Friday, September 28, 2018

Q & A: guitarist hunting

all guitarists until proven otherwise
I received this question in the mail today:

What are you looking for in a guitar player? What strengths/capabilities do you feel are the most important? Any thoughts on common pitfalls?

Most of the following applies to any instrumentalist, not just guitarists. These are all situations I've been involved in, though I haven't had to hire people in all of them.

First, at some point in your career, “looking for” becomes a different process— you know a lot of guitar players, and people who know guitar players, so finding musicians is not a problem. It becomes more about “which of these people do I call for this thing?” It's a lot harder when you're just getting acquainted with a scene, are not confident about approaching the better players, and/or don't know any players at all.

Often who you get depends on things other than musical ability: Are they available? Will they do my thing for the amount it pays? Do I like them, and do they like me? Do they present themselves professionally? Are they ethical? Will they possibly hire me for their gigs if I hire them for mine?

It's also very dependent on what I want him or her for: membership in a band, a recording project, a casual, a regular gig, a tour, a road gig, a one-off creative project? Is it a normal jazz situation with a lot of playing, or is it a genre act/project— pop, swing, bossa nova, blues, country, etc. Is it a creative project where I need someone with a strong independent creative thing, that also works well together with mine? Is it a songwriter situation, where I'm helping get musicians for someone else's project?

General baseline musical competency things include: being able to perform with minimal rehearsals, or no rehearsals, being able to read, being a strong listener, knowing a lot of tunes, having strong rhythm, being into getting a professional sound, being a strong creative player. Typically players I do anything with have to have to be strong jazz players. A major thing I look for in guitarists is that they are strong rhythm section players— they know how to be a rhythm guitarist and accompanist, not just a soloist.

If I'm looking for someone for a paying gig playing tunes everybody knows, or reading normal charts, it's very easy: with whom do I like playing the most, and who is available for the date? And keep in mind: if you have paying work to offer, you can call anyone. Your assessment of your own playing, and of how much better they are than you, doesn't matter— everyone wants to hear from you when you're offering a paying engagement.

For a road gig (I'm really thinking cruise ship or hotel), it should be someone who can do the job, who I can also live with for weeks or months. Often it's younger players who are available for that kind of work, so they may not be extremely well rounded— they may have only a college-level jazz education (or equivalent) and that's it. For a tour (say, 1-3 weeks), it should be someone I like playing with, who will represent my music well, who will be easy to travel with. It could also be someone who will help get gigs, or whose name will help publicity, or who will help with tour logistics in some way.

For genre acts, the person has to know the style, including the major repertoire, and should be into getting the right sound for it. I usually only play with jazz guitarists, and some of them are only really able to do their own thing; others will have one or two other types of music in which they're interested, or have background, and are able to give an actual genre performance.

If I'm helping a songwriter or other solo artist find musicians, I'm looking for someone polished, well-rounded, with good pop sensibilities (or whatever genre is involved), who is service oriented, and is a quick study with new material.

For my own group playing my music, I want people who are easy for me to play with, who also have very strong musical personalities, and who like my playing and my project.

Pitfalls are the opposite of the above: they can't play (they play wrong stuff, they have bad time, they get lost, they can't acceptably fake styles they don't know, they are poor rhythm section players), they can't play the kind of music I need them to, they play too loud, they're hard to be around in some way, they don't like my project, they have substance problems, they act unethically or unprofessionally, or they aren't available when I need them. Most of these never come up— people with these kinds of problems never make it on my list of people to call in the first place. Including people who are always busy.

I'm afraid all of that may not be very helpful to the questioner— as I said, just trying to get names of people and figure out who you even want to work with can be a much harder situation. The only answer to that is to do a lot of projects, play with a lot of people, try to meet everyone doing paying work in your city, and hear them play. Then you'll begin to know who can do what, who you want to do anything with. At the same time, you will be developing yourself as a player who fulfills all of the above conditions, too. 

