Saturday, March 31, 2018

Transcription: James Gadson - Shout It Out

UPDATE: Text updated after I stupidly (but defensibly!) misidentified the drummer as Ndugu Leon Chancler. When you print out the pdf, scratch out Ndugu's name and put James Gadson.

Here's something great from James Gadson, playing on Patrice Rushen's Shout It Out, from 1977. I've mentioned before: if you try to play and sound like this people will like playing with you, and you won't sound like anybody else. This has a pretty classic 70s fusion/funk groove, with a displaced back beat and an open hihat on 4.

Gadson is playing a five piece drum set with two added concert toms. I transcribed up to the middle of the track, where he switches to the ride cymbal, because that's all I have time to do today. There are a few fairly wild fills on the out chorus; maybe I'll get around to writing out the rest of the tune another time. During the transcribed portion of the tune the fills generally are about building the groove; he plays them at an even volume and he lays them right on the 16th note pulse— you can hear a distinct difference between this and your average drummer's absent-minded 16th note fill.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

NEW E-BOOK: Syncopation in 3/4

That's right, ANOTHER new e-book: Syncopation in 3/4. All of my regular followers are going to want to have this one... being as we are very dedicated to the myriad/infinite ways of practicing Ted Reed's Progressive Steps to Syncopation.

I don't know why it's never been done before: a Syncopation-like reading text all in 3/4. If one exists, I'm not aware of it. The format is similar to Reed, but all of the materials are newly composed, and I'm covering a couple of things I would have liked to have seen in that book; and I've not bothered including a number of things which I never use in Reed.

This book has sections on quarter notes, linear quarter notes, 8th notes, 8th rests, tied 8ths, and syncopation— including one and two measure exercises, and eight long reading exercises. Plus there's an introductory chapter introducing the basic concepts for interpreting the book on the drumset. I'll be releasing another couple of shorter volumes soon dealing with 16th notes and triplets.

This book is formatted for rendering on Kindle, tablet, iPad, laptop, or regular computer— there is an Amazon app for reading Kindle books on non-Kindle devices. Lines of exercises are two measures long, and the long syncopation exercises are limited to 20 measures in length. A print version will be available soon, which will have longer reading exercises, and a four-measure line format, similar to Reed.

Get Syncopation in 3/4 instantly from Amazon.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

A different kind of march

Playing a traditional/military-style march is something we have to do occasionally as drummers, so we may as well learn a few different ways of doing it. This is a hip, interesting take on the concept by Lalo Schifrin, from the soundtrack of the 1970 Clint Eastwood movie Kelly's Heroes. The rhythms here have more to do with samba than they do with Haskell Harr. I don't know who the percussionists are on it— I assume Emil Richards is in there, Joe Porcaro, maybe Paul Humphrey. The part is certainly written by Schifrin.

There are two snare drums being played on the recording, and sometimes the parts differ slightly. There are probably more flams being played than I have notated. That's traditionally the nature of percussion in a quasi-military band— the composer writes out a basic rhythmic part, and the drummer makes whatever rudimental embellishments he can get away with. Here the differing parts fatten up the sound and contribute to the ragtag vibe they're certainly going for with the composition. There are cymbals played in unison with all of the bass drum notes; if you wanted to work this up on the drums, you could play both feet in unison for that.

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Monday, March 19, 2018

Bill Stewart on cymbal technique

Here's a nice video of part of an interview with Bill Stewart, speaking with Quincy Davis of the University of Manitoba, in which he discusses his cymbal technique. It relates to my earlier ranting and raving about technique in that the conversation is entirely about sound— nothing about speed or high performance in here anywhere. Nothing about technique in the abstract. It's all about getting a sound he seeking from a cymbal he was using at the time.

The rest of the interview is great, too.

Friday, March 16, 2018

NEW E-BOOK: EZ Rock Drumming - A Short Course For The Mastery Of Rock Beats

Hey, we've got another new e-book now available on Amazon:

A Short Course For The Mastery Of Rock Beats

It's the definitive explanation of my Syncopation-based rock method, which has been covered on the blog over the course of several posts. It's a way of playing rock beats based on a single rhythm, that is conducive to fast learning, better retention, learning improvisation, and better musicianship.

It includes 26 one and two measure Syncopation-style reading exercises optimized for this system; and 10 cymbal rhythms incorporating the hihat and crash cymbals.

Level is beginning to intermediate. An excellent guide for teachers. I've gotten great results teaching this method to students ages 9 and up.

Use with your tablet, phone, Kindle, or desktop computer.


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

EZ triplet bass drum / cymbal drill

Do you think most of what you play in real life is hip, complicated, multi-layered, polyrhythmic, hybrid-rudimental madness? Sir, it is not. Most of what you play is normal, obvious, easy stuff. You want to be really good at normal, obvious, easy stuff, and not sound boring while doing it.

The trick to working on normal, obvious, easy stuff is to not overdo it. Do it in one-to-several practice sessions, at one or two normal speeds, and move on. Whatever you didn't get this time you'll get on the next thing— which doesn't mean you get to slide on making a lot of elementary errors in counting or whatever. But pick and choose what you're going to really punish yourself learning. I think using a practice loop makes working on boring stuff like this a lot more fun, so I can do it longer.

This is an easy drill I'll end up doing in one-to-several practice sessions, and moving on. It has one challenging element, which is that you have to play the bass drum pretty fast. It uses the triplets-and-quarter notes pages from Syncopation— pp. 14-15. Play the written rhythm on any cymbal, plus bass drum; will in the rest of the triplet with your left hand. As always, ignore the stems-down part in the book.

So the line 1 rhythm:


You can do whatever you want with your left foot. I think it's an excellent idea to learn to play it without using your whole leg, so try simple, heel-down quarter notes or just the 2 and 4.

You can also play the first note of the triplet on the snare drum:

Or the first note after the written triplet:

Or both:

On exercises with more than one beat of triplets at a time:

Here are some of those possibilities:

On the book exercise that is all triplets:

You can do this:

I vary the accents, move my right hand around the cymbals, and move my left hand around the drums. I don't think it's necessary to do that systematically. There are a lot of possibilities, so it will be up to you to make a reasonable 10-20 minutes of practicing out of it. I've been playing it with my Cannonball/Sermonette loop; you could also use this Ahmad Jamal loop, or whatever you like. You should also do the entire thing with an alternating sticking.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

11 Buddy intros

This is pretty interesting: Buddy Rich playing a drum intro on eleven takes of the same tune: Leap Frog, released on The Complete Charlie Parker on Verve box set.  This is an actually an excerpt from from my much-promised, never-delivered Book of Intros, which has been languishing mere hours from completion for a couple of years now... I want to say three years... hey, you try saying something intelligent about ~100 drum intros by famous players and then commit it to print FOREVER, so all the other drummers and future generations and your mother can see it and pull your pants down and mock you for saying something stupid. Have you people ever heard of writer's block?

Please forgive that outburst. I'm hoping that posting this will encourage/force me to open the thing up and actually finish it this week. And listening to Buddy makes me a little tense.

So, yeah: 11 takes of one tune. He plays different stuff every time, and gets increasingly rambunctious— it's easy to imagine he's losing patience, but who knows, he may just be having fun with other people screwing up. Whatever's going on, he's playing very aggressively. The quarter note pulse is extreme. There may be some rudimental sticking or other happening on the rolls; that's what happens when you play extremely fast on a floppy old drum— nobody can tell what you're doing. If you learn to play these, use whatever sticking works for you to get the effect.

Get the pdf

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Two alternative Dahlgren & Fine routines

As I've mentioned, I'm getting a lot of productive work done with this much-loathed book, 4-Way Coordination, by Marvin Dahlgren & Elliot Fine. Mainly I'm using the worst part, the “harmonic” coordination chapter, for which I have devised a pretty decent funk method. Funk-like. Funk-supporting.

It's pretty straightforward: you play the cymbals on the hand notes that are in unison with the bass drum, and you play the snare and tom toms on the hand notes that are in unison with the hihat. Pretty easy sounding, very not. There are two other things I do, which have a less Himalayan learning curve, and which develop your left foot in a different way.

Let's talk about what this book does with your left foot in the first place. The harmonic chapter is all about playing Stick Control-type sticking patterns with your hands and feet simultaneously. The first block of exercises has the hands and feet doing the same pattern, and then the same pattern with the hands reversed— so if the feet are doing RLRL, the hands are doing LRLR. The rest of the very punishing chapter has the hands and feet doing different sticking patterns.

That's how they came up with the patterns. That's not how you have to understand them to play them. Playing competing sticking patterns with the hands and feet is not a real thing. I think of it more as a three-limb, hands-plus-bass drum system, with the left foot added. As a three-limb thing it's a fairly straightforward system of playing the bass drum and cymbal in a cross rhythm to mixed stickings played with the hands.


You'll have to take a look at the book and work that out for yourself. But when you're thinking mainly in terms of hands-plus-bass, the left foot is just an added-on thing— played in unison with the snare/tom notes for no good reason, except that it's easier to strengthen it that way. It's easier to tell if you're playing it accurately when you put it in unison with the relatively dry sounds of the drums. It's not a usual musical orchestration thing to be playing the hihat in unison with the drums, and we're not particularly trying to develop that. It does help with coordinating open/closed hihat sounds.

I'm not writing this because I'm endlessly fascinated with bullcrap drumming minutia; one time somebody put this book in front of me as a thing I'm supposed to practice, and I needed to make some sense out of it before beating my brains out on it. This book is everywhere. I've seen a lot of people waste a lot of time with it, and if you go into it with the wrong agenda, you probably will too.

So, these other methods— this is going to be a bit of a let-down, because there's hardly anything to them. With each of these do what I outlined above: hand notes in unison with the bass drum go on the cymbals, other hand notes go on the drums.

1. Drop the left foot altogether. Give yourself a chance to make something relatable out of it before diving into the four way madness. Learn to understand it as a three-limb system. If you want, you can add the left foot in one of the usual repeating rhythms, like quarter notes, or on the 2 and 4, or on the 1 and 3.

2. Play both feet in unison. Left foot playing the same rhythm as the right foot. Unlike the thing above with the hihat in unison with the snare and toms, there is a valid musical reason for this; you'll actually do it as a musical effect, and a lot of open hihat work relies on it. There's also just something foundationally strong about having your feet unisons worked out.

Either of these routines will give you relatively easy entry into this section of the book, so you can actually knock down some patterns, instead of crawling through it like a disabled, probably drunk turtle like I had to. My “EZ harmonic coordination” method will also be helpful preparation for when you want to go whole-hog with it.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Very occasional quote of the day: Buddy's time

From the bassist Chuck Bergeron who was in Buddy Rich's band in the 80s:

“One afternoon, after a couple of nights of feeling that he wasn’t happy with where I was placing the beat, I asked Buddy if he wanted me to play a little more “on top.” 

He put a hand at the top of his head and the other at his waist and said “I don’t want it here and I don’t want it here – I want it RIGHT HERE, right down the middle” – pointing at his heart. 

What I learned from that statement is that everyone has a different opinion of where “on top” or “on the backside” of the beat is and the only definitive place to put the time is right down the middle and with conviction.”

Friday, March 02, 2018

Transcription: Barry Altschul - Jitterbug Waltz

Here's a drum solo in 3/4 by Barry Altschul, on a modern arrangement of Fats Waller's Jitterbug Waltz, from Altschul's album Irina— a pretty obscure (to me) record you can now download off Amazon. The tune is 64 measures long and the solo is 60 measures long. The solo starts on a tempo change, and the overall vibe is loose, so I'm kind of surprised he ends up playing almost a full chorus exactly.

There's something funny happening with the time in the first measure— it works if you just put a little fermata over the first note, then continue normally in 3. The tempo of quarter note = 165 which I've given is approximate; there's a lot of forward motion here, and it probably speeds up a bit. The execution on the technical passages— anything faster than triplets— are pretty organic. It's an Elvin-like vibe. Get the broad outline in rhythm, and play the fast bits however your hands want to play them.

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Thursday, March 01, 2018

Single stroke 5s - 32nd notes

A set of exercises I improvised on my leg at the start of a rehearsal yesterday— and this would actually be good as part of a warmup. These are 5 stroke rolls in single strokes, in a 32nd note rhythm, accented a couple of different ways. It's very straightforward, and once you can play a single stroke 5 fast starting with your right or left hand, you should be able to knock this page down quickly.

If you can do one of these you can basically do all of them, so there's little point in lingering on any one exercise. You should be able to do everything you need to do with this page within 10-15 minutes, or within 2-5 minutes as part of a warmup. This would be a good page to play with brushes.

Get the pdf