Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Rock beats: simple displacements

Here's a page of patterns for illustrating/learning some creative possibilities with a basic rock beat, using some simple displacements— playing one or more notes “late”, moving them over to the &:

Learn the patterns individually, then practice the entire page without stopping, playing the basic groove one time, alternating with each numbered groove played one or three times. Or you could do two measures of basic groove, two measures numbered pattern. Where there's no bass drum on the 1, it may help beginners to say “1” out loud. As soon as you're ready, it will be more fun (and educational) to run these with one of my practice loops.

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Monday, November 28, 2016


This is incredible: AUDIO from Scott K. Fish's interview with Frankie Dunlop. A long, hilarious story— and ultimately hair-raising, when you get to the part with Tony Williams et al in the audience— about Monk making him solo on a slow tune:

I already put up some excerpts of Dunlop talking about playing with Monk, from that same interview. It's important to remember that this only exists because Fish, and a few guys like him, at Modern Drummer magazine, took an interest, sought these guys out, and talked to them about their experiences playing. I don't think there's a single other interview with Dunlop where he actually talks about playing the drums. Same goes for a whole lot of other great drummers who are now dead.

Here's another one— on rehearsing with Monk, or the lack thereof. What Monk said to Ben Riley about rehearsing was pretty great: “What do you want to do, learn how to cheat?”

Sunday, November 27, 2016

From the zone: another Vinnie Colaiuta transcription

We haven't done a From The Zone post in a long time— handwritten scraps of stuff from peoples' practice room floors. This one is actually a nice, complete thing, from Toni Canelli in Sheffield, England: a transcription of Vinnie Colaiuta playing on the power ballad Put The Weight On My Shoulders, by Gino Vanelli. A fitting handmaiden(???) for our other recent Vinnie/Gino thing.

If you have any of your studio scribblings you want to share— and they don't have to look this good, or look good at all, actually— please email them to me via the Email Todd link in the sidebar. Just take a picture of it with your phone and send it in. I want it to look bad.

And email me if you know what a handmaiden actually is, and why anyone would use that figure of speech in 2016. I think I'm remembering it from the game System Shock 2.

After the break is the original track, and video of Canelli playing the transcription.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Groove o' the day: Art Gore / Cosmic Funk

Listening to Lonnie Liston Smith's album Cosmic Funk, I just today came across someone I had never heard of, but who I instantly loved— Cincinnati drummer Art Gore. I'm working on a transcription of his playing on Footprints, which is super-cool, but that takes some time, so here's the intro to the title track, Cosmic Funk. There's a hip little lead-in and a straightforward funk groove:

There's a natural swing to the 16th notes— it's not triplets, and not that pronouncedly in-the-cracks New Orleans thing. You hear it all the time in funk, but nobody talks about it. I don't know what's up with that. There's a strong 8th note pulse to the hihat part, even when he's playing 16th notes.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Page o' coordination: Afro 6 across the barline

We haven't seen one of these in awhile— seriously, I have posted more stuff on this Afro 6 groove than anybody in the world, and if you have thoroughly practiced any three or four of these pages, you will be more able with this style than 95% of drummers. So get out; go play tennis, work on your screenplay. Get to know your family. Don't be like me.


Nevertheless, this one has an interesting and different bass drum rhythm, that I pilfered directly from Ed Uribe's Afro-Cuban drumming book. Usually, as played on drumset, you tend to emphasize the 1 in this style; here the 1 is obscured by this off beat quarter note rhythm in the bass drum. I would actually treat this as an anticipated 1, putting the emphasis on the last bass drum note in the pattern— the “6” of the second measure.

Remember the rule: learn the whole page, then drill it doing a series of stock left hand moves. I do every possible move with every exercise 2-4 times each, or more if I find myself making mistakes.

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Chaffee linear phrases in 4/4 with inversions - 01

I've found it helpful to practice Gary Chaffee's linear materials in inversions— not always starting the patterns on beat 1. We've already done that in 3/4 with 16th notes and with triplets; today we'll do the most basic phrases for 16th notes in 4/4:

Play these with an alternating sticking, starting each numbered pattern with the right hand. If you look at my transcription of Nightwalker, you can see that old Vinnie Colaiuta has been working them up leading with the left, too— see the 32nd note lick at the end of the transcription. You can experiment with other stickings as well— try natural sticking or a strictly alternating sticking. Move your hands around the drums/cymbals freely.

Where necessary, I've added pickups for you to begin each inversion with your right hand. Practice ending each pattern with a bass drum and cymbal on 1, as indicated. Alternatively you could end with cymbal and snare drum together, no bass drum. Where a phrase ends with a double on the bass drum, you can play the three bass drum notes in a row necessary to end on 1, or you can play the extra beat of 16th notes I've written. Or at the end of your repetitions of a phrase you can just play beat 4 with your hands only:

Refer to Patterns vol. III by Gary Chaffee (or my other posts) for a full explanation of this system.

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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Groove o' the day: Omar Hakim / Gil

The early 80s were kind of a heyday for hip hihat work. Stewart Copeland and Omar Hakim, really got my attention for that, anyway. Can two great players make a heyday? You decide. Here's Hakim's groove on Gil, from John Scofield's album Still Warm. This is the intro and the first couple of measures of the head:

You could play all this with your right hand on the hihat, but it works so much better to do it with both hands, natural sticking, playing the snare drum with your right, a la my Cissy Strut-style method— so any note on the beat or on an & is played with your right, and your left plays any es or as. If you've ever played alternating 16th notes on the hihat, your hands already know how to place these rhythms relative to the bass drum. There's nothing wrong with learning to do more things, so go ahead and retrain your right hand if you want, but to get anywhere on this instrument sometimes you have to take the easy, natural solution when it's presented to you.

Hey, you'll probably want a fresh link to my other Reed-based funk methods if you're going to get into that Cissy Strut thing.

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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Transcription: Vinnie Colaiuta / Nightwalker

In the past I've posted some fairly cheesy things— with a purpose— but I'm afraid I'll really lose you on this one (“This, he wants us to like THIS???”). But sometimes you have to be able to detach a little(?) from your personal taste and take a professional interest in craft. A moment ago I heard something so bad, such an egregious example of a fusion drummer overplaying on a pop track, that I needed to go back and see how Vinnie Colaiuta handled a similar situation. I couldn't believe he ever sounded that bad, and I was right.

So, from the depths of 1981, hot on the heels of that Tom Scott thing, here's Vinnie playing on Nightwalker, by Gino Vanelli. His thing is in the same general bag as Barry Manilow, but sexier, higher-energy, more operatic, and he likes his band to be able to shred a bit.

...and— wait a minute— what the hell am I apologizing for? Vanelli happens to live in Portland, and half a dozen guys I know tour/have toured with him, traveling around the world playing in front of a lot of people with excellent musicians for good money. It's a good gig. How cheesy is that? So here:

Vinnie seems to be using four or five tom toms, two or three crash cymbals, and maybe a China cymbal. And of course one ride cymbal, hihats, snare drum, bass drum. I've written it for four tom toms, and one crash/China cymbal. Half-open hihat notes are indicated with a tenuto mark (-) above the note.

Sounds like a pretty straightforward pop track, but there are lots of interesting things happening here. Just as a craft note, even as Colaiuta is playing very softly on the verses, he plays the bass drum full volume— relatively a lot stronger, anyway. He's also getting away with some stuff by being low in the mix: there are some 32nd note embellishments on the hihat which don't really add anything, but they're so soft they just fluff out the hihat rhythm a little; for me they're just him indicating “Vinnie Colaiuta here, everybody.”

There are suggestions that there's a fair amount of that stuff happening elsewhere, but it's so buried in the mix it's not transcribable. It's worth remembering: if you favor extreme internal dynamics in your playing, with slamming loud stuff coexisting with extremely soft ghost note-type stuff, the very soft stuff is going to get lost. You may be wasting your energy polishing those 1" ghost notes together with a slamming backbeat. It's also worth noting— precision-mad as drummers have become— that listening those little 16th note pickups on the bass drum before a 1 or 3, are often not really precisely executed. Vinnie is of course able to execute perfect 16th notes, but he's playing a feel.

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Friday, November 11, 2016

Victor Bailey 1960-2016

Learned from Terri Lyne Carrington on Twitter that bassist Victor Bailey has passed away from a long-term muscular dystrophy-like disorder. I knew him best for his playing with Weather Report:

All of the WR albums he's on are classics— Weather Report, Sportin' Life, This Is This; Domino Theory is the one I liked the best:

Related, from that album: Omar Hakim's groove on the tune Predator.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Practice loop: The Meters / Cabbage Alley

Take care of your mental wellbeing and forget this political nightmare for awhile, with this cheery practice loop, sampled from Cabbage Alley by The Meters. Excellent for use with this late plethora of funk materials. Also take a look at my transcription of the breakdown from this tune.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Transcription: John Guerin - Backfence Cattin'

Here's some 70s funk in 3/4: Backfence Cattin' by Tom Scott, with John Guerin on drums. You could call Scott L.A.'s answer to Dave Sanborn— big in the 70s-80s, R&B saxophonists who made some popular instrumental albums and did a lot of commercial work. You could be forgiven for finding Scott to be the cheesier of the two. We love John Guerin unreservedly around here. He did a ton of studio work back in the 70s; I always identify him by his concert toms and his functional-but-modern style of playing.

The 3/4 meter is unusual for funk, and there's a rather complex mixed-meter section at the end of the head, with a repeating figure in a 5/8+5/8+3/8 phrase.

If you do nothing else with this transcription, count through the odd section. If you have trouble transitioning from the */4 meters to the */8 meters, before the 5/8 count the 3/4 in 6/8 (counting in 6, not the usual 2), and count the 5/4 and 4/4 in 10/8 and 8/8— just count 1-10 and 1-8 at 8th note speed. The 5/8 measures are phrased 2+3, playing off of dotted 8th notes on the 3 side— you could call it 4+3+3/16.

You could also learn the main groove— it's two measures long, with some fairly minor variations. Getting acquainted with it, I would at first ignore the open hihats and the more subtle dynamic markings. In my transcriptions I always notate more dynamics/articulations than are practical to actually worry about in playing the things.

A couple of minor style notes: I've noticed that Guerin likes to play the bass drum under his fills— usually 8th notes. Not strongly, but it's there, keeping the groove together. Another thing I've noticed with a lot of 70s funk/studio players, which we see here, is that on the big ensemble hits they'll often play the snare drum, bass drum, and cymbal in unison. It's not subtle, but it's obviously very effective for these players to be doing it.

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