise of the piece- tb]
A CD or download sale is treated equally no matter how great the album is. It’s a one time payment never to be earned on again. Contrast that with streaming. If a song is great it will get played over and over again for years and years. Earning MORE than just a single sale ever could. Streaming pays less initially, but much much more in the long run – if the music is good of course.

Laughable myth number 10 is also relevant:

10) Record Sales Matter 

He goes on to say that CD sales are “over”, whatever that means. Since he phrased this as specifically CD sales vs. streaming equation, I want to look at the economics involved, and the style of consumption required for streaming income to replace album sales income. Obviously it's more complex than that, but framing it this way was his idea, not mine.

We'll assume one album purchase per customer; and that a CD has ten songs on it, and they sell for $10 each— the basic reality for independent artists.

First: Hold on, an album purchase is not necessarily a one time payment— there are a number of records of which I've bought multiple copies, either because they got lost or broken, or because I liked it so much I gave it as a gift, or because a new format became available. “If the music is good”, people may well buy multiple copies. But from here on out, we'll assume one CD purchase per release per customer.

Second: Spotify pays around $.007 per play; so to earn our $10 from that customer, we need about 1425 plays, or about 142 plays per track. If they only really like three tracks, they'll have to listen to each track 425 times each. But the author says our compensation will now be amortized over “years and years”; to get our $10 within, say, ten years (while hoping our royalties are indexed to inflation— probably not), the customer will basically have to listen to the album fourteen times a year, every year.

Of course, you have the rest of both of your lives to get 142 complete plays, assuming Spotify still exists, and has not gone to a zero-compensation model. You may never get to 142, meaning you are a net loser for that customer, or you could just as easily get 143 plays from that customer before your death, in which case, cha-ching, streaming has paid off!

Third: Yours is not the only record in the world. Other people need to get paid, too. If an average music fan owns smallish collection of 200 CDs, averaging about 40 minutes long, in order for those artists to get paid, that individual has to listen to over 18,900 hours of music on Spotify— about six hours a day, every day, for eight and a half years. For the new economy to work better than the old one, as advertised, everyone has to do that— this exceptionally committed level of real consumption has to become the norm.

Fourth: We can assume that is an indeterminate number of other people will be streaming our stuff, who never would have bought a CD— they're contributing, too. We can count them as “helping” your committed customers reach their 1425 plays, though in fact they'll still be out there listening even if we don't abandon traditional hard formats. You'll need a lot of them to make up for, say, 500 CDs you won't be selling. The catch is, if you're attracting a whole lot of random listeners, many of them would have gone ahead and bought the CD, so you'll need that many more random listeners to help compensate for all those CDs not purchased. It's not an entirely realistic equation, but it illustrates the core problem, that getting paid places too much of a time burden on your fans, which can't be compensated by random semi-interested listeners.

Fifth: If Spotify becomes the way music is consumed by individuals, everyone, regardless of their commitment, means, and style of consumption, is moved to the same system of just paying nothing, or a very low flat rate, to a streaming service in exchange for unlimited music. The disposable income they were spending on albums is now going someplace else. Maybe they'll spend it on something music-related, maybe not— but now music people have to figure out how to get them to spend it on music again. That's the reality when there are changes in the business, but make no mistake that it is only happening to benefit two or three large, wealthy companies— it's not some impersonal, implacable “the future.” It's just some guys trying to make money by devaluing our end product.

Sixth: About this little barb “if the music is good”— suggesting that if you're not cleaning up in streaming, it must be because your music sucks too badly to deserve compensation: people buy CDs for all kinds of reasons. They liked your other records, they liked it when they previewed it in the store, they're part of your local fan base, they saw you play, liked you, and wanted to support you. Those are all excellent reasons to spend $10-15, and those customers are getting a good value. Probably they don't all listen to your CD 142+ times; very few people listen to anything 142 times. Reducing it to strictly a pay by number of hours listened equation means that all of those people who liked you enough to buy your product now have to put in a whole lot of listening hours for you to get paid. If that doesn't happen to be the way they consume music, we're just sacrificing that income.

Let's end with a lame zinger: The idea that streaming, as it is currently structured, is going to replace hard media purchases for independent artists may be the true laughable myth.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Groove o' the day: Hugh Grundy — Time Of The Season

Time Of The Season, by The Zombies, is still in heavy rotation on classic rock stations around the world— if you work in a warehouse, you hear this 2-3 times a week, as you have for about the last 30 years. They play this stuff to put you in a kind of state of suspended animation, so you don't notice the time passing. If there isn't a conspiracy between business owners and radio stations, there might as well be. Every day blurs into the next, and you stop noticing that with each palette of dog biscuits you ship, your youth is a little more spent, and you're one step closer to the grave...

...NEVERTHELESS! It's a good track, and there's a lot for drummers to learn from this type of thing.

The main drum beat is of that 60s pop mode we could call “studio pop multi-percussion”, “60s studio pop”, whatever you like. It's a composed part, and different than a drummer would normally play, in that there's very little cymbal— there's no ride pattern:

That groove, together with a hand clap and a vocal “ahh” sound, and a lot of reverb, is incredibly auditorily famous:

There's another composed, part-type beat on the B section— what would normally be called the chorus, except it isn't very chorus-like. It's really a B section with a dramatic ending where they say the title of the song. And, whoops, typo alert— both flams should be accented:

On the solos, which are played on the A section opened up, drummer Hugh Grundy plays more normally, with a rhumba-like beat, and improvised fills:

The little triplet lick on the & of 2 is fairly technical; the tom tom hit and cymbal are played with your right hand, and the snare drum with your left.

The track:

Daily best music in the world: Peace Piece

Seems like the perfect time of year for this. I had been away from one of my favorite records in the world, Everybody Digs Bill Evans, for long enough that for a moment I forgot about this beautiful piece of work, Peace Piece:

The transcription in the video is a little goofy— the author has metered Evans's expressive phrasing. Maybe he had a good reason in his own studies for doing that.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Page o' coordination: overlapping hands - 01

This is a pretty straightforward page of coordination patterns with overlapping doubles between the hands— each exercise has a repeating right-both-left sequence, with a basic hihat part, and a variety of basic patterns on the bass drum.

This RBL pattern occurs frequently in Latin styles of playing, and these exercises will give us an opportunity to really drill on that structure, so it's reliably together when we get to the actual Latin stuff.

You could run these using the usual left hand moves we do with all of the other POCs, but that doesn't seem real important with this page. Mostly you should really pay attention to the timing of the different parts. This is not a super-heavy page— you might get all you need out of it in one or two practice sessions. A productive tempo would be in the quarter note = 160-200 BPM range.

Get the pdf

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Jacques Delécluse 1933-2015

The French percussionist Jacques Delécluse has passed away. I frankly didn't know he was alive; we worked out of his book Méthode de Caisse-Claire in college, and those French-published books present themselves with such authority it makes you think they must've been written by contemporaries of Rodin, Debussy— 19th century types. Certainly that's by design. I think the book was actually less than 20 years old.

Méthode was our companion to Tony Cirone's Portraits In Rhythm, and Delecluse's place in percussion literature in France rather parallels Cirone's, in the US:

When Jacques started to write his etudes in 1964, there was almost nothing in the repertoire for snare drum in France: no methods, no books, no etudes, no solo pieces. Percussionists had to study from orchestral excerpts, military drum books, and a couple of low-level standard pieces. Delécluse did not merely revolutionize the pedagogical writing for percussion, he invented it! From nothing, he built a real school for percussion and created a pedagogical repertoire for snare drum, xylophone, timpani, and vibraphone. There is a good reason that most of these books are still in use today all around the world.

That's from Frederic Macarez's portrait of Delécluse on the PAS site. Macarez concludes:
Jacques Delécluse brought a new dimension to percussion playing: to consider dynamics, accents, phrases, and musical expression. In short, he makes us think about “how to make music with a drum.” This idea took root more than 40 years ago and is still applicable today. Jacques truly created a “school of percussion” and has deeply influenced generations of percussion players and teachers not only in France, but all over the world.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Sabotage practice loop

This is another fun sampled practice loop, from the opening of Sabotage, by the Beastie Boys. Use this with all your rock and funk materials:


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Linear patterns in 3/4: one bar, triplets, with inversions

I've written many more pages of Gary Chaffee-style linear phrases than actually appear in his books— people have gotten incredibly good just using what's in the books, but they work better for me when changed around a bit. So here's another page of them. We're doing a single measure of triplets in 3/4, with inversions— putting each note of the first pattern at the beginning of the measure.

If you've seen Chaffee's Patterns books, you know that his linear system is based on groupings of 3-8 note patterns, initially with an alternating sticking, starting with the right hand, and ending with one or two bass drum notes. I've written in the stickings here so you can maintain them easier when doing the inversions. It's a little dull just playing the hands on the snare drum, so I move them around the drums; or you can just move your right hand to the hihat, or another cymbal. With your left foot you can do nothing, or play quarter notes, or play on beats 2 and 3, or just on 2.

Get the pdf

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Jack Bruce 1943-2014

UPDATE: Someone has helpfully pointed out that this happened in 2014, and that the current year is indeed 2015, and I am a complete stoner. I wish I could blame it on Oregon's now-quite-legal recreational marijuana, but the fact is, I'm just not paying attention.

Sorry to see Jack Bruce go today. He was most famous as the bassist for the band Cream, but this is my big Jack Bruce track:

My transcription of drummer Jim Gordon's drum break is here.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Another stupid list

Just off the top of my head, here are 50 of the greatest drummers not included in this 50 greatest drummers list:

Jack Dejohnette, Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, Roy Haynes, Joe Morello, Steve Gadd, Kenny Clarke, Jo Jones, Billy Higgins, Ed Blackwell, Jim Keltner, Zigaboo Modeliste, Airto, Philly Joe Jones, Joey Baron, Brian Blade, Peter Erskine, Louis Bellson, Jim Gordon, Ignacio Berroa, David Garibaldi, Mike Clark, Harvey Mason, Ndugu Leon Chancler, Ricky Lawson, James Gadson, John Robinson, Dennis Chambers, Steve Jordan, Dannie Richmond, Frankie Dunlop, Jimmy Cobb, Antonio Sanchez, Al Foster, Vernel Fournier, Billy Hart. Jeff Hamilton, Ed Thigpen, Tony Allen. Carlos Vega, Jim Black, Ari Hoenig, Jeff Ballard, Chris Dave, Art Taylor, Louis Hayes, Omar Hakim, Mel Lewis, Earl Palmer, Bill Stewart

They need to start calling these lists “x-number of most famous rock drummers our readers could think of.” Something.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Your own “glitch” beat

Having duly warned you of the perils of such dark, arcane knowledge, here's a page of exercises for developing your own “glitch”/Questlove/d'Angelo groove, which, like overly-groomed beards and twee interpretations of 1920s lumberjack clothing, is all the rage with the young people. Seriously, I don't play with people who would be impressed by this; for me this is just for demonstration purposes. If you're going to attempt this in actual music, be aware that the more rhythmic activity in the other players' parts, the more potential for the parts clashing, and you sucking.

Keep the focus on the right hand, and play the left hand softly. After you've learned the exercises, you can start playing all the basic rock beats with this type of swing interpretation— just grab any page of rock beats, like from A Funky Primer or Basic Drumming, if you need to.

Get the pdf

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

What the kids are doing is officially jive

There's a new type of drum groove that has been kicking around hiphop circles for a decade or so, with a strangely precise, often bordering on ricky-ticky, half-swing feel. I've heard it called a “glitch beat.” It's a live-drummer version of digitally messed-with, sampled hiphop of the later 90s. Traditionally, with good music, when there is that type of in-the-cracks thing going on, it's just a slightly legato way of playing duple rhythms; we've seen that in Second Line music, and in Tony Allen's Afrobeat drumming. There it's an organic thing, arrived at through natural body motion. This new groove is an imitation of sampled/programmed drumming digitally manipulated by a recording engineer.

When it's done well (see Questlove, Chris Dave) it's based on a five or seven note subdivision, depending on the tempo— I don't know if the players worked it up that way deliberately, but that's what it is. You can hear that in the hihat rhythm when these guys start playing; tap 5lets with a RllRl sticking, and you'll lock with the hihat pretty exactly:

As played live by average-good players, without the benefit of Pro Tools editing and a carefully produced mix, it doesn't sound so hot— to my ears, usually, that is. Here it just creates the effect of the band not locking:

It doesn't help that the tune they're playing is extremely weak— this is a current band from Brooklyn, NY, the epicenter of hip, so they tell me, but anyone who has played for a couple of decades will recognize, and probably had to play some of this ilk of bad guitarist-written fusion tune. It is a thing, and it's not new.

Another video of the group performing in Austria, where the audience is digging it:

For reference, the following is what groove is supposed to feel like in R&B music. These players all know how to play rhythm; the guitarists are true rhythm section players.

The point is not to just be against new stuff, and not to pick on that band— they're doing all the right things, touring and putting themselves forward, and more power to them. The drummer Daru Jones has a real gig with Jack White, and I'm sure he does a great job with it. He was featured in Esquire Magazine, and his future is assured. But we're talking about this rhythmic thing: it doesn't actually work that well outside of a controlled environment. Players who are not absolute monsters should approach it with extreme caution. I would advise using it only to get over with players who think it's hip.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The elements of playing well

Oh, yes, and typically it's done in the nude,
or loosely swathed in a bolt of lustrous fabric.
That's key, actually— forget the rest of this stuff. 
If you were wondering what goes into being a good, real, rounded, professional player, here it is. Some of the players in this category are famous and amazing, some of them are not-famous and amazing, some of them are not-famous and not overtly amazing, but are still better than you and everyone you know. If you're not getting the results you were hoping for out of your drumming, it might be that you are missing one of these elements.

It all starts here. You have to be a fan of music, and listen to a lot of stuff. You can't be a writer if you haven't read a lot of books, and you can't/won't be a musician if you haven't put a lot of other people's music in your head. When drummers who otherwise have some stuff together, but don't know what to actually play— or sound disconnected from the music, or feel “uninspired”— this is usually the problem: not enough listening. They're not enough in love with music.

We could also put watching under this heading: listening with your eyes and ears to how a better drummer than you makes it through a gig, rehearsal, or concert. To a small extent you can satisfy this with online videos (they can also be very misleading), but in general I mean doing this live in the same room as the other player. So you can see how loud they're playing, how much stuff they're playing, what they do with themselves between tunes, etc.

Figuring out how to make a drumming performance, in real time, by direct application, playing with other musicians, in any and all settings available to you. You do this at every stage of development— you can't wait until you feel like you “have your stuff together.” It doesn't work that way.

In addition to just learning how to play, you also learn how to play in a way that is agreeable to people, so they don't throw you out of rehearsal instantly, and do actually seek you out to continue playing with them. You're participating in a culture, and learning how things are done.

