Thursday, April 30, 2015

Transcription: Frankie Dunlop — Green Chimneys / Rouse's solo

Here's a little bit of Frankie Dunlop's playing during the two choruses of Charlie Rouse's solo, on Green Chimneys, from Thelonious Monk's album Straight, No Chaser. It's a good lesson in comping, and in playing the bass drum in a bop setting.




Here Dunlop “feathers”the bass drum quite a bit— plays it lightly as part of his time feel. At times he plays half notes, or quarter notes, or doesn't play it audibly at all; in a couple of places he'll play it lightly on 2 and 4. He creates some pretty subtle gradations of intensity this way, within the overall mf, moderate-intensity vibe of the solo. It wouldn't be a bad exercise to play the transcription along with the recording, playing only the cymbal, bass drum, and hihat.

Get the pdf

The transcription begins at 1:49 in the recording, and ends at the beginning of Monk's solo:

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Half-time feel funk: advanced method — open hihat

Here's the next step for this half-time funk method we've been doing, using Syncopation, by Ted Reed. On the intermediate method and on this one we'll be using the pages with quarter notes, 8th notes, and 8th rests, pp. 29-30 and 33-36 in the old edition— in the new edition I think the page numbers are one off from that. First master the basic and intermediate methods with all of the bass drum patterns before doing this method. This method is exactly the same as the intermediate method, except we'll add a closed hihat note with the foot during the rest, and an open hihat sound with the hand on the note before the closed note.




We're using natural sticking for this entire method; reading the rhythms out of the book, the right hand play all notes on the beat— the 1, 2, 3, and/or 4— the left hand any &s. The right hand plays the snare drum on 3. If there's a written rest on 3, or if an open note is called for on 3, play the snare drum on the closest available notes to beat 3, with either hand— or play the snare drum on whatever beats sound good to you. Just look at the examples on the page and play accordingly.

If you need to, you can break this down by steps:
1. Play the rhythm from the book on the hihat, with natural sticking, as described above.
2. Add the closed hihat notes with the foot on the written 8th rests.
3. Time opening the cymbals before the closed notes so that you get an open sound.
4. Move the right hand to the snare drum on 3; if that conflicts with an open hihat note, or if there's a rest on 3, play the snare drum on a different note or notes, whatever sounds good.
5. Add the bass drum rhythms from the cut time funk beats page to make a complete groove.

Get the pdf

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Daily best music in the world: Ornette live — 1973

I'll be out for a couple of days here— playing at the Jazz Station in Eugene tonight with flugelhornist Dmitri Matheny, attending a memorial service for my partner/wife's mother, and having my own birthday with family in Eugene— that's Monday the 27th, an excellent day to do something nice to support the blog, if you're so inclined...

...so here's a little listening for you: a bootleg recording of Ornette Coleman, from 1973. The band includes Ed Blackwell on drums, Dewey Redman on tenor, and Charlie Haden on bass. Ornette often had a second bassist, David Izenson, with him during this period, but I can't hear him here.

Part 1


Part 2

Friday, April 24, 2015

What to do with a beat

Don't know how to make a variation? Any of these
could be a variation of the first beat. Why not.
If you ever get bored looking at some page of rock beats you're supposed to be practicing, and wonder what you're missing, here are some of the things you can do with them to bring them into the realm of actual playing:


Play it over and over again.
Normally when someone writes out a beat for you, they only give you one measure of it, but it is a time feel, and it's meant to be played over and over as background to a piece of music, so that's the way you should practice it— repeat it many times without stopping.

Learn to start and stop. 
It's a common thing for a lot of beginners to start playing a beat with one limb, and then add the others. You won't be able to do that when you're playing with a band, so take a few minutes and learn the first four or five notes of the complete groove; once you can play the first four or five notes. Also learn to end the groove cleanly on beat 1, with the bass drum and cymbal (whichever one you happen to be playing at the moment), or bass, snare and cymbal together.

Make a phrase 
Begin thinking in two measure phrases. You don't have to do anything differently, just be aware of an A measure, and a B measure. You can hit the crash cymbal at the beginning of the phrase if it helps you keep track. As you are more comfortable with the groove, you can begin improvising fills or variations in the last measure of the phrase— or in the second and fourth measures of a four-measure phrase.

Make variations
If you're not hearing any obvious variations on the groove, try just making a small change to it— add a note, or leave one out. You may have to plan it out in advance at first, but soon you'll get a feel for how to do it on the fly. See the graphic for examples of possible variations.

