Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Very occasional quote of the day: Ndugu on talent

 Another great quote from Ndugu Leon Chancler, from his 1983 Modern Drummer interview:

“I think the most important thing is your attitude. There were, and still are, a lot of musicians who have more technique than I have, or more talent. But inside the talent is a way of not only knowing how to manipulate it through the ranks to get the maximum out of it, but there is also an attitude that you must project to make people feel you as a person. I very much wanted to get along with everybody, and wanted to add as much as I could to whatever situation.

From the beginning, I wanted to be a workhorse, and I had to work harder at drumming than some of my peers. There was a guy I grew up with who was much more advanced than I was at the time. Right now you can't give him away. Much more talent than I had at the time, but the thing that was missing was the knowledge of how to utilize that in the marketplace of the music and not just in his own home or practice room. He had the talent but it didn't work for him, overall.”

Help a young drummer out

Slow posting for a few days, but if you're in a giving mood, there's a very talented young Portland drummer named Domo Branch who needs some help getting to the Centrum and Stanford jazz camps. Bounce over there and kick in a few bucks if you can.

Friday, April 21, 2017

What's the point?

Yeahhh, you probably don't
need to bother with this one.*

* - Not a terrible book, actually.
Since we here at CRUISE SHIP DRUMMER! dump countless pages of quality practice materials onto the internet annually, and with the unprecedented quantity of drum stuff generally available to practice— some authors hell bent on dominating the rest of your natural life practicing their stuff— it's a good idea to talk about what we're supposed to do with all that. There's obviously too much out there to “master” in a lifetime, and seemingly every nook and cranny of drumming has been covered, so what's the point? Why continue buying books? Why write more?

First, realize that just because you have a lot of drumming books, doesn't mean you have to blaze on every single thing in them, or else you're a failure. We don't have libraries because we're going to memorize everything in them and then burn them down; we have them so they're available when you need something, to give you choices of what to focus on.

Let me put this as politely as I can: not every drum book doesn't suck. A lot of books from my formative years were mainly about some guy's fascination with writing down “hip”/“funky” drum patterns (ahem see any number of 70s/80s funk/fusion books). Or they use archaic notation and are way too hard to read (kof  Realistic Rock / Moeller Book). Some of them are sub-par rehashes of standard material better presented elsewhere (koooff many Mel Bay titles). There are genre books that are now hopelessly out of date (see that early 80s rap drumming book). Most pre-80s “Latin” books are completely inept, with the authors having no idea of how to introduce you to those musics (sorry Ted Reed, that book doesn't make it).

Currently a lot of books seem to think you're stupid as well as vision impaired (kofkofkoooff hack argh see any Drumeo/Drumming System-related pdf). I've seen a few recent books with a high internet profile, which are largely dedicated to a very laborious rehashing of things covered in Chaffee, New Breed, flipping Stick Control, and other standard books. Most of those repel me from practicing them— they refuse to stay on my music stand.

With all of that off the table, among the x-hundred pages remaining, things you actually would want to practice, there often just aren't that many pages dedicated to any one particular subject. Or even if there are, each presentation of an area of drumming will be a little different, and will be conducive to practicing certain ways, and resistant to practicing other ways. One page may be way too difficult for you to use this year, but it will open your eyes to a certain way of thinking, and you'll find a way to work on that using something else in your library— and maybe you'll be ready for that hard page in 1 or 5 or 10 years. And sometimes you just want to vary the terrain.

Listen: I'm of the opinion that you really only need one book, which costs about $7. You can make a Reed interpretation to practice virtually anything, and that's usually the best way to go, if possible. But Syncopation doesn't have everything in it, and some items are boringly presented. Or just because of the nature of the writing, Reed exercises may be ill-suited to doing certain things with them. There are also some things you'll want to practice that it would be counter-productively difficult to try to do with Reed. That's the reason for the page o' coordination series. The funk control series consists of nothing but things you can do with Reed, except it would be very difficult to practice that way out of Reed. And the sameness of the terrain can get to be limiting. Sometimes you need to see something written a different way to realize that you can make a Reed thing out of it.

I keep writing materials because a) I need them for my practicing or teaching, b) they're actually not available elsewhere, c) they're not available elsewhere in precisely the form I want, d)  rarely, they're available elsewhere, but I just want to have my own equivalent. I make transcriptions for my own ear training and to increase my knowledge of what people play, and how— for me those are truly not about the end result of a written-down page of stuff. In buying books, I consider the $10-25 to be (reasonably!) well-spent even if I only learn ok, that sucked— let's not do it that way.

Buying, owning, and using drum books is not just a simplistic linear transaction of I bought this; I must master the whole thing to Buddy Rich level or I suck. Instead consider a book to be well-used if a) you practiced a few pages out of it a lot, b) it helped you increase your drumming intelligence a little bit, c) you see there are some things in it you'll actually want to practice for years to come— which you can now tell because, through exposure, you have learned to be discriminating about what you practice.

After reading this, you'll probably want to re-read this old post on how much to practice something.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Tony Williams comping

Here's a nice record I would've have liked to have known about 30 years ago, on which Charles Lloyd is rocking a Jimmy Giuffre kind of vibe. It's Of Course, Of Course, and it was recorded in 1965, with Tony Williams on drums and Ron Carter on bass. Tony is playing all the stuff he plays on the Miles Philharmonic records, but toned down, slowed down, and with better audio, so we get a real clean listen to his stuff.

Here I've transcribed some of the comping from The Best Thing For You, on the sections where the bass is walking— on the intro, and the second chorus of Lloyd's solo, at 1:30 in the track:

The second excerpt starts on the last measure of form, so we can get the tom fill, and it ends before the end of the form as Tony starts transitioning into the guitar solo. In case you're wondering about the general absence of hihat: he's not playing it. I imagine there's some kind of left foot motion happening, but, except for a few spots, it's not making any sound that registers on the recording. About the dynamics in the transcription: the notes in parenthesis are all played very soft, and the housetop accents are all played very strong; the difference between regular unaccented notes and accented notes may be more subtle.

Get the pdf

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Transcription: Art Blakey - Afrique

Here's the drum solo from the same tune as our GOTD the other day: Afrique, from The Witch Doctor, by Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers. Blakey's solos with his group often serve a compositional function, and also a show function. They're not just about look how well I can play, or here's me playing these changes. There's also nothing contemplative about this solo— it's all about power and rising intensity. The volume is uniformly very loud all the way through— basically every note is accented. The housetop accents are rim shots, and extra strong.

The solo is 32 bars long, with four 8-bar sections. The first and third sections are cleanly composed of 2-bar phrases; the second and fourth sections are each more an undifferentiated wall of triplets. His phrasing is interesting to me, changes are marked more by doing something new in the first measure of the phrase than by building or changing in the last measure of a phrase, or by placing an accent on 1— I don't know why that seems surprising to me. He plays bigger on measure 17, the first measure of the bridge, for example.

I would take those moving triplet passages as an invitation to experiment and figure out a similar thing that works for you. You can hear there's quite a roar happening, and I may not be getting every single note he played. Figure out your own version of whatever showy crossover thing he's doing. It's less likely to be some kind of mixed sticking with singles and doubles.

Note the pitch bends that happen in the middle— play these by turning the snares off and pressing into the head with one stick, or your elbow— Han Bennink uses the heel of his foot. It probably helps to use calf heads and to not cranking your drum too high.

Heading back into the Afro vamp at the end of the solo, it's easier to notate the transition by putting it in 6/8— as a “groove o' the day” I put it in 3/4, since on the vamp the other instruments are playing strongly in 3.

Get the pdf

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Groove o' the day: Art Blakey - Afrique

Here's Art Blakey playing an Afro 6 feel in 1961, on Afrique, from the Jazz Messengers album The Witch Doctor— the first Blakey record I ever bought. I should start noticing when this type of groove found its way into jazz. Certainly Blakey was one of the early adopters, and here he plays it in a fairly rudimentary form, without the usual bell pattern we expect to hear in actual Cuban music, or in later jazz.

I've written it in 3/4, but it could have been written in 6/4, or 6/8, or 12/8. Going into the solos there is a metric modulation into 4/4— the dotted quarter during this intro groove becomes the quarter note in the 4/4— which would argue for  writing it in an */8 meter, but the accompanying parts are so strongly in 3/4, that's the meter I put it in. Wayne Shorter's and Lee Morgan's solos on this are great. Transcription of Blakey's solo on this tune coming soon...

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Very occasional quote of the day: Ndugu on musicality

“I think a drummer's success and notability are based on sensitivity as a musician—not as a drummer. I don't even approach myself as a drummer. I'm an orchestrator. The drums are just the instrument I use to orchestrate—paint the picture.

It is very important that you don't lull the people to sleep with one volume or one style. I think the great drummers are the ones who can give you peaks and valleys in their performance. That's very important. Dynamically we're playing an instrument that naturally can be played loud and hard, but the beauty of the instrument is when it's played soft. Just as you can get your point across loud, you can get it across more so soft because you can draw more attention, number one. Number two, dynamics and accentuations are part of music, period. For drummers to think that they can't do that means that they're not total musicians.

It's very important for drummers to vary not only their speed concept, but their volume concept, because those things are synonymous. If you play everything fast— your fill-ins, your beats, a lot of intricate things— you don't give the people time to breathe. If you play everything loud you don't give their ears rest from the volume, so you slowly numb people to what you're doing, which is unfair. So I think that's half of being a drummer. We're not at a point where anybody's playing anything so drastically different. It's just that the style they're using is different. That's all.”

—Ndugu Leon Chancler, Modern Drummer interview, November, 1983

Friday, April 14, 2017

EZ linear solo method

Ever find yourself playing too much bass drum? It's easy to do when, like me, you practice out of Syncopation a lot. And a thing I've noticed in doing so many transcriptions is how sparsely many drummers use it. So this is a little practice method— really just a minor tweak on an existing method— simplifying the bass drum and introducing some space. I think of this as being for bop soloing, but it's good for a lot of contexts— either soloing or broken time feels in straight 8th/post-bop jazz settings and in funk or fusion, or soloing in Cuban or Brazilian styles.

So: Reading from the Syncopation section (pp. 32-44) of Progressive Steps to Syncopation, ignore the stems-down part, play the stems-up part with your hands— alternating sticking, natural sticking, improvised sticking, or both hands in unison— and wherever there's an 8th note of space between hand notes, add a bass drum note. Where there's a longer space between hand notes, play as written— don't add anything. Swing the 8th notes, if you're playing this as a jazz method, and you're in that tempo range— around quarter note 100-250.

The first two lines from p. 37 in Syncopation (p. 38 in the new edition):

Would be played like this:

There are rare exceptions where we'll add a bass drum to the longer spaces. Further on on that same pages, there are a few isolated single notes. Where there are single notes with long spaces before and after them, add a bass drum after them. So the first two measures of line 5 of p.37/38:

Would be played:

Same thing when there are two notes isolated. On the last two measures of line 6 from the same page:

Play this:

In the book that first quarter note is the end of a longer run, so we don't add bass drum after it with this method. Of course this is all a means to an end— small reading errors don't matter, and small errors applying the interpretation really don't matter. Instead of sweating small stuff, go for continuity, and a good feel, sound, and dynamic shape.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Linear phrases in 3/4, mixed rhythm - 02

Here's the companion to the Gary Chaffee linear phrases in 3/4, which I posted the other day. This page just has the same phrases displaced by one note; the last note of each phrase, a bass drum note, has been moved over to beat 1, so the first pattern of each phrase begins on the & of 1.

As I said, I've done quite a few pages of this type of thing, and we're at the point where the added value of each new page may be diminishing. Whether you work on my 5/4 pages, or my 7/4 pages, or just the exercises in 4/4 and 12/8 in the original book, the difference between things is fairly small. So you may as well jump around. You shouldn't be feeling oh my God, there are so many pages to work on. It's really just one thing.

Use the stickings given at the top of the page— alternating, each pattern starting with the right hand. You can also reverse the stickings, or try a natural sticking system— although I think it really becomes a different concept if you do that. You can move your hands around the drums, or play the right hand on the ride or hihat, left hand on snare drum, or left hand moving.

If you do these exercises “in 1”— fast, feeling one beat per measure— they translate easily into a 6/8 or 12/8 feel; in that context they would be played as 16th notes and 16th note triplets.

Get the pdf

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Playing free

“No chaos, damn it!” —Jackson Pollock
responding to a critic who called his work chaotic.
Here at CRUISE SHIP DRUMMER! there are some subjects we don't talk about much— not because they're not important, but because it's hard to talk about them. It's hard to say anything real specific about how you go about playing so-called free jazz— totally improvised music. But that type of playing has been a a big part of my thing for many years, and I think all players should learn how to do it, so I'll give a few guidelines.

While there are areas of free playing where the drummer plays similarly to regular “non-free”  music, the way of playing I'm talking about is largely textural, unmetered, without a defined tempo, and— here, just go listen to Interstellar Space. We're talking about how to play that vibe. Following are some suggestions for how to approach it, think about it, and how to actually “execute” it.

“Free Jazz” is not supposed to be a style, but it is sort of a style— people expect a certain ballpark thing. You're not supposed to go in and play a Polka beat or clave all night. Get some records and get an idea of the parameters of the music historically, at least. It helps if you actually try to like the music and get excited about it.

What's going on? How to I sound like that? Start by playing the drums, moving your limbs in an uncontrolled way. Make a mess. If you dedicate some time to that, eventually the stuttering racket will begin to organize itself, and you'll be playing some things you couldn't have arrived at any other way.

Try to copy the vibe of some free playing you like. If you look at videos of those players, you can see that many of them will use a kind of naive technique at least some of the time— they play like they don't know how to play. You can do that too.

The “Action Painting” concept— that results didn't matter,
and that painting was all about just the physical action of it
— was bullshit. De Kooning spent a lot of time looking
between every few strokes you see here. The goal was always
to make a painting in the traditional sense.
Listen to the people you're playing with more than you listen to yourself. Listen more than you think about what you're doing.

This music is usually considered to be “tempoless”, but that's not right— the things you play, together with the other musicians, create a kind of tempo feeling— a sense of velocity. You can't avoid it, so it's best to understand that it's happening, and work with it. Like with normal, metered music, you can do certain time-stretching things that will sound like cross rhythms, creating musical tension; also, if you violate the implied velocity too much, things break down, and you begin to sound directionless, meandering, boneless, and you're on your way to an unsatisfying musical experience.

Normal rules of phrasing apply— by which I mean, the audience is going to perceive phrases, so as you play you may as well be aware of the occurrence of the free jazz equivalent of two, four, eight, or sixteen measure phrases. The length of the horn player's breath is a natural phrase length that happens even if there are no other structures in the music.

A good strategy for developing ideas, as well as cohesion and coherence, is to repeat whatever you play until you have a reason to change to something else. Whatever first random thing you do, keep doing it, allowing little changes happen to it— if you've gotten comfortable with that type of semi-controlled playing I described above, that development will happen on its own.

You should realize, as you and your friends are going bananas, that in doing this type of playing, you are actually composing a normal piece of music with a beginning, middle, and end. It's happening whether you intend it to or not. Everything you play = the composition. Do what you will with that information. You can use normal composer tactics of repeating and developing motifs, contrasting sections, intros and codas, whatever.

Pointillism: making a
painting out of discrete dots.
There are some drummers who make a career out of the full-time hell-of-a-racket approach, but most will be bored by that. You can change things up between “tunes” by switching to brushes, or mallets, or hands, or to mainly-drums, or mainly-cymbals, whatever. You can also suggest broad approaches to the other players— let's play long tones, or let's play pointillistic, or let's try to sound like a bird attack*, or a gladiator fight*, or like pleistocene megafauna*.

* - All ideas used by me. I'll play you the record sometime.

Free improvisation is not a new way of making music, and it is no longer avant-garde.  Avant-garde refers to a form of expression that the artist understands before everyone else— the artist gets it now, soon everyone will get it. In 2017, everybody gets it, and no sophisticated or sympathetic listener will be affronted by it. There are some anti-social types in the free music community who seem to think that being deliberately hard to listen to is the same as being avant-garde, and it is not. Avant-garde is a term used by historians to describe an artist's personal expression that was out of step with the taste/standards of the time, and turned out to be historically significant.

There's no special significance to this music, or to this way of playing, and nothing to know that you're not already learning in other areas of music. It exists for your playing and listening pleasure. There are books you can get (kof  FREE PLAY) that tell you how great free improvising is, and what a rich, wonderful world of exploration, freedom, and self-discovery it is. I advise that you never open books like that more than a few running steps from the nearest bathroom. You don't need those books and no verbal explanation or theory will help you get it. Please just listen and play.

Here is some listening to get you started:

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Very occasional quote of the day: groove interference

“Coordination is a nice thing to have going, don't get me wrong. But taken to extremes, you set up rhythmic interference instead of maintaining a groove. It's not that you're being too busy. It's just a case of having things running so counter to each other that the whole thing stops swinging. Grooving means getting into whatever's happening around you in the band. Basically, it means following the path of least resistance.”

—Alan Dawson, Modern Drummer, July '1977

Monday, April 10, 2017

EZ Tony-like method: two variations

We're calling this “Tony Williams-like” on the thinnest possible pretext, of course— playing it, it reminded me of some things he did on Frelon Brun, is all. These are two even easier things you can do with an already very simple idea. Our purpose is to drill modern, fast-tempo, broken-time, non-genius stuff you'll play all the time, and become really fluent with it.

Review the first thing: using Ted Reed's Progressive Steps to Syncopation, reading the snare drum part from the long syncopation exercises 1-8: play the short notes (untied 8th notes) on the snare drum, and the long notes (everything else: tied 8ths, all forms of quarter notes) on the bass drum. Play the cymbal in unison with everything.

What we'll do today is even easier. We'll illustrate these using the first two lines of the Syncopation Exercise 1, the famous page 37 (now on page 38, in the new edition):

First, play the cymbal in unison with the snare drum only— bass drum notes are solo bass drum. No reason not to do some of those unisons with the hands on a tom tom and snare drum, too. Mix it up, and try to make music out of it.

Generally you can accent bass drum notes on an off beat. Where there are multiple quarter notes on the bass drum, accent the last note, and play the others a little lighter.

Second, play the cymbal in unison with the bass drum only. Snare drum is played with the left hand, but you can try other stickings with the multi-note runs. In doing that I try to still play all the cymbal notes with my right hand, but do whatever you like. Vary the accents, and try adding flams at the beginning of those multiple snare drum notes, too.

Easy? Sure. So easy you should be able to smoke exercises 1-8 without complaint. Do these in normal uptempo range: half note = 130-165. At those tempos you will not swing the 8th notes. Do whatever you like with the hihat.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Transcription: Dave King - Rational Funk / Trading 8s

Here's something I don't normally do: transcribe stuff from solo/demo/“lesson” videos online. But this is a) cool, b) illustrative of something I talk about a lot here, which is UNDERLYING SIMPLICITY.

The video is “Memes / Trading 8s”—  Episode 41 of Dave King's YouTube series Rational Funk. If you like my site you've probably already heard of King and the series, and are following him. I'm just always amazed that any Joe-Ray Dickstein's blast beat video will get 1,000,000 hits, and most of these videos are languishing between 10-20k views. If you want to be a musician, this is the real content. And if you're going to take free content, you've got to help people monetize— follow, share, tweet, retweet, buy product.

So I've written out three four-measure solos (alternating with a funk groove) which are hip, interesting, and fancy-sounding, and I thought people might like to know what's going on. The transcription starts at 2:55 in the video:

The straight groove portion is something not unlike what we've seen in my recent FUNK CONTROL series of posts: a hand pattern of RLRR-LRRL plus accents and bass drum.

If you analyze the page a little bit, you can see there are a lot of alternating 16th notes happening, moving around between the snare drum, hihat, and crash cymbal; there's syncopated accenting, occasional tied notes or rests, drags, and a few doubles. There's a little bass drum added, and the occasional hihat played with the foot, either in unison with the hands, or punched in a gap. He alludes to a five note pattern in measure 6, and a three note pattern in measure 25.

The one squirrelly lick is the 5-let thing near the end— the rhythm may be approximate, but that appears to be the sequence of notes played. Good to remember that a lot of weird-looking stuff you see in these transcriptions is not necessarily written the way it was conceived by the player.

I should note that my articulations for the hihat are all over the place on this one— usually where there's an accent, the cymbals are half-open; I also use a tenuto mark to indicate a half-open note, and I've got a few standard 'o's in there to indicate an open sound, which are also kind of half-open. It doesn't matter. And there are a couple of minor typos in the jpeg above, which are corrected in the pdf, so download the pdf.

Get the pdf

Monday, April 03, 2017

Very occasional quote of the day: Harvey Mason on listening and insecurity

“[D]o all the listening you can, to everyone who is on record, or live. Try to evaluate what really makes them function in the setting they're in. Try to add it to your arsenal or repertoire so that when you're in a situation, you have more things to call on. Listen to the music and try to figure out what your instrument does in various situations.

Don't be intimidated by anyone musically, and just do what you do best, and feel good about doing. All you can do is what you do. You can't do what anyone else does. If you've prepared enough, and have listened enough, and are musically sympathetic to a situation, you usually end up doing okay.”

