Saturday, December 24, 2016

Transcription: Ndugu Leon Chancler - Earth

Happy holidays everyone. Instead of finishing the other transcriptions I said I needed to finish, I started a new, really long one: Ndugu Leon Chancler playing Earth, from Joe Henderson's album The Elements. I don't have a lot of records with him, but Chancler is one of my favorite drummers in the world— I actually decided that based on his playing on one George Duke record.

This is how you're actually supposed to play funk. It's not loud, there's a strong pulse, the architecture of the rhythm is very defined, he's obviously very alert to what's going on around him— and there's some subtlety to his touch, dynamics, and sound. He's not playing for perfect evenness of volume, or for digital sample-like consistency in the sounds he's drawing from the instrument. Obviously that wasn't a thing yet in 1974, but it's very much a thing now, in certain sectors, to the detriment of people's musicality. I think. In writing this blog I listen to a lot of 70s funk and studio drummers, and there's always way more subtlety than I expect. These guys are listening, and are very attentive to the arc of the melody and the ebb and flow of the groove.

This is in two parts; the rhythm section enters at 0:55, then there's a board fade into an open bass solo by Charlie Haden, and some spoken word stuff, and then the rhythm section is back in at 8:45.

Except for notes in parentheses, everything is at a fairly even volume. I've indicated a few accents, but they're not huge. Housetop accents indicate a rim shot.

I haven't differentiated between cymbals— clearly there's a crash, ride, and swish cymbal. But he doesn't play them strongly, even on the accents, so you can just catch whatever's easiest. He does play the bell of the ride cymbal at one point, which I've indicated. I believe he's using three tom toms.

Things start to get really interesting on page 4— read the rhythms carefully there. I don't know what's up with the measure of 5/4 on the last page. Ndugu went an extra beat in his fill for reason, and everyone was with him.

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Very occasional quote of the day: classical in jazz

“[T]hese days I think there can actually be too much 'classical' sounding stuff in jazz. In a master class I heard Paul Bley warn about this. Bley thought it was better for young jazz musicians to study Louis Armstrong than Alban Berg.

Indeed, it is important to remember that any Dexter Gordon record has so much more meaning and validity than most modern nerdy music-school jazz connected to formal composition.

Taking that a step further, in no way do I feel that the greatest jazz is lesser than the greatest 20th-century composition. Indeed, I’d argue the reverse. The best of John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and Ornette Coleman with their most sympathetic collaborators is clearly the greatest 20th-century music.”

— The Bad Plus's Ethan Iverson

Inner Drumming

One of the more interesting drum books ever written is Inner Drumming, by George Marsh. Marsh is a big Tai Chi practitioner, and his linear drumming method, using a novel, artistic system of notation, is all about energy flow... the book is sort of like Four-Way Coordination, informed by Eastern philosophy:

I'd like to get those blow-ups of the diagrams. Someone should be selling those.

I spent some time with the book in the 80s, when there was a copy floating around the percussion department at the University of Oregon. I don't think I was ready for it— like Dahlgren & Fine, I think you need to be a fairly developed/mature player to get the most benefit from it. But any ambitious drummer— like someone who would be reading Cruise Ship Drummer!— should own it. For a long time you had to get it from George himself, now it's available from Sher Music. You can read more about the book and about Marsh at his website, and also friend him on Facebook.

UPDATE: Oh, Michael Vatcher! I spaced out for a moment. I once met him at a jam session in Eugene, Oregon, when he was in town on a Creative Music Guild show. It was very random, because he was on a John Zorn record, Spy vs. Spy, which I was listening to a lot right then. He said he and Joey Baron broke a lot of sticks on that session.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Daily best music in the world: Headhunters

A complete set by Herbie Hancock's Headhunters, with Mike Clark on drums, recorded in 1974. For most of the time I've been a drummer, there was no opportunity to see things like this— actually the first time I ever saw Mike Clark play in any capacity play was when my band opened for this group at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland in 2000. That tour was the first time they had played in 25 years. So we're very lucky as drummers to have documents like this now. If you've been spending any time with my Funk Control/Basic Funk Ideas series, you'll definitely want to see this, to see those ideas in action.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

End of year news

Wow, posting has really slowed down to a crawl here in December. Truth is, I got way too ambitious with some transcription projects, and never got them finished. We'll see if I can get at least one of them done before the end of the year. I'm also working on the 2016 Book of the Blog, which I'm hoping to have ready to order in the first week of January. I was busy with so many non-site-related projects this year I was afraid we weren't going to have much of a book, but it's still coming in at over 100 pages, including a very robust funk drumming chapter. I've also included in the book some of my Reed/Stone methods which normally don't have an accompanying download. I'm very happy with what I've got for you.