Continued after the break:

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Cymbal technique for Brazilian styles

It's kind of a thing among Brazilian drummers to be able to play really blazing singles on the cymbal with the right hand, when playing a samba. Drummers in the modern American tradition— or maybe just me?— tend to work around extremely technically demanding things by mixing up the cymbal rhythm. To people like me, the mixed rhythm also sounds “hipper.” But the fast singles in the Brazilian style give a special kind of energy you can't get any other way, and I've been working on developing them.

Here are a few YouTube clips demonstrating versions of the technique. First, Dino Verdade, who has an economical style which I like, giving a lesson to (I think) an Italian student:




There's another video with Verdade that's also good.

Then there's Hugo Soares, whose name I hear a lot these days, with a very unique technique. He's definitely making friends with the upper speed limit of where this idea works musically, to me:




Here's a drummer named Erivelton Silva:




More after the break:


Monday, April 20, 2015

Half-time feel funk: intermediate method

Here's the next phase of our little half-time feel funk method, using Ted Reed's Syncopation. We'll use pp. 29-30 out of Reed, with the quarter notes, 8th notes, and 8th rests, along with the page of bass drum grooves from before. Make sure you first play through all of the bass drum grooves along with the foundation hand part  (that's the first example on today's page), as well as the basic method from last week. We'll use the same sticking scheme as before: the right hand plays all the notes on beats 1-4, on the hihat and snare; the left hand plays any notes on the &s.

We'll still play the snare drum on beat 3, when possible; where there are rests on 3, we'll catch the snare drum on the closest note(s) to beat 3— often on an &, using the left hand. See the examples on the page, and play all of the options when you practice the exercises.




As you start moving the snare drum part around to accommodate any rests on 3, there will be some conflicts with the bass drum parts— I usually try to avoid playing a lot of unisons with the snare drum and bass drum— you can either choose to play the unisons, or drop out the bass drum where there would be a unison.

The last example on the page shows a way of making a fill— just play the end of the phrase all on the snare drum, or toms, and drop out the bassd drum. When doing the practice routine, you can do that on the 2nd/4th measure of each line, or just on the last measure of the line.

With this method and the previous one, the immediate goal is to be able to play straight through all of the exercises on the pages indicated, without stopping, with each of the bass drum patterns from the grooves page. The big test will  be to play the 48 bar exercise on page 31, with several of the bass drum patterns— whichever are your favorites.

Get the pdf

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Very occasional quote of the day: resistance

There's a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don't, and the secret is this: It's not the writing part that's hard. What's hard is sitting down to write. 

 — Steve Pressfield, The War of Art

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Linear phrases in 5/4, mixed rhythm — 02 - inversion

I feel bad posting more practice stuff, when I've barely gotten to hit the drums myself this week, what with taxes, dental work, teaching, painting the house, and on and on. But back in the mists of last week I was hitting these pages pretty hard enough that it was doing something nice for me, so here's the second part of the last entry. The same patterns from before are offset one note, so each measure begins with a bass drum. The given phrases, 3/3/3/5, 3/3/4/4, etc, begin on the second note of each measure... you don't need to worry about that; just play the patterns as written.




Have I drilled my page-at-once mentality into your head enough? Try to cover all the patterns in one reasonable-length sitting, say, 10-20 minutes. Shoot for 4, 8, or more repetitions per phrase. If you do that every day, you should feel some kind of noticeable change in your playing after a few days to a week.

Get the pdf

Friday, April 17, 2015

Feelings

Your feelings are like an unaturally-torn piece of
paper held by a hand model with weird thumbs.
Ideally we would all feel happy and confident always when playing the drums, enjoying every phase of learning, and of our playing careers. Unfortunately it don't work that way, and most of us spend way too much time feeling bad our playing— and, since we have too much ego wrapped up in that activity, ourselves. Here are some things you can do, if not just to immediately feel better about your playing, then at least to create a habitat for better feelings to grow:


Like good music. Your actual playing is just behavior. The music you listen to is really the center of who you are as a musician— it's the “real you”— so, you have to have something of substance in there. A lot of music is all surface. It's got a case of Yngwie-itis— it sounds amazing one time, then the indifference sets in, and you never want to hear it again. Somehow, people spend their entire playing lives listening to stuff like that— the Internet is burgeoning it, across all genres. Be real by finding something real.