—Harvey Mason, from 1981 Modern Drummer interview with Robyn Flans

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Page o' coordination: Afro-Peruvian - 01

Let's get it out of the way up front that I know nothing about Afro-Peruvian music— I played a session with John Butler, a Portland guitarist who plays it, and he hipped me to its existence, and that's it. These are just my observations from a little bit of listening. The guitar is central, and sounds to me almost like a fusion of Son and Flamenco. The common meter seems to be ambiguously 6/8 (or 12/8)— the quarter note pulse is stronger than you would normally associate with that meter, and the dotted-quarter note pulse is more felt than played outright— many examples are easier for me to feel in 6/4. The “short” bell pattern found in Cuban music is often used, but Peruvian music (according to artist Gabriel Alegria) is not clave-based:

Being firmly rooted in Africa[...] Afro-Peruvian music has no clave, the underlying five beat pattern in much Afro-Cuban and Afro-Caribbean music. Instead the styles within Afro-Peruvian music have many variations but, like the African-rooted American jazz music, no clave. 

And with a looser structure:

It's not a rule that you have to play festejos exactly the same every time. It has many, many, many variants just as there are variants of swing patterns in a ride cymbal for a [jazz] drummer.

The music was originally played just with a percussion section, but seems very friendly to the use of the drumset— at least in a “modern”/commercial/jazz-oriented format. The ostinato on this page is pilfered directly from a video by David Cornejo, a Peruvian drummer living in New York, and the left hand independence parts are stock rhythms useful for improvising with other forms of this “Afro 6/8” family of playing. You'll also want to pull Cornejo's left hand rhythms from his video below— and check out his other stuff; he has a YouTube channel with a bunch of good videos.

Play the left hand part as a rim click, then drill the entire page using my standard left hand moves, varying the accents and timbre. I would also learn the page in a duple, 6/4 meter— with a quarter note pulse, so the cymbal rhythm would be counted 1&-&3, 4&-&6.

Get the pdf

Here's a link to the Alex Acuña track he's playing along with. Search “Afro-Peruvian”, “Peru negro”, or “festejo” on YouTube for more.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Buddy meme

This Buddy Rich quote, embedded in a meme, has been kicking around the internet awhile:

“You only get better by playing.”

Uncontroversial to people who can play, but it has generated a small amount of discussion on a drumming forum. A lot of people are allergic to categorical statements, and take them as a challenge to poke holes in them, rather than figure out what this great player is trying to tell them.

Here's the context of the quote, from an interview in the first issue of Modern Drummer in 1977:

MD - Did you practice much? 
BR - Well, I never really practiced because I  never had the opportunity to practice.  I've been  working all my life ... I've been playing drums all my life, and now, I'm too lazy to bother with it. I have other things that I have to do - practice my martial arts ... take care of my cars. I don't put too much emphasis on practice anyhow. 
MD - Would you mind elaborating on that a bit. 
BR - I think  it's a fallacy that the harder you practice the better you get. You only get better by playing. You could sit around in a room, in a basement with a set of drums all day long and practice rudiments, and try to develop speed, but until you start playing with a band, you can't learn technique, you can't learn taste, you can't learn how to play with a band and for a band until you actually play. So, practice, particularly after you've attained a job, any kind of job, like playing with a four piece band, that's . . . on opportunity to develop. And practice, besides that, is boring. You know, I know teachers who tell their students to practice four hours a day, eight hours a day. If you can't accomplish what you want in an hour, you're not gonna get it in four days.

Important to point out that Buddy was a) exceptionally talented, b) onstage performing music since he was literally a toddler, c) coming up in a time and in a scene where people would be performing many hours every day. Today we do have to try to make up for having fewer playing opportunities by hitting the practice room harder. It's not an ideal situation.

The underlying assumption, anyhow, is that being a musician is the goal, that what you do when playing music is the only meaningful standard of your abilities as a drummer— and of the value of the things you practice. There are an array of skills needed to do that, which cannot be practiced in isolation: the ability to play appropriately for the music, unrehearsed, with a good sound and at the right volume for the setting, while generating some energy, making the other players feel and sound good, and maybe making a personal creative statement as well.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Linear phrases in 3/4, mixed rhythm - 01

More pages of Gary Chaffee linear patterns, in two measure phrases in 3/4, with 8th notes and triplets. If I was about doing things in a logical order, I would have done these pages a long time ago, before doing the same idea in 5/4 and in 7/4. Having worked with those earlier pages quite a bit, these feel a bit redundant to me, but maybe you'll have a use for them, or maybe you were scared off of working on them before because of the odd meter, and the 3/4 will work for you. Dunno.

Use the stickings at the top of the page— you can reverse them, or improvise the stickings, but I think it's a good idea to become extremely solid with the basic RH-lead way. Move your right hand to any drum or cymbal, left hand stays mostly on the snare, but can also move around. Practice getting out of the patterns, with a bass drum and cymbal on 1, or on the last note of the pattern. These could also be played with a swing rhythm. Also see my previous pages of one measure linear phrases in 3/4.

Get the pdf

Monday, March 20, 2017

7/8 practice rhythms plus stickings

This was partially covered in '15 with a similar post, but I wrote this up, so I'll post it. Small differences in format, or in which rhythms you choose to include, can make a difference in how you use practice materials. That's basically the entire premise of this site. These are some syncopation rhythms in 7/8, with their accompanying Stick Control-like pattern— the rhythm played with the right hand, and the 8th note grid filled out with the left. I've included only rhythms that give stickings or one or two notes in a row per hand.

We're in 3+2+2 phrasing here, so this is great for using with our old friend, the John Zorn Solitaire loop (I like practicing with that loop). The left hand column is in Ted Reed format, with a bass drum rhythm included— I always ignore that stems-down part. I just like using that traditional format. You can use that part as beat marks, to help you read the top-line rhythm.

Quick rundown of first practice options: play the left hand column rhythm on bass drum or snare drum, or a combination of the two (alternating, or 8th notes on SD/quarter notes on BD), along with any cymbal rhythm of your choice. Play the right hand column with left hand on snare drum, right hand on snare or toms, or any cymbal plus bass drum in unison. You can also play the rhythm and accents of the right hand column, with an alternating sticking.

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Things other people say that I think are stupid

T.H.I.S. S.U.C.K.S.
I'm sorry I said stupid. I just wanted you to read this. If you hang out on the internet a little bit, you start noticing patterns in people's views about drumming, and that a few of them are not actually the greatest thing in the world. In the following I will comment on some practices and advice that often come up around “the web” and give my own value-added advice on same.

“Practice your rudiments”
And that's it. End of suggestion. Just general rudiments. No indication of which ones or what you're supposed to do with them. It sounds like people are just getting out the list of rudiments, and playing through them in dictionary entry format, which I think is a big waste of time.

My advice: Get a book, and learn it. Haskell Harr (mainly book 2) is an excellent traditional choice, and my current favorite. Rudimental Primer by Mitchell Peters is a more modern option. Matt Savage's Rudimental Workshop is good if you're involved in drum corps. Rudimental Swing Solos by Wilcoxon if you're a serious jazz student, and fairly advanced. All of those books give you the rudiments and their variations, preparatory studies for learning them, and solos in which you learn to use them in context, in a variety of common meters.

“Practice the book Stick Control— just the first page.
Or sometimes just the first thirteen exercises. The idea is, I guess, that those patterns are so fundamental, you can do anything else in drumming just by doing them a lot. I honestly don't know why people give this advice. Maybe they've been lazy and never got past the first pages, so they created this notion that you should only do the first pages. Shield their behinds from criticism.

My advice: Look, practicing Stick Control is a nightmare. And not in a good way. The beginning of the book is the most boring part, and practicing only that part is needlessly painful and ineffective. They wrote all those other pages for a reason. Challenge yourself, move on.

“Four per hand”
I don't know why going RRRR-LLLL is suddenly a thing, but it is. RRRR-LLLL is the gateway to a fairyland of amazing drumming abilities.

My advice: It looks cool to be able to do blazing 4s, like Chapin, but so what? Are you a professional practice pad chops demonstrator? WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE ACCOMPLISHING?

Excuse me. It's fine. It's a thing. I personally don't think it's the most important thing to work on, but whatever. I think you'll get more value out of practicing it if you put the last note on a strong beat, like: RLLL-LRRR.

Push-pull/Moeller/free strokes/etc/etc/etc
I put all of these complex, rebound-reliant strokes under the Moeller umbrella. Most great drummers, actually do not use this technique, but it's become an article of faith that on the internet that this is the one true best way to play a drum. It's very hard to argue with it because the people who are good at it are truly impressive. I think the approach has serious limitations when it comes to real world playing.

My advice: Follow my technical advice in this old post, Playing Quieter, or contact me for a Skype lesson or three. I spent a good 15 years with this general type of technique, and I developed something cool with it, but I eventually figured out it really doesn't work for everything. It's good for relaxed power. It's good for automatic running notes at certain rates of speed. It's generally not good for playing normal combo volume, and actually not great for playing creatively— you tend to get locked into repetitive motions. Tempos tend to gravitate towards what feels right mechanically. And I found that there's a built in weakness in not training the up part of the stroke as well as the attack.

Not this.
Preoccupation with “techniques” in general
A certain element of humanity tends to be preoccupied with compartmentalizing and giving things names. If something has a name you can talk about how awesome it is, and about who's good at and who sucks, and you can distinguish yourself from those poor clueless outsiders who don't know about it. Metal drummers are really into this. “If I learn X, Y and Z techniques I'm a good drummer.”

My advice: This is a low form of consciousness, a magician mindset. What we want to do is play creatively thinking about rhythm, melody, groove, sound, and energy— explanation of that is beyond the scope of this piece.

Everything is just singles and doubles, so just practice singles and doubles. 
If you can do those, you can do anything! So do just those. This is the self-flagellating minimalist version of the Stick Control thing above. People think your natural creativity will be unleashed if you master a couple of “universal” ideas.

My advice: Minimalist practice methods don't work. You don't become Marcel Proust by just reciting the alphabet, or verb conjugations. Naming pronouns. You have to acquire content. That's actually your primary job as a student drummer— it isn't about just learning physical motions. In the practice room you do that by playing through a lot of stuff. In the larger scheme you also listen a lot and play a lot.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Very occasional quote of the day: cymbal selection for bop

Roy Haynes talks about what cymbal used to go with what soloist in the 1940s:

“I just liked the sound of a cymbal with the sax. It was cool with a trumpet, too. Back in the old days we used to play the hi-hat for trumpet players and also for the piano soloist. Now all of the guys want you up there.”

Highly worth reading that entire interview with Christian McBride.

Related: Mel Lewis talks cymbals in his 1985 Modern Drummer interview.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Sonny Clark comping

Something a little different: transcribed piano comping rhythms. Played by Sonny Clark on Funky Hotel Blues, a bonus track on the CD release of Sonny Rollins's The Sound of Sonny. I've written out the first three choruses of the sax solo, starting at 0:20 in the track. The form is a 12-bar blues, so that's 36 measures total. Use this as you would the syncopation exercises in Reed— I've even written them in the same format, with a “bass drum” part that you should basically ignore. I don't know why. Tradition.