And it's insane— I have several other book projects, each languishing a few hours' work away from completion: my Book of Intros, a rock book and a funk book (each based on Syncopation), and this latest Funk Control thing, which I'm very excited about. Can I release five books in 2017? We'll see.

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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Sunday, October 30, 2016

FUNK CONTROL: alternative set 1 - complete

I'm working out the format for putting this “Basic Funk Ideas” series into book form, tentatively titled “Funk Control.” The top of the page, labeled “Basic rhythm and iterations” shows the source rhythmic idea for the page, along with the other forms of it, from which we create the exercises— you don't need to practice these, just understand how they relate to the starting rhythm. I've changed the presentation to give all of the variations for one pattern on one page.

Anyway, here's a new page of stuff, using a pattern, and a few variations, which is not on the previous pages:

Same suggestions as always: learn the exercises individually, then play them in combinations, playing each lettered exercise 1, 2, or 4 times each. On variations N-P, move around the drums freely; you can also improvise the sticking for variation N.

With all my materials I like to be able cover one page completely in half an hour or less, but this system is a little long for that. There are 120 total combinations of patterns, and blasting straight through them at quarter note = 80 bpm, playing each measure one time, takes 6 minutes. Playing each combo twice would take 12 minutes; playing each combo and measure twice would take 24 minutes. I like practicing them playing each measure 1x and 2x, so at that tempo the shortest possible session would be 36 minutes. Doing additional repetitions where you actually practice takes longer than that, so you may want to split each page into two practice sessions; you could do combinations starting with A-E the first day, and F-P the second. Or do it in three sessions: A-C, D-G, and H-O.

UPDATE: Oh, there's a typo— the sixtuplet sticking at the top of the page gives a 6-stroke roll type sticking, but we want to do all of the accents with the right hand. It should be RLL RLR LLR LRL, if you want to pencil it in. The stickings in the actual exercises are all correct.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Double bass drum: 5 and 7 stroke singles

A student request. This is the first thing I've ever written for double bass in my life— I don't play it, it's not my thing. It doesn't matter. This page of exercises will work for getting together your 32nd note single stroke short rolls— which seems to be a large part of what people do with this area of drumming. Lots of short rolls and ruffs.

The 16th note patterns are the skeleton of the accompanying 32nd note lick, so as a warm-up, you should be able to play the patterns in 2/4 solidly with either foot. Play the entire page as written, with the right foot leading, and also play it reversed— left foot lead.

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Daily best music in the world: Paul Motian Trio / Lisbon '86

We're very lucky. When I was first getting into this group around 1989, the only way to see them was to fly to New York, or catch them at a festival in Europe or maybe Japan. I was too poor to be spending money on travel, so I just had to listen to the records— barely plural, because you actually had to buy the things, and there weren't too many used Paul Motian records floating around.

So appreciate this very cool, free, available video of a great band:

I believe those are some famous cymbals he's playing, there— on the right a 22" Paiste “transitional” Dark Ride (so-called because it was manufactured between the 602 and Sound Creation versions of that cymbal, and was not assigned to any line), and on the left a 20" A. Zildjian sizzle cymbal, which he had been playing since Bill Evans days. I believe that cymbal is on those famous Evans recordings. It looks like he's also got an 18" 2002 China Type. The drums he's playing are 70s Sonor Phonics, in what looks like a 13/14/16/22— or maybe even 14/15/16/22— configuration. He's got Remo Pinstripes on the tops. They've detuned themselves from all the rim shots, and by his solo in Pannonica, they sound terrible.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Paul Motian documentary

Alerting you to a filmmaker raising funds to complete a documentary on the great Paul Motian. It looks pretty awesome, OF COURSE, and includes interviews with Bill Frisell, Joe Lovano, Gary Peacock, Masabumi Kikuchi, and more. Go to his site, check out his preview video, and donate if you're able.

Also follow them on Twitter @MotianInMotion.

Bossa/Samba bass drum workout

It says “workout”, like it's some kind of technical challenge, but it's really a page of exercises for opening up some musical possibilities with your bass drum when playing sambas and bossa novas. A lot of drummers (I like to diagnose people's playing issues en masse) get ostinato-itis with these styles.

Play the page straight through, without stopping, 1-4x each exercise, along with the samba/bossa nova recording of your choice (I've given some suggestions at the bottom of the post):

Play the cymbal part with the right hand on the closed hihat, any cymbal, or on the snare drum with a brush. At tempos faster than about HN=100 you'll probably have to play with both hands— alternating, or in a RLLR/LRRL sticking. Or whatever mixed sticking you like. The cymbal rhythm can be played at an even volume with no accents, or accented on 1/3 and &-of-2/&-of-4 when playing alternating/mixed stickings. You can also do this very standard, Baiao-type rhythm on the hihat:

While you're at this, you might take a look at a similar page I did back in 2011. Don't neglect listening to recordings to get the feel and interpretation overall.

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Playalong suggestions after the break:

Monday, October 17, 2016

Three Camps in 5s

Another variation on the very famous old rudimental piece Three Camps, this time based on five-note groupings. We're in 10/8, counted in 2— 5+5/8:

All forms of this piece are excellent for working on endurance and speed. Play as written, with an alternating sticking, leading with the right and left hands— I've outlined the stickings for RH lead only. Also play with doubles or multiple bounce strokes on all of the unaccented notes.

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Friday, October 14, 2016

Transcription: Gerry Brown / School Days

Here's a funk/fusion classic: School Days, by Stanley Clarke, with Gerry Brown on the drums. Along with Weather Report's Teen Town, and Donna Lee, this was one of the most-learned fusion things by electric bassists more many years. Brown was a high profile session drummer in the 70s and 80s, and he's still busy doing big gigs. Here he's sounding rather Cobham-like, especially in the tom sound. Steve Gadd definitely won the great 70s tom sound war [note: that's not a thing] with his punchy, low, small-drum sound. The sound here is a little higher, more tonal... and to me more aggressive, actually. If you want to try it out, tune your drums medium to medium-low, with the bottom heads looser. Fiddle with it.

I've written out just the opening vamp, up to the 1:55 mark. It's one long crescendo of intensity:

Part of this will be a little difficult to read, where Brown plays cymbal bell with his right hand while playing the hihat and snare drum with his left. It's not difficult, it just looks bad on the page. We also have some extra sounds present: China/swish cymbal (whatever happened to riding on the swish cymbal?), and three extra tom toms, which I've put on the lines surrounding our normal tom tom spaces (which correspond with the A and E on a treble clef staff).

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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Daily best music in the world: OH S___

In writing about playing the drums, you tend to focus on what is definable. You write the things you can say for sure, and you don't write about things you can't. That can give people the mistaken impression that the only things that matter are the quantifiable things. With that, here's Tony Williams playing Big Nick:

That's from the Tony Williams Lifetime album Turn It Over, blowing everyone else on the planet away in under three minutes.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Basic funk ideas in 6/8: four iterations - 01

I'm not happy with this title for this series, but I'm going to hang with it as long as we're posting on the blog. It's rapidly evolving into a Stick Control-like system for funk drumming (only way more fun), and the possible subject for a book (“FUNK CONTROL”???). I'm feeling very good about this system, and believe it's worth dedicating significant effort to working through it thoroughly. I think this is a more direct route to playing modern, creative funk than I've seen in any book.

So let's expand on it a little bit, with 16th notes in 6/8:

To review the practice routine:

Practice one line at a time. Learn all four lettered patterns individually, then play them in all combinations, one to four times each:


You might play these along with a slow 12/8 recording at first, like Led Zeppelin's You Shook Me. Maybe you can fit them over a fast, modern jazz waltz or 6/4— you could make your own loop of Footprints. In writing them I've been playing along with an Afro 6/8 loop like this. They look an awful lot like sixtuplets in a */4 meter, but I wouldn't start there— playing them with a sixtuplet groove in 4/4. Hell, you could do them along with Natural Woman, really concentrating on finding a pocket— it's slow, but it's not easy.

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Thursday, October 06, 2016

Orchestrating and embellishing backbeats

What do we do with this?
Someone bored with playing backbeats all night asked this question on the Drummerworld forum: “What do you do to spice up the 2 & 4?” 

My answer is: I don't think anyone should ever be bored just because they're playing backbeats— not if they're doing them with the right attention and attitude. It's one of the high arts of drumming, which the best players take very seriously.

With that caveat, I wrote up a list of things you can do with your backbeats with the purpose of adding something to the music. It's all basic drumming vocabulary you've probably already learned in the course of normal practicing and playing, but it's good to reference these common moves in relation to the backbeat. Sit down and try them out— playing a basic rock beat, go through the list once or twice and see if you can do all the suggestions in a way that sounds good to you.

Some things can be done on any beat 2 or 4; others, which I've specified, are more conventional to do specifically on one or the other. Of course you can play them however sounds best to you. Many of them can be combined. The list is not exhaustive— it's just everything I could think of in the 15 minutes it took to write them down.

Change the sound:
Rim shot
Rim click
Play a tom tom
Play a flam
Play a double stop on the snare and a tom
Play the snare and a cymbal accent together (on a different cymbal)
Play the snare and bass drum together
Play the bass drum only
Open the hihat, closing on the following down beat, the following &, or the following e
Leave the snare out (usually 2), continue cymbal rhythm
Leave the snare out, accent on the hihat, open or closed
Play a buzz
Play a roll ending on the following beat

Ruff (short buzz, unmetered triplet, two sixteenth notes, or sixteenth note triplet) or ending note of a short roll (5, 7, or 9 stroke, starting on the before, e before, or beat before)
Add bass drum or tom tom before: &a&-a
Add bass drum or tom tom after: &ee-&e-&-a
Add bass drum and/or tom tom in any combination of the above
Put it in the middle of a longer fill
Play ghost notes on the following e, the e-&, or the e-&-a, decrescendoing, for an echo effect
Play the echo effect with both hands in unison on the snare and a tom, or the snare and a cymbal

Add notes: 
Play the 4-&, 2-&
Play the &-4
Play the 4-a, 2-a
Play the e-4
Play other rhythms or combinations of the above

Displace— do not play on 2 or 4 with these: 
Play the “backbeat” on the & of 4 or 2
Play the backbeat on the & of 3
Play the & of 3 and the & of 4, making a brief double time effect
Play the a of 1
Play the a of 1/3 + & of 2/4; Soca-like
Play the e of 4, or e and a; rare
Play the e of 3 and e of 4; rare, Maracatu-like, play BD in unison

Saturday, October 01, 2016

EZ Tony Williams-like method: another setting

Here's something that was leading me into a very modern, hiccupy, vaguely Chris Dave-like jazz concept. I was practicing along with the Coltrane recording of  Big Nick, a medium-slow swing tune, and found myself doing this variation on my EZ Tony Williams-like method— double-timing it, so the rhythms are predominantly 16th notes and straight 8th notes. It's easy conceptually and technically, very modern in effect.

Read the original method, then proceed. We're using Progressive Steps To Syncopation, pp. 32-44— the “Syncopation” section. Here's the first line of the well-known p.37 exercise from that book, as played in the original method— in a fast 4, with straight 8th notes. Short notes (untied 8th notes) on the snare drum, and long notes (quarter notes, tied 8th notes) on the bass drum, with cymbal in unison with everything:

With today's thing, in a medium 4, but with the Syncopation part double-timed, it would be played like this— the dashed barlines show where the barlines were in the original part:

With 16th notes in jazz you want to think legato, but be sure your coordination is clean— it's easy for things to get mushy around those hihat notes on 2 and 4. So, legato, but not sloppily executed.

It's a good idea to also play the interpretation with a straight quarter note cymbal rhythm:

...and with a regular jazz beat on the cymbal— with a dotted-8th/16th rhythm on the skip note:

See the original method for ideas of what to do when you get into multiple 16th notes in a row on the snare drum— I prefer to play them alternating on the snare drum— without the cymbal, of course. Bring the cymbal back in on the first bass drum note after the run of 16ths on the snare. Or wherever you like.

Thursday, September 29, 2016


The most irritating stock photo I
could find to accompany this post.
By the way, I want to give a shout out to some people who have donated to the blog since August— Peter, Benoit, and Antonio—and people bought my books lately, and Rachael, who did a Skype lesson: thanks, everyone!

Anyone else tempted to show your appreciation with a cash donation, please do. Like, if everyone who thought about donating $5-20, but never followed through, actually went ahead and donated— hey, that'd equal some substantial support.

So go ahead and do it. Help us continue.

Very occasional quote of the day: it's an instrument

“You don't beat the drums— you play them.”
- Kenny Clarke

Thanks to Scott K. Fish for the quote— be sure to follow his excellent blog Life Behind The Cymbals.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Basic funk ideas: four iterations - 03

Another page of this modern funk method— we're going to need a better name for this thing, as we're getting well beyond basic. This is turning into quite an epic. Normally, working on fairly demanding materials, I like to practice a full page at a time— working through a full page of stuff pretty thoroughly in 15-30 minutes of practicing. With this we're now looking at about 15-30 minutes per numbered row of exercises— doing all the combinations, using all three pages. So you could take nine days to get through the whole thing; it is a solid method and I think it is worth that level of commitment— I encourage you to actually do that.

The method, again: After getting basically familiar with the patterns by playing them several times individually, begin combining patterns as follows, playing each lettered pattern 4x, 2x, and 1x:

AB, AC AD... BC, BD... CD...

Do that across all the pages, so you'll be combining all patterns from the same numbered row on all three pages. Not a small assignment. It wouldn't be a bad idea to play through each page by the vertical column, just playing the patterns 4x each. No need to do combinations when working that way.

Our relation to the original patterns is getting slightly less obvious, so here's what's going on: Column A is a groove with a baiao-style hihat rhythm; column B has the cymbal in unison with the bass drum on beat 1, in unison with the snare drum on beat 2; column C has open hihat on single bass drum notes, and on the second bass drum note of any doubles; column D is alternating sixtuplets, playing cymbal accents in unison with the bass drum— this will be harder to do at faster tempos, so I would cut that from the routine rather than let it prevent me from doing the system fast.

Get the pdf

Friday, September 23, 2016

Negotiating for prostitutes

Not to hire one, to be one— good not to have too many illusions about our economic place in society, as musicians. From the Quartz web site, an excellent piece on business negotiation as practiced in one of Nevada's legal brothels, from which musicians can learn a lot. If you've ever led a commercial band, or tried to book a tour, you'll recognize many of these situations immediately, and hopefully see what you're doing wrong, and what you can improve on in the future. There are also some good angles to think about in structuring your teaching business. Do go read the entire piece.

1. Establish a connection. The negotiation begins the moment the counter-party lays eyes on the escort. She smiles, says her first and last name, displaying a confidence and warmth that puts the customer at ease and projects value. Almost no one likes to negotiate. The woman’s friendly self-confidence not only makes the counter-party more comfortable, it puts the escort in control.

After the lineup, the woman takes the customer by the hand, the first point of physical contact. They walk side by side—never one in front of the other, as they tour the ranch. As they walk, they talk about why he’s there, his background, and his hobbies and interests. One escort got a large booking ($6,500, up from her usual $1,000) because during the tour they connected over a similar childhood in the Southwest. Forging a connection creates power in the negotiation. If a customer is attached to an individual, he is more likely to meet her price.

2. Don’t talk about money or time initially, just the service you’ll provide. The women are instructed to describe an ideal scenario while touching the arm, leg, or hair of the client. They don’t bring up money or how long it will take until the client is hooked and wants the full service. Instead of leading with how much they’re worth, they describe their value in a way that’s appealing to the counter-party.

Hof described it this way:

'The guy’s, like, “Well, I need four hours and I need to do this and I need to do that.” What I would tell her to say is “We’re not going to have to worry about time. We’re going to have plenty of time together, all the time that you want, because I’m not rushing you out of here because I want you to come back.” Now, you just eliminated the whole discussion about time. Then the guest says, “Well, how much time do I get?” “You get what you need. I’m not rushing you out of here.”'

3. The most controversial question is whether to say the number first or let the client. The younger women always make the client say what he’s prepared to spend first. It’s hard to tell how much money a client has. Some of the less flashy looking clients ended up spending hundreds of thousands of dollars. If they say the number first, they risk low-balling themselves.

But Hof and the older women like to say the number first. They say it sets the tone and takes control of the negotiation. They don’t worry about saying a number that’s too low, because if the client readily agrees they then go in for the more expensive service and still get more.

I asked negotiation expert Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business school, about who is right. He studies the power dynamics of negotiations in other industries. He agrees with Hof that it is better to say your number first. That’s especially true when pricing is not transparent (as it is in the brothel). It gives the seller more power if she throws out the number first. It also frames the discussion and puts the prices in a higher range. “It is better to make an ambitious offer and give yourself room to concede—unless the other side has more information [on pricing].”

Continued after the break:

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Transcription: Joe Dukes - Hallelujah Time

I was rooting through some early George Benson the other day, and turned up this smoking number, which I had never heard before: Hallelujah Time, played by Brother Jack McDuff, with his long time drummer Joe Dukes killing it. He's actually doing a lot of things I like playing on fast tempos these days, so I wrote it out— just his playing on Red Holloway's tenor solo. The audio is not great, so there are likely some things going on that didn't make it to the page. No matter, the only things that really concern me here are the time and the big accents.

Some notable features of his playing here: Likes starting a chorus with accents on 1 and 4. Big, simple punctuations, often on 1, 4, 1 and 2, or 1 and 3. One-measure fills at the end of phrases. Mostly straight quarter notes in the cymbal pattern, sometimes plays several measures with the skip note added only on 2. Rim click on 4 frequently, or light 2 and 4 on the snare drum— ghosted, really. Relentless, driving hihat on 2 and 4 all the way through. Little conventional bebop independent-style comping on the snare drum, and not until later in the solo. Overall, very half note and quarter note oriented.

The transcription begins at 0:55 on the track. The tempo is around half note = 163— cooking, but not insanely fast.

Get the pdf

After the break there are a couple of more versions of this tune.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Daily best music in the world: Breezin'

Here's something very great: Harvey Mason playing Breezin', written by Bobby Womack, on George Benson's album of the same title in 1976. As far as I'm concerned there's really no higher artistry in drumming than this— I don't care who you're talking about. And it doesn't matter that this is just a light little commercial tune.

Some observations: The groove is very deep, and of a totally different quality than you hear in current music— it's interlaced these with rhythmic microtensions that are the result of live musicians pulling a groove out of the air. The time is not precisely metronomic: the body of the tune starts at around 83 beats per minute, relaxes somewhat over the first couple of minutes, and by the end has settled to around 80 beats per minute. Later in the tune Mason repeatedly accents on the crash cymbal on the e of 1, playing off the primary riff you hear played by the flute— which is very audacious. Not the type of thing you would normally dare to play over and over on a commercial record. I'm basically in awe of the fills. Not just anyone can be that deep in the pocket when filling. Mason is digging in, but he's not playing loud. It's not a hard sound.

Gabor Szabo recorded the same basic arrangement of this tune in 1971 with Jim Keltner on drums. It may be a hipper overall rendition of the tune, but there's something different going on with the groove. There's more forward momentum: the tempo starts at the same tempo as the Benson version, 83 bpm, but speeds up to around 87 bpm by the middle of the track. The bass and maybe the guitar seem to be driving that, with the drums laying back; the snare drum especially is way on the back of the beat. It's not really a comfortable groove for me to listen to. Keltner plays very simply, with no fills at all. On Benson's version the drums are featured in the mix with the guitar; here they're balanced with the tambourine.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Very occasional quote of the day: Bozzio studies

I always loved this photo from the
original interview. First copy of MD
I ever read. Also had Jim Keltner
and Ed Blackwell.
In his 1981 Modern Drummer interview with Robin Tolleson, Terry Bozzio discusses his study methods when he was in school, and the books he worked out of:

[I] studied Haskell Harr's books. And then I got into Stick Control, which I thought was a little bit better practical application of that, rather than having all the fancy notation. And I studied that, and I studied out of Ted Reed's book Syncopation, and Louie Bellson's books, and this other book Portraits In Rhythm by Anthony Cirone. That's a real good book for dynamics, and classical snare drumming. [...] I studied [...] that Morris Goldenberg snare drum book.  
So I would go up there with head phones and a cassette recorder, and practice and work out Tony Williams Lifetime licks from this tape thing, and write them all down. My whole way of learning at that point was sort of to take all the drummers that I loved, like Tony and Eric (Gravatt) mainly, and whenever they would do a lick that I thought was really cool, I would write that lick out, and practice it, and learn the technique involved, and then make up my own licks using those techniques. And that's probably the main way I learned to do what I do, at least musically. That's a good thing to do, because that way you don't get stuck with just doing their licks, but it does open up a lot of doors. Because when a lot of people start, they hear things and they don't know what
the hell is going on. You just have to listen to that section over and over to get it.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Creative tips from Brian Eno

From, a creativity site, retweeted by the actual Brian Eno, an article about a few of Eno's creative strategies:

1. Freeform capture.
Grab from a range of sources without editorializing. According to Tamm, one of Eno’s tactics “involves keeping a microcassette tape recorder on hand at all times and recording any stray ideas that hit him out of the blue – a melody, a rhythm, a verbal phrase.” He’ll then go through and look for links or connections, something that can form the foundation for a new piece of music.

2. Blank state.
Start with new tools, from nothing, and toy around. For example, Eno approaches this by entering the recording studio with no preconceived ideas, only a set of instruments or a few musicians and “just dabble with sounds until something starts to happen that suggests a texture.” When the sound texture evokes a memory or emotion that impression then takes over in guiding the process.

3. Deliberate limitations.
Before a project begins, develop specific limitations. Eno’s example: “this piece is going to be three minutes and nineteen seconds long and it’s going to have changes here, here and here, and there’s going to be a convolution of events here, and there’s going to be a very fast rhythm here with a very slow moving part over the top of it.”

4. Opposing forces.
Sometimes it’s best to generate a forced collision of ideas. Eno would “gather together a group of musicians who wouldn’t normally work together.” Dissimilar background and approaches can often evoke fresh thinking.

5. Creative prompts.
In the ‘70s Eno developed his Oblique Strategies cards, a series of prompts modeled after the I Ching to disrupt the process and encourage a new way of encountering a creative problem. On the cards are statements and questions like: “Would anybody want it?” “Try faking it!” “Only a part, not the whole.” “Work at a different speed.” “Disconnect from desire.” “Turn it upside down.” “Use an old idea.” These prompts are a method of generating specifics, which most creatives respond favorably to.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Daily best music in the world: Puddles Waterworld tribute

Last week I got to see Puddles Pity Party, a one man show with video accompaniment, by a depressed clown who happens to be an amazing singer. After a lengthy setup where he attempts to conjure Kevin Costner on the video screen, he gave us this number, and it's been stuck in my head all week. Put this on full screen so you get the full majesty of the video presentation.

Go see him if you get the chance, he's awesome.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Form and spirit in art

Piero della Francesca
And now for something completely different— I can't just dump 50 pages of practice materials all at once. So here is a piece of art writing that has been very important to me. It's a portion of a longer piece by Aldous Huxley, Meditations on El Greco; the excerpt released in Huxley's collected essays was entitled Form And Spirit In Art:

A painter or a sculptor can be simultaneously representational and nonrepresentational. In their architectural backgrounds and, above all, in their draperies, many works even of the Renaissance and the Baroque incorporate passages of almost unadulterated abstraction. These are often expressive in the highest degree. Indeed, the whole tone of a representational work may be established, and its inner meaning expressed, by those parts of it which are most nearly abstract. Thus, the pictures of Piero della Francesca leave upon us an impression of calm, of power, of intellectual objectivity and stoical
Cosimo Tura
detachment. From those of Cosimo Tura there emanates a sense of disquiet, even of anguish. When we analyze the purely pictorial reasons for our perception of a profound difference in the temperaments of the two artists, we find that a very important part is played by the least representational elements in their pictures—the draperies. In Piero’s draperies there are large unbroken surfaces, and the folds are designed to emphasize the elementary solid-geometrical structure of the figures. In Tura’s draperies the surfaces are broken up, and there is a profusion of sharp angles, of jagged and flame-like forms. Something analogous may be found in the work of two great painters of a later period, Poussin and Watteau. Watteau’s draperies are broken into innumerable tiny folds and wrinkles, so that the color of a mantle or a doublet is never the same for half an inch together. The impression left upon the spectator is one of extreme sensibility and the most delicate refinement. Poussin’s much broader treatment of these almost non-representational accessories seems to express a more masculine temperament and a philosophy of like akin to Piero’s noble stoicism.

In some works the non-representational passages are actually more important than the representational. Thus, in many of Bernini’s statues, only the hands, feet and face are fully representational; all the rest is drapery—that is to say, a writhing and undulant abstraction. It is the same with El Greco’s paintings. In some of them a third, a half, even as much as two thirds of the entire surface is occupied by low-level organic abstractions, to which, because of their representational context, we give the name of draperies, or clouds, or rocks. These abstractions are powerfully expressive, and it is through them that, to a considerable extent, El Greco tells the private story that underlies the official subject matter of his paintings.

Continued after the break:

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Practice loop: The Meters / Doodle-Oop

Oh, and you might want a slightly slower loop to hang with the sixtuplets on the new page of funk stuff, so here's some more Meters. The tempo is about 90 BPM, and the NOLA-style swing feel si happening, but it'll work well with those pages. The drummer, our beloved and revered Zigaboo Modeliste, is playing a combination of street beat and funk groove, so this will also be great for working on those recent street beat methods I posted.

Basic funk ideas: four iterations - 02

I'm liking this format— like Stick Control for funk drumming— so we'll see a few more of these. This page takes the same series of patterns from the last two items (“mixed stickings” and “four iterations”) and does some more orchestrations/modifications/interpretations with them. Whichever word you like. We're getting a little beyond basic, though; maybe standard is a better word; these are all standard tools for funk/fusion drumming since the 70s.

Column A uses a new ride pattern; Column B does the inverted, hands-together thing with open hihat, John Guerin-style, with both feet in unison on the close notes; Column C puts the pattern into a sixtuplet rhythm, with a basic cymbal pattern, and Column D does the sixtuplets with RH/RF in unison, and the left hand filling in on the snare drum. I said before I wasn't going to explain these things— if you play them, the relationship of the patterns to the basic idea should be obvious.

Combining the patterns is the whole point of this— we want to be very fluent going from one thing to another. For each line of exercises, after playing each measure individually several times, play every two-measure combination of measures: AB, AC, AD, BC, BD, CD. It's not a terrible idea to do both “iterations” pages together, so you'll be doing all combinations of columns ABCD from both pages. That takes considerably longer to get through, so you may only work through a couple of numbered rows per practice session.

For each of those combinations, play each measure 4 times, then 2 times, then 1 time... playing each of those ways four or more times. So to thoroughly cover, say, the AB combination:
||: A - 4x / B - 4x :|| - repeat 4 or more x
||: A - 2x / B - 2x :|| - repeat 4 or more x
||: A - 1x / B - 1x :|| - repeat 4 or more x

You could do combinations between lines: 1A/2A, 1A/2B, 1A/2C, etc. I think it's unnecessary. It will demand plenty of practice time just doing it the way I suggested.

Except where there are open hihats specified, the cymbal parts can (and should) move freely between the hihat and ride cymbal. Feel free to catch a crash cymbal on any transitions you want. Stickings are always RH on cymbal / LH on snare drum, except where indicated.

Get the pdf

Monday, September 12, 2016

EZ Reed interpretation: another triplet lick

I like these Reed interpretations using the early part of the book. You can just play through fifteen lines of exercises, plus a 16-20 bar exercise, and be done with it. FINITE ASSIGNMENTS, people. Not as sexy as some of the fancier things using the heavier reading later in the book, but I'm really appreciating the value of a potent quarter note pulse. Doing these easy methods using this portion of the book really reinforces that, and helps you learn to be creative with it.

For the uninitiated, I'm talking about applying an interpretation to things written in the book Progressive Steps to Syncopation by Ted Reed, something jazz drummers do all the time, and which I've been looking to apply more to rock and funk drumming. Today we'll be developing some fluency with the eternally popular rock & roll floogeda-floogeda lick. I think Elvin Jones was actually the first person to do it, but the rock people have really run with it, right into the ground. But it's still fun to play, and sounds impressive, so:

Look at the triplet and quarter note section of Syncopation, pp. 14-15, which I think is called Lesson 5 in the new edition of the book. We'll use line 5 for all the examples:

Ignoring the stems-down part, play the written triplets RLB, with the hand notes played on the tom toms. Play the quarter notes on the bass drum:

On the quarter notes we're going to add some notes that aren't on the page— we're going to play triplets on those beats, too. Keep doing what you were doing, but now filling out the last two notes of the triplet with the RL on the drums:

Basically then, book triplets = triplets played RLB, and book quarter notes = triplets played BRL.

These are meant to be played fast, so play them in cut time, with your metronome clicking half notes. If you're having trouble getting them up to performance speed consistently (around half note = 90-140ish) play some running RLB unisons— all three limbs at the same time— at quarter note speed at your target tempo for a few minutes every day:

Once you can play through the exercises perfectly without stopping at a reasonable performance tempo (anything above about half note = 90), you can play a time feel during the first two or three measures of each line. I've written out some basic possibilities for moving the hands around the drums on the fills:

Improvising a slightly more complex groove on the first three measures:

You can also do these in a jazz feel, of course— alter your touch, and play a swing feel during the time portions. You guys know what you're doing, I don't need to write it out. I should also direct your attention to this companion EZ triplet method, to which the “another” in the title of this piece refers. Have fun!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Zachariah blow by blow

There's a famous-among-drummers scene from the early 70s film Zachariah— a “psychedelic” cowboy movie with a big musical component. It features a purported drum solo by Elvin Jones, which gets shared around the internet as an example of what a great drummer he was:

You can get a glimpse of what it was like to see Jones in action in the forgotten (and forgettable) 1970 movie, Zachariah. [In it,] Elvin Jones, a towering, massive, frozen-faced figure, strides into the saloon in an O. K. Corral outfit, settles in behind an enormous drum kit, and proceeds to spend 10 minutes exploring its possibilities. It’s a thrilling, classic few minutes of film, like the snippets from early talkies that preserve some of the performance style of Louis Armstrong or Bessie Smith[.]

Unfortunately, no. You get to see him shoot a guy and move his arms a little bit in the presence of a drum set. The scene is actually so brutally edited, with another drummer playing much of the audio— the sound editors even have him playing over Elvin— that whatever it is, it is not a film of Elvin Jones playing a drum solo. As a representation of Jones's playing, it's much more akin to this:

Earl Palmer, the studio legend and the other drummer in question, says he was told there were problems with the original sound, and that he was asked to record some overdubs. They had him play along with the video, matching what Elvin was playing as best he could. But the scene is so crudely lashed-together, with so little regard for matching the audio with what's happening on screen, I suspect the filmmakers finally just edited it the way they wanted, and covered their tracks by layering in some more drumming noise. Obviously nobody present when cutting/mixing the final product thought they were dealing with an actual musical performance, and that they had any duty to preserve its integrity.

I don't blame Palmer, by the way. I hesitate to even refer to him by name, because he had an extremely difficult job, and his playing is not any more fairly represented here than is Elvin's. I can't believe that what we see in the final cut is something he would have approved of. In his biography Backbeat, Palmer calls it “The hardest session I ever did.”, and says he had to be talked into doing it:

Jimmy Haskell was the composer. [He was the] kind of guy [who] works the shit out of you, because he's aiming to please. He'll go past breaks, rush you, come in with the score half-written and write the rest right there. [...] 
Anyway, somehow or other the sound got messed up. The drum solo had to be played all over again. Jimmy told the producers, “Oh yeah, we can do that.” 
I said, “Wait a minute, I'm not going to do this. I'm not going to fucking do this, man.”

I wanted to figure out what the hell is happening on this thing, so I listened to it a number of times, and wrote up a cue sheet indicating what we're hearing, and when. It's the type of thing we do here. It turns out that in two minutes of a purported Elvin Jones drum solo, there are at least sixteen edits. There is never more than ten seconds at a time of Jones actually playing solo, and no more than 30 seconds total of just Elvin— including several very short snippets. There are at least four different drumming entities in the audio:

1. The unknown person who plays the rock vamp with the band, recorded pre-production.
2. The actor playing the drummer playing live (we probably only hear him for a moment, when he and Jones are trading places at the drum set).
3. Elvin Jones playing live.
4. Earl Palmer overdubbed, recorded during post-production. 

So here we are. Cue the video up to 1:25 (maybe open it in a new window) and follow along with my comments after the break: