Thursday, December 28, 2017

EZ one-beat fill with tom moves

I think this is my third or fourth take on this particular subject since I started blogging, but it can take awhile to find the best format for teaching basic things. These days I like to isolate things from their context, without a steady pulse running in the background, and without counting complete measures.

Here we're working on the tom possibilities with a 16th note fill on beat 4, with an ending cymbal/bass drum note on 1, so I suggest just counting 4-e-&-a-1 while playing the numbered exercises. Play it one time, stop, take a breath, and do it again. When you have the move memorized, do it with the practice phrases at the bottom of the page, while counting in 4.

For many students it probably won't be necessary to play through all five of the practice phrases, but the steps are there for those who do need them. You can vary the bass drum pattern on the non-fill part of the measure however you like.

Get the pdf

Friday, December 22, 2017

Open hihat funk application using Dahlgren & Fine

Wow, suddenly it's the end of the year. In coming days I'll be throwing up as much stuff as I can to fill out any remaining content gaps in the upcoming 2017 Book of the Blog, so stay tuned...

Today we've got another funk application, using the first pages from 4-Way Coordination by Dahlgren & Fine, together with my page of basic cut time funk beats.

First isolate the right hand and left foot part from each four-note pattern in the book, ignoring those patterns that don't include a RH or LF. Playing the right hand on the hihat, make an open sound on the RH note before any LF note. Looking at the first two lines on page 4 of the book, we would do this with the last two beats of measures 1B, 1C, 1D, and 2A-D:

Those patterns would be played, in order (I didn't do 2C and D):

To those patterns we'll add our basic cut time funk beats, with the snare drum on 3 and the bass drum doing a variety of other rhythms. Hihat pattern 1D combined with funk beat 5 would be played:

The same hihat pattern combined with funk beat 4 would be played:

The practice goal will be to combine all of the hihat possibilities from the book— pages 4-6— with all of the funk beats from the other page. You'll probably want to be selective about pages 5 and 6; there are a few duplicate patterns, and you may find that the patterns with two or more left foot notes are not especially practical for everyday use.

There are two ways you can drill this: you can do all of the funk beats with one hihat part at a time, or run all of the hihat parts one funk beat at a time. I suggest starting by running all of the hihat parts with a few very basic funk beats— patterns 1, 2, 3, and 6 from the funk page— or just pattern 1, if you're not getting it quickly.

Another area to explore is to play the bass drum along with the open hihat notes. Pattern 1B would be played:

To that you can add the bass drum on 1 to make a complete groove out of it. You should also add the snare drum on 3— I left that out of these examples.

Adding the bass drum on 1 every two measures makes a more sophisticated groove:

Another example, using hihat pattern 1D, with the bass drum on the open notes, and snare drum on beat 3:

Adding the bass drum on beat 1 every two measures:

Tempo-wise, a good first goal would be to be fluent with this method in the range of half note = 60-96. Have fun!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Building the Tequila beat

A student has a gig coming up where she has to play the song Tequila, but didn't know a beat to play on it. This is what we worked out in her lesson. She was already able to play a Latin-type cymbal rhythm that works for the song, and we added snare drum and bass drum parts, figured out how to count it, and got all the coordination worked out so there was no mystery about how it all fit together. Drilling that plus the other optional versions on this page, she should be able to get through the gig,  make some variations on the beat, recover from mistakes, and generally relax while playing the song.

Count out loud part of the time while practicing— bot the rhythm of all the parts put together, as well as a straight 1-2-3-4. Figure out the hand parts as a sticking, using R, L, and B (for both hands). We spent some time isolating the complicated part starting at beat 4 in the first measure up to beat 3 in the second measure. We would work out the coordination, and play from 4 to 3 one time, with a long pause after. When working on the tom tom move, I would also isolate the 4 of the second measure to the 1 of the repeat, and then play from 4 of the first measure to the 1 of the repeat— always played one time, with a long pause after.