Monday, September 24, 2018

Cymbal & Gong and me

Public service announcement: You're going to have to put up with a lot of ranting about cymbals in coming weeks and months. I'm in the process of developing a web site for selling Cymbal & Gong cymbals, which will be connected with this site, and will have some shared content. I'm also arranging a trip to Germany (Berlin, Nov. 29-Dec. 3) to meet a lot of drummers, and bring them cymbals. So I'm thinking about cymbals a lot, writing a lot of content about them, making videos, and trying to help people... help themselves... to want to buy them... something...

...I'm going to be honest: I am not a natural salesman. You'll notice I don't spend every post slimebagging the world to buy my books, or call me for Skype lessons (see sidebar), or click on the annoying Amazon links (feh). I haven't blast-splattered the entire site with “branding” jive. I'm not dreaming of ways of copyrighting paradiddles and collecting a royalty every time someone plays one. I can't bullshit, and I feel a little sleazy being in a situation of encouraging people to buy things so I can make money; even things I think are very special, that I would be telling them to buy even if I wasn't getting paid for it.

perennial sap
At the same time, I'm not going to be a sap. I'm already giving away a ton of free content, I'm not also going to tell 500 people a day to go buy a Bugati snare drum for $3000, and give them an aromatherapy-scented hyperlink to go buy it, and get nothing out of it, like Ralph Bellamy.

I can't be apologizing for selling something every time this comes up, so I figured I would get it all out at once and be done with it.

So: Cymbal & Gong cymbals are products I feel strongly about. I got lucky to live in the same town as the proprietor, and to be acquainted with him from both being on the Portland scene in the 90s. If that hadn't been the case, I would just be buying the cymbals, and occasionally raving about them in blog posts... as I've been doing up to now.

For anyone wanting a traditional sound, they are actually consistently better than other things available, and I have spent a lot of my own money buying them. I have used them in the field and never wanted to be playing anything else; I haven't taken anything else on a rehearsal, gig, or recording session since I started buying them. Cymbal & Gong cymbals are actually the shit* and they get my fullest recommendation. Anyone interested in the kinds of things I write about on this site will love them.

I will be writing a lot more about cymbals, but I can't just do a full-on sales blitz— there has to be an informational element. I want to get away from the drum “gear” consumer mentality altogether. The more people know, and the more focused they are on actually playing and performing, the more they will appreciate what great instruments these are, and they will sell themselves.

* - I'm encouraging them to make this their actual tag line.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Daily best music in the world: Ronald Shannon Jackson with Albert Ayler

Ronald Shannon Jackson playing with Albert Ayler on the Live at Slug's Saloon album, recorded in 1966. Jackson wasn't recorded a lot at this stage of his career, and it's really interesting to hear him do the same relentless rolling thing we heard him do on a giant Sonor set in the 80s. Clearly he's more technically able than some other avant-garde drummers of the period— people who may have been going for an emotional intensity that was beyond their capabilities. Jackson also has a stronger sense of pulse than most of them— it's like listening to a mediocre bass player with weak harmonic sense play this music (another common situation), and then listening to Gary Peacock play it. It's like oh, this guy is playing off a pulse. He's a real drummer.

Jackson plays with real power, and he's obviously a strong listener. It reminds me a lot of Jack Dejohnette playing avant-garde. There's just a different quality when a real technically and musically able drummer does this kind of thing. There's more energy and more evident creativity happening; more melodic awareness.

He is awesome playing with Cecil Taylor a dozen years later, too. Cecil can be kind of punishing to me; Jackson humanizes him.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Very occasional quote of the day: soloing

“My idea of a drum solo is that you play like you sing. It comes from different things you listen to. And the beauty is always in the simple things.”

— Kenny Clarke, from 1984 Modern Drummer interview by Ed Thigpen

Friday, September 21, 2018

Three Camps video roundup

Just checking out various people's interpretations of the traditional rudimental snare drum piece Three Camps. A long time ago I did a round up sources of written versions; here we're looking at videos and audio recordings. We'll start with a version that has got to be definitive for early modern, circa mid-20th century rudimental drumming. After the break I'll comment on a number of interesting variations.

