Friday, December 28, 2018

Rub-a-dub lesson: Doxy

Another rub-a-dub lesson— getting as much of this in as I can before the end of the year, so there's a robust section on it in the upcoming 2018 Book of the Blog. This page is based on Doxy, a tune that should be familiar to everyone studying jazz.

I've done two different versions; the first sticks as close as possible to the basic rub-a-dub pattern all the way through. There are a couple of small deviations, but it's remarkable how well simply playing the pattern fits the tune. The second version starts on a different inversion of the basic pattern, and the pattern is changed more to fit the tune musically. The straight pattern may work surprisingly well, but it can sound a little formulaic if it's not broken up.

The stems-up part is the drum exercise, and the stems-down part is the rhythm of the tune:

Swing the 8th notes, of course. After you can play the exercises as written, you can begin moving your left hand to the tom toms, as well as any right hand notes that don't have a bass drum in unison. You could also omit any bass drum notes that are not in unison with a melody note, and move all of those right hand notes around the drums.

Here's a familiar lead sheet for Doxy:

Reminder: While it may come in handy for soloing over this form, and for playing some parts of the tune, this is not a lesson for how to play Doxy. You have to listen to recordings for that. What we're doing is learning to use this drumming pattern to set up and accompany normal jazz rhythms, of which this tune is a good example.

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Here is a practice loop for working on this, sampled from the Miles Davis album Bags' Groove. It includes the head of the tune plus one chorus of Miles's solo:

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Groove o' the day: Andy Newmark - Babies Makin' Babies

Here's a cool 70s funk groove in a James Brown mode, played by Andy Newmark, on the alternative version of Babies Makin' Babies, from the Sly Stone album Fresh. 

I've included the main groove and the major variations— all of these variations all happen in the first minute of the track. The hihat is played one-handed, and the splashes are very clean. I don't know what else to say about it— this is something everybody should be listening to A LOT.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2018

3+2 rub-a-dub phrases

Continuing in eking out a way of learning this rub-a-dub concept, here are a couple of pages of combinations of three-beat and two-beat patterns:

Practice these in the written meters, then try putting them into straight 3/4 and 4/4... and 5/4, if you want. There are a couple of ways you can do this:

1. Play the practice combination one time during a two or four measure phrase in 3/4, 4/4, or 5/4 time. As needed, add beats to the combination to complete the phrase. For example, if you're playing the seven-beat 3+2+2 combination in a four-measure phrase in 3/4:

Or the five-beat 3+2 combination played in two measures of 4/4:

You could also add the extra beats at the beginning of the phrase, and play the rub-a-dub combination at the end. At first play the extra beats as quarter notes on the cymbal, then improvise a time feel in the style you're practicing, or a fill.

2. Repeat the combinations, with no extra beats, along with a metronome or practice loop in 3/4, 4/4, or 5/4. Obviously, if you're playing a five-beat pattern in an eight-beat phrase (two measures of 4/4), the beginning of the pattern is not always going to fall on the first beat 1 of the phrase. Play along and listen to the click, then try counting out loud in the meter of the phrase while playing the practice pattern.

Some combinations of patterns/meters/phrase lengths will take a long time to resolve back to the beginning of the pattern falling on beat 1 of the first measure of the phrase. You can work that out if you wish; I think learning to count an eight-measure phrase in any meter while repeating the practice pattern is enough for this stage of learning this system.

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Monday, December 24, 2018

Transcription: Dannie Richmond solo

More Dannie Richmond— his solo from The Clooker, from the George Adams/Dannie Richmond album Hand To Hand. Transcription begins at 6:49. Execution of the technical parts is rather rough; and there's an actual mistake surrounding the 6/4 bar. But there are a lot of good phrases that could be lifted and learned verbatim, if that's what you're into.

Much of this should be playable as written, with a few odd little things you'll have to figure out how to handle. There are several kinds of ruffs/drags happening here— tight unmetered buzzes (end of fourth line), closed buzzes in rhythm (after the 6/4), and open 16th note doubles (7th line).

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Friday, December 21, 2018

Open ratamacues for drumset

More jazz solo vocabulary: my previous page of open ratamacues, adapted for the drumset. It's pretty simple: we've just moved the doubles to the bass drum. I eliminated the triple ratamacues because I don't like them with this orchestration. If you must do them, you can easily figure them out using the other page.

These should be pretty self-explanatory? My only recommendation is very general: don't be restricted by the meters the examples are written in. Play them in whatever meter you like, either by adding beats of rest, or just by counting them in that meter, with the same rate of quarter notes.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Practice loop: Lopsy Lu - complete form

This replaces my earlier practice loop sampled from Stanley Clarke's Lopsy Lu— this one has the whole form of the tune. Nice to actually know how to play it, just in case you ever play with an electric bass player who knows it...

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

6/8 rhythmic literacy - 01

This has been a lurking annoyance for me for a long time: students don't know how to read basic rhythms in 6/8... any of the */8 meters. It looks weird and is often explained poorly, and people are afraid to touch it, so they avoid it. So what I've done here is write out some equivalent rhythms in 2/4 (as 8th note triplets) and 6/8— it's more a rhythmic key than it is a page of exercises:

Play each measure several times on the snare drum without stopping, while counting out loud in 2, as indicated. Every example for each numbered line is played and counted exactly the same. The stems-down part is intended to serve as beat marks, but you can play that part on the bass drum or hihat with your foot, if you choose.

This page is strictly remedial— you have to do the next step, which is to get a beginning or intermediate snare drum book and read through some exercises in 6/8 and 12/8.

Get the pdf

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Dannie Richmond comping

Dannie Richmond is one of my favorite drummers, who we don't talk about much mainly because he's often hard to transcribe, and a lot of what he plays is so context dependent that it can be hard to draw general drumming lessons from it. You just have to listen and get why he's great. As a drumming conductor, he is one of the very greatest. For his playing with Mingus, I think he's right up there with Mel Lewis, Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, or any other big band drummer you can name.

This is from The Clooker, from the George Adams/Dannie Richmond album Hand To Hand on Soul Note Records. This is his playing behind George Adams's solo. Like I said, he can be hard to transcribe, and the sound here is not great, so treat this as a sketch:

There is a strong quarter note pulse, and strong hihat on 2 and 4. It's notable that his cymbal rhythm is often a little crushed— he doesn't play a wonderful, perfect cymbal rhythm a la Tony Williams. It's more about the overall energy. He plays strong accents on 1 and 4 at the beginning of a chorus or section, and also hits the 4 with the bass drum often. The dynamics of his comping are dramatic, with very soft and very loud notes. I almost certainly missed some of the very soft notes. Comping here is really about creating forward momentum. What he plays (or what I hear that he plays) is very simple, but it's aggressive, and is not predictable. Towards the end he plays some things that are basically in 6/8 within 4/4— I see these as Mingus-like horn backgrounds.

The most interesting thing to me right now is in bar 45, at 1:22 in the track; he's basically doing rub-a-dub. He does some different things than we've been doing with it— he mixes it up. If you want to learn his ideas, you could take any three beats of that four measure phrase and plug it into my Equinox exercise so the cymbal accents line up. I'll probably write this up soon, actually...

Get the pdf

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Year end Cymbal & Gong sale BASH BLOWOUT

Hey, let's see if I can blow out some of my remaining stock of cymbals before the end of the year. Remember, you can deduct December purchases on your looming 2018 taxes. It would be irresponsible not to buy!

Through December 31st, I'll offer FREE SHIPPING (USA only) on Cymbal & Gong cymbals.

For international buyers, I can offer a $40.00 discount on shipping. You pay the balance (~$10-40 for a 22" cymbal), plus whatever import duties your country requires.

Hit the links for video of each cymbal:

22" Holy Grail jazz rides, “Richard” - ~2150g / “Crawford” - 2163g — $450.00
Richard is deep, profound; Crawford is light, complex, more washy.

22" Midnight Lamp ride, “Clevon”- 2241g — $450.00
Light Turk-style ride unlathed except a few millimeters around the edge, small bell. Excellent recording and low-volume ride.

20" Holy Grail medium rides, “Idris” - 1974g and “Lee” (SOLD)- 2019g — $390.00
Idris is the lighter of the two, Lee is a solid funk cymbal. Everybody needs to own a medium ride, and C&G mediums are the most versatile I've played.

SOLD - 20" Mersey Beat crash/ride, “Freddie”- 2182g — $375.00
They call these crash/rides, but it's really a live, crashable medium. Four rivets at 1, 3, 6, 9 o'clock.

20" Kervan China type, “Ferdinand” - 1466g — $390.00
Prodigious! Strong but non-obnoxious China, nice fast crash sound.

18" Holy Grail crash, “Connie” - 1404g — $325.00
Excellent bop crash-ride. I played this on a gig in Berlin, and it sounded NICE. Great Tony Williams-style left side cymbal.

16" Holy Grail crash, “Bastien” - 914g — $290.00
Super cool, funky little crash.

If you are in Germany, and located conveniently to Berlin, there are two cymbals available for you to pick up. Prices are what you pay— no customs, no shipping.

18" Holy Grail crash, “Austin” - 1391g — 280.00€
Great medium thin crash, rides well.

16" Holy Grail crash, “Martin”- 884g  — 250.00€
Another super cool 16!

To purchase, hit the EMAIL TODD link in the sidebar under “About the author” >>>>
Tell me the cymbal(s) you want, along with your shipping address. Payment is handled via PayPal, or money order.

Visit CYMBALISTIC for more info on Cymbal & Gong cymbals, and get on our mailing list to hear about new cymbals as they come in, and future tour information.

Friday, December 14, 2018

How to play Autumn Leaves

Playing Autumn Leaves should be a no brainer for a drummer: it's an easy standard, and one of the first tunes everyone learns. No problem, except some players always do a certain zombie jam session arrangement of it, which frankly is not happening. You're probably familiar with it: a dotted-quarter/8th note stop time rhythm on the A sections, and then swing on the B and C sections. People learn to do that the first time they play the tune, and never really think about it again. The tune is so commonplace it's like oxygen, which is a good reason to go back and think about what we're really doing with it.

Let's back up: Autumn Leaves is a 32 bar minor key tune with an AABC structure. In jazz settings it is usually played at a medium to medium bright tempo with a swing feel, or sometimes as a ballad.

When played at a medium tempo, on the A sections people will often play the stop-time rhythm written below the staff:

By the end of the second A section, everyone is thoroughly sick of hearing it, and there are always one or more players who aren't sure what to do in the last two measures before the B section. I actually don't know where the idea came from— the well-known recordings all have steady time going behind the melody. The piano and/or bass may play that rhythmic figure (often with variations) interactively with the melody, and sometimes the drummer will accent it too, while continuing the time feel. On 60s recordings Miles Davis plays the opening pickups, and the band comes in on the first figure, and continues playing time— a good option.

Play the tune with sticks or brushes. You may play a 2 feel on the A section and a stronger 4 feel on the B and C— or a 2 or 4 feel all the way through. Or sometimes a spacier feel on the B and C. It's such a familiar tune, people will often change up the feel.

Better players will be aware of many recorded versions of the tune, and you should too, so you know some directions people may go with it, or that you can allude to with your own playing.

The Miles/Cannonball version and the Ahmad Jamal version have similar dark-sounding intros, and there are later versions, for example by Wynton Kelly, with a similar vibe. Ahmad goes on to have a very involved arrangement which never goes into normal jazz time.

Bill Evans's Portrait in Jazz version has a different intro, with Scot La Faro playing a repeating rhythm on the A sections, and an ensemble rhythmic figure in bars 5 and 6 of the C section, which is repeated at the very end of the tune.

The 80s Wynton Marsalis Standard Time version has a rather contrived rhythmic arrangement by Jeff Watts, which many people are aware of. Some hot-shit players may be able to jump right into it if you quote it in your playing, and you feel like courting disaster.

This version by Keith Jarrett is one of my favorites— nothing more to say about it than that. Like in the Bill Evans version, the bass takes the first solo.

That's a good basic working level of knowledge of a tune for a drummer. You should of course be able to sing it— badly— and it's not a terrible idea to learn the lyrics, too. It's a super-familiar tune that many of us doze through playing, but it's good to give this level of attention (at least) to every tune we claim to know— especially ones that get played a lot, and that have been recorded a lot.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A balanced attitude about cymbals

There's a quote from Elvin Jones where he described his process of selecting cymbals: he would go to the Gretsch warehouse in Brooklyn where the imported K. Zildjians were kept, and he would grab a cymbal out of the 20" bin, and one from the 18" bin, and two from the 14" bin, and that's it. Those cymbals were famously inconsistent in quality and weight, but his opinion was that it didn't matter— it was how you played them that mattered. Art Blakey, too, said something like “Give me a cymbal and I'll play it.”

At the other end of the spectrum are extreme “cymbalholics”, who seem to be utterly fascinated by cymbals as semi-magical entities. Some of them get so heavy into it that music seems to exist primarily as a medium for appreciating cymbals. Amazing cymbals are virtually ends in themselves.

Then you take one of the most famous cymbals in jazz— an absolute fetish object: Mel Lewis's cut up A. Zildjian, called by Buddy Rich the greatest ride cymbal in jazz:

Now, objectively: that's a funky, messed up cymbal. Lewis himself called it “a bad A.” Obviously there is a reason he kept playing it and recording it, but without knowing its history, most people would be pressed to find anything magical about it. Judging it superficially from this video alone, I give it a Cymbalholic Amazingness Rating (or CAR, something I just made up) of about a 3.5. Mediocre.

So, one of the unquestioned top 5 greatest cymbals in jazz is a surprisingly unassuming little thing, that most people would probably not choose to buy over any random new K, Sabian, or Bosphorus.

There's a different rating system I also made up right this second, which I think is more meaningful: the Player's Playability Rating (PPR, or PLAPLAR), based on how this cymbal fares in normal playing situations, played by a good player. Is it easy to play, or does it demand a lot of finesse? Is it versatile? Does its sound support its musical role, and the player's voice, or does it draw too much attention to itself for sounding too awful or too “interesting”? In performance how does it sound to the player, the band, the audience? Does it project adequately? Is it free of off-sounds that make you want to not hit it? Does it inspire you to play better... a more elusive concept than you might think: playing well does not mean being so fascinated by the sound of your cymbals that you play them too much.

By that rating system, average players using Mel's cymbal on a gig or rehearsal might rate it anywhere from a 5 to a 10, with players giving it a low score probably looking for something more “interesting”, with more body, more spread, more pleasing harmonics.

In a way, a low-CAR/high-PLAPLAR cymbal like that is telling you where your listening and playing focus should be, which is mostly not on your cymbals. Your focus is supposed to be on the piece of music in progress, and most music is not purely about fascinating sounds. Drummers are not just colorists. There is a musical structure, with a groove you're supposed to be generating, and a melody, maybe with lyrics. We're also supposed be acting as conductors, driving the band (who are playing plain old saxophones, pianos, basses) and the composition dynamically and energetically. Within that role, too much sonic interest reads as eccentricity... or “bad wallpaper”, as Peter Erskine said in another context.

Incidentally, most of the Cymbal & Gong cymbals I select have a moderate-high CAR, and a high PLAPLAR— part of my interest here is in figuring out why they appeal to me so much, since I'm endorsing them and selling them. People almost invariably love them when they play them, but I don't consider them to be flashy, high-CAR cymbals. When I play them, especially in context with other instruments, they sound normal: Oh, this sounds like a record. Which is a big deal. It's the whole deal.

Portland drummer Tim Paxton was a student of Danny Gottlieb's and said this about the Mel Lewis cymbal: “I played it and it sounded like shit. Danny played it and it still sounded like shit. It was used on a lot of recordings and Mel makes it sounds great.”

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Back from tour

school hang in Dresden
I'm back from Germany and am deep in the throes of jet lag and a bad cold, and will resume normal posting soon. I had a really great time meeting, hanging out with, and bringing cymbals to drummers in Berlin and Dresden.

Big shoutouts to Tim at Cymbal & Gong, and Michael for instigating and facilitating this whole thing. Shoutouts to Sebastian (and family, for letting my wife and I intrude on cookie day), Moritz, Tim, Valentin, Manuel from Augsburg, Heinrich, Joshua, Paul, Claas with the Laphroaig, André who charged in at the last minute and bought a 22" ride five minutes after playing it. Also to Ernst, Martial, Yorgos, Felix, Tobias, Simon, Dag, Pablo (I think!) from Barcelona, and all of the drummers at Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber in Dresden. And to Carlos in Mexico, who bought a really nice 22" ride right before I left, and Jens from Rotterdam who sat in when I was playing at Hat Bar in Berlin on the 9th— and Jonathan from Toronto for taking me on for that, and playing the gig despite obviously being deathly ill.

Shoutout to Delta for squeezing more people onto an international flight than was heretofore thought possible, and Schiphol Airport for obviously operating at way over capacity. Bonus shoutout to KLM for being way understaffed at Tegel, and for sending my luggage (and a lot of other people's) to Canada, which was nowhere on my itinerary... but at least they didn't squawk when I carried two
really heavy cymbal bags on the plane. Also to an anonymous baggage handler in Berlin who dealt with a mob of baffled foreign passengers with great composure and style— Germany is apparently full of rough, charismatic working class guys who totally have their shit together. My experience, anyway. Shoutout to Woolworth's on Potsdamer Straße, where you can get fresh t-shirts and underwear when KLM loses your luggage. Shoutout to Tabac deodorant.

Shoutout to Berlin for being a truly incredible city, and Dresden, in a different way, and Germany in general for being infectiously great. Shoutout to Planwirtschaft in Dresden for the schnitzel and bockbier, and Pivovarský Klub in Prague for the lunch specials and great scene. And to 500 ml beers and every kebab shop in Germany. Shoutout to the ice skaters and the street guy in Alexanderplatz who was screaming violently at someone one moment and asking for a cigarette very coolly in the next. Shoutout to all the glühwein, good and bad.