Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Linear phrases in 5/4, mixed rhythm — inversion

This is part two of that last set of linear phrases in 5/4, based on Gary Chaffee's linear patterns, from vol. III of his Patterns series of books. This is the same set of phrases from before, offset by one 8th note, so each measure begins with a bass drum hit; the labeled series of patterns for each phrase begins on the & of 1, then:

Start by playing them with an alternating sticking, starting with the right hand, moving around the drums, then see Patterns, vol. III for more ideas, if you haven't arrived at any of your own.

Better get cracking on these, there are more of them coming...

Get the pdf

Monday, March 30, 2015

Page o' coordination: Ahmad's vamp

Something to go with yesterday's practice loop, with some hihat splashes with the left foot. It's nice and slow, but the track pushes and pulls a little bit, so the timing might be a little challenging for some.

Don't overplay the bass drum— you will sound very square if you do that. I suggest doing the hihat splashes with your foot flat on the pedal. You can also just play the hihat notes with a closed sound, if you want. If you're playing with the practice loop, listen carefully to how your cymbal pattern fits with the track— like I said before, you won't be able to play the cymbal mechanically.

For those of you living on the this-blog equivalent of Mars, exiled to Siberia, or whatever: there are some left hand moves I recommend doing when practicing these patterns. Usually we move to a different drum when there is a big space between notes— any LH doubles stay on the same drum— but at the slow tempo of that practice loop, you can move on every single note.

The workout is the entire page plus some or all of the moves; once you can play the entire page, then your actual practice begins— refining your touch, making it sound like music, and covering some different tempos. There are quite a few of these pages o'..., and you probably won't have time to give them all a full treatment. Any one of them you practice fully is a big deal; and subsequent pages are much easier after you've done one of them.

Get the pdf

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Practice loop: Crazy He Calls Me

This is another sampled practice loop I've been using for a long time, good for your triplety jazz materials. It's four measures long, from the intro of Crazy He Calls Me, played by Ahmad Jamal, which I have on the album The Legendary Okeh & Epic Recordings. It's a slow tempo, and the timing is expressive— the first measure rushes slightly, and the last measure relaxes slightly— so you won't be able to play mechanically over it— you'll have to listen, put a little air in your playing, and play the phrase:

Here's the rhythm of the phrase, if you have trouble hearing it at first— the & of 1 swings, of course.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Snare drum workout in 6/8 — 01

I thought I posted this weeks ago, but, if Blogger's kind-of sucky search engine is to be trusted, it seems I haven't. Best to find what you're looking for using the labels at the bottom of each post, and/or the site archives in the sidebar. One of these days I'll move the blog over to Wordpress, which I understand is a fairyland of things not sucking as bad as they do with Blogger...

Anyway, here's a snare drum workout in 6/8, using Stone stickings, and a mixed rhythm, with flams and a flamacue-like structure— an unaccented flam followed by an accent. No, I know of no more concise way of describing it.

I try to use as little ink as possible with these things, but this one is complex enough that we really need all the stickings written in, for both RH and LH lead. My usual rules these days are: 1) Play the dynamics. 2) Make it through the whole page every session. 3) Keep stick heights generally low— 1" grace notes, 3-4" taps, 5-6" accents.

Get the pdf

Friday, March 27, 2015

Linear phrases in 5/4, mixed rhythm

Here are some practice phrases using Gary Chaffee's linear patterns, from vol. III of his Patterns series of books. I've put his jazz linear phrases into 5/4, with a mixed 8th note/triplet rhythm— there are twelve notes per pattern here, and in the original, so the phrases translate exactly.

There are a lot of possibilities for these types of patterns; I just use them for solo ideas, and run them with an alternating sticking, starting with the right hand, moving the hands around the drums. See Patterns, vol. III for more on developing these ideas.

Get the pdf

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Mike Clark on Elvin, Tony

I stumbled across these interviews with Mike Clark, talking about all the stuff players care about about Elvin Jones and Tony Williams:

Part 1 on Elvin:

Here's part 2:

The interviews on Tony Williams are after the break:

Practice loop: basic cascara

Here's a little non-traditional Latin jazz practice loop, sampled from the intro of the tune Mi Montuno, from the Bamboleate, by Eddie Palmieri/Cal Tjader. There are a couple of caveats about it, but it's not a bad, moderate-tempo groove for working on your basic Salsa parts.