This is played by Frank Arsenault, a leading rudimental player when Wm. F. Ludwig, Sanford Moeller, et al were initially pushing their “26 Essential Rudiments” idea they made up. Three Camps begins at 2:20 in this video:

It's very interesting that on the repeat at the end he goes all the way back and does the third camp again— every other version I've seen and heard plays the four measures of the third camp and then the second camp twice. Arsenault follows a pretty strict triplet timing; in the more modern versions we'll hear later, that timing is somewhat exaggerated, emphasizing the space between the accents and the rolls. In the more traditional/amateur versions, the left hand doubles after accents are dropped in earlier, so the accent is effectively played at the same rate as the body of the roll.

There are a lot of other versions to listen to, so to avoid cluttering up my home page, I'll put them after a break. Read on...

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Transcription: Jack Dejohnette - Timeless

Biggest longest transcription we've done here in some time. This is Jack Dejohnette playing on Timeless, another essential recording by John Abercrombie. Jan Hammer also appears. I got my copy of this album at Rasputin's Records in Berkeley, California in 1988. Where did you get yours? Our relationships with recordings are supposed to be significant enough that we remember stuff like that.

This is the title track, which is somewhat overshadowed by the presence of the hypervelocitous madhouse Lungs on the same recording. This tune is very “ECM”, in the same bag as Vashkar and Dansere: slow, with a long spacy intro, a beautiful tune, and spacy soloing over a vamp, or short form. The transcription starts at 4:40 in the recording:

The entire tune is played over a three bar vamp, with two measures of 4/4 plus one measure of 6/4. Later in the tune there are some odd bars— Hammer shorts a few of the 6/4 measures, and adds a beat to one of them. It happens.

Dejohnette plays very softly for much of this, barely ever getting into anything I would call a mezzo forte; the written accents are mostly very subtle. You'll notice his hands don't move around a lot, partly because of that— swinging your arm around naturally creates too much volume when you're mostly playing a couple of inches off the drum. Dynamic situations like this are extremely common in modern playing, and complex, rebound-y, Moeller-y type technique is totally useless in them.

The main cymbal here sounds like an 18" or 20" Paiste 602 Flat Ride, for whatever that's worth to you.

Get the pdf


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Daily best music in the world: Louis Hayes

While I finish a long Jack Dejohnette transcription, and work on my new cymbal-related web site, here is a Louis Hayes album from 1960, shared on Twitter this morning by Ethan Iverson:

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Figure Control: 4/4 - Nexus riff

Let's do one of these for the rhythm in the Nexus practice loop. You'll recall, with this Funk Control / Figure Control series what I do is take a single performance rhythm and put a lot of common Reed style interpretations on it, all on one page, so you can practice playing them together easily and completely.

You could do that without me writing it out, but as you're first becoming familiar with this kind of thing, it's good to see it all together. You'll probably end up doing some combinations of things you wouldn't get to if you were just working from memory.

The top portion of the page just gives you the basic rhythm and foundational interpretations of it— there's no special need to practice them, but take a moment to study them and figure out how they relate to the base rhythm. Learn each of the practice patterns individually, then play all possible combinations of them:

A-B, A-C, A-D, through A-O
B-C, B-D, B-E, through B-O
C-D, C-E, etc

For each combination, play each measure once or twice:


Practice each sequence above many times, of course. Take care with the transitions between patterns— get them right in the practice room and you'll have better control when improvising on stage. Don't be too hihat-centric in your practicing— use all the cymbals. Pattern C and the hand unisons in patterns L and N can be played on cym/snare or toms/snare. Move patterns K and O around the drums.

Get the pdf

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Three Cymbal & Gong 22s

Here are the videos for those three Cymbal & Gong 22" cymbals, which I picked out for my friend Jakob in Munich to hear. I don't have gram weights for them, but the Holy Grail rides are a little heavier than conventional jazz ride weight— you could call them light mediums. Either one of those cymbals would be great as anyone's main axe. The Leon Collection is pretty much a medium thin crash.

A few notes on the cymbals; I gave them names to distinguish one from another, absent a gram weight:

22" Cymbal & Gong Holy Grail Ride - “Louis”
Nice complex tones all around, higher pitched.

22" Cymbal & Gong Holy Grail Ride - “Richard”
More focused, controlled sound, cool deep bell sound, big deep crash. Both HGs will be getting a patina applied to them, which you see in this photo— that will mellow their sound a bit.

22" Leon Collection Crash - “Juan”
It's a crash, but it's suitable for light riding too— with care and the right sticks. Here I'm using hickory 7As. Solid bell sound for all dynamic levels. Very interesting harmonic profile, not in a bad way; I've never heard another cymbal like it. Very live, good for some very dynamic Brian Blade-like playing, where you do some very light riding together with some very big explosive crashing.

I made another video of those cymbals, which was horribly out of focus, but the sound is good. Hit the link if you want to hear the three cymbals played together. 

I'll be keeping the Holy Grails in stock, so at least one of them will be available for purchase. If you want the LC, get in touch soon, because it will be going back to the C&G headquarters and out to who knows what drum shop soon. Hit the EMAIL TODD link at the right if you have questions about them, or if you'd like me to find a cymbal for you.

Once again, if you're in Germany near Berlin or Munich, I'll be bringing cymbals there in December. If you're in Belgium or anywhere close to it, I'm planning a similar trip there next year.

Left handed rudimental study - 01

This relates to my old, old same handed flam accents post, and my more recent left hand lead developer post. This is very left hand-intensive, with a lot of those same-handed flam accents I like so much, and some flam drags and partial pataflaflas. I'm making videos today— maybe I'll post a video of me playing this a little later.

Repeat as many times as you like and end at the fine in the second complete measure. You can play the rolls open or closed— double stroke or multiple bounce. I'm playing them multiple bounce. 7-stroke rolls here have a 16th note triplet pulsation. The 11-stroke rolls have a quintuplet pulsation— this is a more common thing than you may think. At certain tempos it gives a better sounding roll than a 16th note or sixtuplet pulsation. The quintuplet pulsation should tell you this piece will be played fairly slowly.

Observe the dynamics on the long roll at the bottom of the page— there's a fp accent at the beginning, and the rest of it is soft, and it ends soft. Alternatively, you could start it strong and do a long decrescendo, ending pp; or if you're a crass SOB, you could start it softly and crescendo to the end.

Get the pdf

Friday, September 14, 2018

Selecting cymbals

Cymbal & Gong cymbals at Revival Drums
I want to give a little context for the late talk about cymbals; mainly, what I think is good and bad, and my thinking when hand-selecting Cymbal & Gong brand cymbals for people who want to buy them through this site.

First, I'm talking about cymbals for all genres of acoustic and moderately amplified music, and for recording— meaning the full dynamic range of the cymbal is used, from extremely soft to as strong as the cymbal can play with a musical sound. I don't factor for extreme power drumming situations, arena volume, or for relentless bashing with heavy sticks. My standard for a good cymbal tone for this purpose comes mainly from jazz recordings of the 1950s and 60s, and from drummers who continued using older cymbals into the 70s.

The main questions are: how does it sound, how well does it do all the normal things you expect a cymbal to do, how does it handle when playing with an ensemble, and does it project and blend appropriately for its purpose.

Cymbals I choose for my own use have to meet the Mel Lewis standard— everything is a ride, everything is a crash. Within that I have my own categories of primary (your main cymbal on which you will do most of your playing), secondary (“left side” cymbal, contrasting the primary— usually smaller, and either heavier or lighter, maybe more idiosyncratic), crash (good for stronger, faster, more cutting accents and light riding), and hihats (obvious).

Overall impression of the sound can be clean or complex, refined or pleasantly chunky. Should have a focused ride sound free of unpleasant overtones, an excellent stick sound, bell sound, shoulder of the stick accent sound, and an explosive but musical crash. Controllability is important; I don't want the wash to easily overwhelm the stick sound in normal playing. Hihats should have a solid foot sound, and a good sizzle when played half-closed, and preferably a good bell sound. Performance should be excellent in a dynamic range of very soft to very strong.

