Friday, February 26, 2016

Grooves o' the day: all the grooves from Look-ka Py Py

Let's do a whole record for the groove of the day— and a very famous one at that: Look-Ka Py Py, by The Meters. The drummer is Zigaboo Modeliste, the New Orleans funk legend. We've covered him pretty heavily here, but if you don't know who he is, get thee to the archives, and go buy a bunch of Meters albums— don't think, just do it.

Mr. Modeliste is still actively performing, and you can follow him on Twitter to find out what he's up to, and to go see him play.

I see a couple of typos as I'm going to post this. Worst of all, I've left out the tune Rigor Mortis altogether [UPDATE: wtf, also Dry Spell!]— oops! I'll fix those for the book, I guess. Most of these examples give a pretty accurate picture of what's played on the actual tune; most grooves are not heavily varied, and fills are generally pretty sparse. On The Mob the A sections are completely improvised and non-repetitive, in the broken-up style of the example I transcribed— I'll write out the whole drum part soon. One notation you might wonder about are the tenuto marks on Yeah, You're Right. Those are slightly open hihat notes— just a little sizzle without being a full-fledged open. Accented snare drum notes are solid rim shots.

Get the pdf

Audio is after the break:

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Two new linear drumming books by Joel Rothman

Received a few new books in the mail from author/publisher Joel Rothman, two of which I'll review today: Drummin' In The Rhythm Of Rock with Linear Patterns, and Linear Jazz Drumming. Rothman has been an extremely prolific drum author for over 50 years now, and he has a number of very valuable titles to his credit: Basic Drumming, most famously, as well as The Compleat Jazz Drummer, and the Mini-Monster Book of Rock Drumming— favorites of mine. I like that his books always keep a practical focus, are very masterable— they always include a lot of patterns, but you can devour them pretty quickly. Everything in them you will use in the field, or is immediate background for things you'll use in the field.

My biggest complaint is that he is sometimes too prolific. He may put in too much stuff, making a very long and shallow curve— you can wear out your user your running endless permutations. There are only so many practice hours in the day, and at a certain point, the extra pages of stuff can become a barrier to people getting to the best part of your book.

That's not a problem with the books we're looking at today; they're each focused on a single idea, which are treated fully without wandering, and without bogging down in endless variations. They each deal with linear drumming patterns for three voices— cymbal, snare, and bass. There are shorter sections using four way coordination. The patterns are derived from a single idea: starting with a cymbal rhythm, and filling in the gaps with the snare drum and bass drum. There are no unisons between limbs written, and there are rarely more than two notes in a row without a rest with any limb— both limitations I like. The jazz book deals with triplets, and the rock book deals with 16th notes. Many or most of the cymbal rhythms are not standard jazz or funk/rock ostinatos, so I don't see the particular value of organizing the books around them— except that it makes more sense than organizing them by one of the other voices.

The jazz book is good for developing a modern, abstract, and very triplety Jack Dejohnette-like way of playing jazz at slow-to-medium tempos. You could regard it as Stick Control for that type of playing. It's superficially similar to Elvin Jones's thing too, but most of the cymbal rhythms are so abstract that the total package of materials is really quite a different thing. Despite the cymbal-based format, we've really mostly abandoned the right hand dominated, ride-cymbal focused method, so central to jazz drumming in general and Elvin's thing in particular, in favor of a true three-limb approach. I'll say that if you've been doing my Afro 6/8 exercises, this book will be a good addition to that.

Continued after the break:

Monday, February 22, 2016

David Garibaldi's funk tips

Great piece from Rhythm Magazine with some comments on funk drumming from Tower of Power drummer David Garibaldi. I've pulled my choice favorite comments, but there's a lot more, so go read the whole piece.

What is pocket?
“I think it is more consistency than it is necessarily time. Time can be fluid, it can be elastic, it can move, which is a different thought process because for a lot of r'n'b thinking it is supposed to be immovable. We move around a lot because it feels good to do that. 
“It's not overanalysing. It's a beat, you play it. Let it go. It's a perception that can be developed and improved upon throughout your musical life but it can also be your musical handwriting, how you perceive time. 
“In the end you have to accept what you are. If it speeds up a little bit, if it slows down a little bit, that's what happens in the course of your musical life. In a way, it's a reflection of your life but you can certainly work on it and as you develop your life to become more of a stable person that can be reflected in your music and playing in a more stable way.”

Time keeping
“Listen to one another and play together as opposed to one person in the band saying, 'No, it didn't feel right here. No, it should be this. It should be that.' That person should not be in your band because the best bands play together and listen to one another.”