Repeat all of them many times, along with the recording, without stopping for mistakes.

Get the pdf

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Countermanding the tsunami

Thanks to everyone who has purchased the new e-book, 13 Essential Stickings, and I hope you're pleased with it. As you can see, there's nothing in there you haven't heard of— it's really a case of you paying (only!) $4.95 for me to select the most useful stuff that is the fastest to learn. I feel like that's 90% of why I'm on the internet posting stuff— to countermand the tsunami of bad, time-wasting drumming advice.

As soon as I can complete it, we'll have an accompanying study guide, with solo exercises to help you use the patterns creatively in your practicing and playing— look for that in January.

Anyway, thanks for buying, and please review it on Amazon... and any of my other e-books you've purchased, actually.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Linear funk with a broken cymbal rhythm, using Syncopation

I don't know if you've noticed, but we've developed quite a robust collection of funk methods here, using Ted Reed's Syncopation. If you learned them all you should have some real creativity going by now.

So here's another one, a linear interpretation, using a broken cymbal rhythm. This is good for moderate tempos— around 60-90 bpm. Tempos where you might play 16th notes on the cymbal with your right hand. Since we're playing this in 2/2— cut time— that would be half note = 90 bpm, and 8th notes would be the functional equivalent of 16th notes in 4/4. In that range it's very effective to emphasize a solid grid of 16ths (or cut time 8ths), a la Ndugu Leon Chancler and others. It's not the most popular way of playing styles with a backbeat today— chunky— people don't know they want you to play this way, but when you do, it creates a very deep groove.

Let's walk through the steps for this, starting with exercise 1 on p 33 of Syncopation:

Ignore the stems-down part. Play the top line rhythm on the bass drum, filling in any gaps in the rhythm with the right hand on the cymbal or hihat, making an unbroken stream of 8th notes:

As a warm up, do the same thing with the snare drum playing the book rhythm:

Then voice the book rhythm like a cut time funk groove, with the snare drum on 3, and the bass drum playing everything else:

As in our earlier funk method using Syncopation, you can also play the last half of the measure on the snare drum, to make a fill-like variation:

We're generally very right hand oriented on this blog, but the broken cymbal rhythm with this method really changes our focus. Rather than leading with the cymbal rhythm, you'll be thinking more about the bass drum and snare drum, and filling in the cymbal to create a solid architecture. All the parts should be at a roughly even volume. Your left foot may also contribute more than usual— play it on 2 and 4, or 1 and 3, or running quarter notes. Be able to add it in and take it out without disrupting the groove.

Improvise the orchestration to make a complete phrase out of each four measure line of music from the book. I think of it as two two-measure phrases, with a normal backbeat in the first measure, and a fill-like variation in the second measure— a little fill in the measure 2, and a bigger fill in measure 4:

Many of the book exercises have a rest or a held note on 3— page 33, exercise 2, for example:

To figure out what to do with that, first play the entire top line rhythm with the bass drum, filling in the cymbal rhythm with the right hand as before:

Of the exercise rhythm, play the closest note to 3 on the snare drum. That will be our backbeat, displaced:

You can also just add the snare drum on 3, while doing everything else the same as you have been:

When doing the fill-type variations, you'll want to use the displaced backbeat, playing the rest of the measure after that note on the snare drum:

Work with the one-line exercises until you're able to apply the method while playing through the long exercises on page 37 and after. I don't believe it's necessary to work for extreme speed on this one. Use the Betty Davis loop.

Monday, December 11, 2017

NEW E-BOOK: 13 Essential Stickings

Here's part of what I've been up to other than writing new blog posts— I'm releasing a new e-book today: 13 Essential Stickings for the Modern Drummer. If you ever get overwhelmed by the amount of stuff there is to practice, this is the book for you. It's a thorough introduction to sticking patterns that I consider to be essential for filling, soloing, and modern playing in general on the drum set, in a variety of rhythms and meters. They're easy to learn, easy to use in actual playing, and easy to play fast. You don't actually need a heck of a lot else.