Clave is 2:3 Son, which is actually being played by on one of the musicians. You can play this as a rim click on the snare drum with your left hand:

 And there is a standard cascara rhythm being played on the shell of a timbale, as well. Play this with your right hand on the rim or shell of the floor tom, or on a cowbell, or on the bell of a cymbal:

I should write up a new page of stuff for working on this style, but for now you can experiment with adding the various left hand parts from my Reed generic Latin method, and pull some bass drum rhythms from the recent page of Mozambique. There is also an old page of LH coordination parts to go with that cascara rhythm— they are pure coordination exercises, and not necessarily stylistically correct.

A couple of notes on the track: There's a little hiccup in the parts at the seam in the loop, but the time is basically steady, and you won't really notice it when you're playing along with it. The time breathes slightly, but I don't think that's a bad thing— you do have to listen and adjust a bit.

You'll notice they've borrowed a Guaguanco-type melody, played on the congas, and that it's oriented so its rhythm lines up with the 3 side of clave. Which, to my understanding, is not traditionally correct if you're actually playing Guaguanco. I went into this a little more thoroughly before; the point is, don't get too attached to hearing that melody on the 3 side.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Some rock beats in 5

Here's a basic page of rock beats in 5/4, along the lines of those found in Ralph Humphrey's excellent book Even In The Odds. I practice my samba/bossa nova in 5 a little more than I should, and I like running grooves like this in the same session.

Hopefully everyone has an idea of how to practice this type of thing. Play many repetitions of each groove, with the right hand on the hihat or on the ride cymbal, practicing moving between the two. Be able to move from groove to groove without stopping, and to crash on beat 1. Try to think in two-measure phrases, and then in four-measure phrases. It would be a could idea to count out loud at least part of the time, and to play these along with any recordings you can find in 5/4.

After the break I have a little series of modifications through which I like to run these beats. You can do them in any meter, but it's especially valuable to do them in 5. There's much more about this difficult meter in my series Cracking 5/4.

Get the pdf

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Mozambique listening

Here is a YouTube playlist of the tracks cited in the Mozambique variations post, plus a few things:

After the break I'll give some brief notes on some of the tracks:

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Mozambique variations

With apologies for the late lack of posting, here is a little bit of a retread/refinement of my earlier Page of Mozambique. I've been working with this feel quite a bit, but have struggled to come up with a reasonable method for developing it; which is not shocking, me being the Salsa/Cuban music tourist that I am. The patterns here are based on the New York/Eddie Palmieri classic version of the style— apparently it has not a lot in common with the original Cuban Mozambique, which was a craze for a little while in the 60s, and then died out. The clave orientation here is 2-3 Son— that's usually the case on Palmieri's recordings.

Learn all the patterns, listen to (and play along with) the suggested tracks at the bottom of the pdf, and then improvise your own variations— mainly, moving the left hand more freely, using different sounds (especially rim shots and dead strokes).

Do the listening and you'll learn how to prioritize the variations to stay with the style; there's a sort of hierarchy to the notes you play on the drums:

  • & of 2 (“bombo”— primary) of the second measure — always present, always strong
  • & of 2 (bombo— secondary) of the first measure — often/usually present, usually strong, or pretty strong
  • 4 of either measure (“ponche”)  — emphasized, but not as strongly as the prior two; usually stronger in the second measure
  • 1 of the first measure — usually not played on the drums, definitely not strongly (this is contrary to the popular Steve Gadd/fusion version of the groove, which plays the one strongly).
  • 1 of the second measure — same, but even less so

You might also try running the bell part and bass drum variations with the left hand parts in our generic Latin method— as written they fit with the 2-3 clave orientation of these patterns. Review all of my previous posts on Mozambique, as well.

