Sunday, November 25, 2018

Transcription: Roberto Silva - Ana Maria

First, a service announcement: I'm heading to Germany in a couple of days, so posting will be rather light. I'll be visiting some teachers and drummers in Berlin and Dresden, and showing them some Cymbal & Gong cymbals. No doubt there will be a couple of posts on this site, but most of the action will be on my Twitter and Facebook pages. If you're in Berlin or Dresden email me and I'll let you know where and when the meetings are— come meet me and play these great cymbals.

I'll try to get a few posts in before I go:

Here is one of my favorite Brazilian drummers, Roberto (or Robertinho) Silva playing the solo section of Ana Maria by Wayne Shorter, from the album Native Dancer. The transcription begins at 3:24 in the recording.

Silva is using five tom toms actively, which makes this transcription look somewhat ugly at times. There is not a lot of repetition happening, and not a lot of independence— he's not playing with an ostinato mentality. Most American drummers, when they learn to play a samba, set-and-forget the feet and play independent stuff with their hands over the top of it. They get locked into the ostinato. Here the bass drum is more interactive with the hands. Silva is more about conducting phrases than maintaining a repetitive groove. There's clearly a slow samba feel throughout, but Silva doesn't have to directly state it every second to maintain it. It reminds me of Milton Banana's approach here.

I was rehearsing this tune recently, and found it difficult to do anything with it. It doesn't just play itself. It's a useful exercise to compare the drumming on this recording with every other combo version of the tune on YouTube. Most people who attempt it are talented college students or professionals. A lot of the drummers play it with a steady groove; a lot of them stick very close to the melody, and the arrangement elements in the real book chart. Many of them double time the feel as soon as they can get away with it. Few (if any) of them are as bold and interesting dynamically as Silva. Or as deeply grooving, or as free. Silva's approach just seems fundamentally different.

It's not just the drummers' fault if these other versions are uninteresting— the rest of the band needs to listening and playing (or be willing to play) bold dynamics for the drumming to work. If they're just going to sit there and be annoyed with the drummer for playing “too loud” during that part, it's not going to happen. Nor if they just turn up their amp and leave it there the first time you get loud. We need to train them better through our playing.

Get the pdf

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Page o' coordination: basic jazz waltz - 02

Another page of basic jazz waltz materials, with a dotted-quarter note rhythm on the bass drum, which gives your waltz a more rolling feel. As opposed to the traditional, rather hokey boom-tap-tap feel.

Play the page with a swing interpretation. Learn the page as written, then learn it omitting the circled bass drum note. You can omit both bass drum notes on 1 if you want. After you can play the page with your left hand on the snare drum, practice it some more moving your left hand around the drums.

This practice loop sampled from Miles Davis's All Blues might be helpful and fun to play with.

Get the pdf

Monday, November 19, 2018

VOQOTD: Jon Christensen on technique

From Jon Christensen's Modern Drummer feature in the early 80s:

MD: What makes a drummer interesting to you? What do you look for?

JC: Having watched a lot of drummers over the years, you can tell that some of them play very correctly and that they are schooled drummers. But in some instances, that seems to have resulted in a stiff and not very interesting feel, at least in my opinion. I have always been more influenced by drummers with a more naive, spontaneous way of playing. You might even call it an amateurish way of hitting the drums, as opposed to all the drummers who play correctly.

If you look at Jack DeJohnette, who definitely knows his rudiments inside out, he has been able to incorporate all that knowledge—you might even say camouflage it so that his playing still sounds fresh. With some other players, it is too obvious that they are playing things they already know—things they have been practicing.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Open ratamacues - 01

Anyone know what the story is with ratamacues? I don't get it. Why a ruff on a 16th note triplet? As a fundamental sticking pattern they're ungainly, and as musical vocabulary they're ill-defined, tensionless blobs of junk. 

Nevertheless, in Wilcoxon's Rudimental Swing Solos there are some variations written in “open” form, in an 8th note triplet rhythm, which are a little more interesting than the standard textbook format. Here I've played with the idea a bit, with single, double, and triple ratamacues:

Try to cover the entire page in one unit of practice— 15-20 minutes. Learn it at quarter note = 120, then 160, then 200, then however much faster you want to take it.