The book is in e-book format for Kindle, but it can be viewed and used on any device— Kindle, tablet, laptop, smart phone (this book is very friendly to small screens), or desktop computer.

34 pages. Price is $4.95.

Also see my other e-books.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

History of American Percussion Music

This is just a quick link share: you should read the online article The Beaten Path: A History Of American Percussion Music.

It's an excellent thumbnail history of percussion in American conservatory music in the 20th century— the area of “classical” music in which percussion first started being used in a serious way. You'll be familiar with it if, like me, you ever came within spitting distance of a percussion performance degree. It has actually influenced modern marching percussion in a big way, first via Fred Sanford, who studied with Tony Cirone, and Ralph Hardimon, who studied with Cirone and my old professor, Charles Dowd.

Give it a read, learn the names, chase down some of the music on YouTube.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Practice loop: The Sermonette

Here's a jazz practice loop in 4/4, a sort of gospel 2 feel, sampled from The Sermonette, by Cannonball Adderly. It has a nice deep pocket and is good for all your jazz practicing needs. The tempo is 124 BPM.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Page o' skiplets - 01

This is not a great method to self-teach, but for the few intrepid individuals this will help, or for the teachers out there whose students struggle to pick up jazz independence, this approach may help speed up the learning process. It will also help you clean up your jazz coordination all around, since a lot of players (i.e. me) learn this stuff in a brute force frenzy of practicing a lot of patterns, and usually you end up with your execution being not as sharp as it could be.

Before you start, read my previous posts defining this made-up word skiplet, and summarizing the method. It wouldn't be a terrible idea to revisit my old post What it is: swing rhythm just to clarify how the rhythmic system works— in jazz we think in terms of 8th notes while we're playing these triplet based rhythms.

Following the instructions carefully is rather important— if you do this wrong, you could screw up the rhythm and/or end up habitually hearing the rhythm with the beat turned around. You don't want that. Before attempting this method, students who are just beginning with jazz should make themselves very familiar with the jazz cymbal and hihat rhythm, so they definitely know where the 1 is, and they know the hihat falls on 2 and 4.

Note that there are no barlines and there is no time signature. Each exercise is a rhythmic fragment, which you'll need to count correctly to end up with a correct jazz rhythm.

Put in a pause
Treat the last note of each exercise as a fermata— an unmetered held note. Don't accidentally turn the pause into a metered rest, or fall into a repetitive groove with it. Play the skiplet exercise one time, stop, take a breath, think about birds, then play it again. You can gradually shorten the pause until you're playing the exercise repetitively in time.

Alternatively, after you can play the exercise one time, try playing it two times in rhythm, with no pause. Once you can play the exercise four times in rhythm, you should be able to play it repetitively at that tempo.

Start counting on 2
The skiplet pattern played in repetition should be counted 2 &3, 4 &1. Where there is a pick up note before the first cymbal note, count &2 &3, &4 &1, etc. It's up to you if you want to count any triplet partials in an exercise, using triplet syllables— 2-trip-let or 2-&-a.

Think of it as a sticking
Ignoring the hihat part, say the exercise as a sticking, in rhythm, using right, left, or both.

Exercise 2 would be both, right-right 
Exercise 9 would be right-left-both-right 
Exercise 11 would be left-both, right-right 

It's a good idea to refer back to jazz independence patterns written normally in 4/4, with a cymbal rhythm, as you do this— see Jim Chapin's Advanced Techniques For The Modern Drummer, or Joel Rothman's Basic Drumming or other jazz books.

Get the pdf

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Ben Riley comping

We lost a very great drummer this week, and one of a dwindling number of his generation: Ben Riley. He was best known for his playing with Thelonious Monk in the mid-60s, and with the group Sphere, which was comprised of former Monk sidemen; but he did a lot of other stuff, and stayed musically active for the rest of his life. He's a great example of bebop drumming in its classic form— maybe the best example I can think of. His playing is non-idiosyncratic, and he plays fairly busy, and very clean, with a great sound and an active intelligence.

Swing the 8th notes, except where indicated. The hihat is played on 2 and 4 throughout, and there is some bass drum feathering occasionally audible. He mostly plays the standard cymbal rhythm, with occasional variations. The triplet figures played in measures 24 and 32 are played with an alternating sticking. A comping rhythm he comes back to several times is &-of-2/4, or &-of-2/&-4— see measures 2, 4, 6 and 8.

Get the pdf

Monday, November 20, 2017

Chaffee linear phrases: adding 2s / triplets in 3/4

Another item we did some months ago: Gary Chaffee style linear phrases including a two-note pattern, this time in a triplet rhythm in 3/4. As you are no doubt familiar with by now, Chaffee wrote a system of linear drumming based on combinations of three-to-eight note patterns with an alternating sticking, ending with one or two bass drum notes. Sometimes when practicing his materials, the omission of a two-note pattern seems kind of glaring, so I wrote these pages.

I'm in danger of writing too much stuff on this subject, and I'm posting this mainly for the upcoming 2017 book of the blog. If anyone gets around to practicing it, and finds it useful, it'll be good to have more than one page that includes the two note pattern. But you can consider all of my pages based on this system to be nearly identical; there's a lot of overlap, and the more you practice any one of them, the less you need to practice the others. Or, the more you practice any one page, the smaller/more subtle the thing you gain from practicing the other pages becomes.

The most likely context for practicing this will be a jazz waltz, so you could alternate between playing the linear patterns and waltz time. You may want to add your favorite waltz hihat rhythm with your foot. At moderate tempos, you could play the complete linear pattern with your LH/BD while playing waltz time with the cymbal hihat, of course. Improvise moving your hands around the drums, and vary your dynamics— I don't think there's anything much to be gained by staying on the snare drum or maintaining a static volume.

Where there are several 2-note patterns in a row, feel free to vary the sticking; you could play the first pattern R-L-R-RL, or R-L-L-RL, or R-R-L-RL. You could also play the right hand note as a right or left handed flam.

Get the pdf

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Page o' coordination: triplet pattern with cymbal variations - 02

Part 2 of something we did way back in January (where the hell did the year go, actually?), changing cymbal rhythms against a steady left hand and bass drum pattern. Here we're just inverting the LH/BD from last time, starting with the bass instead of the snare. This is a fairly low-commitment page, opening up some flexibility with that very common basic pattern.

Add 2 and 4 on the hihat with your left foot, or play quarter notes with it. Also play the entire page substituting the hihat for the bass drum. If you burn through this very quickly, you may want to try playing the bass drum part with both feet in unison. Doing our stock left hand moves is optional— there's no need to bog down in this page running every possibility.

If you're already using some form of this idea in your practicing or playing, you could do all you need to do with this in three or four practice sessions. If you can play the page straight through without repeats at a moderate tempo— say, quarter note = 120— you're done.

Get the pdf

Friday, November 17, 2017

Anti-book review

What's it even called? Guitar Center
Lessons Drums Book 1? 
UPDATE: I had a student's parent try to purchase this book, and it turns out it's not for sale without purchasing lessons from them. Too bad. Maybe I'll find a remaindered gross of them on ebay someday.

Anti-review, not anti-book. I like the book: Drums Book 1, put out by Guitar Center. It's a very good basic rock book a student brought in to a lesson, which I spent about two minutes skimming. It's an anti-review because how can you review something you just skimmed for a second?

