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.

No comments: