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.

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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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