Many capable genre players will stop here; they'll be very into their one style, and play it with people a lot, and that's about it.

Most playing does not require a whole lot of reading, but you have to know how to do it. It's a basic professional skill, and virtually all professional instructional materials— like the ones on this site— are presented in written format. Reading allows you to take in ideas faster, helps you understand how music is put together, and allows you to communicate clearly with other musicians.

All good players have, at minimum, spent a period of several-to-ten years practicing 4-10 hours a day. Some do it their entire lives until they die.

Some other, unimportant stuff after the break:

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Daily best music in the world: Gateway

Do you listen to enough Gateway? That's a trio with guitarist John Abercrombie, bassist Dave Holland, and drummer Jack Dejohnette. I believe they released four albums total on ECM— two in the 70s and two in the 90s. This is Back-Woods Song, from their first record. Dejohnette plays one of the great single notes in jazz in the break before the guitar solo:

Friday, October 09, 2015

Flam accent #2

NOTE: Blogger is doing one of its occasional bloggery things, and the download is not working, despite me typing the link in correctly. Also the same handed flam accents in 7/8 isn't working. Older downloads are working fine. For now, if you want to print the pages, save the jpeg of the whole page to your computer, and print that. 

Everyone knows the Flam Accent #1— alternating triplets with flams at the beginning— but, curious, frisky beings that we are, we may wonder What of the Flam Accent #2? Is there such a thing? What is it? Is there a Flam Accent #3? What's going on?

OK, you wouldn't say “what of” it, but you might have wondered about it for a second or two. The Flam Accent #2 exists, and is a rather hokey rudiment, used in olden times for playing 6/8 marches. You could call it a swing-feel flam tap:

Useful if you're playing The Liberty Bell for a living, but otherwise uninspiring. It's more interesting and useful to jazz drummers when you change the rhythm, so the accents don't always fall on the beat. I've written a page of simple practice phrases using that idea:

The first two exercises are just the plain rudiment written in its normal form in 6/8 and in 2/4, after that we do them cross-rhythm style. After you get the first few exercises you'll be able to smoke the whole page— the endings are where the interest is. Use a metronome for reference, and be able to count quarter notes out loud as you play them— just “1-2-3-4”, or “1-2-3-4-2-2-3-4-3-2-3-4-4-2-3-4” on the long exercises.

Get the pdf

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Linear phrases in 7/4, mixed rhythm — 01

Something to combine with all of the other recent stuff in 7/4: linear patterns, in a mixed rhythm, written in 7. Our source for the basic idea is Gary Chaffee's book Patterns, vol. III, which has linear patterns 3-7 notes long, starting with the hands, and ending with one or two bass drum notes:

There are a lot of phrases to cover, so don't go to variation-crazy— try to cover the whole page before experimenting with other stickings. I suggest starting each constituent pattern with the right hand, and alternate— so each measure will start with a RH, and the first hand note after a bass drum note will be a RH. To start, play each measure 4-16 times, moving around the drums, and move on to the next one without stopping. Or you could put a time feel in there— 1-4 measures time / 1-4 measures linear phrase. Our recent loop in 7/4 should come in handy here.

Get the pdf

Monday, October 05, 2015

Practice loop: rock in 5/4

This is a practice loop in a moderate 5/4, sampled from Stereolab's Tomorrow Is Already Here, from the album Emperor Tomato Ketchup. An excellent companion for my earlier page of rock beats in 5, or any of the other myriad of stuff in 5 I've posted. It's a nice, easy tempo for those Chaffee linear patterns, for example. There are browser extensions that will allow you to rip an mp3 from YouTube videos— if you put this on your own player, it will loop cleanly, so you can play all day without a break.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Painting again

It looks like we'll be seeing a small shift in emphasis, here, as I've set up a studio, and am painting again after about a ten year hiatus— plus another few years when I was doing more with photography than painting. It happens that my sister, who is an interior designer, sold a couple of my better pictures remaining in inventory, and that has focused my mind on the facts that a) oh yeah, I can make money selling paintings, and b) I'm running out of stuff she can sell— I'd better do some new work.

Money and dwindling stock may seem like crass reasons to make art— it should be something you are driven to do!— which I am. I never stopped doing visual creative work. But at a certain point in your life you become a sort-of finished artist, and it doesn't really matter what the medium is. I can put my focus where it makes sense from a business perspective without really sacrificing my personal expression. In the context of my career, I can do that.

It helps that painting was never going to be about technical chops for me— I was going to do in a self-taught way, like a rock musician. Once they know their basic thing, those guys can sit around in St. Tropez, not doing or writing anything for a few years, and then go into the studio, and, hammering it out for a lot of months, produce some creditable work.

Right now I'm relearning the medium by doing some sketches in acrylic on paper. Acrylic is a versatile medium-heavy bodied paint, like oil paint, but it's water soluble. It dries more quickly and is easier to work with. After a day or two of fighting with my old habits, with disappointing results, I realized my old improvisational style isn't working that well. I would make a lot of marks I shouldn't have. Instead I need to step back, look, figure out the next thing that's going to make the picture better, and then try to get some clean paint onto the paper.

What I have going for me now is that I'm not as broke as I was when I was younger, and am not as miserly with paint as I used to be. And I have 15 more years experience in using my eyes looking at and designing photographs. A lot of bullshit concerns of my 20s have fallen away.

One thing that has really changed is the ease of photographing the work with a camera phone. The instant feedback is really helpful. Looking at your pictures on a screen gives a false impression of them, but it also gives you some distance, and ties the pictures together. It helps you see the picture the way it's going to look packaged, and in context. The last time I was seriously working, I didn't own a digital camera— cheap ones were horrible— and getting your work photographed meant paying somebody $500 to shoot some slides. It was kind of like playing music without ever recording.

Once you actually get into the studio and begin painting, it's remarkable how difficult it is to stop. It can take an hour to actually get out of the studio after you decide to be done for the day— it's really hard to stop looking.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Jazz glossary

Here's something useful, from A Passion For Jazz: an online glossary of jazz terms. It's not perfect. The entry for the word jive, for example:

Jive: the jargon of hipsters.

Jive is a widely used term among jazz musicians, and it has no positive connotation today. It's basically synonymous with bullshit, usually having to do with bullshit playing. Mostly used as a noun, not so much as a verb any more.

And there's this:

Hipster (or Hepster): One who is Hip (or Hep.)

Just no, on that one. Not just no: hipster is a dead term in the jazz world, except as it's used in the broader populace to describe young people living in Brooklyn or Portland. Hip is definitely used a lot, hep is strictly comedy, like if you're portraying a really clueless undercover cop or guidance councilor.

Disappointed that there is no entry for the adjective happening.

So the slang entries are kind of jive, but it's worth checking out for any actual musical terms you've heard, but don't know.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Flam accents in 7/8 — same-handed

Well, it's been a whirlwind of OTHER STUFF lately, hence the lack of posts— I won't bore you with that. This came up while working with our recent John Zorn loop in 7/8; it's a page of flammed and accented singles in 7/8, starting every measure with the left hand. I find the concept works well for soloing. For some reason, the double left leading into each downbeat helps the thing stay anchored— with a strictly alternating sticking, the lead changes hands every measure, and it's easier to lose it. We could've started every measure with the right hand, but it just plays hipper leading with the left. Since these patterns end with RLRL, it's easy to get out of it, too— you can just end with a RLRLR, and you're back into leading with your right.

A flam accent is of course a specific rudiment, and is mostly not in evidence here, but this thing has a similar feel to my old same-handed flam accent thing— also very useful in soloing— and I have had so little coffee yet that I'm not going to sweat the arguably misleading title. The exercises are not dramatically different from one another, so burn through this in page-at-once mode. Play these with brushes as well as with sticks.

Get the pdf

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Very occasional quote of the day: remember this

“The obstacle is the path.”

— Zen proverb, via the Zen proverbs Twitter feed

The “purpose” of Zen is not to be a performance-enhancer, but this is a good one to remember in the practice room. It can be like running into a stiff wind to stay in the zone of working on the new stuff you can't play yet, where you have to concentrate fully, while sounding bad— just now, writing this post I'm going over and looking at other stuff instead of putting the next word down. It's very easy to deflect into familiar, easy, fun, no-brainer stuff. So remember that.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Your bio sucks. My bio sucks.

IMAGE AND CAPTION: Boilerplate should 
never be anything but a creepy, late-Victorian,
steampunkish, fictional robot in your life— it
has NO PLACE in your bio! 
Via Ted Gioia on Twitter, here's a good piece from NPR on artist bios, by classical writer Anastasia Tsioulcas. Basically, artist bios suck, and they tell the reader nothing about who the person is as an artist:

Paragraph 1: six quotes praising their brilliance from major American critics, crammed together then lightly glazed with enough subjects and verbs to form sentences. 
Paragraph 2: a list of their awards and international venues where they've played. 
Paragraph 3: a long list of composers who have written for them (most of whom very few people would be familiar with, unless the reader were also a composer or performer). 
Paragraph 4: a list of academic institutions they've worked with. 
Paragraph 5: a list of other performers they've played with. 

Jazz musicians are particularly egregious with this— who I played with is the bulk of a lot of bios. If somebody ever got near a stage holding an instrument while somebody famous was present— in a clinic, at a jam session, whatever— into the played with list it goes. Paraphrasing something my brother once said, Right, they played with Herbie Hancock for one concert when there was no budget for him to bring in his own players, Herbie didn't dig it, and that was the end of it.

This is an American thing, incidentally— everyone thinks the arts are a joke, including the artists, so they fall into this thing of proving they're serious by just listing all the serious things they've done.