Get the pdf

Friday, March 13, 2015

Interpretation and playing expressively

I hate long instructional videos, except when I don't. Usually they go long because they underestimate their viewers' knowledge, and get caught up in explaining WHAT IS A DRUM STICK and a lot of other elementary background stuff. So they waste a lot of your time getting to their actual message, which itself usually ends up being less than Earth-shattering, and you hate yourself (and them) for having wasted 15 minutes watching it. Very rarely they will go long because they contain a lot of information, and, if they are telling you something you already know, it's something you actually need to hear spoken again and again.

In adherence to the stupidly dramatic style where you then say “this is such a video”, I will say this is such a video. The latter kind— the good kind. Tony Cirone is a well-known percussionist, educator, and author internationally, but he's really the center of the percussive universe here in the northwest quadrant of the US. My college professor Charles Dowd studied with him, and many of my peers, and most of my teachers, including drum corps instructors, studied with Dowd, or Cirone himself, or both. One of the big unifying things with all those people is that they've ingrained the idea of percussion as an expressive family of musical instruments. They do not have the deep meatheadedness that is—sorry to say— a feature of much of the drumming world.

This video gives you a little sample of why that is. It's directed at classical percussion students, but the spirit of it can, and should, be applied to every area of drumming:

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Transcription: Kenny Clarke fours

Here are Kenny Clarke's fours, played with brushes, on Love Me Or Leave Me, from the album Walkin', by Miles Davis. I've given the drum solo breaks only:

The ties are due to some kind of left hand swishing activity— do whatever you see fit there. The lick with the quintuplets likely has a double in it, either on the first two notes, or on the 3rd-4th notes; it was probably conceived as two 8th notes and a triplet, slurred together, due to the tempo. Many of the triplets may have doubles in them, and are not super-cleanly executed generally.

Get the pdf

You own this record, but here's the audio anyway:

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Basic doubles exercise

Just in case any one needs to see it written out, here is my preferred primary exercise for developing doubles, which I referenced in the YouTube open roll round up. Each note should be played as a full stroke— starting and ending with the stick raised:

Read this old post for some pointers/context. It's fairly impossible to screw up, provided you actually do the exercise, stay as relaxed as possible, and don't do anything too crazy-weird.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

YouTube round up: open roll technique

It's been awhile since I've done one of these, in which I go on YouTube and comment on the things brought up by searching a basic drumming term; punishing the guilty, rewarding the innocent, and so on. Today we'll do that with “open roll technique”; I'll limit myself to actual instructional videos on playing an open roll. I'm not really a one right answer kind of guy, and there are at least some things to think about in most of the videos. We can talk about what we think is the ideal method for doing this, but the main thing is to just put in a lot of time working at it, using the better videos, and your critical eye, as guides, so your hands can figure out how they want to do it.

The first one is by Jim Chapin.  No pressure, everybody else, you just have to follow the foremost scholar of rudimental snare drum technique of the 20th century.

Chapin is a little scattered in his presentation here, but this is all stuff I use. As I see it the important thing is to moderately accent the second note, and play an upstroke at the end of the double. If you do that, and play a shuffle rhythm with each hand, from slow to very fast— about ten minutes per hand— you can develop a good open roll. Just do the exercise and don't over-think it. He also has a good method in which you do a fast, full-speed double, but starting with a slower overall motion— he does this after 1:45. My old corps director George Tuthill, a rudimental authority, advocated learning rolls this way— he didn't like the traditional slow-to-fast thing.

Next, from a site called The Beat Doctor:

I guess the verbal instruction is not terrible, but the demonstrations are weak— particularly at 1:26, where he downstrokes each note, momentarily lets the stick rebound while he's telling you to let it rebound, then goes back to downstroking. He advises against that latter technique of Chapin's above, calling it “galloping”— you can decide who's right. There is some disconnect between the different stages of the progression, and the presentation seems a little unformed.

By Jason Furman:

Decent video by a good drummer, though I don't really care for the method he ended up with. The technique he demonstrates after 1:25 is mentioned in the Chapin video as a not-preferred way to develop a roll: with an exaggerated soft-loud dynamic, and ending with a downstroke— both of which are contrary to the final product we're after— and Furman says he was unsatisfied with that technique, too. I do not dig the thing he eventually settled on, with a sort of scooping motion, which he demonstrates after 3:25— it would be easy for your average self-instructing, YouTube-using drummer to screw up, so approach with caution. I would only recommend doing that with an expert teacher (like Furman) who can guide you through the process.

To some this will be the ultimate in nit-pickery: it bothers me that at one point he is in playing position with the sticks resting on the head, even making a little sound as he places them there— just an unthinkable no-no to me. My old professor Charles Dowd was very picky about doing things silently, and I guess I internalized that. Also, being at rest with the sticks laying on the drum head is... difficult for me. Sorry, Jason...

More after the break:

Saturday, March 07, 2015

2015 Europe tour

We're on light posting for a few days here, clearly, while I'm focused on some other stuff. LIKE MY 2015 EUROPE TOUR; it looks like we'll be on the road from approximately December 2-21, 2015. We'll definitely be playing in Belgium, Luxembourg, and western Germany; we'll see about the Netherlands and France... once I get to listing countries in a graphic, it's hard to stop... the Dutch especially have been notoriously reticent to book my groups.

We'll be back to regular programming soon enough...

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Very occasional quote of the day: “You shouldn't be able to do that.”

A pull from Ethan Iverson's Whiplash/Buddy article, which deserves its own space:

A story about Mel Lewis: Mel hated giving lessons, but finally a kid talked him into letting him come by a record session and watch Mel at work. During a break Mel gestured for the kid to sit behind the kit, and said, “Play me a snare roll.” 
The kid played a good, professional roll. Maybe not as good as the one that starts the movie Whiplash, but still, a good roll. Not easy to do. 
Mel took his sticks back and said, “See, right there is your problem. You shouldn't be able to do that. I can't do that. You gotta quit that shit and start becoming a drummer.

Now, Lewis was to all accounts a super-opinionated, cranky guy, who apparently was not above saying things for effect, which might not be the 100% literal truth. He could play a roll, and he certainly would've thrown the student out of the lesson if he couldn't play one. But it's such an article of faith today that more chops is always better, the idea that being a good drummer is independent of, or even possibly at odds with your chops, is something worth thinking about.

(h/t to Ethan Iverson)

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Rational Funk with Dave King

Bad Plus drummer Dave King's Rational Funk series of videos are pretty genius, and hilarious:

They brought me to mind of the old Book of the SubGenius, a blurb on the back of which goes something like “Genuine wisdom in the guise of pure bullshit.” ...Ken Kesey or somebody wrote that.

Anyway, Jon McCaslin has posted several of the videos— hop on over there, or to King's YouTube page, and check them out. It's kind of a sad commentary that these get a few percent of the views of your average Drumeo video...

A couple of more of my favorites after the break:

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Brazilian 3

Continuing our recent batch of downloads for odd meter Samba and Bossa, here are some parts for putting together some grooves in 3/2, or in 6/4. This isn't an incredibly odd meter for Samba, but it is non-traditional— if a thing people have been doing for at least 50 years can really be called that. We could say these meters are non-folkloric, but I'm resistant to thinking of Samba as folkloric music in the first place— it's a modern, commercial, urban music approximately as old as jazz, with the same tradition of innovation, and with an institutional apparatus, and professional class of performers and composers. To me it's significant that Pelo Telefone, the first important Samba recording, from 1916, referenced the modern technology of the time.

With that little bit of perspective, here are the rhythms. Again, I encourage you to get my book Playing Samba and Bossa Nova (print / e-book) for my complete practical introduction to these styles. Our brother blogger Adam Osmianski is also writing a lot of stuff about Brazilian drumming, which you should check out.

Practice the left hand parts with all combinations of cymbal/feet parts, then pick a few favorite left hand parts, and improvise variations on them. Play the left hand as rim clicks on the snare drum, at first, then experiment with moving around the drums, with different timbres and dynamics— rim shots, buzzes, accents, dead strokes. Play the cymbal part on the hihats or ride cymbal, or on the snare drum with a brush— ignoring the open/closed hihat indications in those latter two instances, of course. Generally you'll use the second bass drum pattern as a variation, rather than as a repeating part of the groove.

Get the pdf

A few recorded examples after the break: