Monday, August 17, 2015

Hot takes: 49 Styles Every Drummer MUST KNOW!!!

Not a cha cha. Not anything.
Note: The random Internet-sourced written example to the left is included for comedic purposes only. Do not learn. Groove not good. 

I was flipping through an old copy of Drum! Magazine (issue 215, May, 2014), and saw this article: 49 Styles Every Drummer Must Know. It's a subject I wanted to talk about, and if someone else has already done most of the work, all the better. It's a decent piece, but maybe it's not actually possible to cover the subject adequately in a single magazine article. That's fine. What I'll do is just give one garden-variety professional's opinion about the styles listed, and their importance for a working drummer as I see it. I'm not going to print out the grooves from the article, but I'll try to give some kind of link or book reference. It's better to listen and copy than it is to just read a one-measure beat out of the magazine and leave it at that. There are a lot of these, so I'll do the quickest takes possible: 

Immediately you realize that, no, you can't really communicate a style in one paragraph and a single, one-measure groove example. My book Playing Samba and Bossa Nova I think is about the shortest practical introduction possible for a major style, of which samba is one.

I don't know why he sandwiched this Cuban groove in between two Brazilian grooves. Cuba != Brazil. This is a major drumming genre, and a demanding one at that, and everyone should spend a good amount of time with it. The language applies to a variety of Cuban/Salsa styles, as well as north American quasi-Latin styles.

Bossa Nova
If you do gigs with jazz musicians, you will play a lot of bossa novas, and you have to have some kind of personal relationship to this music to make it not suck for everyone. My samba/bossa nova field manual is highly recommended. Highly recommended.

Everything I know about reggae I learned from the Peter Tosh album Equal Rights, and a handful of other things. If I was going to get serious about this music, I'd be doing it on a 70s model, working on getting together the sound of my drums, my old school one-drop, and my lead-ins. In more modern playing, you can almost just play straight pop/funk stuff, and let the context make it be reggae. You do have to do some listening, though. It's been awhile since I've done a straight bar band gig, so I don't know how often this comes up these days.

Everything I know about ska I learned from one record, which I love: I Just Can't Stop It by The English Beat. I'm going to honor the great Everett Morton by just trying to play like him on the rare occasion that a ska tune comes up.

He's not referencing the Cuban style, but basically a rock & roll rhumba— a Latin-flavored groove played on the drums, with a ruff leading into beat 2, and a tom tom on 4&; with that information and by listening to a couple of recordings, you can come up with your own way of playing the feel. Usually I spell this north American style: “rhumba”, and save the “rumba” spelling for actual Cuban music.

Cha Cha
This is a basic, essential Cuban/Salsa style that applies to a few different genres. I'm mostly called upon to play it as kind of an old fashioned ballroom thing, and also with a Latin show band. It has a straighter 4 feel than other Cuban styles, with quarter notes played on a high-pitched cowbell, and the clave rhythm somewhat deemphasized. Keith Copeland's cha cha groove is very handy for most of my purposes.

Never had to play this style, but if you get a job on a Caribbean ship, you might want to download Arrow's song Hot Hot Hot, copy the beat, and play along with it.

Many more of these after the break:

They're referring to an Afro-Cuban 6/8. As a reader of this blog, you are already crushing on that groove. It doesn't necessarily get called a lot, but you do have to know. It's such a great, universal style I like to spend a lot of time with it— I feel like it's just an essential piece of human culture, and it influences the way you play other styles, for the better. And it's fun.

Fusion/Rock Afro-Cuban
Just a funkier version of the Afro-Cuban 6/8, with a backbeat on 3, or on 2 and 4. Here's Ndugu playing a version of it with George Duke.

It's just a bright two beat. Nobody ever practices these. When somebody calls Beer Barrel Polka, or Pennsylvania Polka, or Clarinet Polka, you know what to do. If you live in a part of the US with a serious polka culture, or if you just happen to know people doing polka gigs, you probably want to take a minute familiarize yourself with the repertoire, and maybe invest in some lederhosen, because there will be work to be had.

Jewish wedding beat. I learned this on the job while the tune was going— I started playing a two beat, and the pianist was able to communicate the groove to me while he was playing the tune. It's got the same tresillo-type rhythm you hear in New Orleans, Cuban, and Baiao musics, only different. This drummer plays it like a soca beat.

Here it's given as a basic pop beat with a strong four feel, but in the actual music a variety of things get played. I never saw the need to differentiate between Motown and any other style of pop drumming. Listen to the tunes and you'll play a variety of pop beat that's appropriate when they come up.

This is a huge area of drumming in which you are expected to be able to cover very traditional to very modern interpretations. A very large part of your artistry as a musician is expressed in this style, and developing it will take up much of your practice time for many years. It doesn't do it justice to reduce it to a single one-measure pattern.

The article gives a country beat and a basic rock beat— the “Back In Black” beat; personally, I never call the rock version a two-beat, even though technically that's what it is. A huge percentage of what you do in rock and funk is based on this beat, and if you don't know what to play, you can always play this, with an appropriate cymbal pattern. The country two-beat is really a different thing altogether.

Ballad Grooves — 16th note and triplet
Bass on 1 and 3, snare on 2 and 4, with minor variations; 16ths or triplets on cymbal.

Slow Blues
Just a triplet feel like the “ballad” groove, but there's a whole range of stuff a good blues drummer has to do in terms of creating dynamics. You can't really separate this groove from that body of stuff and from the blues form.

Jazz Waltz
An essential jazz style, which you need to be able to play very straight or very modern. It has a big effect on your broader jazz conception, because much of modern playing comes from using phrases in 3/4 within tunes in 4/4.

Twist Beat
I call this a “surf” beat; just a fast rock beat with the snare drum on 2-&, and 4.

Funky Grooves — Funky Rock, Funky Boogaloo, R&B
I personally have never been asked for these gradations of funk groove on a gig. There's just a general body of funk drumming, which, together with a lot of listening, you draw from to play the right thing on a tune. Sometimes people will call for a boogaloo, by which they usually mean some kind of early 60s Lee Morgan type of feel.

James Brown
There was a time in my youth in the 80s when the classic JB stuff was a little bit lost on the general population of musicians; the busy, tight, slightly hyper, bright tempo thing was replaced by simpler, power drumming, and slower tempos— that thing was mostly known to me via David Garibaldi playing with Tower of Power. With the massive sampling of Clyde Stubblefield's and Jabo Stark's drumming by hip hop artists, it came back in a big way. Now basically everyone spends some time being really into James Brown, and this style will influence the way you do lots of things in drumming.

Double Bass
...OK, hold up, nothing involving double bass has any place on an essential styles list.

Triplet Double Bass
Like I said, forget it. Just about the worst first impression you can make on a professional job is to pull out a double bass pedal, or, God help you, a second bass drum. Unless it's requested, of course— which it won't be.

Bo Diddley Beat
Do you know the clave rhythm? Have you heard Bo Diddley, or the song I Want Candy by Bow Wow Wow? Bang that out on the floor tom with some filler notes, double the accents on the bass drum, and you're good to go. Mix it up a little bit, and you've got a Gene Krupa/Sing Sing Sing beat.

Shuffles — Double, Half-Time, Rock, Shuffle Groove, Flat Tire Shuffle, Bernard Purdie, Double Bass
People have all these names for the varieties of shuffles— some of them may even be valid— usually people just say “shuffle”, and based on the context and the tune, I have to figure out what's appropriate and play that. Sometimes a leader will call for a “Texas shuffle” like it means something, and based on the context and the tune, I have to figure out what's appropriate and play that. It is one of the more loathed styles to play, because they tend to be restricting, and not easy to play well. Listen to Bernard Purdie, Steve Jordan, and Art Blakey.

Linear Funk
This is not a groove or genre, it's a way of playing the drums. It's a very essential thing for modern, creative playing, not at all essential for most regular work for hire.

Blast Beats — Single Bass, Double Bass
Forget it, totally unnecessary. You will never asked to play this on a job for hire. Nobody plays with Metal musicians, and Metal musicians don't play with anybody.

Just a four-on-the-floor dance beat, with the hihat on the &s. If you follow that link, on the bridge, after around 2:20 that drummer does the groove in its now-classic form, opening the hihat on the &s and closing on the beat. You may not play a lot of Disco songs, but if you're doing any kind of dance music, in any genre, you'll use a form of this beat a lot.

Bolero (a la “White Rabbit”)
A strange entry. Never played this tune on a gig, never played the groove on another tune. A real Cuban or Salsa bolero— a ballad style, and totally different from this— would be worth including on the list. In the 70s there was a different bolero rhythm that was frequently used in rock— the only example of it I can think of offhand is at the very end of Dead Kennedys' California Uber Alles. I heard it on a Deep Purple record somewhere, too.

Ballroom Bolero/Rhumba
A lighter version of the Rumba above, and not really a distinctively different groove. I never really practiced this one off the job. Just go for this type of thing, with a vibe appropriate to the setting. Everyone seems to have their own way of doing this. I play these often.

Second Line
This gets played a lot by jazz musicians, and it's usually expected that you will have developed it further than just a strictly functional New Orleans groove. People expect you to make a modern thing out of it. It can be a little bit like playing dress-up if you haven't done your listening— you have to listen to it, respect it, and try to express its deeper truth, rather than just the frequently encountered watch me be white-guy funky for a moment thing.

Country Train Beat
No reason to ever practice this one, either. It's a variety of two-beat. Traditionally, you would learn this on the job, when the guitarist says to you “train beat”, and two measures into the song you figure out what it is because it's basically unavoidable. I usually play it on the snare drum with brushes or (occasionally) sticks; you can also play it on the hihat and catch the backbeats on the snare drum if the band is loud enough.

Conga grooves: Marcha and Guaguanco
Hmmm, not sure we're ready to jump to hand percussion, because there are a lot of things we haven't covered on drum set. It is a good idea for drum set players to have a version of Guaguanco together.

Conclusion: What's missing? 
Quite a lot, actually: Baiao, songo, tango, march, 6/8 march, “ordinary” waltz, show 2, several jazz ballad styles (walking, 12/8, straight 8th), calypso. That Sing Sing Sing beat I mentioned before. An Elvin Jones style waltz has become a thing that people request. You may use a Mozambique as a sort of hipper flavor of mambo in Latin jazz settings. I've never actually been asked to play a Merengue, but it is a distinct style that will come up if you're playing Latin music. If you live in an area with a large non-Caribbean, non-Brazilian Latino population, you might want to learn a Cumbia beat. Having a facsimile of a batucada groove together would be a good idea. And there are a number of variations and flavors to the basic jazz time feel as well, which are at least as significant as some of the gradations of pop styles listed in the article.

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