Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A good book you should all chase down

Look for the book with
the really goofy cover.
I just want to take a moment again to recommend you all try to find a copy of the book Syncopated Rhythms for the Contemporary Drummer by Chuck Kerrigan. If you're doing a lot with Ted Reed's book, as I do, you'll want this one too. It includes more stuff similar to the most-used parts of Reed, with the addition of triplet and 16th note rhythms in the same vein. And more quarter note-based stuff, which I think people use more, and a few studies in 3/4 and 5/4. A better Reed supplement than Louis Bellson's book, if I may be so bold. It's out of print, but there are always a few copies floating around on eBay or Amazon for $6-10.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Funky Primer: double-time feel lesson

Getting back into teaching out of a book I haven't used in some time: A Funky Primer, by my former college professor Charles Dowd. I felt it was getting a little dated, and I was putting all my energy into developing a Syncopation-based rock/funk method (which I'll be releasing in book form whenever I can finish it)... plus a student walked off with my copy. I bought it again recently, and, you know, it's actually quite decent for functional timekeeping vocabulary for any straight-8th note music with a backbeat. Much of the stuff you wouldn't necessarily play verbatim in real music, but it teaches you a lot of important moves. So we're using it again.

Here's a little unit I was doing with a student: a few selected patterns from pages 25 and 28, centered around making a double time feel. I extended the exercises a little bit by making some of the bass drum notes optional— play all the patterns with and without the circled bass drum notes. These are from page 25:

These patterns from page 28 are also helpful:

Altogether, with the optional versions, that's 18 patterns; an easy little unit. Students tend to gravitate towards their own personal “generic” medium tempo, and these double time feel patterns seem to be a good way to instantly get them to play much faster than they're accustomed to.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Uptempo Stone method — 02

Here's a little companion to our other uptempo method using Stick Contrtol by George L. Stone. This is more of an open system, and you may do it without even getting that deeply into the book exercises— you can do plenty with just the first four patterns: RLRL / LRLR / RRLL / LLRR. See what you can do with at least patterns 1-13 from page 5.

What we do is this: The practice patterns Stick Control are played as quarter notes, with the Rs played on the bass drum, and the Ls played on the snare drum with the left hand. To that we add quarter notes on the cymbal, and 2 and 4 on the hihat with the left foot. We then displace each note of the pattern by an 8th note— playing them an 8th note early or late. Take a look, it will make sense...

There are some additional guidelines that help develop a modern texture with this. Mainly:

  • Don't stop. Between exercises, play time on the cymbal and hihat. I don't normally beat myself to death playing the straight bop cymbal pattern— I will mix it up.
  • You don't have to play endless unbroken repetitions; once you learn the little lick for that pattern/displacement, play one or two measures of it, alternating with several measure of time. For the first three book patterns, RLRL/LRLR/RRLL, you can do each little two-note crux lick in isolation, as well.
  • On the ride cymbal, play quarter notes when you're playing the book exercises, with a broken bop pattern in between. Also reverse that: play the exercises once or twice with a straight bop pattern, with quarter notes on the cymbal in between.
  • Find a phrase-ending accent with each of the practice patterns; play a strong accent on the drum and cymbal, and tie the cymbal through the following beat. It's better if the accent is not always on 1.

Suggested tempo is around 280-350, or half note = 140-175. Faster than it gets a little silly, but do whatever you feel you must.

Get the pdf

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Tootie Heath with Monk

On the Jazz At Lincoln Center blog, drummer Tootie Heath tells how a weeklong engagement he played with Thelonious Monk went down:

I played a week with Monk and, every night, Nica [Monk’s friend and noted jazz patron Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter] would bring him from New York in the Rolls Royce to the club. They would sit out in front of the club, 15-20 minutes before time to hit, and Thelonious would be smoking and Nica would have her cigarette holder and she would be smoking. They were sitting in the Rolls Royce and then he would come in the club with his hat and coat on, sit down at the piano, [wouldn't] say nothing to us… nothing!  
We didn’t know what we were playing… nothing! We had to know Monk’s music. Some of the songs, [bassist] Jimmy Bond didn’t know what key they were in, so he was trying to watch Monk’s left hand to try to find out which key. But Jimmy was such a wonderful musician that he was able to really figure it out after a little bit. 
Thelonious had his back to us; he’s playing piano facing this way and drums are back there and bass is back there. So every night he would end the set and walk off—never take his hat or coat off, go out, sit in the car on the break, come back in, still didn’t say nothing.  
He did this for the whole week. So we were trying to figure out, “Man, does he hate us? Does he like us? Are we playing his music right?” But that was it! He never said anything! I didn’t get it.

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Friday, June 10, 2016

Why I hate “drum lesson” videos.

The guy making the thing has to guess what parts of it you're not going to get, and guess how to explain it in a way you'll understand, meanwhile wasting everyone else's time who either didn't need quarter notes explained, or who wasn't helped by his explanation of them. 

Friday, June 03, 2016

Very occasional quote of the day: Muhammad Ali

"I hated every minute of training, but I said, 'Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.'"