Get the pdf

Friday, November 16, 2018

Hell of notes

I want to talk about my own playing a little bit. Here's an item from a little free-jazz show with Portland musicians Ryan Meagher and Noah Simpson a couple of nights ago:

What is going on here? How do you get from practicing notes on a page to that?

The short answer is: you just have to get the sound in your ear and go for it. It's in the same family of playing as Endangered Species on Ornette Coleman/Pat Metheny's Song X, something I've listened to a lot in my life.

It's not a display of chops— I'm going for an energy level and a texture and a certain feeling of time, and a certain interaction with the other players. When I'm playing the broken rock beat along with the guitar vamp, I'm not trying to be interesting or clever with the time. In my mind I'm not even looking to particularly feature the drums— I'm more setting up an energetic foundation the others can play over, and with.

People call this rubato, but it's really not rubato. That suggests a kind of variable, expressive tempo, which is not what's happening here— there is a pretty consistent feeling of velocity all the way through. A tempo area, I call it, and syncopations and variations in rhythm have the same effect they do in music where there's an actual stated tempo. When I play slowing-down accents on the cymbal, the feeling is not of the tempo slowing, but of tension vs. the continuing tempo area, which everyone is still feeling even though I'm not stating it at that moment.

I'm playing loud, but not harshly so. I'm not as loud as any given power-drumming funk guy. My cymbals are about at their limit. This was the loudest we played in our ~45 minute improvised set.

Everything I'm playing is easy. Maybe I'll do a post attempting to isolate some of the actual patterns I'm using. I'm really not aware when I'm doing it. Some of them are found in my e-book 13 Essential Stickings.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Mel Lewis on rub-a-dub

Loren Schoenberg, who conducted the famous Mel Lewis history of jazz drumming interviews, has begun posting excerpts from the interviews on his YouTube page. Which is lucky, because I think the source from which I originally downloaded it has dried up.

In this video Mel talks about the rub-a-dub concept, with an excellent example of it being done as a high-energy comping idea by Tiny Kahn. Most of it happens during the solos after the vocal scatting. If you have checked out Chris Smith's video outlining this idea, it should be easy to hear how Kahn is using it:

Once again I highly recommend getting Jack Dejohnette and Charlie Perry's book The Art of Modern Jazz Drumming— the meter-within-meter chapter is basically indistinguishable from rub-a-dub.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Accents in 5/4 - mixed rhythm - 01

Exhibit A for why we keep writing. I was practicing yesterday, and I thought hmmm I want to work on this one thing, and out the thousands of pages of drumming materials in my studio, none of them had this— accent exercises with a changing rhythm. It's not exactly a far-out idea.

The page is in 5/4, but that's not the point— six 8th notes and six triplets is just an easy starting place for this idea, and it happens to make 5/4.

Use an alternating sticking, starting with either hand. Easy variations would be to play the unaccented notes as double strokes, or play the accents as flams. Keeping stick heights consistently low will help your dynamics in combo playing— 4-6" for accents, 1-2" for unaccented notes.

Get the pdf

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Drum technique magical nihilist death cult

Submitted without comment, excerpts from an internet forum conversation on drumming speed training “protocols.” 

“When are you considered to have truly 'mastered' a given tempo? For example, I could continually play 16th notes at 250bpm for 1 minute. I had a teacher who said 'well, can you play 250bpm for 2 hours without making a single mistake'?

'Can you do it for 8 hours'?

'Can you do it for 24 hours'?

'No? Well, then you can't play at 250bpm'.

His argument was that technique at ANY bpm should literally take zero effort and zero tension, so if you're truly able to play at, say 300bpm, there should be nothing stopping you from playing a single stroke roll at that speed for literally DAYS on end without making any mistakes or dragging at all since it should be as easy as breathing.

So, technically, if you have truly mastered playing at 250bpm (and not just muscling it), you should be able to play a single stroke roll at 250bpm until you start actually dying of thirst/starvation

Good technique should be effortless. So, can anyone actually play 250bpm with good technique? Because if they could, they'd be able to sustain a 250bpm floor tom roll for 24 hours straight - and I've not seen anyone do that.

If you feel the burn at ANY point, doesn't that mean your technique is inefficient? A guy who can play at 260bpm should be able to hold an unbroken 260bpm single stroke roll for literally DAYS without ever feeling a burn. If he feels a burn at any point, doesn't that mean that he's muscling it instead of having efficient technique? Since efficient technique should be literally effortless?

I've often heard that good technique should use as little energy as breathing. Breathing does take a degree of energy, but you can easily do it for as long as you live without taking a break. So, technically, if you have truly mastered playing at 250bpm (and not just muscling it), you should be able to play a single stroke roll at 250bpm until you start actually dying of thirst/starvation - so for several days at least.”

End of quote. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Harmonic coordination whatsis - 02

There's an easy to play my patented new harmonic coordination whatsis™ technique— I thought about it for five minutes longer and thought of a better way to practice it. This is a way of doing the harmonic independence materials found in 4-Way Coordination by Dahlgren & Fine, with a less soul-destroying presentation. The method here is to do a very basic Reed interpretation, with varying stickings— similar to what is done in the first pages of Stone's Accents & Rebounds.

The basic orchestration: 

Using this rhythm from Syncopation as an example:

Play the melody rhythm on the cymbals, with the bass drum in unison:

Fill in the gaps in the rhythm on the snare drum:

Play the hihat (with your foot) in unison with the snare drum:

You could instead play a simple rhythm with the hihat, or leave it out altogether; putting it in unison with the snare drum just duplicates the kind of coordination used in 4-Way Coordination.

The actual practice drill: 

Do the above orchestration using sticking patterns from the beginning of Stick Control— or from my page of Stone-type patterns. For example:

This is entire area is secondary-level conditioning, after you've developed a basic drumming vocabulary. But keep this in mind if you're working on Dahlgren & Fine— there may be better ways of developing the same thing. How useful this method will be depends on your level of fluency with 4WC. It may be better at first to read the exercises the way they are diagrammed in the original book; at some point it will become useful to switch to my approach.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Another trip to Cymbal & Gong

A few videos from a quick visit with Tim Ennis at Cymbal & Gong headquarters yesterday, labeling and stamping cymbals, and picking out some Holy Grail and Mersey Beat cymbals for our demo tour in Germany.

Labeling and cold-stamping the Krut— Cymbal & Gong's version of a Turk-style cymbal.

Quick look at four Holy Grail ride cymbals— a 19", 22", 20" and another 22", which will be available for purchase on Cymbalistic soon. The other cymbals in these videos will be available for a short time, so if you like one and want to purchase it, email me soon with the exact time the cymbal appears in the video, and I can get it for you.

Two more videos after the break:

Rub-a-dub lesson: Au Privave

Something a little more challenging to try rub-a-dub style. Since it's not just a lick, but a way of playing figures and setups, musical context is important— we're trying to make some written kicks, so just doing our usual Syncopation thing won't be the best way to work it out.

Here we'll apply the concept to the Charlie Parker tune Au Privave— not a big band kicks-and-setups situation, but still educational. I've written out the exercise, plus the melody rhythm of the tune under the staff.

If you don't know the tune, play it through a few times just playing the melody rhythm on the drums— either snare drum alone, and/or with both hands in unison on the snare plus a tom tom or cymbal, and/or with the left hand along with the jazz cymbal rhythm. Listen to the recording and copy the horn's accents. Good advice for learning any bop tune, actually...

Then play the exercise as written, on the snare drum and one cymbal, then begin moving both hands around the drums/cymbals as outlined in Chris Smith's video that kicked off this whole series. Try it with the practice loop once you've got it up to speed.

As I said with the Equinox exercise, this will be helpful in learning to play Au Privave, but it's not necessarily how you want to play the tune.