More broadly, do I like it? Do I want to play it, or do I want to move away from it? How comfortable is it to play? Do I have to adjust my touch for it?

Things I consider to be flaws include: an overall unpleasantly crude sound, overall poorly defined sound, unpleasant overtones, over-brightness, over-darkness, metallic, washing out easily, hard to control, won't crash, piercing bell sound, weak bell sound, unpleasant gong-like overtone, too much noise/trash in the tone, too refined/glassy a sound to the point of having no body; too loud or too soft when played normally with other cymbals— especially when the crash sound is unbalanced, either underwhelming or over-loud. Too one-dimensional in either sound or function. Sounds and handles poorly at very soft volumes. Any general feeling of obnoxiousness or over-delicacy.

The Cymbal & Gong cymbals I own and have played hit a lot of sweet spots very consistently. Other cymbals I've played, owned, and gigged with over the past 20 years— which is a lot of cymbals by all major manufacturers— often have an amazingly hard time hitting even a few. That's why I've been complaining about it, and it's why you saw me suddenly overjoyed when I found the C&G cymbals a couple of years ago.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Practice loop: Nexus

Practice loop in 4/4, sampled from Nexus by Gateway— a trio of John Abercrombie, Dave Holland, and Jack Dejohnette, that put out a couple of records in the 70s, and again in the 90s. This is from an album that should be in everyone's collection: Gateway II. Tempo is 166 bpm.

This is about bright 8th notes in what is now called an ECM feel. Do your Stick Control stuff with this loop, or your Dahlgren & Fine whatnot, or, hell, any of the Funk Control pages or the Reed interpretations from which they are derived.

Video background art is by Sol Lewitt.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Cymbals news: 22s in stock, Germany trip

Video and playing notes about the 22s is here.

News re: Cymbal & Gong cymbals

As you may know by now, I'm getting into selling some cymbals through the site, made by Cymbal & Gong*, a small Portland company with smiths in Turkey, and hand selected by me. I haven't managed to translate my feelings about what great instruments these are into an actual sales pitch yet, so let's just say that for a true 50s-60s sound, they are the best cymbals I've played. Their flagship Holy Grail series is aptly named.

I have three really nice 22" ride cymbals in stock right now: two Holy Grails, one Leon Collection. The HGs are jazz weight, and are very live and higher pitched, with a nice focused sound. I'm starting to get a handle on what the LC cymbals are all about; they really seem like crash cymbals, but some of them also make really great light rides— this is one of those. A controllable light ride with a very available, extremely lush crash sound.

Videos of those cymbals coming later in the week. Check out my YouTube feed for video samples of some other C&G cymbals.

The Germany cymbal trip** is looking good! I'll be coming to Germany in December to deliver your cymbal pre-orders, with stops in Berlin and Munich, possibly Nuremberg and Dresden. If you live near any of those cities and need cymbals, hit the EMAIL TODD link in the sidebar and tell me what you need.

I'm also reaching out to people in Belgium for a trip next year, so if you live there, or Paris, Nordrhein-Westfalen, or Netherlands, and have interest, let me know.

* - If you get excited and buy something through their site, please tell them I sent you!

** -  Still looking for a catchy name for this. Cymbald√§mmerung? Becken Berlin? Becken The Saddle?

Monday, September 10, 2018

On hearing other drummers sound bad

A few thoughts that occurred to me while playing a jam session last night. I was the house drummer, and a couple of different people sat in who were playing some problematic stuff. The first thing that came to mind by way of advice was go hear bad drummers play and then don't do what they do, but then people panic and think but what if I'm the bad drummer and I just don't know it, what do I do then? 

So here are some specific things anyone can do to play better right away, that don't even necessarily require a whole lot of practice time:

• Stop playing your stuff and listen.

• The cymbal rhythm is not a leaping off point for you to do all your other awesome stuff you practiced. It is the thing. The entire point. Your entire justification for being there. Be serious about it and play time on it.