Like music that is somewhat matched to your current abilities. If you're only listening to stuff that you are years away from even being able to approximate at a professional level, of course you're going to feel inadequate. When I took up painting, the only reason I was able to do it was because I was into Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg— paintings that at least looked like I could do them (even if I couldn't really). That gave me the possibility of making pictures that I liked, that matched my idea of what I thought good was, even when my technical skills were weak.

“No way,” you protest, “I'm just into *fractional/avian death-core. That's who I am, man!” Well, a) No, it isn't. b) Refer to our first item. c) There is great music in just about every genre; liking it, hating it, or ignoring it is a choice. Choose to like things. **Hating/ignoring whole genres is for amateurs.


Play good music. Bad music badly played makes everything you do sound bad, hey? First, get with better players; ideally, everyone else in the group should be better than you. Just so they're good at playing the style you're playing... I don't care if it's a polka band, anything. Then you can look at the actual quality of the music— just be aware that it can take some experience to recognize music that is unredeemably bad, vs. music you're just not knowledgeable enough to be able work with.


Turn off drumming media. You know how to hold the sticks, and you know what it looks like for someone to play one million times more amazingly than you will ever be able in your most harebrained fantasies. If you turn off the YouTube and get out and see some real drummers play, you'll see that real world drumming, good, great, or bad, is usually not amazing; and you'll get a much better idea of your abilities, and of how much, and what kind of, work you need to do. That won't necessarily make you feel good, but at least you'll feel bad realistically.


Respect simplicity. We all say we do, but I don't know about that. I don't think we fully believe it.


Don't play habitually. A thing that happens to everyone is getting stuck helplessly playing the same stuff, to the point of being really distracting to ourselves, and perhaps others. That happens because a) we're not listening, and b) we're trying too hard to put in a lot of drums. Relax, simplify, listen, and respond. With a little detachment, you can observe yourself making that same habitual move, and figure out a way to short circuit it.


Keep practicing. Even if you can learn to play to a basic professional level in a-few-to-ten years, it can take a lot longer to get to where you feel you really have a command over what you play. Be patient with yourself and realize that it's a process.


You sound better than you think. For a lot of us, it's hard to think of anything other than what we would have played in a world where we were more amazingly great. But if you're able to play pretty good time, cover the broad outlines of the song, and make some basic fills, you're doing 100% of the job anyone else wants from you. The audience is thrilled just to have someone hitting the drums up there. So relax, and let yourself be solid.


*- I refuse to learn the actual names of the alleged “genres” of Metal. -tb

**- With a few special exceptions. -tb

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Quick takes: MD's 25 timeless drum books list

Perhaps not the best superlative for books on drumming, but we get the picture. Here I have some “hot takes” (to use Twitter parlance) on the entries in Modern Drummer's list of 25 timeless drum books. I've bolded the titles I think everyone should own. Hit the links if you want to purchase them in my Amazon store; I get a minute commission when you do!


STICK CONTROL FOR THE SNARE DRUMMER by George Lawrence
Stone (Alfred)
Every drummer should own this, that's all.


MASTER STUDIES by Joe Morello (Modern Drummer Publications)
Great technical snare drum book, which extends some ideas found in Stone's Stick Control and Accents & Rebounds (which was actually ghost-co-written by Morello). There's also a Master Studies II— best to own both volumes.


THE NEW BREED by Gary Chester (Modern Drummer Publications)
The major book for post Dave Weckl-style fusion drumming, and all-around pan-genre studio funk— I've started to get the feeling that that type of playing is a bit of a plague, and I rarely crack this book. And you know I'm not really down with the open-handed stuff. Whatever. It's a great book.


ADVANCED FUNK STUDIES by Rick Latham (Latham Publications)
More a collection of licks and ideas than a method book. That's not a bad thing, but I was never able to do much with them in the form they're presented here. It's probably a decent book for getting your fusion clich├ęs together.


REALISTIC ROCK by Carmine Appice (Alfred)
I really dislike the archaic drum notation in this book, and so have never used it— I would need to see an updated edition with modern notation to really give this one a fair shot.

Much more after the break...

Monday, April 13, 2015

Half-time feel funk: basic method

Here's a basic method for working with the half time feel funk grooves from the other day. We'll be reading out of Syncopation, by Ted Reed, pp. 10-11 (from the old edition) or Lesson 4 (in the new edition).




Start by getting used to the feel of the foundation pattern, with the right hand move to the snare drum. Then play through all fifteen lines of exercises, plus the 20 bar exercise, from Syncopation, with hands only. Just keep playing the quarter note foundation pattern with the RH, and add any LHs needed on the &s to make the rhythms in the book. Then play through all the patterns again, adding a bass drum hit on beat 1— pattern 1 from the basic cut time funk grooves page. You should be able to repeat this with the other first four bass drum patterns without too much difficulty; grooves 5-18, with the BD on the &s, may be more of a challenge.

Finally, when you're able to play straight through all of the exercises with all of the bass drum patterns, play them again omitting the circled bass drum notes from the grooves page. It sounds like a lot of stuff, but once you learn a few key patterns, the rest of them become very easy.

Get cracking, the hip things we'll do with this are yet to come...

Get the pdf

DBMITW: Cherry / Blackwell / Gurtu / Wolcott / Shankar

From the same YouTube user who posted yesterday's Ed Blackwell videos, here's a totally amazing concert recording of Don Cherry playing in Neuwied, Germany, with Ed Blackwell, Lakshmi Shankar, Colin Wolcott, and Trilok Gurtu, probably from the 1979— Cherry references Margaret Thatcher's election in some improvised lyrics. You'll recognize things from El Corazon and Mu, Cherry's great duo albums with Blackwell, as well as a tune from Playing, by Old & New Dreams— Mopti, a 6/8 tune which I've been playing since this 90s.



Much more after the break— there are eight of these total:


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Lost Ed Blackwell

Jon McCaslin @ Four On The Floor has posted some obscure (I've never seen them,anyway) Ed Blackwell videos— that's all you should need to know to get over there and checkum out.

Linear phrases in 5/4, mixed rhythm — 02

UPDATE: pdf download link fixed!

Another batch of Chaffee linear patterns, in a different mixed rhythm than before, in 5/4. There will be four pages of this one; two of the basic phrases, two of the inversions.

At one point my attitude was “Why should I practice in 5/4, which I rarely have to play, when I haven't yet mastered 4/4, which I have to play all the time?” As I've been doing a whole lot of practicing in 5 in recent years, I'm realizing that it's definitely not a zero-sum thing; my practicing in 5 does help my playing in 4. Mainly, it forces you to concentrate, and breaks up patterns of being too squarely “in 4”, or of habitually falling into an Elvin-style running dotted quarter note cross rhythm— a few of you know what I'm talking about here. The point is, if you're able to play pretty well, and mindlessly, in 4, you won't be detracting by spending a lot of time in 5.




This ends up being a lot of patterns to cover, so I keep it simple. I start each pattern with the right hand and alternate, moving the hands around the drums. You could swing the 8th notes, if you want.

Get the pdf

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Basic cut time funk beats

Today we have a page of basic funk grooves in 2/2— cut time, half-time feel, whatever you want to call it. I haven't given a cymbal part, because we'll be doing some different things with it, using Syncopation.




For now, play them with any cymbal pattern of your choice. You'll probably want to start with quarter notes, 8th notes, half notes, and 2 and 4. Once you have the basic groove, continue playing it while omitting the circled bass drum note. Then improvise your own grooves. You could also combine first and second measures from different exercises, but that will eat up a lot of practice time, and I think it's unnecessary.

Get the pdf

Donald Fagen on Whiplash

I'm kind of done with this movie, but I'll keep sharing choice quotes about it when they come up. Here's Donald Fagen:

“Last night some of the guys in the band were talking about that movie, Whiplash. After watching this cloddish potboiler about an aspiring drummer's experience in jazz school, the jazz players I know either go berserk with indignation and/or howl with derisive laughter. Many jazzers, including pianist Ethan Iverson and Richard Brody of the New Yorker, have written about this ignorant and mendacious film, so I won't belabor the point.

Suffice to say that Whiplash has nothing to do with actual jazz unless you consider it to be a species of martial arts, as Buddy Rich often did. It makes Paris Blues with Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier look like a golden edifice of verisimilitude. I'm not saying Whiplash shouldn't be seen in theaters, though. It should, at midnight, along with Plan 9 from Outer Space and, especially, Glen or Glenda.”

(h/t to OpenTune @ DW)

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Stan Freberg 1926-2015

A few clips by comedian, satirist, and ad man Stan Freberg, who died yesterday. His heyday was before my time, but we had several of his albums in my dad's record collection, and I memorized all of these when I was a kid. I think my favorite is his Elvis parody:



Several more after the break:

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

A waste of time

Here's a good video in case you ever wonder “Am I wasting my time geeking out on this drumming nonsense? Does anyone really care if I get such-and-such particular little drum thing together?” The answer is: yes, you are, and no, they don't. But everybody who's any good at anything wastes vast quantities of time on things no one is really going to ever fully appreciate. It's just what you do. For example:





You'll also enjoy the movie Comedian, which follows Seinfeld through the process of developing a new stand-up act, after some years away from that medium. It's really about the professional ethic of comedians, which is not that different from that of musicians. The full movie is after the break:

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Snare drum workout in 4/4

Working out of Buster Bailey's snare drum book Wrist Twisters— one of the great books of technical snare drum studies, by the way— I came across a simple pattern I liked, and I wrote up some embellishments on it. The first pattern is the original, and the others are my variations:





Play each exercise many times as written, and with the stickings reversed. You can try to be strict about the written accents, or you may find yourself also accenting the added flams— it doesn't matter. It is nice having the control to not accent all the flams. I would also work the first exercise alone strictly for speed.

Get the pdf

Brewing

You're not fooling anyone, photographer— you sprayed
the glass with water for that refreshing, weekends-
were-made-for-Michelob, oh-I-just-pulled-this-full-
pint-out-of-the-ice-chest effect... we're getting off topic.
OK, I'm on such a cold streak blog content-wise right now, I'd better write about any damn thing I can, and get things moving again. What the hell, we used to write about other things.

Here: Recently I've taken up the hobby of home-brewing beer. Influenced by a friend who is a brewer, I bought a little beginner's homebrew kit, and, since the beginning of the year, have made up several batches— a brown ale, a British pale ale, a Scottish ale, a dry Irish stout. Beer geeks tend to obsess over technical minutiae, which makes it an intimidating thing to take up at first, but the process can actually be quite straightforward, and forgiving, and requiring minimal equipment. And I'm finding that it actually adds a lot of quality of life.

Here are the parameters of what I have to work with. When it comes to beer, I have a number of very minor-but-annoying, competing, neuroses:

1) I do like beer. 
2) I like being well-stocked for the foreseeable future... with anything. I don't want to worry about running out of stuff. Whenever I've played RPG-type computer games, I end up hoarding potions, “health”, bullets, whatever... that's the kind of person I am.  
3) I'm a cheap bastard. I don't want to be spending a few bucks for daily beverages, and I don't like thinking about what something costs while I'm drinking it. Thrift is a pleasure-enhancer.  
4) I don't want to have to decide if today is a special enough occasion to drink one of the few, good, relatively expensive (like, $3-4) beers in my fridge. 
5) I don't like having to conserve my beverage while I eat. 16 oz. is good, an imperial pint is better. With a normal 12 ouncer, I'm always running out by the end of a meal. 
6) I don't like getting intoxicated, or even, really, what most people would consider “buzzed.” Don't really need it. I'm usually set for alcohol consumption after half a beer. 

I can satisfy each of those quibbles by home-brewing a lot of low-to-moderate alcohol British isles-type “session” beers, which are inexpensive to make, and can be consumed in reasonable quantity without getting smashed. And which are not particularly cheap or massively available commercially in the US. So I get to have a perfect 16-20 oz. serving of an inexpensive (about $.75-1.00/pint), delicious, special beer every day, without turning into a drunk, and with no danger of running out.

If you do decide to take up this hobby, for $90 you can get a beginner brewing kit from Northern Brewing, which includes the basic gear you need, plus a recipe ingredient kit, and instructional DVD. That plus a good-sized stainless steel or enameled brew kettle will get you started— I found one at a hardware store for $15. The nice thing about NB's kits is that they have really good documentation, written to be understood by jerks like me who have no idea of what they're doing. They say that if you can follow the directions on a box of macaroni and cheese, you can brew beer, and they're basically right. You'll also want to pick up a copy of Charlie Papazian's Complete Joy Of Home Brewing, which is the bible of this sort of thing.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Joey Baron

Just listening to a little Joey Baron this morning— be sure to listen to the interview at the end.



Roulette TV: JOEY BARON from Roulette Intermedium on Vimeo.