Rhythm section
“One more thing about drummers and bass players, if one guy can feel the time better than the other guy the best way to change that is for them to find a place in the middle so that they can lock together. 
“I guarantee you that the time issues will be solved if they will but listen to one another and quit talking about it. It's going to go where it's going to go. 
“Rocco and I never discuss anything and those times when we've had discussions the outcome has been the poorest. We talk about ideas we want to try but we just play with each other. 
“I once did a clinic with Randy Brecker for some school kids in Santa Barbara, California. One kid asked, 'If you could have us take one thing from this today, what would it be?' Randy said, 'I think it would be to listen to one another.' That's all he said but it was profound.”

Just to highlight that one thing: quit talking about it.

“When I started playing more fills and being more concerned about that than the groove, I think my playing suffered. The root r'n'b concept is no fills. Zero. None. Have the discipline to play one groove for the length of the song while resisting the temptation to 'make it better' by playing a fill. It's unnecessary. 
“Those James Brown guys, you couldn't find a fill within a 150 miles but their commitment to the groove was so awesome. It's your commitment to what you're doing that sells it. 
“I think a really good example of that is Steve Gadd. He sells the most simple stuff because of his commitment to it. [...] Places where you think there should be a fill, he's not playing any fills, all the places where we would think we'd be 'making it better', he doesn't do that. He just sticks the groove up your ass. 
“That's really how it should be. Watch the James Brown YouTube clips and you're not going to hear one fill. It's just not the way it's done in the world of James Brown. Keep those fills at home. Keep them locked up. That being said, there's nothing wrong with fills and, done at the right moment, they're an awesome enhancement to a great groove. What I learned is that fills are secondary to the groove and for them to work, they must be in time and in context.”

Creative blocks
“If that's happening to you, you're not really looking at the musical problems you are having that need to be addressed. I think that if you look at the areas that you need to improve upon then all of a sudden things appear that need to get practiced. I'm always looking at sections of tunes that I'm not performing right. There are always new things to develop, but the main thing is if you look at your areas of need then there will be plenty of stuff to practice.”

[h/t to Kroy at Drummerworld]

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Very occasional quote of the day: conversation

Glass: “Listen to me. Shut the f__ up and listen. I'm trying to compliment you.”

Kindler: “I won't be able to be doing a bit if I listen. If I stop talking, you might be funny. If you're funny, how does that help me? What am I, on a charity mission?”

—Comedian Andy Kindler in conversation with Todd Glass on a Nerdist podcast

Do download the podcast— that exchange happens after about 31:00, and the whole thing after the long opening monologue is hilarious. It's a two-parter, in fact.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Groove o' the day: Elvin Jones - Rose Marie

Something from the record I've been running in my car all week: The Peacocks, by Stan Getz and Jimmy Rowles. The tune is Rose Marie, a song from the 20s which was a country hit in the 50s. Getz's studio band, with  Elvin Jones on drums, plays it as a samba. The drum performance is interesting because Elvin plays a running dotted quarter note rhythm— which loops at three measures long— rather than a standard Brazilian rhythm:

Actually, just the first two measures form a very conventional and familiar Bossa Nova rhythm, but he extends it to make the unbroken dotted quarter note pulse. He plays that with his left hand on the snare drum and toms, so the complete groove looks like this:

It's a familiar feature of Elvin's playing that he will emphasize the dotted quarter note, essentially playing in 3 while the rest of the band is in 4, but it's still rather striking that he does it so aggressively here. Just so we're clear, the tune has normal eight-measure phrases— if you're going to practice this groove, you have to emphasize the eight-measure phrases of the tune, not the three-measure phrase of the drum pattern.

You can move your left hand to the toms where the music builds. There's nothing significant going on with the left foot— you can play it conventionally on 2 and 4 if you want. At a few points Elvin breaks up the bass drum part like this, accenting the bass drum strongly, further emphasizing the cross rhythm. Listen for this in the middle of the saxophone solo:

He maintains this groove pretty consistently, but he does break it up to fit the tune, like with these phrase-ending fills early in the track— these are each measures 7 and 8 of their phrase:

And this:

At the beginning of a new phrase, after playing a fill, he usually does start the pattern at the beginning, with the rim click on 2. But not always— he begins the piano solo with a rim click on the & of 2, continuing the dotted-quarter rhythm from there. If you're going to use this in your playing, don't over-think it— use your ears and play instinctively. We want to know what Elvin is doing, but in real playing just learn the patterns, and then put all your focus on playing the tune at hand.

Monday, February 08, 2016

NOW AVAILABLE: 2015 Book of the Blog

2015 Book of the Blog
UPDATE: I'm going to keep this pinned to the top of the blog a little while longer, so scroll down for new posts. 

The 2015 Book of the Blog is now available! It's 102 pages of intermediate-to-professional level practice materials from the blog in 2015, printed up in a single handsome volume. If you're a follower of the blog, yer gonna want it...