• We all practice a lot of stuff, but the only thing in music you truly own is what comes through your ear. You can't just practice some junk and then go into a playing situation and shove it in, you have to hear it. Usually you do that by listening to a lot of records, and by doing a lot of playing— and trying to make music while doing it.

• Any time you learn a groove pattern, you have to have five levels of things you can do with it. Five is a number I made up just now, but it sounds good. You can't just learn the one pattern one way at a kinda-medium volume level. You have to be able to have different volume levels and different timbres and orchestrations so you can accompany solos by different instruments, and play different parts of the tune differently so it actually goes somewhere.

• Everything you do is in service of the groove, and of the arrangement, which you're creating on the spot by the way you play the tune and interact with the other players.

 Mainly it's all about a change in attitude. Your personal statement on the drums is not everything you can play, it's everything you can play that makes it through the above filters.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Groove o' the day: Rhumba

The Rhumba was a North American Latin style popularized in the 1930s by people like Xavier Cugat and Perez Prado, which has continued to hang around in the repertoire of jazz groups. There are also variants in New Orleans music and Country music. Don't confuse the Rhumba jazz combo rhythm with Rumba, the Cuban music— they're very different. Whatever it was in the 1930s, the Rhumba rhythm as it is performed today is not clave-based— the drummer, bass, or other rhythm instrument may emphasize a one-measure tresillo-type rhythm. New Orleans variants may use a Bo Diddley rhythm, which is the same as 3-2 Son Clave.

Through a lot of playing, here is what I settled on as a foundation groove. I don't believe I ever actually practiced it off the gig, and I think that's typical. Everyone seems to have his own way of doing it. Play this on the snare drum with snares off. Left hand plays rim clicks and muffles the head, right hand plays on the head near the edge. Lift your left hand on beat 4 to unmuffle the drum.

It's a corny groove, but you can have some fun with it. That can be played with sticks or brushes, or with a stick in the left hand and brush in the right, using the tom toms, and varying the rhythm, accents, articulations and timbre however you like. You don't have to play it extremely repetitively; listen and play what fits the music.

With the feet I do any of the following, depending on what else is going on musically:

Some tunes I've had to play in this feel include Besame Mucho, Green Eyes, Spanish Eyes, I Just Called To Say I Love You, Tangerine... I've been trying to forget, actually. I know there are others. I often play Charade the way Johnny Hartman did— in 4/4 with a Rhumba on the A sections. Here's the basic thing Elvin Jones is doing on this recording, with a lot of variations— I'll have to do an actual transcription of this soon:

Philly Joe Jones often played this feel. This is from the Bill Evans album Everybody Digs Bill Evans:

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Wilcoxon weirdness

More on rolls, from a discussion on the Drummerworld forum. Look at this very strange piece of writing from Charley Wilcoxon:

From Wilcoxon's All-American Drummer

If you analyze what is written here and try to play it you will get very confused and/or angry:

What's up with the ruffs on rolls?
I see this fairly often in old rudimental literature, and I think this the way our knuckleheaded forebears would write a roll intended to begin on the second 16th note of that opening 8th note, like this:

This sticking is problematic, as is this
timing of the ruff, which I'll explain in a moment.

So the ruff is part of the body of the roll, and is played in time with it— in normal modern usage, ruffs are unmetered. I often see the familiar tap-7 stroke roll written the same way; those old rudimental guys seemed to be somewhat phobic about writing that 16th-dotted-8th rhythm:

Tap 7 written the modern way, and the old way.

What is a 12 stroke roll, and how do I fit one in that space?
It's not a common length of roll— at least it's not commonly referred to by this name. It's five double strokes and two accented taps, one at the beginning and one at the end; or two at the end. Literally:

Extremely non-textbook presentation.

Or in 2/4, in normal notation:

If you're confused by the presence of three accented taps in those examples, don't blame me— the logic of which taps are counted or not counted in the name of the roll can be kind of obscure. Take a look at Wilcoxon's book Rolling In Rhythm for many more examples of this.

So how do I play what's written in the solo? 
You can't, not with the given stickings— either Wilcoxon or the copyist has screwed this thing up. First, look at the sticking in the solo, and in my first example, compared to the sticking immediately above— the very last measure of the piece is the only one they got right. The ending accents on all of the others should be RL.

Also, the ruff is still a problem. This is what is literally indicated by the notation in the piece— with the sticking corrected:

The opening ruff is counted as part of the roll, but it has to be played at a different speed from the rest of the roll to fit it into the space it's given, which is not typically a done thing. Rolls aren't supposed to change speed.

What do I recommend? Pencil in the correct stickings, and just wing in the five double strokes (or multiple-bounce strokes), and get the timing of the surrounding accents right. Don't try to meter the internal roll speed.

Or you can try doing the ruff as in the previous example, playing it faster than the body of the roll. [NOTE: John Riley commented on the Drummerworld discussion, and he seems to favor that interpretation.] One or both of those things is/are probably what was done back then.

Or better yet, skip it and work on something interesting, and not riddled with errors. Just because Charley Wilcoxon puts something in front of you doesn't mean you have to do it. It's frankly a stupid little piece.

What's the lesson?
Don't trust everything you read. Drummers are not all infallible geniuses. Old drum notation is often shockingly unliteral. Not everything is worth the time and effort it takes to figure it out.

[h/t to Odd-Arne at Drummerworld]

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Todd's funk drill - another tweak

Another small tweak to my Reed-based funk drill, improvised by a very talented 6th grade student of mine. It's very obvious, and I don't know why I didn't think of it before. Maybe I did, but didn't think to write it up until I heard him playing it and sounding great.

This is something you can do with one of the most common rhythms occurring throughout the syncopation section of the Ted Reed book (pp. 33-45): 8th note - quarter note - 8th note or 1&-&. It happens all the time in those pages, sometimes with rests or ties on some of the notes. It's almost the entire point of those pages.

For the normal funk drill we'll take a rhythm like this, as it appears in the book:

And make it into a half time feel funk groove like this— with most of the rhythm played on the bass drum, except the 3, which is played on the snare. The added cymbal rhythm here happens to be the same as the “bass drum” part from the book, but the cymbal rhythm can be anything. Reread the original explanation of the method if you need to.

With today's tweak, we'll play the quarter note on the & of 1 on the snare drum, giving us this:

When that 8th/quarter/8th rhythm happens in the second half of the measure, like this:

The normal funk groove would be:

With this tweak let's play the 8th note on the & of 4 on the snare drum:

So with rhythm:

With this normal funk groove:

You could do our new thing on both sides of the measure, like this:

You could play these extra snare drum hits a little softer than your backbeat on 3, but I don't think you should “ghost” them— they're part of the written rhythm and they should speak. Part of the game here is that we're pretending the rhythms in the book are an actual piece of music for which you are creating an interpretation on the drum set. So the written notes should all be heard. I actually favor developing a chunky, Ndugu Leon Chancler-like feel, and playing them at an even volume with the 3.

Soon I'll write up a summary of all the variations on this practice method, or maybe I'll just put it in an e-book. Why not.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Page o' coordination: cymbal on the &s

Please forgive my lack of posting— I've been spending this last week on video and cymbal related stuff. As I mentioned before, soon we're a) adding video, and b) selling Cymbal & Gong cymbals through the site. A C&G sales trip to Germany is also in the works, so if you live there and have any interest in some very nice traditional K-type cymbals, please let me know. If you live anywhere in Europe, for that matter.

Here's a fairly rare Page o' coordination in 4/4, that should develop some refinement in the timing of your jazz cymbal rhythm. The cymbal is on the swing & all the way through, with a normal hihat part, and left hand independence part. You should also play the left hand part on the bass drum.

I imagine most students aren't going to get to the point of doing the usual left hand moves with this page. It's going to be a major timing challenge for a lot of people, and just “feeling” the syncopation isn't going to work— you have to know where the downbeats fall. Listen to your metronome, and make this rhythm between the click you're hearing, and the cymbal rhythm you're playing:

Instead of using a metronome, you should also try counting the quarter notes, and make the same rhythm between the cymbal and your voice.

Get the pdf