Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Basic fluency in 12/8

Right, so it looks like we'll be doing a lot with this triplet feel this week— mainly getting comfy improvising within this 12/8-style blues, soul or pop groove. Think Lopsy Lu, Higher Ground, Isn't She Lovely, or shuffles like Back At The Chicken Shack or Inside Out. There's a 4 feel, with a strong quarter note pulse (dotted quarter, if we're actually in 12/8), and fairly even emphasis on all notes of the triplet. A deceptively difficult style at the faster tempos, and not very forgiving of lapsing into a duple feel, as many of us are apt to do— I get the feeling a lot of drummers come away from playing it feeling slightly burned. Maybe it's just me.

So there's no confusion about meter: in jazz parlance 12/8 is a meter, but it's also a feel. These exercises are all written as 8th note triplets in 4/4, which is basically exactly equivalent to 12/8— there are twelve 8th notes per measure in 12/8, and with these triplets we're also playing twelve 8th notes per measure in 4/4. They're both counted in 4, they both have a three-note “triplet” subdivision. This isn't the time to go into detail about it; just play the triplets and don't be thrown when I refer to it as a 12/8 feel.

I've put together an easy little set of methods, using Progressive Steps to Syncopation by Ted Reed. Pp. 6-7 and 10-11. We'll be playing the book rhythms with the triplet grid filled out in a way that should be very familiar, and adding several stock cymbal rhythms. For example, using the rhythm from page 6, line 7:

First way: Play the top line* on the bass drum, and fill out the triplet grid with your left hand on the snare drum:

* - 99% of what we do with this book is based on interpreting the top line, and ignoring the bottom line, even on the two pages where the bottom line is the same as the top. Let's move on.

Second way: Play the top line on the snare, and fill out the triplet grid on the bass drum. Except here, when there are multiple runs of bass drum notes, we'll put in a rest on the beat. So you're only ever playing the last two notes of the triplet on the bass drum— “John Bonham-style”, as it's known on the internet:

Also use the exercises from pp. 10-11. To get the practice rhythm, swing the 8th notes and fill in the middle note of the triplet. Quarter notes are handled the same as before. In the examples we'll use the line 5 rhythm:

First way: Bass drum-lead, fill in triplets on snare drum with left hand:

Second way: Snare drum-lead, fill in triplets with bass drum:

Keep reading— the actual practice routine is after the break:

Monday, August 29, 2016

Basic funk with mixed stickings

Bad title, because I prefer to think of these as based on a cymbal rhythm, not a sticking, but whatever. Next title will be so apt it will blow the doors off this place. These are some very standard Mike Clark-like funk patterns (looking for a link— did I not post my transcription of Butterfly?), written for maximum playability. Column A has a simple bass drum pattern, column B has the bass drum on all cymbal notes, column C has a different, perhaps hipper bass drum pattern.

Play each pattern individually, then combine patterns to make four beat phrases. To make a long-but-reasonable-length practice session out of it, restrict yourself to playing combinations within each column. You can leave out the bass drum on 1 off the second measure of your combined phrases for something a little more syncopated— do not value super-hip, super-syncopated stuff over a strong quarter note pulse, however.

With the left hand part you have the option of exaggerating the dynamics, David Garibaldi-style, with super tiny ghost notes and a strong rim shot on the 2. Me, I've been evening out the volume of the accented/un-accented notes to emphasize the interlocking rhythms of the different parts— especially at slow-to-medium tempos.

When playing the right hand on the ride cymbal, it's not a bad idea to go ahead and do our standard left hand moves to the tom toms.

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Friday, August 26, 2016

Linear patterns in 7/8 - RLBB

UPDATED 8/27: Added one thing to the pdf.

Another page of stuff to play with last year's smoking John Zorn “Solitaire” practice loop in 7/8, this time developing a very common four-note linear pattern, RLBB— an easy pattern to get lost with when playing in that meter. I make no promises about how useful/essential this is in everyday life, but it's fun to practice even if you're not doing a lot of odd meter playing. I take it on faith that it will have positive effects on other areas of my playing.

The method here is pretty straightforward: just play all of the patterns with the practice loop. Feel free to move your hands to any drums or cymbals you want. You can add rests to the patterns to make them fit with the two-measure phrases of the loop— add measures of rest so the practice phrase has an even number of measures. Also see my other materials for use with the Solitaire loop.

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Basic 12/8 grooves

Before we get too deep into the heavier triplet-slash-12/8 stuff, here's a page of basic grooves. Gotta make sure everyone is taken care of. 12/8 is a compound meter (meaning it has a “triplet” feel— each beat is divided into three notes rather than the usual two), and is counted in 4— don't count it in 12. If you played a measure of 8th note triplets in 4/4, you'd have basically the same thing, for all practical purposes. Here I've written a number of grooves with running 8th notes on the hihat, and some with a shuffle rhythm.

Play these many times each, until you relax and your hands and feet begin to know what to expect. Then start memorizing the grooves, or more importantly, the things that happen during them: What kinds of things happen at the beginning at the measure, going into the first snare hit? What happens between the two snare hits? What happens at the end, going into the 1? Begin improvising new, varying grooves by playing with those things, switching them around on the fly as you recall them.

From last year, this page of “studio triplet” grooves/ideas is a good companion to this page.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Page o' coordination: “Afro Blues” bell - 02

Another page of coordination patterns for this Afro/shuffle cymbal pattern, which I'll go ahead and call “Afro Blues” because I feel like it. It came up in my own playing, and I'm not aware of it being used as a set part in African or Latin music, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was, either. I'm not using it as a set, repeating thing, either; the purpose of these pages is more to develop some freedom within a shuffle feel, and to be able to move freely between the shuffle rhythm and the “quarter note triplet” rhythm on the cymbal, while doing other things.

So here's entry 2 in this series, which is considerably more challenging than the first, developing some linear patterns between the snare and bass drum, along with our bell pattern:

As a warm up, you could try playing either the shuffle cymbal rhythm or the “quarter note triplet” cymbal rhythm for the entire measure— which could be difficult to do without having it actually written out. Maybe I'll be nice and write it up for you. Since stylistically we're in a Blues/Shuffle feel, I tend to stay on the snare drum and not to do our usual (for the POCs) left hand moves so much. No reason not to do them, though.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Reed interpretation: triplets with breaks

I don't why it took me over 30 years to figure this out— I'm always looking for ways to simplify things, to make them more playable. This is an alternative to a very common, popular, and useful Reed method— the one where you play the melody rhythm with RH on ride cymbal together with BD (in a swing rhythm), and the LH fills out the triplets. One of the most useful things I ever learned for soloing .

One of its challenges is that on any note/rest values longer than a quarter note, you have to fill in multiple triplet notes— severely limiting your maximum tempo if you do them all with your left hand. You can do it much faster if you break up the multiples by bringing the right hand to the snare drum, to make only singles and doubles— I outlined the way I do this in this post from 2013. But I really don't like to think about execution at all when I'm playing, and even that very functional method is a little more technical than I like.

So the solution that finally dawned on me after three decades of playing this method: hey, let's just stop when we get to the multiples. Why not? There's no secret difficulty police that's going to walk onto the gig and escort us out for not doing something in the hardest way possible. As it turns out, by introducing some space, this method actually sounds more musical than the old one. It's a win all around.

So get out your copy of Syncopation, turn to the famous page 37 (or whatever page it is in the new edition— it's the first long syncopation exercise) and compare it with what I've written here. You can see that we stop on the melody note at the beginning of a longer space— any note+rest equaling a duration of a dotted quarter note or longer. If the next melody note is on the beat, come in normally with the melody-plus-triplets; if the next melody note is an &, play an accent on the snare drum on the 8th rest before it. Wherever there are one isolated note or two isolated notes an 8th note apart, just play the written notes and don't fill in the triplets. You should be able to figure this out by comparing the two pages:

Alternatively, you can play the snare drum on any 8th rest in the melody part. So the first two measures of the fifth line:

Would be played as follows:

Not a bad idea to stick those two-in-a-row snare hits RL, and move one or both of them to the tom toms. Of course the right hand part for this entire method can also be played on the snare and toms, without the bass drum. And as a general rule, we want to accent the RH part and play the LH filler notes quietly and legato (a lot of students try to over-articulate them), so the written melody line is emphasized.

I'll put a single snare hit on the beat after those hanging &s— melody hits on an & with a space after them. this will help get the timing, and keep a solid quarter note pulse throughout. I wouldn't do this on isolated hits on the &, like in the previous example. These two measures from the third line:

Would be played:

I don't accent that note. See what sounds good to you.

Also, where you come in on an & after a stop, instead of the single hit on the beat illustrated on the main page, I also like to play the first two notes of the triplet, with an accent on the first note. Sticking is usually LL, but it could also be RL. It makes it a little more Dejohnette and a little less big band. These two measures from the second line, then:

Would be played:

Figure out what sounds best to you and have at it. I think you'll find Exercise 4 on page 40 (old edition) to be the most challenging with this new interpretation.

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Monday, August 08, 2016

Page o' coordination: Afro shuffle bell pattern

This is something that came up in playing Back At The Chicken Shack, a shuffle by organist Jimmy Smith . We play a pretty open interpretation of the style on that tune, not a strict Blue Note shuffle, and I found myself playing this cymbal rhythm repetitively quite a bit. It's quite similar to the Afro 6 bell patterns we've been working with extensively over the last couple of years:

Here's the same rhythm written as 8th notes in 12/8:

I've written up a page of left hand independence patterns based on that, with a couple of standard bass drum and hihat rhythms. “Afro shuffle” is not a real style or type of groove that I am aware of; the name just sounded good because of the similarity to that Afro 6. We could've called it “Afro Blues.” Just know the name is made up, and no one else is going to know it or use it.

You could do our standard left hand moves (do you have them memorized yet?) with this page, but I don't feel it's strictly necessary; my goal is to get a more open texture within a standard shuffle feel. It wouldn't be a terrible idea to practice beats 1-2 and 3-4 of each exercise separately— looping those two beats for each pattern before doing the whole measure.

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