Highlights and the complete table contents are listed after the break:

Transcription: Connie Kay - Billie's Bounce

Here's a basic bebop study, looking at how Connie Kay plays the head of Billie's Bounce— we've got the drums transcribed, along with the melody rhythm so you can see how they intersect. Kay was the drummer for the Modern Jazz Quartet, and was sort of a quiet work horse— I've not come across a lot of records with him giving big performances like drummers like to hear. But my listening habits are kind of narrow and not encyclopedic. The album is Stan Getz & J.J. Johnson At The Opera House, from 1957.

The 8th notes here will swing, of course. The cymbal rhythm is played on an open hihat, with a few punctuations on a small cymbal— maybe this is Kay's famous 17" Medium-Heavy. It doesn't really matter— play the cymbal part wherever you want it.  Nothing is apparently happening with the left foot. It's likely he's feathering quarter notes on the bass drum, when he's not catching the melody rhythm exactly. He generally stays so close to the melody that there may not be a whole lot of that.

He makes many of the accents with unisons between the cymbal, snare drum, and bass drum, which is a little unusual— that gives a very heavy sound, and he underplays the snare drum a bit on those; the accents are predominantly bass drum. I think rather than making those unisons, you could catch those accents with either bass drum and cymbal, or snare drum and cymbal.

Get the pdf

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Would somebody please buy these drums?

...before I have a moment of weakness and do something stupid? This set of 70s Sonor Phonics in all the right sizes has been on eBay for a couple of months now, for a pretty darned reasonable price. It's got 10, 12, 13, and 14" toms, and a 20" bass drum. The finish is not the most desirable in the world, but it's not terrible either— it seems to be pretty common, so you stand a reasonable chance of finding an orphaned 18" BD or 16" FT— the only other drums you could possibly want to add to this. The seller says the BD and FT are Centennials, and the other drums are regular Phonics, but they're all the same thing. Exact same drums.

I fell in love with Phonics several years ago when I borrowed a bop set for a jazz tour, rock recording session, and one rock gig in Belgium. It had been a long time since I had gotten really excited about a particular brand of drums. After a couple of years I found my own set, and they've been great. Very punchy with a low tuning, almost pianistic with a high tuning. The 18" bass drum is a monster, and the 20 must absolutely rock. Very early 90s Joey Baron.

If you're a player, and DGAF about a finish that's slightly dated, I'd be contacting this guy and trying to finagle free shipping on these suckers.


By the way, folks, I encourage you to follow us on Twitter— I think I'm finding my groove there at last, with a mix of new and past stuff from the blog, music, art, comedy, and music business related links. I do get into some politics-related stuff, which you may or may not be into. It's a fairly vapid medium, to be honest, but it's easy/good for sharing little things that don't merit a full-blown blog post. Get with us @shipdrummer.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Groove o' the day: Elvin Jones - Zoltan

Wow, we've done a lot on Elvin Jones. And why not— everyone loves his playing, and wants to play like him at some point. I should put all of this into a single volume print book, or something. Anyway, here's a Latin groove of his, from a very famous track: Zoltan, from Larry Young's Blue Note album Unity. That's an essential album for any drummer.

He plays it with a lot of variation, so I wrote out several versions. These all happen within the first A section:

Play the snare drum notes as rim clicks— I should have written those with the traditional xs, but I hadn't had my coffee yet, and don't feel like correcting it right now. The floor tom notes aren't played real strongly— especially not the second one. Accent the & of 4 of the first measure, and to a lesser degree the & of 2.

Here's the track. The tune has an intro played as a march, Latin A sections, and a swing bridge:

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Write your own book

Like this, but words— throw them down.
Here Jeff Goins, a writer, gives 10 Ridiculously Simple Tips For Writing A Book. Here are the ones I like most— and these apply to many other things in life. Do hit the link and read the whole piece.

Start small. 300 words per day is plenty. John Grisham began his writing career as a lawyer. He got up early every morning and wrote one page. You can do the same. 
Have an outline. Write up a table of contents to guide you. Then break up each chapter into a few sections. Think of your book in terms of beginning, middle, and end. Anything more complicated will get you lost. If you need help, read Do the Work by Steven Pressfield. 
Have a set time to work on your book every day. If you want to take a day or two off per week, schedule that as time off. Don’t just let the deadline pass. And don’t let yourself off the hook. 
Ship. No matter what, finish the book. Send it to the publisher, release it on Amazon, do whatever you need to do to get it in front of people. Just don’t put it in your drawer. 
Embrace failure. Know that this will be hard and you will mess up. Be okay with it. Give yourself grace. That’s what will sustain you, not your high standards of perfection. 
Write another. Most authors are embarrassed of their first book. But without that first, they never would have learned the lessons they did. So put your work out there, fail early, and try again. This is the only way you get good. You practice.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Very occasional quote of the day: the drummer's job

“Your job is to make everyone in that band feel like playing. It’s a very idealistic way of looking at it, but you have got to. Because that’s your outlet.”
— Ed Soph, interview with Scott K. Fish