Swing the 8th notes. I would use this primarily as a comping study— play a swing rhythm on the cymbal and hihat, play the written top line on the snare drum, or bass drum, or play the short notes (untied 8th notes) on the snare drum, everything else on the bass drum. Or mix them up between the snare and bass however you see fit.

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Daily best music in the world: Sonny plays Surrey

Sonny Rollins and Philly Joe Jones play Surrey With The Fringe On Top, duo, on Sonny's record Newk's Time. This has got to be the purest essay on bop drumming ever.

Friday, March 10, 2017

A funk sticking in context: RLL - 32nd notes

Third entry in this funk stickings in context series, using the RLL pattern again, this time in a 32nd note rhythm. I do this kind of thing a lot in 32nd notes. This is an intensity-builder, and the cymbal accents and 4:3 cross rhythm help that happen.

The groove portion of each exercise is sort of an outline of the fill portion, and the cymbal rhythm sometimes changes to help you get the timing of the beginning of the fill— usually because the fill starts on an e or an a. Not a bad idea to put a little crescendo on the fill part.

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Thursday, March 09, 2017

An Ndugu break

I think we're going to be seeing a lot of Ngugu Leon Chancler around here in the near future. A group I play with plays a lot of 70s funk tunes, so I'm listening to a lot of funk, and Chancler has stood out as one of the most interesting guys to listen to. On the stuff I'm listening to, he makes a perfect balance of playing the funk and the setting, and making a statement as a player. There's a lot to be learned from him about playing funk effectively. So here's a cool little eight bar drum break from 1000 Reds, from the David Axelrod album Seriously Deep. It happens at 1:40 in the track.

On a lot of these 70s records Ndugu sounds like he's playing a normal 5 or 6 piece set with a couple of extra concert toms— either 8"/10" or 10"/12". I don't know if this is the Yamaha set he used later on Billie Jean, but it's at least a similar set-up. I would spent some time learning and messing with each of the 32nd note/sixtuplet fills. Which drum they're on is not important.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Very occasional quote of the day: time in perspective

A good few lines about time from Robert Glasper, in an interview with Ethan Iverson:

People worry about the metronome, “I’m not gonna move, I’m not gonna move!” because that means you are good. If you move, that means your time is bad. But Miles and them moved all over the place, and it was fucking awesome.

No one ever listens to a tune and says afterwards, “Man, they were at exactly the same tempo the whole time, how hip was that?” Who cares?

It was not just tempo, back in the day they didn’t care about tuning, either! Sharp and flat as hell, but the feeling was right.

Nowadays people care. It probably has something to do with double-edged sword of schooling and the wrong kind of teachers.

Obviously, tuning is good, keeping time is good! If you are ignorant to it, that’s a different thing.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Bass drum rhythms for pad practice

This is a page of bass drum rhythms I use for pad practice— I have one of those Gibraltar bass drum practice pads I sometimes use. These are good for anything with a running 8th note rhythm (or 16th note rhythm, if you double time the ostinatos): accents, mixed stickings, flams, drags, short rolls.

The names I've given for each rhythm are just convenient shorthand, for their broad similarity to rhythms/parts associated with those styles. Part of what I don't like about practicing with bass drum ostinatos is the tendency to get locked into the ostinato rhythm— so memorize these, learn to change rhythms on the fly, and eventually improvise your own variations. Think of them all as variations on each other, and practice using them interchangeably. It's good practice to emphasize the & of 2 on most of the rhythms, or the 3 on the two “samba” rhythms.

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Monday, March 06, 2017

New e-book title: 5 Roy Haynes Solos

Another new transcription e-book available:

5 Roy Haynes Solos

Includes transcribed solos from:

In Walked Bud
Snap Crackle 
All The Things You Are 
Bad News Blues

Only In Walked Bud was previously available on the blog.

Get it now via instant download for tablet or Kindle.

By the way, if you've purchased any of the other e-books, please leave a review on Amazon!

The other e-book titles available currently are:
5 Max Roach Solos | 5 Elvin Jones Transcriptions | 5 Tony Williams Transcriptions | 5 Zigaboo Modeliste Transcriptions | 5 70s Funk Transcriptions | Playing Samba and Bossa Nova

Sunday, March 05, 2017

A funk sticking in context: RLRLL

Second entry in this little intermediate-level series of funk stickings in context, this time using a five-note idea: RLRLL

Learn the first pattern in 5/4, and be able to count out loud along with it— just “1-2-3-4-5.” The numbered exercises can be played on whatever cymbals you like; you can move around more on the accented part. Feel free to hit a crash as you come back around to the beginning of each exercise— make a logical musical phrase out of it. You can also start incorporating some left hand moves during the 16th notes.

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Saturday, March 04, 2017

Practice loop: Bill Frisell - Child At Heart

Here's a loop to practice my hip uptempo rock practice method along with— sampled from the fast portion of Bill Frisell's Child At Heart, from his album Where In The World, which is one of my favorite records ever, anywhere. If you listen to the entire track, and check out my transcription of it, the practice method will make a lot more sense— there are a lot of similar displacements in both things. The tempo is quarter note = 159 bpm.

The picture in the video, by the way, is of my mom in Coos county, Oregon, sometime in the 1930s. We found a pretty remarkable cache of negatives of family photos from the 1910s-30s last year...

Friday, March 03, 2017

EZ bass drum workout and double bass developer

Have I not posted this before? This is a variation on my cut time funk method, strictly designed as a bass drum workout. It also makes an excellent double-bass single strokes developer.

This should be pretty familiar territory, so I'll whip through the outline: using pp. 10-11 in Progressive Steps to Syncopation, play the top line rhythm on the bass drum, except for the 3, which you'll play on the snare drum. Add quarter notes on the hihat. So exercises 1 and 2 from Reed would be played like this:

Here's Ex. 6, written the way I usually like to write drum parts, with all parts on the same stems:

It's very straightforward— play exercises 1-15 and the 16 bar exercise this way, straight through, without stopping. That's the workout. You can alternatively do this using any other cymbal rhythm of your choice.

To use this as a double bass developer, play the entire workout with your left foot playing the bass drum part. Then do the entire workout with both feet playing the bass drum in unison. Work this up to a reasonable speed, at least half note = 90 bpm.

Then begin fluffing the feet on the 8th notes— just make them not be in unison. It's up to you if you want to make the left foot come late, or the right foot. Also notice that we're not playing both feet on that lone quarter note on 4:

The flam notation is not exactly accurate; we want all the notes to be the same volume, and we want the first note of each “flam” to land on the beat, not before the beat, as is normal when playing flams.

So long as you're not going too slow, it will take only a small adjustment to make those fluffy 8th notes into accurate 16th notes:

You can then clean it up a little more, just playing a single quarter note on one drum at the end of the run.

Practicing this double bass portion, take it one line at a time, working through each of the previous steps. Once you've got line 1-15 very solid, if you want to play the exercises straight through, read from pp. 20-21.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

More Bad News

Comping lesson time— here's more of that Roy Haynes track Bad News Blues, this time looking at what Roy is playing during the four choruses of the piano solo. The album is Cracklin', and the pianist here is Ronnie Matthews.

The transcription begins at 1:50 in the recording, or after 33:20 in the video below:

I always put too much information in these transcriptions, so don't get too hung up with the minutia— just get the general idea of what he's playing and make it sound good to you. Don't overplay the 2 and 4 on the snare drum. There's probably more going on with the bass drum than I was able to pick up from the recording. At the very end is a hip lick based on a half note triplet, which you could just memorize and play verbatim at the end of a chorus, exactly as is done here...

By the way, the drum solo from this tune will be available soon in another new e-book of transcriptions5 Roy Haynes Solos. Should be ready later in the week...

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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Transcription: Roy Haynes - Bad News Blues

Just a quick little Roy Haynes transcription, from Bad News Blues, from Haynes's album Cracklin'. It's short— they play the 12-bar head once before heading into the bass solo— but there are some things to be learned about playing a blues in a modern way here.

From the drummer's perspective, the tune is basically a two-measure riff played six times over blues chords (it's actually four measures long melodically, but the repeating rhythmic figure is two measures) :

Roy hits the 1 and 4 the first four times, than catches the accents on the & of 4/& of 1 the last two times— on the turnaround, the last four measures of the form. Listen to it a few times through, first focusing on how the drums interact with the horn notes on 2/3, and then focusing on the interaction with the horn accents on the &s. Mostly what you'll notice is that he doesn't accent in unison with the horn until the end of the tune. You can do with that information what you will— file it away for future reference.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Keith Copeland lesson plan

This is the type of thing I like to share on the blog— a little piece of oral history posted someplace obscure, that could easily be lost, or extremely difficult to find again. This was posted in response to a question on the Cymbalholics forum, which, after a hiatus, is operational again. Someone wanted to hear from people who had studied with Keith Copeland, and someone else responded with all the things he had worked on with Copeland. It's the most concise description I've seen for what you have to do to become a jazz drummer— coming from the Alan Dawson sphere of influence, anyway.

1. The Ritual by Alan Dawson [see John Ramsay's book The Drummer's Complete Vocabulary]. With a metronome on the floor tom. Played soft enough so you can hear the click, with the bossa nova pattern in your feet. 
2. Creative Coordination [Copeland's book, highly recommended] played with a metronome. 
3. Wilcoxon Book with bass drum feathered quarter notes, HH two and four. 
4. Play appropriate exercises in his book with Miles Davis Quintet— Coltrane, Red Garland, Philly Joe, Paul Chambers. 
5. Play with that album and play all the comps that Red Garland played with your left hand. 
6. He made me sing Oleo while playing time then I had to solo over it and keep the form. Had to do that with a bunch of tunes. If I didn't cut it he was like “hey man you gotta learn those tunes.” He was sweetheart but came down on me in a nice way like... this is the shit and all the good players do it... 

8. He loved the Philly Joe Jones brush book and he made photo copies and we used that as well.

Thanks to Tom Killian for sharing this.

Monday, February 20, 2017

A funk sticking in context: RLL

This is the first of several easy pages of exercises for developing kind of an essential thing in funk and fusion drumming, which is not quite a fill and not quite a groove— it's more a way of building intensity. It's good for playing with soloists, for outros, for any place where a tension-building cross rhythm and a lot of cymbals is called for. This first entry deals with a basic three-16th note sticking, RLL, with the right hand on a cymbal, together with the bass drum, and the left hand on the snare drum:

Learn the base pattern in 3/4— use a metronome; also try counting out loud— then play the exercises. Feel free to move your right hand around to different cymbals, and play unaccented snare drum notes very softly. I make extensive use of sampled practice loops, so find one of mine that works, or make your own. This page is designed to be played fast.

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