Well, this impressed me. I'm instantly skeptical of all new drum books I see, because so few of them are any good— by which I mean I either can't use them in teaching, or I can't/won't/don't practice out of them. I had more reason than usual to be skeptical of this book, mainly because it was branded by Guitar Center, apparently for use in lessons in their stores. I guessed it was probably slapped together by some hack, but it had about ten people listed in its writing credits, including Rod Morgenstein and Joe Morello, and I forget who else. Probably Rick Mattingly— I suspect the book was edited by him. On flipping through it, and saw that it was all solid functional rock stuff, with snare drum reading examples similar to what I always use and teach from Syncopation, as well as rudiments, and information on setting up a drumset. It includes (online?) access to audio examples, which I never use. I like that it's not overwritten. I really like that I didn't see anything stupid— nothing Metal-related, nothing pointlessly difficult for a beginner or adult amateur. No weird formatting. Nothing Drumeo-like.

There aren't many good beginning-intermediate rock books. Joel Rothman's Mini-Monster book is one. The Drumset Musician by Rod Morgenstein and Rick Mattingly is another. A Funky Primer by Charles Dowd is almost one, and the Burns/Farris studio funk book is also almost one— those are for slightly more mature players. Everything else I've seen is tied for suckingest. Of those four good books, this one is the cleanest and most concise, and likely the most suited to the most students.

The only problem is, I don't see it available online anywhere, either on the Guitar Center site or on the publisher Hal Leonard's site. Probably you have to go into a GC, or call to order it. I'll definitely be picking up a few copies to start using with beginning-to-intermediate students. Well done, Guitar Center and Hal Leonard.

Batucada drill for drumset

We probably did something similar to this way back in '12 or '13, when I was writing a lot of stuff on samba. My writing and my knowledge of the style has improved a lot since then, so I guess we're about due for an update. This is based on a drill I improvised in my own practicing.

Batucada is a form of samba, played in the street by often very large percussion ensembles, called baterias. It's different than how samba is typically played on the drumset in a US jazz setting, but it's good to have it inform your playing, and there are opportunities to use it.

Practice exercises 1-18, then improvise combinations of the 2/4 patterns, thinking in two or four bar phrases, playing busier/more syncopated at the ends of phrases. See this post for some examples of how these longer phrases are constructed in Brazilian music. Learn exercises 1-18 with each of the tom moves, and experiment with the optional snare drum articulations.

See also my older pieces on feel in samba for tips on acquiring the particular kind of swing associated with this style of music. In most of the situations where you'll actually use this style, you'll play the rhythm a little straighter than is suggested by those posts, but that (and a lot of listening) will get you working in the right direction. It would be a great idea to spend at least part of your practice time playing with recordings.

Get the pdf

Monday, November 13, 2017

Billy Higgins trading 4s

This is from the same tune as the recent post Comping The Billy Way— Things Ain't What They Used To Be, with Hank Jones and Ray Drummond, from the album The Essence. Here Higgins is trading 4s with Jones, starting after 3:48 in the recording. I've transcribed just Higgins's solos.

There's also a stealth groove o' the day in here— on the fourth line he plays a hip, easy Afro 6 type of groove that you can lift directly.

Billy's dynamics are extremely subdued here— accents and crescendos are subtle, overall volume is low, and the vibe is relaxed. The quarter notes on the bass drum are played very softly. Single drags (on lines 2 and 3) are played open; long rolls (lines 1 and 3) are played closed. On line 3 there are some ruffs with the main note played as a stick shot— hitting the other stick while the bead is pressed into the head.

Get the pdf


Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Rock in 5/8 - 01

5/8 and 5/4 are good meters to practice to if you want to improve your concentration, and disrupt playing habits. Five-note patterns in general, too. For many years my playing was extremely 3 oriented; whatever meter I was playing in, I would have a strong tendency to go into 3/4 (with a strong dotted quarter note pull) when improvising. That's a legit creative thing, but it was also a habit. If you lean too much on that Elvin-type thing, or if you have the opposite problem and are too rhythmically squared-off in the way you play in 4, practicing in 5 can help open things up for other things to happen, while improving your awareness of what you're playing.

