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? 
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.

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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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