Now this is the level of drum geekery I aspire to, with the defiantly gibberish post title, and everything. I was writing out a very laborious explanation of the next steps in my evolving quasi-Mel Lewis “rub-a-dub” practice method, but... let's do this: I'll show you what I've done with Exercise 1 from Progressive Steps to Syncopation— on p. 37 or 38, depending on the edition— and you can figure out how it works.
The key rhythms in interpreting this long exercise are the three-beat pattern I outlined in the last post— being able to recognize it wherever it falls in the measure, with rests or not— and the two-beat 8th-quarter-8th note rhythm, also with rests. See measure 5 in the pdf below to see how that rhythm is handled.
Those two things cover most of what happens in this piece. There are a few leftover quarter notes that don't fit within either of them; for now we'll play those on the snare drum, with no cymbal. The only other place I deviate from this basic system is when there is a quarter note on 3 and a rest on 4; I treat those as actual stops. If I was following the system exactly, there would be a double on the cymbal on 3.
First look this over and compare it to the p. 37 exercise in the book, then play it as written, with a swing interpretation, or straight 8ths. Then begin moving the unaccented cymbal notes to the tom toms or snare drum— with your right hand. Then move the left hand notes around the toms, then both hands. It's best to try to make the interpretation while reading out of Reed; but my written-out version may be helpful for initially getting the moves to the tom toms.
Next I'll attempt the same thing with Exercise 2 from Reed, which has much more rhythmic activity that does not fit neatly into the basic system. Ex. 2 has always been a big pain in the neck.
We'll see how this develops. Ideally, we want to be able to sight read the other full page exercises in Syncopation, and eventually do it while reading actual charts, while making the appropriate ensemble hits reliably. It's no good as a method for big band kicks unless we can catch the cymbals when we're supposed to while following a real chart.
By the way, I'm pretty certain that Mel did not develop this as systematically as we are doing it here. It really seems like something developed in the field, on stage, while constantly performing. Players like that sound different from today's very practiced players. It's real easy for us to sound mannered.
Get the pdf