Get the pdf

Friday, November 09, 2018

Linear tweak

Here's a minor tweak for the Gary Chaffee linear system, which we've been using a lot lately. I have never had a truly satisfactory way of teaching fills— there are lots of different materials for it, but none that I felt were effective and satisfying to practice for people who need this subject taught to them.

I think we're closing in on something with these recent Chaffee things. Something the average student can work on, and feel excited that they're doing something that sounds hip, that is also musically effective. They don't have to be played fast to sound good.

This tweak is to double the rate of the first one or two notes of the pattern— if the rhythm is 16th notes, make them 32nd notes, like so:

The 3/5 combination would be played like this:

It's pretty obvious. A lot of people are probably doing this already. I haven't put in the stickings, but you can do the 32nd notes as singles or doubles. Try them as singles. Do this with my recent page of practice phrases in 4/4.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Joey Baron investigated

A great extended interview with Joey Baron by Cologne pianist Pablo Held. Part three has the most drumming and performance related conversation in it, but follow the link and watch the other two videos, too:

Follow Held on Twitter: @pabloheldmusic ‏

Monday, November 05, 2018

Harmonic coordination whatsis

Hey, we're kicking around a lot of half-baked stuff on the blog these days, but I... look... if you want to see someone disappearing down the practice materials rabbit hole, visit my friend the saxophonist Dave Valdez. What he's into practicing-wise is totally bananas.

This is an idea in development, related to the “harmonic” coordination pages of Dahlgren & Fine. Those pages were constructed by layering different Stick Control-type patterns between the hands and feet— the hands do one pattern, the feet do another. When you orchestrate them normally on the drum set, what you are doing musically is: various rhythms on the bass drum and cymbal, with various stickings... while filling in on the drums with various stickings, with the hihat in unison. The way the patterns are presented obscures that, but that's what's happening: BD/cym plays a rhythm, SD/hihat fills in, various stickings for everything.

I see the value in it now— it's not “complete independence” as advertised on the cover. I'm never going to play paradiddles with my feet while doing paradiddle inversions with my hands. That's not a thing. I see it more as conditioning for moving around the drums in non-normal ways, and helping you improvise.

The way the book is written makes it harder than it needs to be. I would like to be able to do the same thing following a more musical logic, starting with a single rhythm.

Let's illustrate what I'm talking about with a basic syncopated rhythm in 3:

Play it on the cymbals, with the bass drum in unison, with all of the indicated stickings:

Those are 1) all right hand, 2) all left hand, 3) natural sticking, 4) alternating sticking. You could use any other sticking from Stick Control if you felt the need.

While playing each of those stickings, fill in on the snare drum, with these stickings:

That's 1) all right, 2) all left, 3) alternating, 4) alternating starting with the left. You'll have to work out the combined sticking of the cymbal part + the snare part as you go.

You can also do flams or double stops on the fill notes:

Or play 16th notes— as doubles, or alternating starting with the same hand as the following cymbal note.

If you want to go full Dahlgren & Fine, add the hihat to the filler notes:

That's the fundamental concept. You could do the same thing, hey, with any of the one-line rhythms from Syncopation, using whatever stickings that make sense for the rhythm. The end result is very similar to Dahlgren & Fine, but grounded in normal reading.

We'll see if this turns into a regular method, or if it's just a one-time exercise to help practice Dahlgren & Fine a little easier.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Moron bad drumming

We are all Hector Berlioz.
Following up on my bad drummers post from some weeks ago. I hate to even say bad drummers, because playing badly is not an immutable thing. I like to think that even if we're playing badly, we're still learning. There's nothing wrong with not playing well yet, as long as you're working on it and will eventually begin playing well.

I'll give you my own bad drummer experience: 

I was going to USC, in Los Angeles; at that time I was extremely green as a jazz drummer, but I played well enough that they gave me a full scholarship to go there. At least I was able to fool the department heads. I was kind of a brat, very ambitious, and very into Elvin Jones, Art Blakey and Roy Haynes. Pretty aggressive drumming— at least their playing I was listening to. I used to listen to Afro Blue before every rehearsal, and I would show up ready to really play. I wanted to kick ass and I wanted the groups I played with to be mixing it up. Hard blowing.

One day I had two rehearsals back to back, and on the break, a bass clarinet player who was on both sessions started talking to someone about “the worst drummer” he just played with. I don't remember the exact complaints, but it was clear it was a very bad drummer who played way too loud and “didn't listen” and was terrible. He probably said some other things. It took a minute for me to realize he was talking about me— he just spent an hour playing with me, neither of us ever left the room, but he started saying this with me five feet away. It's hard to believe anyone would be that unobservant, but when I said “yeah, that was me”, he seemed genuinely surprised and embarrassed. 

The “not listening” part is what got me— because I have always been a very focused listener. It's one of the things I picked up in drum corps, and developed further by doing a lot of hard transcribing. I could hear all of the other instruments in that rehearsal... as has been the case every other time someone has complained about my volume. The conventional wisdom is, if you can't hear the piano/bass/whoever, you're playing too loud— well, you may be able to hear them fine, and still be told you're playing too loud. 

I'm not saying they're necessarily right. There is a common breed of lame-ass musicians who never want to work too hard, and never want anyone else to create too much energy when they play. They survive by attaching themselves to a clique or scene, and leading the policing and criticism of other players. They're always on the offensive, deflecting attention away from their own mediocre playing. The player in my story could have been someone like that, or he could have been a serious player— to me at the time he seemed better than mediocre. He was a bass clarinet player, and those guys think the whole world is too loud. He's probably running a jazz department somewhere in Iowa now. Fine.

It would be great to dismiss people like that as just wrong, unenlightened losers, but we still have to learn something from situations like that.

My problem was, apart from the bit about not listening, I couldn't actually say for sure how wrong he was.

You have to be sure you aren't playing bad. Be aware of what's going on, how loud you're playing, and whether you're maintaining the tempo that was counted off. Are you stepping all over the other instruments? Do you never make it down to a truly soft volume? Are you getting lost and/or turning the beat around, and/or do others seem to be getting lost because of what you're playing?

You have to know those things for sure— you have to have the mental clarity to assess them while you're playing. Usually that means dialing it back; playing less stuff, listening, and picking your spots to be a genius. You also have to know the acceptable tolerances for professional playing— how loud/soft do your local professionals play, how many moments of uncertainty do you hear when they play, how much variance in tempos over the course of a tune. You also have to know the gamut of what's appropriate to play on a given tune and style, which you learn by seeing people play, and listening to a lot of records.

When you know all that about your playing, you'll legitimately be playing better, so you'll get fewer complaints, and complainers will have fewer allies. And getting criticism/complaints is very different when you know they're bullshit, compared to when you're not sure, and are just being defensive because you think the guy is a jerk and doesn't like you.

Finally: you may ask, gee, shouldn't the goal be to never have anyone complain at all?

Probably. At least we want the good players to like us. I think while a drummer is developing, it's very difficult to never offend anyone, ever. This may be the wrong instrument for that. There are a few people who are such expert, finished craftsmen that no one ever says a bad word about them. Many more people make so little an impression that no one ever feels the need to complain about them. But part of our job is creating energy, and if you're the kind of player who wants to create big energy— there's always going to be someone who doesn't want you doing that the way you're doing it. 

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Rub-a-dub lesson: Equinox

Here's an easy little lesson for doing this rub-a-dub business in a musical context, using the tune Equinox by John Coltrane. Equinox is based on some very common jazz rhythmic figures, so this should be useful for doing this in context generally.

An addition: as explained by Chris Smith, rub-a-dub is normally an 8th note thing, but there is also an easy triplet equivalent, which is illustrated in the pdf. I've written out the exercise in both 8th note and triplet form. Keep in mind, this is not about how to play Equinox— it's an exercise for practicing this idea.

Swing the 8th notes. Learn to play each version as written, then begin to improvise moving both hands around the drums and cymbals, maintaining the written sticking. The accented notes are the important accents in the tune, so try to keep those on the cymbals.

Get the pdf

I made up a practice loop of the head of the tune, for you to play along with: