Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Dom Irrera talks

If you don't know who Dom Irrera, he's sort of the Godfather of road comedians— stand up is a punishing trade, and comedians try to get away from it when they can. It's also a very pure form of comedy, and Irrera is one who has stuck with it year after year, completely killing it since the 80s. I saw him on a Sunday night at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles back in 1989— Sunday is their traditional open mic night, when pros come out to try out new material, to keep their chops up, or because it's just what they do. It's not an amateur thing; there were several people on that evening who had been in movies recently, and the second person on was Richard Pryor. Here's Dom in about that period:

So, Irrera has been doing a podcast, on which he basically just hangs with other comedians, and talks shop— there's quite obviously no preparation, no real questions, not even much effort to be interesting to an audience— it's just a straight pro comedian hang. It's very cool. The Hang has kind of died off as a thing musicians do, but clearly it's still a major thing in professional comedy. Here's Irrera talking to another legend, Richard Lewis:

You can get part of the series on iTunes, or you can go here and get them all.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Studio triplet feel

Here's a set of basic patterns for making a 70s-style triplet groove, or a moderate, triplety, shuffle,, as you hear on songs like Isn't She Lovely, How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You, Higher Ground, or Lopsy Lu. Nobody likes working on this style— as I noted before, a combination of factors make it a more challenging style than it appears— but it does come up if you're working commercial jobs, and it's a drag to get caught unprepared. Work on it a bit, and you'll kill it.

Play each of the patterns as written, then combine parts. Start by learning each of the cymbal variations along with each of the bass drum variations, then play each of those patterns with all of the snare drum variations.

get the pdf

Practice loop after the break:

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Quarter note Reed method: Maiden Voyage

People, I am all about the quarter notes these days. This is an easy method using the rhythm of the vamp from the Herbie Hancock tune Maiden Voyage— we'll combine that rhythm, played on the cymbal, with the linear quarter note drum parts from Syncopation, by Ted Reed. That's pp. 8-9, or Lesson 3, if you own the new edition of the book. Normally I would explain every step of the process, but you can figure it out. Open up your copy of Reed, print the pdf, and go.  

Usually the cymbal notes will be played with the right hand, but you can catch some of them with the left, if you'd like. And improvise whatever sticking you like on the snare drum notes, move them around the drums, adding flams or whatever embellishments you like. Take advantage of the simplicity of the method to fit that stuff in. Practice lines 1-15 with and without the pickups, then test yourself with the 16 bar exercise.

get the pdf

Practice loop:

If for some unpardonably lame reason you don't own this record, the complete original track is after the break:

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

How to really play jazz drums

I received this question by email:

I wondered if I might trouble you with a small query about a video I recently watched: It's called 'How To (Really) Play Jazz Drums' and it's presented by a guy who does a channel on more advanced playing (you know, Guilliana, Nate Smith and others). It struck me as an odd way to develop a jazz vocabulary, and I wondered what you take is on this? Is learning how to 'really' play Jazz is through the filter of hip hop?! 
He's not a massive fan of the syncopation method (it seems), and his videos are pretty popular. Is this a worrying trend, or a valid gateway?

I think I've watched one of this drummer's videos before (can't find his name, just many repetitions of the 80/20 Drummer trademark)— the only biographical info I found states that he was a student of John Riley's, and that he lives in New York. I'll watch the video and state any observations as they come up. The presentation is pretty meta, so you have to have been playing the music for several years to know what he's talking about. I like that for myself, because I hate sitting through a lot of re-explanation of basic things, but novices might be lost or misled.

Learning to play swing
Good: He says swing is a way of playing 8th notes. As you know, it makes me angry when people say “it's triplets” and move on. Not angry, but I don't like it as an explanation of swing.
OK/questionable: He says the way to learn to play swing rhythm is to play along with hip hop. It's not a bad exercise, but usually the first suggestion would be that you play and listen to jazz music.

“Bottom up”
He suggests that jazz is usually thought of as “top down” playing, by which I assume he means that it is ride cymbal-driven, or hands-driven. So when  he says bottom up, he apparently means playing in a bass drum-driven way, like in backbeat-oriented styles. It's a good exercise, not so good as your primary concept. It takes some musicianship to pull it off in a way that doesn't sound like a funk or rock drummer trying to play jazz, and that doesn't draw some pointed questions from the more experienced musicians you play with.

The hihat conversation
The presentation about the hihat doesn't cut it for me— I need a little more to work with by way of explanation. I can see what he's doing, but his job is to explain it. He says conversation the way other people use interaction, or coordination, or independence, which is a good idea. The words you choose matter, and conversation suggests a more musical way of thinking than independence does.

How he plays the drums
With all of this talk about jazz drumming, but no talk about jazz music, you want to check if you're ending up in the right place. He has a nice touch, has a command over the instrument, plays things that are stylistically “correct”, and probably sounds great playing with a band. In his demonstrations I'm not hearing what I consider a jazz musician's phrasing, which is going to be oriented around four measure or longer phrases. Basically, if I'm not able to hear Bye Bye Blackbird— a blues, something— as a backdrop to what you play, it sounds wrong to me.

Not a great title
At the 8 1/2 minute mark, it occurs to me we're not really talking about jazz here— he's more sketching out some ways of doing creative independence, with, it happens, a swing feel. “Jazzy” hip hop, maybe.

The feel
Hmm, all we get here is “practice with the metronome on the swing & of 2/4.” Not a bad suggestion, but I'd think that subject would merit a fuller treatment.

Objectively what he's done is sketch out some ways of practicing hip hop with a jazz-like feel; so the title's no good. You can't have a jazz video without some kind of reference to jazz music, and the common practice of it. He's clearly educated, and able to play, but what I'm hearing feels curiously detached from the tradition. Normally jazz musicians make references to that stuff without even thinking about it, so it makes me wonder to what extent it's part of his background in a serious way at all, or what's going on here. Overall not a bad sketchpad for alternative ways of practicing a jazz feel, and coordination, not good as a primary concept. B-

Monday, June 22, 2015

Jazz language?

Great blog post by Bill Plake: “The Problem With Studying 'The Jazz Language'”:

The other morning I was giving a first lesson to a jazz guitarist ( a university student) and was struck by something I notice quite often: Young jazz students spending a seemingly disproportionate amount of practice time learning and memorizing jazz lines and improvised solos. 
When I asked this musician what he practices, he said that most of his practice time is spent learning new tunes, heads (like Donna Lee, Milestones, etc) and transcribing and playing improvised jazz solos by the “masters”. 
This is all good stuff to do if you’re studying jazz. It lets you go deeply into the  heart of the jazz tradition, giving you perspective and context. It gives you insights about how the musicians formed their ideas. It helps you develop technical skill that you can use as an improviser. It improves your ear. All good stuff. 
But then when I asked my student what else he practices, his face went blank. He said, “That’s pretty much it. I want to really absorb the jazz language. All my teachers tell me this is the best way to do that.” 
Then I listened to him play. He was very competent, very fluent, had a nice time feel, clearly showing how much, and to whom he had listened. 
He was also stunningly unoriginal, and rather disconnected from the improvisational process. Everything he played sounded like an excerpt from one of the lines or solos he’d memorized. I don’t mean he was copying things note for note. It was…well, as if he weren’t really feeling at all what he was playing. It was as if it came from some external source, foreign to him.

Basically, the student plays well, studies everything he supposed to, and cannot be specifically faulted musically, but is missing something fundamental, and what is up with that?

We do study a fair amount here, but, for me, its purpose is to develop something in common with players I love. I want to know their culture, and play the same game as them. I don't want to make classical music out of it. Learning jazz as a historical style is a pretty minor end in itself— it's more a means to larger creative end.

There is a lot of good discussion of this over on Facebook— not everyone agrees completely. Some think it's not realistic to expect students to be creative players, that creativity is some kind of rare thing requiring a high level of mastery. Clark Terry's “imitate, assimilate, innovate” dictum is quoted several times, but I'm skeptical that you can do those strictly in order. I always tried to do all three at once. As I commented on FB, this may or may not have made me a better player early on— I think it probably made me a worse player, when I was in school— but when I did eventually accumulate some field knowledge, I had a creative personality in place ready to do something with it. I don't know if you can train people to be subservient to genre rules for 10-15 years, and then expect them to shift gears and think like artists.

Daily best music in the world: not Bop Gun

Hey, there are other songs than Bop Gun on Parliament's Funkentelechy Vs. The Placebo Syndrome. Here are a couple of nice, light little numbers that maybe get overshadowed by that funk classic. The drummer is the great Jerome 'Bigfoot' Brailey, who is still around. If you're a fan, you can friend him on Facebook.

First, The Placebo Effect, with a little Beatles-like hook:

Funkier is Funkentelechy:

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Phil Austin 1941-2015

Very sorry to hear we lost another comedy legend last week: Phil Austin, from the Firesign Theater— an incredible surrealist satire troupe, if you don't know them; they're really the American Monty Python. Austin was best known for his character Nick Danger:

TFT's album Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers is really essential listening.

Figure and fills — Cantaloupe Island

Here's another practice loop, with a page of things to play with it. What I've done here is sample two measures from Herbie Hancock's Cantaloupe Island, and write out a page of fills to fit the figure:

Use the stickings I've given, or don't. Move snare drum line around the tom toms— I neglected to include a key, but by now you know that the top line is a cymbal, the middle line the snare drum, and the bottom line the bass drum. The triplet fills are pretty fast at this tempo, so you might want to take it down a bit, with a metronome instead of the loop.

Get the pdf

Audio— the original track, and a practice loop— after the break:

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Ginger Baker

October 2019 update: Mr. Baker has died, and I've updated and expanded this post a bit, and put it in past tense. I'm rather critical of him. If that's not what you want to read about him, the drummer Alan Cook wrote a very nice remembrance here.

Watching the 2012 documentary about Ginger Baker, Beware of Mr. Baker, he was to all appearances a very simple man, possibly mentally ill, definitely a Grade A bastard, which—well, whatever— a lot of artists are not good human beings. But I don't feel there's any reason not to write frankly about him.

Along with John Bonham and Keith Moon, Baker was one of the famous “drummery” drummers to come out of rock in the 60s, although his influence has faded by comparison. Moon was rough as a player, but had more likable energy, and Bonham— where do we start?— John Bonham was the future of rock drumming. You could argue that Baker had broader ability; he played a wider variety of music than Bonham or Moon, and he was an actual jazz musician— he just wasn't a very good one.

I once owned an album Baker made in the 90s, which had Bill Frisell and Charlie Haden playing covers of some great tunes from earlier in their careers— it's basically the same fanboy album I would have made at the time if somebody gave me $50,000 to make the record of my dreams. I can't fault his taste in listening. 

2023 update: Actually, Chip Stern's taste— he put the session together, and I'm sure selected the tunes. After Baker's death Bill Frisell said the following in Billboard: 

 “It was like a setup: Chip Stern, who produced the record, he knew Ginger for a long, long time, and he knew me and he knew Charlie. So he had a vision of what it would be like to hear us playing together. Somehow he convinced the record company to go for it. So for Ginger, he knew Charlie but I don’t think he knew who I was at all.” 

Listening to his playing there, all the ingredients are there for a rocking, Paul Motian-like concept, but it is just not happening. I'm not going to expend a lot of effort analyzing it, but the frequent, Bam-Bam style, mono-dynamic, mono-rhythmic tom tom tom fills are a large clue— a gross indication that we're missing something fundamental. I think whatever narcissistic personality disorder helped him attract a lot of attention and advance his career when he was young also messed with his musicianship.

Here's the movie. There's a considerable amount hagiographic Hollywood nonsense about his incredible unprecedented genius as a drummer, which is obviously not the case. And irritatingly, in the world of this movie, black artists exist primarily to prove Ginger Baker's greatness. It's a pretty grotesque distortion of history in that respect.

2023: The movie, Beware of Mr. Baker, doesn't seem to be available to embed here. It's certainly available online somewhere, you'll have to dig it up.   

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Daily best music in the world: Splash

Slow week. Of course we can't just have a continuous onslaught of new stuff— I don't write just to hear myself bloviate, and I've already put on the blog far more information than I was ever given by my teachers during my entire musical education. There are going to be little troughs.

So let's do what should be our main focus in life anyway, and listen. This has become one of my favorite Miles Davis tracks— meaning, one of my favorite tracks period— Splash, from the album Water Babies. It was recorded at the same time as Filles De Kilimanjaro, but didn't make the cut for any of the albums released at the time. It makes sense, because the tune seems pretty obviously incomplete; it's still a great sketch:

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Vindication, thy name is Buzzfeed

SHUT UP, Einstein,
there's a drummer present.
We are so smrt:

[R]esearchers at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institutet found that drummers who kept a tighter rhythm also scored better on a 60-question intelligence test. This is a reflection of better problem solving skills, which creates a positive impact on those around them.
If that wasn’t enough, other studies added that rhythmic music actually makes people smarter. A University of Washington study showed better results from participants who undertook rhythmic light and sound therapy. Additionally research from the University of Texas tested the same process on children with ADD, finding that it not only had the same effect as Ritalin, but their IQ’s actually went up. 
Going further than simple intelligence, Oxford University found that drummers produced a “natural high” when playing together, which heightened both pain and happiness thresholds. On top of this, at Harvard, they discovered that drummers who missed a beat were actually tapping into the rhythm of the earth, which moves in waves rather than like a clock. 
So there you go, drummers are not only smarter than everybody ever, but they are also at one with the earth and happier than you are. Time to take up some lessons.

It would've been nice to have a link to the source of this extremely insightful— really top notch— research to see how badly it's being mischaracterized here, but they didn't include one.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Daily best music in the world: Weather Report

Lots of other action right now, so light posting is going to continue this week, so enjoy 8:30, by Weather Report. Peter Erskine is on drums. I used to set my turntable to repeat, and have this going all night. You have to listen to albums— and listen to them again and again— this Spotify paradigm, foisted upon us by tech people for their own ends, is OK for casual listeners, but is not for serious musicians. Professionals listen to albums, again and again.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Ornette Coleman 1930-2015

New York Times notice

Ornette Coleman's Revolution from The New Yorker

Four songs @ Vox

Rolling Stone notice

Huffington Post notice

The Guardian notice

NPR notice

Your big paycheck is just around the corner.

In Salon today is a conversation with Marc Ribot about the future of copyright, the Internet, and the state of the music business in general. What started the conversation was some statements by producer Steve Albini, and Ribot's open letter in response to him:

Dear Steve Albini: 
I’m writing as a recording artist, musician, and activist with c3, the Content Creators Coalition, a working-artist-run organization dedicated to economic justice in the digital domain.  
In a recent Billboard article you referred to copyright as an “expired concept”. 
You further stated that:  “… the intellectual construct of copyright and intellectual property ownership is not realistic…That old copyright model of the person who wrote something down owns it and anyone else who wants to use it or see it has to pay him, I think that model has expired.” 
If you truly believe that “Ideas, once expressed, become part of the common mentality. And music, once expressed, becomes part of the common environment…”, are you willing to sign a Creative Commons license placing your entire catalogue in the public domain? 
Or are you just another lousy hypocrite shilling for Google and other huge tech corporations who have made billions in ad-based profits while using our work, often without paying us or asking our permission, as click bait to increase their advertising rates? 
Working artists and musicians, at least those of us who can’t afford to make another record unless the last one paid its production costs, await your response. 
Sincerely, Marc Ribot

In perhaps the least-surprising outcome of the century, Albini has declined to move his catalog over to Creative Commons.

Here's the rabble-rousing conclusion of the Salon conversation with Ribot; do go read the whole thing.

What showed you just how bad the current situation was? 

Well, first of all, like everybody, in the beginning I thought the digital revolution was going to be the best thing since bread was sliced. I remember, my manager at the time was always telling me, “Oh, no, this is going to be fantastic, don’t worry about a thing.” 
And then, I started seeing something. I started seeing the record deals that were being offered cut in half. Then cut by two thirds. I started seeing the checks that were coming in cut in half, cut by two thirds. And everybody saying, “Don’t worry, you’re going to get checks from new digital sources, and they’re going to be much better, they’re going to make up for that.” And so we waited, and waited, and waited, and then I got my check, and it was for six dollars. I think that my first SoundExchange check or something like that. 
And I thought, this can’t be right, I must have done something wrong. I must have failed to register. And then I found out, no, we’ve done everything right, we’ve registered, and meanwhile — and I started talking to other musicians, they were having the same experience — but meanwhile, the hype was going on: “No, this is great! This is fantastic!” 
And, when people started to speak out about it, started to ask questions, “Well, how come we’re not getting paid, and how can we get paid if these people on the pirate sites are posting our stuff for free download?” Anyways, I saw that there was a lot of hype going around. I saw that there was a taboo against us speaking up about what was really going on. And, you know, I’ve always thought rock and roll is about farting in church, you know. 
So, I started to say what I wasn’t supposed to say. And that’s when I started to get involved. I started to see more and more hype, more and more bullshit. I started to see half of the people who were defending what was going on, saying, “No, utopia is just around the corner,” and “Oh, your big economic — your big paycheck is just around the corner!” And the other half were saying, “You don’t have the right to get paid at all! You know, we’re saying copyright is bad…”

Also see this VOQOTD by Ribot. Visit his site to read about the Content Creators Coalition, and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Daily best music in the world: Red Red Meat

All my writing energy is going into the new CSD! rock-and-funk book, so let's enjoy some more rock & roll. Here's a favorite band of mine: Red Red Meat, from Chicago, who put out a few albums on SubPop in the 90s. I think I read about them in Snipehunt, a Northwest fanzine, which did dozens of short, pretty entertaining album reviews in every issue: “Eleven tracks of pure crap.” was a notable one. Another one mentioned “something resembling a donkey's hoof” shooting out of the speaker and smashing him in the head, and described his experience of the music “lying in a spreading pool of fluid.” I learned about several good bands from them, including RRM. When they played in Portland in 1999, they had a drummer plus a percussionist, who played a lot of extra tom toms. That fattened up the sound in a nice way, without the usual conflicting snare-and-cymbals thing that usually bugs me about two-drummer bands.

From their 1994 album Jimmywine Majestic:

A couple more after the break:

Monday, June 08, 2015

Groove o' the day: Poison Idea — Marked For Life

Here's one for my student, Max: from an early demo by northwest punk legends Poison Idea. With our Iron Maiden shirts and long hair, my friends and I went to see them play in somebody's basement in Eugene at about this time— we were surprised that we were not made to feel unwelcome. The drummer is Dean Johnson. Thee Slayer Hippy wasn't with the group until later— he was a character in his own right. He produced a demo by my band, and had a lot of wonderful stories like about the time either Jerry or Pig tricked him into smoking PCP. I think he's recently been released from prison for a series of Drugstore Cowboy-style pharmacy robberies. Anyway, here's Dean's basic beat:

For much of the song he hits some crashes, and plays these fills:

BONUS PUNK SET-UP. Several times at the show Johnson played this little lead-in when he would come in with the drum beat— to me it's a quintessential punk set-up:

The track:

College — 01

Obligatory Animal House still.
I get where he's coming from.
Man, higher education in the US is so screwed up right now, I really do not envy the position of college-age musicians. Truthout has published a big exposé on what one school, New York University, has been doing, and it's pretty ugly:

Under Chairman of the Board Martin Lipton and President John Sexton, New York University has been operating as a real estate development/management business with a predatory higher-education side venture. A group of 400 faculty members at NYU, Faculty Against the Sexton Plan (FASP), have been working for years against what Pam Martens has called “running NYU as a tyrannical slush fund for privileged interests.” FASP just published a devastating document, The Art of the Gouge, which describes how NYU engages in a mind-numbing range of tricks and traps to extract as much in fees as possible from students, while at the same time failing to invest in and often degrading the educational “product”. 
The first part of the report goes through a mind-numbing and degrading set of scams perpetrated on students, including the bait and switch of hitting them with extra charges they can’t possibly find out about before they have committed to the school, to the tune of an estimated $10,000 per year; providing mediocre education in programs that require “study abroad” while also requiring them to stay in grossly overpriced university housing; admitting a high proportion of foreign students, precisely because they pay higher fees (and predictably, NYU’s premiums are even higher than that of other schools), and offering shamelessly overpriced, narrow, and not very good health services. 
Mind you, that list only scratches the surface. 
The second part, which describes how the funds are used, describes in gory detail how the school throws money at real estate empire-building, disproportionately for administrative space and housing when teaching facilities are in short supply. 
The third document describes how NYU is an even more extreme practitioner of squeezing the incomes of faculty while gold-plating administrator pay and perks. 

Like, I'm not surprised that this guy was an NYU student. Salon also links to the piece, with more commentary:

Like other non-profit universities, NYU is designated as a non-profit institution, which means it doesn’t pay any real-estate taxes.  The school’s recent charitable activities include things like purchasing a $5.2 million condo on Central Park West, as part of a sweetheart deal to lure a Columbia professor to NYU’s law school.  
The report features many other eye-popping examples of how the revenues from the school’s more than $70,000-per-year cost of attendance are being spent, while at the same time some students find themselves homeless, underfed, and desperate enough to trade sex for tuition money. 
Now in a sense it’s unfair to single out NYU, since the school [...] has merely been engaging in a somewhat more extreme version of the incredibly expensive pursuit of ever-more revenue that has consumed so much of contemporary American higher education.

Truthout has pdfs you can download that give all the gory details. NYU is just be an extra-bad example of a thing that's happening everywhere:

Not long ago the only schools with billion-dollar endowments were the usual Ivy League suspects. Now more than 100 colleges and universities are in that group, and the total is growing rapidly. (When I graduated from the University of Michigan in 1982, the school’s total endowment was $115 million. Last summer it had grown to $9.7 billion: an 84-fold increase.)

Tuitions have certainly been skyrocketing at my alma mater, the University of Oregon, a state school. They're obviously awash in student loan money, and have been on a building binge, with more construction in the past ten years than there was in the previous 30 my family lived in the area. More on this subject coming.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

This / not this: grunge

What can I say, I'm feeling nostalgic. This 1994 video of Portland band Iommi Stubbs playing at The Satyricon is pretty much the epitome of grunge every respect— from the horrible recording, to the lack of audience, to the band that never went anywhere. It's great. The Satyricon was a legendary club for Pacific Northwest “alternative” music— before that word came to mean “the heirs of Korn.” But like most of those places, it was a shithole, and richly deserved its demise ten years too late in 2010.

Contrast with Hollywood-style grunge, from the movie Singles:

Groove o' the day: Melvins cover Butthole Surfers

I was re-listening to the videos in this post, and, in honor of music that makes you feel good— contra music that makes you feel nothing— here's the beat Coady Willis and Dale Crover are playing on Melvins' live cover of Graveyard, originally by The Butthole Surfers. 

Fill liberally. Repeat until well after the rest of the band stops.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Comedy break

While I'm embroiled in working on the new rock-and-funk book— which is in the wonderful snowballing-on-me-and-just-about-needing-a-total-reorganization phase— enjoy some classic turn-of-the-90s comedy: Get A Life, starring Chris Elliot. If you haven't seen it, it is the greatest thing in the world, EVAR. I've these memorized for about 25 years, and they're never too far from my mind.

Here, Larry, have a stick... it's an old Navajo snack-treat...
First, Camping 2000, in which Chris and his best friend go camping with Chris's dad (played by his real-life dad, and comedy legend in his own right, Bob Elliot), and end up getting lost and eating hallucinogenic berries, which give them homicidal delusions:

More after the break:

Wednesday, June 03, 2015


Intense competition in the stock photography
trade leading everyone to do the
same damn thing.
From Alternet: A very interesting article on competition; specifically, about how it becomes more counter-productive as the stakes increase:

LP: What are some of the positive aspects of competition? Does it help us excel and achieve?

MH: Competition makes really boring things a lot more fun.If you have a boring walk to do, for example, turning it into a race makes it more fun. I think my biggest concern about competition is that when it enters into things that really matter, things that require higher order thinking, its benefits become very dubious indeed.

In my book, A Bigger Prize, there's a long section on what I see as the extremely destructive role that competition plays today in education. This is about competitive parents who are teaching their kids to be competitive and also competition within the classroom. We know from mountains of research that work in companies, for example, is done mostly in groups and teams, and we know that teamwork is really difficult. We also know that teams that are really high achieving are highly collaborative.

But none of those lessons really are being taught in an education system where you compete to get into the right school, you compete for class rankings, and you compete for college places. What we're seeing is that the more the school system and the parents double down on this "If you don't win you're toast" kind of mentality, the more kids are absorbing the message that education is all about the grade.

There are two consequences of this. If you can't get the grades then you may as well cheat because if grades are what matters, then who cares how you get them? And if you are competing against your classmates for class rankings and so on, then you are quite specifically motivated not to help them. I've lost track of the number of parents or kids who have told me stories where they were asked for help from a classmate but were advised not to help on the grounds that if the classmate did better, then they might push that individual down in the class ranking. This is so common it's just ridiculous. Yet what we know when we study high-achieving teams is that the single aspect that distinguishes them is helpfulness — information sharing and so on. So we are teaching kids to compete at an early age in a way that specifically disables the kinds of characteristics we want to see later in life.

Continued after the break:

Monday, June 01, 2015

New book, and Dunlop and Krupa

While I'm feverishly working on a new rock-and-funk book for the masses (or maybe a rock volume and a funk volume, if the thing grows out of control), visit Scott K. Fish's blog, where there a bit about Gene Krupa lining up some drums for Frankie Dunlop early in his career. And a whole lot of other great stuff from Fish's no doubt formidable archives— he was an editor at Modern Drummer in the early days, and met and wrote about a whole bunch of people we only dream about getting to talk to today.

The book, anyway, will be a complete system for rock/funk/pan-backbeat-genre drumming, using Ted Reed's Syncopation. The reason jazz drummers can improvise dense-sounding stuff so effortlessly is not because they/we are super-geniuses, it's because we have a good system for learning to play; in this book we'll adapt that system to the needs of backbeat-oriented drumming.

By the way, the Book of Intros, which I promised you late last year, has been basically finished for several months— I delayed putting it out to release the wonderful 2014 Book of the Blog, and now, before I actually release it, I need to open it up again and make sure I didn't embarrass myself by writing something stupid— always an urgent concern. We should be seeing the release of one or the other of these books within 6 weeks.