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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Friday, November 17, 2017

Anti-book review

What's it even called? Guitar Center
Lessons Drums Book 1? 
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Practice loop: Wilson Pickett - Mojo Mama

By the way, all of yesterday's ranting and raving about people's drum covers doesn't apply to my sampled practice loops, which are lovely, highly recommended, and serve a totally different function. We're not aiming for a simulated musical performance here. The loops just act as a glorified metronome substitute and  a) give you a chance to hear your drumming exercises as musical ideas, and b) with their infectious goodness, keep you playing said exercises longer than you would have if you were just playing them solo. Or you can have fun grooving or soloing along with them— with the caveats I raised yesterday.

Today's thing I sampled from the intro of Mojo Mama by Wilson Pickett, and it'll be great for getting your 8th notes together. That's what I'm doing with it and I can already kind of play 8th notes. The tempo is quarter note = 120 BPM.

Friday, October 13, 2017

A rant: limits of playalong tracks

You playing along with a backing track.
So, I watch the YouTube videos of drummers playing along with their playalong tracks, and sounding pretty OK, and I think you know, I probably wouldn't sound any better than that doing that, but there's this nagging feeling that there has to be more to this job of drumming than following along and making all the right notes, maybe playing a cool fill for the fill part, doing cool comping junk, and generally signifying an OK jazz performance.

The notes are there, but something's wrong— the energy is all wrong. The drummers are all as relaxed as a Hindu cows, knowing that whatever they play will be accepted by the band with perfect equanimity— they will give the exact same blandoid competent performance no matter what the drummer does.

That's because the fundamental dynamic of where a performance comes from has been violated.

Usually the energy goes both ways; you play the context, but you also influence the context. In your videos the band isn't reacting to you. No one is playing extra well because they like you. No one is walking off because they hate what you're doing and they can't play with you. The bass player isn't moving his attacks around trying to get a handle on how to play with you. No one is playing too loud, or too busy, or trying to rush and/or drag. No one didn't get what you were trying to do, and blew a figure or entrance after a break. No one is disagreeing with you about what tempo was counted off. No one reacted badly when you played that one thing. Nobody doesn't quite get the idiom of the tune, and is playing the wrong stuff which makes what you're doing sound wrong. No one knows how to help you sound good so you start playing extra well. Your feathering the bass drum isn't pissing off the bass player. There isn't a famous player on the session who is actually weird to play with, and you have to figure out how to deal with that. You will never be fired. There is no possibility of you influencing the band in any way, so you forget that's even a thing.

Those are the actual dynamics in which you have to sound good and try to make other people like playing with you.

You in an actual performance.
You think these are all small complaints, and all a matter of “seasoning”, and the main thing is still getting all the right notes in there, having ideas and being able to play them during an actual pass at playing an arrangement. Surely that's the first thing a student has to be able to do, and for that, these playalong tracks are very valuable!

I don't know. Maybe. I imagine one could become a fairly complete mediocre musician by getting good at playing with them. Probably the baseline of student competency has gotten higher as they've become more popular, and means of playing with them have improved. And who cares. Seriously. Managing performance dynamics— meaning energy— is really the whole thing. What you actually have to do, after you've spent a couple of years getting the very basics together, is to play with people and figure out how to make a performance work. I think spending a lot of time polishing these drum covers is missing the boat. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Page o' coordination: Latin in 3 - 05

This is a fairly subtle variation on this Afro 6 feel, which we've covered pretty fully in the past few years, and possibly one of the easier entries in the series. I suppose you could say we're taking an incremental approach to developing and expanding on this style, learning one small new thing with each page of stuff. Today we're just using a slightly different bell pattern I heard on a Cal Tjader record, which really suggests a 3/4 feel. Increasingly jazz musicians I play with are playing waltzes with a Latin feel, which drummingwise is very similar to the Afro-Cuban 6/8 (or 12/8), except that you have to be able to count it in 3/4.

Play the snare drum/left hand part as a rim click, or normally on the snare drum, in a jazz-like way— I don't swing the 8th notes, but you could do that if you choose, treating this page almost as an interpretation of a jazz waltz. Once you can play the page that way, do our stock left hand moves around the drums. I've been practicing this along with an Afro-Peruvian guitar riff loop— perhaps I'll post that if I can figure out who it is... I may have forgotten where I got it...

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Groove o' the day: Jimmy Smith / Midnight Special

In about 1991 I lived in Eugene, Oregon, and every once in awhile KLCC 87.9 would play something that would send you immediately to Cat's Meow (the jazz record store that survived for 30 years in that little town of 100,000 people) and cause you to give up a very dear $15 buying the CD. I typically felt rich enough (and compelled enough) to do that maybe once or twice a month. One such record was Fourmost, by the organist Jimmy Smith, with Stanley Turrentine and Kenny Burrell, and Grady Tate on drums— a very great drummer who just passed away this weekend. What grabbed me was the way Tate played a shuffle, with the hihat on &s of the shuffle rhythm:

I also liked a lick he played at the end of choruses, which I still use today; he would play quarter note triplets on the cymbal and bass drum, filling out the triplets on each note with the left hand on the snare drum:

Except he did it in a way that's very difficult to notate with the snare drum filler, with the quarter triplet inverted:

You could try thinking of it this way, playing the snare drum notes very legato, and dropping them in earlier than you would when playing a strict 8th note triplet timing:

Ending the lick is also weird if you're thinking in quarter note triplet terms. Here's approximately what Tate does on the record— he fudges it a little bit at times:

Here's the recording— I played along with this a lot:

I assumed the main groove was just Grady Tate's hip way of playing a shuffle, but here is Donald Bailey playing basically the same groove with Smith 30 years earlier. My knowledge of organ trio playing is not encyclopedic, and it's similar to what Al Jackson does on the Booker T records, so I wouldn't be surprised if it's a more common groove than I'm presenting it as. No matter, to me it's the Midnight Special groove. Bailey plays a normal swing rhythm on the cymbal (Tate mixes it up with straight quarter notes), and plays the rim click on 2 or 4 only during some sections:

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Stick Control drumset exercise - RLRR-LRLL

Part 3 of this series, where the need to write out the exercises becomes perhaps more apparent. We're playing a basic drumset orchestration of exercises from the first page of Stick Control by George L. Stone, while doing a variety of stock left hand moves around the drums. Usually when doing those moves along with an exercise I'll keep any doubles on the same drum, rather than moving on every single note; here we're doing it both ways— as you'll see, there are some very hip melodic things that happen with the toms when you split the doubles between drums.

There are 33 drumset exercises total here, so if you do them for 30 seconds each without stopping, it'll take you a little over 16 minutes to do the entire drill. I usually do them 4 or 8 times each. If you can do these along with my Betty Davis practice loop (playing in cut time, so the 8th notes are at the loop's 16th note speed), that's a pretty good first state for this exercise.

Ambitious students looking for ways to take this farther can do the same thing with patterns 6-8 in Stick Control— the paradiddle inversions, RLLR-LRRL, RRLR-LLRL, and RLRL-LRLR. After you've practiced these pages, hopefully you'll have the moves memorized, and know how they lay vs. a paradiddle, and won't need to them written out. You can also do the above exercises with any standard funk cymbal rhythm of your choice.

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Sunday, October 01, 2017

Groove o' the day: Spider Webb - It Feels So Good

This is by a drummer I need to know more about, because he's great: Kenneth “Spider Webb” Rice. I guess I need to do some homework, dig up some records, and listen Jake Feinberg's interview with him.

This is the opening groove on the title track from Grover Washington's Feels So Good album, and the drumming performance is a textbook on how to play a funk arrangement. There's not really any fancy drummer stuff here, but if you play this well, nobody will care (nobody cares anyway, actually, but still). Rice shares drumming credits with Steve Gadd on this record.

To make this groove you really have to know where the quarter note pulse is, and place the 2 and 3— the little notes after the displaced backbeat on the 'a' of 1, and after the open hihat. Don't accent them, just think about them and place them. As you listen to the track you'll hear some of the 16th notes swing— on that ending bass drum note, and on some of the fills. The snare drum on the 'a' of 1 is not swung, however.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Linear Chaffee lick in 32nd notes

This is one of the more fun-and-easy-and-cool-sounding short linear phrases from the Gary Chaffee pantheon: 5 notes (RLRLB) + 3 notes (RLB). Today I've written out some ways of playing it as a 32nd note lick in a funk or fusion context. I guess we're going a little “gospel chops” today, teaching you a canned lick— don't abuse it.

Play the cymbal part on any cymbal— on the version ending with the RL cymbal hits, catch the ride cymbal and the crash cymbal, or whatever you have on the right and left. Don't try to get both hands over to the hihats for that. Take some time to figure out some different possibilities for moving the actual lick around the drums. On some of the examples where the lick happens earlier in the measure, I've written in some simple fills to finish the measure— you should also improvise your own fills there, as I've indicated on the page.

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Friday, September 22, 2017

Stick Control drumset exercise - RRLL and variations

This little series presents a kind of writing problem; it has to be either very short or very long, each of which will hit resistance with users. I've done it the long way, simply because it's the only way anyone may actually practice the thing. The first entry and today's entry are easy enough to figure out on the fly by following simple instructions, but they're good preparation for reading the later entries, so go ahead and read through them.

This is a very basic drumset orchestration for the 8th note sticking exercises found at the beginning of Stick Control, by George L. Stone. We're simply moving the right hand to a cymbal, and playing the bass drum in unison with it, and then doing a number of stock tom tom moves with the left hand. We'll also do them in a triplet rhythm. And practice any very similar exercises found in Stone— for example, today's starting pattern is RRLL; you should run the same steps with LLRR, RLLR, and LRRL.

We've opted to be very thorough with the tom moves, covering all possible combinations, and it it will take quite of bit of time to get through all of them. Which is a good thing— tricking you into playing the basic pattern for longer than you would have is half the point. The patterns we're covering are very fundamental, and you want to be really good at them in a variety of rhythms, tempos, dynamics, and movements around the drums. Note that we're in 2/2— cut time— so each measure is two beats long, and we're playing a four-note subdivision— treat these exercises as you would 16th notes in 2/4. You can also play the 12/8 versions of the exercises (on page 2) as sixtuplets in 2/4.

I've only written out left hand moves, but you can also move your right hand between cymbals. Just improvise those moves as you play through the written exercises; if you try to be systematic about it you'll never finish this thing.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Transcription: Blues March - two intros

Two intros to a famous tune: Blues March, by Benny Golson. One is by Art Blakey, from the Jazz Messengers album Moanin', and the other is by Lex Humphries, from Art Farmer and Benny Golson album  Meet The Jazztet.

Swing the 8th notes on both intros, except the roll-off in the last two measures, which is played with straight 8ths. And of course the 16th note part of the Humphries intro does not swing. Rolls are all multiple-bounce— 16th note pulsation 5-stroke and 9-stroke for the short rolls, triplet pulsation 13-stroke for the longer rolls. Both drummers play their flams pretty flat; the grace note is so tight against the main note it's sometimes hard to tell if they are playing flams. It's noteworthy that on each recording when the band comes in the tempo slows down— to 130 on the Blakey version, and 140 on the Farmer/Golson version. Maybe that happens all the time; it never occurred to me to check that on other recordings.

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Audio of the tracks is after the break.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Practice loop in 6/4: Lilin

Here's that practice loop for yesterday's Figure Control page in 6/4, sampled from Lilin, played by John Zorn's Masada. The tempo is a little easier than the other recent loop in 6.

You'll also find this useful for working on any harder triplet coordination materials you may be struggling with— I've been using it to walk through the triplet “harmonic” independence portion of Dahlgren & Fine, or the jazz independence portion of vol. 3 of Gary Chaffee's Patterns series. Just make the first three notes of the practice loop the rate of your 8th note triplet. That puts your quarter note at about 65 BPM.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Figure Control: 6-4 - Lilin - 01

Let's just assume every post begins with an apology for the light posting— I've just been very busy with playing, teaching, and getting ready for an art show this past few weeks.

This Funk Control/Figure Control/Whatever Control format I've been working with lately is proving to be quite a useful concept— taking interpretations commonly applied to Syncopation, and using them with a single rhythm, and then combining them. Today we've got another rhythm in 6/4, based on the bass vamp from Lilin, a tune played by John Zorn's Masada.

There will be a practice loop to use with this page forthcoming in the next couple of days. The tempo is more reasonable than that of the Free Design loop we used with the previous page in 6.

Play through the base rhythm and iterations at the top of the page once,  just so you can be familiar with the foundations of the lettered exercises. Then learn the individual lettered exercises, repeating each of them many times. Then practice combining lettered exercises, in the following template:

A-B, A-C, A-D, etc... B-C, B-D, B-E, etc... C-D, C-E, C-F, etc...

Follow that system until you've played all combinations of patterns. Note that you don't have to work backwards; when you get to the combinations starting with B, you don't have to do B-A, because you already did A-B when you did the As.

With each combination, play each component pattern one or two times, repeating the entire combination phrase many times:

||: A-A-B-B :|| 
||: A-B :||

With all of the pages in this series, there are so many exercises and combinations of exercises to learn, that if you really have a problem with any of them at a certain tempo, there's no problem with just cutting those exercises from your routine. Learning to play the exercises is just the first part of this system— what's more important is learning to combine whatever patterns you can play really well. There's no point in including a pattern you're really struggling with in practicing that part of the system.

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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Michael Shrieve interviews Elvin Jones

Very busy this week, so just another little link share of something very cool: part 1 of Michael Shrieve's interview with Elvin Jones. You'll probably want to follow Shrieve on Facebook, too— he's always posting good stuff.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Stick Control drumset exercise - basic

This is the type of thing I usually wouldn't bother writing out, the instructions are so simple, but the more advanced variations are challenging enough that you'll want to see them on paper. So let's start with the very basics.

What we are doing is playing the first exercises in Stick Control on the drumset. Today we're using the very simple RLRL pattern from page 5. R-indicated notes are played with the right hand on a cymbal, with the bass drum in unison; L-indicated notes are played with the left hand moving around the snare or toms, according to a set of stock moves.

We're in 2/2, so we'll be playing a four note subdivision— functionally “16th notes.” You could count the rhythms 1e&a 2e&a if you wanted. Set your metronome to half note = 60 or faster. For the 12/8 version, set your metronome to dotted quarter note = 60 or faster. Play the RLRL exercises which I've written out, then apply the same orchestration/moves to the LRLR sticking.

Adding the left foot: In 2/2 you can play quarter notes, half notes, or the 2 and 4 (counting in 4/4). In 12/8 put the hihat on dotted quarter notes, or the 2 and 4— remember 12/8 is a compound (“triplet” subdivision) meter counted in 4, with the beat falling on a dotted quarter note rhythm. The simple way to put that is:12/8 = triplets in 4.

Learn this straightforward template well; we'll be applying it to a few other Stick Control exercises, and maybe some related things not found in that book.

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