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.

Get the pdf

No comments: