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.