To that end— and for actually playing in 5— here we have some basic rock patterns in 5/8, and the same pattern played twice metered in 5/4, with a quarter note pulse:

The accents are for the hihat; play the snare drum basically at an even volume. Try counting out loud when playing the pattern in 5/4— numbers only: “1 2 3 4 5”

Since our end goal is to have this affect the way we play in 4/4 as well as 5, see also this page— it will help you integrate these ideas into 4. Also hit the 5/4 label at the bottom of the post to get much more in 5. My old series Cracking 5/4 will be especially helpful if you're new to this subject.

Get the pdf

Monday, October 30, 2017

5/8 accents in a triplet feel

I've worked on triplets and */8 feels a lot in my 35+ years playing the drums, and played a lot of music in the style, and still there's a certain type of shuffle or 12/8 feel that is just easy to mess up. I don't know what's up with that, but I'm working on it quite a bit lately. This is page contains a couple of things that came up when I was improvising along with Stanley Clarke's Lopsy Lu— an example of the style I'm talking about... also an example of the ease of messing it up, because if you listen to Tony Williams's performance on the original recording... it's slightly rough.

These are a couple of 5-note accent patterns broken down and metered in a variety of ways, with the main goal of putting them into 12/8 or a triplet feel in 4. I don't really care about developing this as a 5/8-within-12/8 lick; I'm more just interested in fluency.

Practicing this page is pretty straightforward. Maintain the same 8th note speed through the various meter changes. All of the patterns have an alternating sticking, so you're going to be playing the cymbals accents with both the right and left hand. Snare drum notes can also be played as drags— as double strokes. Moving around the drums is a little weird, but you can attempt that if you want.

Get the pdf

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Stone on drumset: sixtuplet exercise

We're doing quite a bit with the book Stick Control on the drumset these days. There are a lot of things I don't like about the book— mainly that it's based on abstract sequences of Rs and Ls over a single rhythm, and there's no musical reference for that. But real players do use it, and it's such a familiar book that it's good to try to connect it with other things we do. And I think playing it on the drumset also helps make it more valuable as a snare drum book— a drumset orchestration gives those Rs and Ls some actual musical meaning.

This is a little thing you can do with the triplet portion of the book— exercises 1-12 on page 8, and all of page 9. We're playing in cut time, with two beats per measure.

On the 8th notes portion we're using the same orchestration as on my recent Stone drumset exercises: play the RH on any cymbal, with bass drum in unison, play the LH on any drum. On the triplet portion we'll plug in a standard triplet lick, RLB. So ex. 1 from p.8 of Stick Control:

Would be played:

For the LH-leading exercises you could do the same triplet lick reversed— LRB— but I like to do LBR. So for exercise 2 from Stone:

 I play:

So any time the triplet portion begins with the right I play RLB, and anytime it begins with the left I play LBR. So exercise 5:

Would be played:

Of course, you can plug in anything you want on the triplet portion. For example:

Whatever you like. Keep your hands moving around the drums and cymbals. Get this thoroughly together in the half note = 60-90 range before worrying about getting it faster.  

Monday, October 16, 2017

Comping the Billy way

Here's a fresh lesson on simplicity in comping in jazz— file this along with the post about the “Kenny” note from a few years ago. I've transcribed some ideas from Billy Higgins's playing on  Things Ain't What They Used To Be with Hank Jones and Ray Drummond, from their trio album The Essence. They form an easy progression, and it's almost the order in which Billy played them on the recording.

You'll note that like Kenny Clarke in the earlier post, Higgins plays a lot of & of 1/& of 3 on the snare drum. He especially seems to be centered around the 1, and his ideas are very contained within each measure of 4— that's my feeling upon listening and not really analyzing, anyhow.

Swing the 8th notes. If you listen to the record, Higgins's phrasing is very legato, and timingwise he's playing behind the beat. People claim to love Billy's playing, but it would be a real challenge for most of them to play, sound, and be as alertly relaxed as he is here.

Get the pdf