Tsioulcas continues:

[T]his is an opportunity to shape one's personal brand. In my experience, classical artists often pride themselves on not having to debase themselves for the sake of commerce. Maybe that's part and parcel of existing so far outside the musical mainstream. But what such artists fail to recognize, in my opinion, is that this can be not just a marketing exercise but a chance for a bit of self-reflection. What makes what you do — and what you want to express — meaningful? 
To be more blunt: Why should we listen to you, whether you're an international soloist or still in school? Think of this as a chance to craft a compelling narrative in a truncated form. Who was your inspiration? Who was your teacher? What other music do you listen to, aside from your own repertoire? 

It's difficult for musicians to say why people should listen to us, not least because we're not confident that people should listen to us, having had feelings of unworthiness pounded into us in our early careers. And we just deal in an abstract medium, and we're generally unclear about its value, and of our value as individual players to our consumers— writers, radio people, venue bookers, and the public.

It's not actually a real productive way of thinking about it: Oh my God, why should they listen to me? I don't know!!! God, I suck!!!  Instead, maybe tell them what you are, and let them assume you're good. Figure out your high concept— the three or four general things that you're about. Thinking of Bill Frisell, you think: Americana, Hendrix, avant-garde noise, composer. Thinking of Don Pullen, you think deep blues, classical chops, tone clusters. Thinking of Paul Motian, you think primitivism, simple tunes, heavy swinging groove. If you can't come up with a compelling similar description of your own work, you might need to dig a little deeper in making something special out of yourself. “Just another pretty good modern jazz drummer who plays pretty good because college has figured out how to make people play pretty good” is not good enough.

I got away from listing influences some years ago, after seeing a comic strip in an alternative paper with an illustration showing a lot of 90s hipsters walking around thinking “My main influences are Sonic Youth and Pavement.” It rather indicates an amateur mindset— if you don't already have a reputation, or if you're not real good writer, I think it can sink you with a skeptical reader. If you've made an exceptionally serious study of someone in particular, or are his protégé, go ahead and say it. Same with inspiration— it's a sappy word, and you have to handle it carefully.

None of this is real easy. You can screw up in all sorts of horrible ways:

  • It can take years to figure out who you are, and to figure out that who you are is more interesting than who you think you should be— like, don't pretend you're a some kind of thrilling hard-core New Yorker with deep jazz roots, when you're really from a fracking town in North Dakota. A noise artist from a fracking town is actually a lot more interesting. From NY? Whoopdedoo, dog bites man, WGAS? From ND? What, wow, really? That is so WEIRD! I want to hear that!
  • You want to have a story, but you also don't want to tortuously act like there's a story where there is no story.
  • Emotional appeals and hyperbole have a tone of pleading, and are best avoided— let it be assumed that you are sincere, and are emotionally invested in your work.
  • Also avoid myth making: Then in 2007 Cory got his first copy of Stick Control and his universe exploded like God Himself rode a hydrogen bomb onto Cory's mom's house, and he realized that being a drummer was indeed his true calling— Cory, I mean, not God... yeah. No.

So there. We have a big mess of stuff to think about. Time to get out our copies of Strunk and White, and get cracking. And don't go looking at my bio for examples of not doing the things I'm telling you not to do. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Daily best music in the world: driving music

Long day yesterday driving to the Oregon coast for a recording session, and home again. I did bring along one of my favorite things ever, Before We Were Born, by Bill Frisell. We used to listen to this driving through the Cascades in the middle of the night, driving home after gigs, from Bend to Eugene. Frisell moved to Seattle around this time, and the music is a perfect backdrop to the landscapes out here:

Also had with me Sun Ra Visits Planet Earth / Interstellar Low Ways— two records on one CD, both of which are pretty straightforward swing, and a lot of fun:

And Peng! by Stereolab— self-explanatory...

One more from each album after the break:

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Empty complaining about something we should never have expected to be any good anyway

CHICK WEBB, ladies and gentlemen. Apparently
a white, 19th century coke-slag magnate.
If you want to get your blood pressure up— not least because the site is so poorly coded it may crash your browser— go look at this list of the “greatest drummers ever” on a site called Ranker, which Rolling Stone linked to.

High points include:

  • The greatest drummers ever were overwhelmingly white Metal drummers, apparently.
  • With a few mediocre British rock drummers of the 70s thrown in for good measure.
  • Genres associated with the drummers: Keith Moon > “skiffle”, Dave Grohl > “doom metal”, Stewart Copeland > “New Wave”, Phil Collins > “blue-eyed soul”, Alex Van Halen  > “jazz fusion”, Vinnie Colaiuta > “Thrash Metal, Progressive Metal”, Charlie Watts > “Reggae”, Dennis Chambers > “Chicano rock” and on and on.
  • First appearance of a non-white drummer: #25, Billy Cobham
  • Elvin Jones and Tony Williams make #62 and 68, with approximately as many negative votes as positive ones. After them, everyone who legitimately belongs on a list like this gets more negatives than positives. Jack Dejohnette manages to hang in the top 100 with 496 positive votes and 582 negatives.
  • In the comments, people are extremely pissed off at the injustice of Joey Jordison— one of the drummers from 90s Metal band Slipknot— not only NOT GETTING NUMBAR 1, but not being included AT ALL, WHAT! Infamy!

So, yeah. Obviously, as we all expected going in, the list is useful to us not so much for its stated purpose, but for the much narrower purpose of comprehending the median of idiocy of people on the Internet who are interested enough to vote on it. It is rather interesting that even generally Internet-popular musicians like Benny Greb and Thomas Lang don't fare that well, either...

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Grooves o' the day: Rumproller

Eaaasing back into blogging after an eventful couple of weeks, with some grooves by Billy Higgins, from Lee Morgan's album The Rumproller. First, the groove from the title track:

Often he'll accent the & of 4 on the tom tom with his left hand, or omit the note on 4, and just play the &— listen through and you'll catch a lot of variations he does around beat 4. There is basically always a single rim click on 2— no variations in that part of the measure.

The tune Eclipso, always my favorite from this album, is faster, and most of the activity is with the left hand; his right doesn't come off of the cymbal much, and he doesn't accent on the cymbal as much as on Rumproller. He plays this on the intro:

During the tune he plays a bossa rhythm, with variations, with his left hand— he'll move this around the drum quite a bit at times:

The feet aren't real important on any of these: The bass drum is played very softly, with occasional accents; there may be hihat present, but I wasn't hearing it. Do whatever feels right; you could go to a bossa rhythm in the bass drum if you want, and you can always add the hihat on 2 and 4 to anything.

If you don't already have it, you'll want to go buy this record. Here's the Rumproller:

And Eclipso:

Monday, September 07, 2015

Rock beats displaced

You're not going to be seeing much of me for a few days— I'm getting married tomorrow, I've got a pre-wedding party today, then a micro-honeymoon at the Oregon coast Wednesday through Friday (the real one has us in France in December, so don't pity us)... so, yeah... light posting this week...

Displacement is a popular drummerland topic, but as a concept it's not a thing I'm real into. I think mostly people are trying to sell drum lessons, with cool, advanced/insider-y sounding techniques. We're not doing this to be hip, throw people off and then make fun of them for getting lost; this is more of a basic way of opening up basic grooves a little bit, in music where that is appropriate. A lot of drummery-drummers have been messing with it for some years, but the main precedent that concerns us in how it was used by James Brown's drummers— see Stanton Moore's book Groove Alchemy for an explanation of that. Being used in real music for the masses is sort of the gold standard for legitimacy for these “advanced” techniques. I don't want to do things just because an amazing drummer did them in a display of his awesomeness.

The idea here is pretty simple: in a two-measure phrase, we play a basic rock beat for one measure, and then the same rock beat shifted an 8th note late. Basically we're adding an 8th note (played on the hihat) at the beginning of the displaced measure, and losing the last 8th note of the displaced beat, so we can land on 1 at the top of the repeat. In the second section, the last two beats of the first measure, and the first two beats of the second measure are displaced— there's an extra 8th note on the hihat on 3 of the first measure, and we lose an 8th note of the displaced groove going back into the non-displaced pattern on 3 of the second  measure. Don't worry if this verbiage doesn't make sense— just look at the page and try to figure out why things are the way they are. If you can't figure it out, don't worry about that, either— just learn the notes and everything will be cool.

As a warmup, play the first measure of exercises 1-8, repeating many times, then play the exercises as written. For exercises 9-13, repeat the plain form of the beat (in the left hand colum) many times, then go into the displaced version— hopefully you'll be see/hear/think how they logically relate to each other. But if not, it doesn't really matter; just playing the patterns and learning their individual little melodies will be enough to add something to your playing. Learning to “do displacement” is not important, the sound of the patterns is.

Get the pdf

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Milton Resnick

The painter Milton Resnick (1917-2004) was one of the first generation of New York Abstract-Expressionist painters— a contemporary of Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, and the rest— and the longest-lived of them. I was exposed to him through my large-scale painting professor at the University of Oregon, Frank Okada, who lived in New York in the 50s, and met some of those painters. In the late 40s Resnick had an almost Picasso/Braque like relationship with de Kooning— they were close personally, and produced work in a very similar vein. Late-cubist, largely black and white, abstract paintings with collage-like jumbles of biomorphic forms, using housepaint as well as artist's oils. Okada felt Resnick had better design sense, and I think he was right.

Untitled, 1948— Milton Resnick

Painting, 1948 — Willem de Kooning

These paintings launched de Kooning's career, while Resnick continued to struggle. Fame is still something you have to cultivate, and apparently he was not about that, or was not as successful at it as were some of his peers. Okada seemed to think he was personally difficult. He also did not settle on a personal, iconic image the way the others did— you could call it a formula with some of them— and his work continued to develop independent of trends in theory, criticism, and art consumption. Within a few years he was painting richly textured, Monet-like abstracts, and a few years later the scene had moved on to something else entirely. By the time these videos were made, Resnick's selling prices are such that he could raise $30,000 to buy a building by hustling up the sale of a painting. De Kooning paintings (he had died only a couple of years earlier, in 1997) were selling for millions of dollars, and for tens of millions a few years later.

With that, here are a couple of cool videos of Resnick working, and talking about working:

At the beginning of that second video is the painter Pat Passlof (1928-2011), who was married to Resnick, and was also great, and relatively little-known. She was a student of de Kooning's and did some very good, similar work herself. This picture is completely derivative of de Kooning's and Resnick's work of a couple of years earlier, but it's still great— there are a lot of bad paintings by second and third tier New York artists of this era, so this is a very exciting picture for how good it is:

Safe Arrival, 1950— Pat Passlof

One more video of a q&a with Resnick:

Take a look at some more of his work.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Drumming myths

A decent piece from the Modern Drummer site— 12 Drumming Myths Debunked. Here are the entries that interest me, with my comments on them:

2. Mistakes are always bad.
Honor thy mistakes with repetition—I think the legendary Brian Eno said that. If it’s the right mistake, and you react quickly enough to it and then either repeat it artfully or create some cool variation of it, you could end up being called a drumming genius. 
Plus, if you obsess over playing everything just right, you’ll likely have trouble relaxing enough to groove well. And you’ll have trouble opening yourself up to the unknown, which is something great artists continuously strive for. 
So you blew that fill—what are they gonna do, arrest you? Lighten up and have some fun.

As I always tell my students, mistakes are real music trying to happen. They're things you know how to play, but that you haven't accepted you know how to play yet. Obviously, there are mistakes and there are mistakes; you don't want to drop beats or rush terribly. But things that you didn't mean to play, but are basically in time with a good sound, are not mistakes. It's an especially valuable philosophy in the practice room: playing out of books, mistakes are actually natural variations on the written thing. When they happen, recognize what you did “wrong”, and learn to play that on purpose, as well as the “correct” pattern you were trying to learn. Learning the written idea, plus all of the things you did leading up to learning it, it becomes living vocabulary; a little related body of stuff to play, instead of just the one written-out book-thing.

3. More resonance is always good.
About fifteen, twenty years ago, the drum industry fell all over itself trying to create mechanisms that allow toms to resonate as freely as possible. The trend continues today, with some manufacturers shackling their otherwise gorgeous kits with hideous-looking suspension mounts in response to this “need.” 
It seems to me that a blind ambition toward more resonance represents a case of art following technology, rather than the other way around. Yes, a less choked drum can often mean a better-sounding drum, and the resultant longer sustain of a note can be a desired effect. The opposites are obviously sometimes true as well, given the existence of things like Moongel and electronic gates. 
In cases like this I find it helpful to think about all of the profound pieces of recorded music that were produced before the advent of suspension mounts. Would Bonzo’s drums on Zeppelin IV sound better if they’d been recorded with hung toms? How about Art Blakey’s on Orgy in Rhythm? Or Nick Mason’s on Dark Side of the Moon?
And check this out: Freely resonating toms can actually make it harder for you to be heard. Controlled drum sounds can be more easily mixed, manipulated, and amplified, allowing them to be better heard without obliterating the other instruments. 
While it’s cool that mechanical “improvements” like suspension mounts give us more options, be careful to separate the marketing from the motivation. In this day and age of overly programmed music, it’s always wise to question the importance of any piece of technology, no matter how seemingly benign.

Mind you, Bonham's drums and Blakey's drums were basically unmuffled on those recordings. The author seems to mainly be taking issue with mounting systems. Personally, I don't think RIMS-type mounts vs. standard mounts is the big issue— it's more about unmuffled, single ply heads vs. dampened heads. There is a time and place for each; for many years I had all my drums, bass drum included, wide open in all situations. As it turns out, there are times you want to use some muffling: when playing on the softer end of the spectrum, or with incompetent soundmen, or in the recording studio, based on consulting with your engineer.

Several more after the break:

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Rhythms in 7/4

Here's a page of basic rhythms in 7/4 to go with yesterday's practice loop. The vamp on the loop is phrased in 3+2+2/4, so I've given a Ted Reed-style guide part on the bass drum line in that phrasing. 

If you've worked with Ted Reed's book Syncopation at all, or followed this blog, you should know some ways of using these rhythms on the drum set, but here are some ideas anyway. Using this rhythm as an example:

I haven't given a key here, but you probably know that Xs = cymbal, middle line = snare, bottom line = bass drum— if  not, this isn't what you should be working on. Anyway: you could revoice the rhythm between the snare drum and bass drum, in a rock-type phrasing, and play 8th notes (or another rhythm) on the cymbal:

You could play the rhythm on the cymbal, along with a basic rock-type groove on the snare drum and bass drum:

You could play the rhythm with the right hand on the cymbal, along with the bass drum, and fill in the gaps in the rhythm with the left hand on the snare drum (or moving around the drums):

You could play the rhythm with both hands together, on a cymbal and on the snare drum (or on any two drums), and fill in the gaps with the bass drum:

On that last one, where more than two bass drum hits in a row are called for, I'll often break up the multi-note runs by putting a rest in the middle of them. Of course there are many other Reed-style interpretations you can apply to these rhythms.

Get the pdf