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.

Get the pdf

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.

Get the pdf

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.

Get the pdf

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).

Get the pdf

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.

Get the pdf

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.

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 easier way 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:

Monday, October 29, 2018

Page o' coordination: basic jazz waltz - 01

After doing this feature for about five years, I finally get around to doing a basic jazz waltz. Doing easy stuff wasn't supposed to be its purpose, but it's a familiar format, and not everyone has the time to laboriously go through Syncopation in 3/4 and work out all the coordination on the fly— the preferred method.

This is not necessarily a page of “comping ideas”; it's for learning basic coordination, so you can do the normal learning process more easily— listening to records, playing with people, getting ideas into your ears, then playing them.

This is a jazz feel, so swing the 8th notes. Learn all of the exercises as written, then learn them again omitting the circled bass drum note. Once you can play all the patterns, you can continue practicing them while doing some stock left hand moves. Try playing it with this loop.

Get the pdf

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Cymbals are IN

UPDATE: Videos for most individual cymbals are now on YouTube, including the Swish and Krut. Videos for more Holy Grail cymbals coming tomorrow.

Amazing day Friday picking out cymbals at Cymbal & Gong headquarters here in Portland. I continued to be amazed at the quality and consistency of their products.

Among the things I picked up, and currently available for sale on my Cymbalistic site:

• 18, 20, and 22″ Holy Grail — These are the classic K sound. Ten fantastic rides and crashes, all in jazz weight. Many folks have been interested in 20 and 22″ rides, but these 18″ crashes are GREAT— I encourage you to consider them.

• One set of 15″ thin Holy Grail hihats. That thin, washy, dark 50s sound. I played several equally good sets.

• 20″ Mersey Beat ride— I have two currently available.

• 22″ custom Turk-style ride— or “Krut”, as the smiths call it— unlathed, thin, with a low, complex sound, with good definition.

• 20″ Swish. I’ve never gotten to play C&G’s Swish cymbals before, and they were very interesting, with a unique profile— larger bell and wider flange than is found on most other brands. Medium-thin, available sizes from 18-24″.

I got to play another interesting custom line, “Midnight Lamp.” It is cosmetically similar to another brand’s “Anniversary” series, but these are a whole different thing. Dark, well-defined, somewhat more aggressive than the Holy Grails. These were special-ordered by a dealer in California, who has first option to buy them. I think they’re very cool, and will buy them if that dealer passes.

Here is a very rough edit of the video from the session, with me and company owner Tim Ennis. Videos and descriptions of the cymbals I picked out will be coming on the Cymbalistic site in coming days.

List of cymbal models played and times after the break:

Friday, October 26, 2018

Syncopation p. 37: rub-a-dub method, mach 1

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

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Chaffee linear patterns in context - 02

Yes, I'm determined to finally resolve some minor issues I have in practicing Gary Chaffee's linear thing. Today let's work through a short phrase that will be useful in jazz settings, starting after the 1, and ending with a cymbal accent on the last note of the pattern, on the swing &-of-4:

As you can see from the practice examples at the bottom of the page, you can easily play these exercises in 3, 4, or 5. Vary the accents and move your hands around the drums. The hihat can be substituted for the bass drum on all notes except the ending cymbal accent— if you're doing that, ignore the stems-down hihat ostinato part during the fill, of course. That ending cymbal hit is tied though the following beat 1; let the accent ring through beat 1 after the repeat, and come back in on 2, paying special attention to the timing— people tend to rush it.

As I was practicing this I realized I could do the same thing with the patterns in the book (Patterns, vol. III by Gary Chaffee), all forty of them. But sometimes it's nice to pare things down to something you can cover in a tight 15-20 minutes. And these exercises cover all the major moves— working through the complete set of patterns involves a lot of duplication.

Get the pdf

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Practice loop: Sivad

This is a fun one, and just about my favorite ~45 seconds of music in the world: the opening of Sivad, from the Miles Davis album Live Evil. Tempo is 86 bpm. Rock out.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Developing a method for rub-a-dub

I've been working up a practice method for learning what Mel Lewis called rub-a-dub I hate to use his term, because I only just saw it explained for the first time in Chris Smith's video. I don't know enough about how it applies to Lewis's playing to claim I'm doing his thing. But I've used the same basic idea for many years, usually in the context of a modern, ECM-type feel. I can write about that, and work out a way of applying it to ensemble figures, and maybe approximate Mel's thing as explained by Smith. Or maybe it will just be something different, but still useful.

Basically it's a simple all-purpose idea for playing and filling around big band figures, and I'll be exploring some ways of working it up using the syncopation exercises from Progressive Steps to Syncopation (pp. 32-44 in the old edition). This will certainly evolve as I continue working with it. For now I'm trying to develop a very basic interpretation so we'll have some hope of executing it on the fly with the full page exercises in Reed.

Here's the basic rub-a-dub lick, played with the left hand on the snare and the right hand on the cymbal:

The snare and bass rhythm without the cymbal:

That rhythm written as one voice occurs throughout Syncopation, so that will be our main place for introducing the rub-a-dub:

Here's the rhythm in Syncopation— we most often see it starting on beat 1 or 3, less frequently as an equivalent rhythm starting on beat 2 or 4:

A basic way of playing that figure rub-a-dub style would be:

That ending quarter note could be played on the snare or bass drum.

In other instances that 8th-quarter-8th rhythm includes rests, which could be played by just dropping snare drum hits to match the written rhythm:

The 8th-quarter-8th rhythm repeating give a clue on how to handle running 8th notes:

This is only a beginning, of course. We're reconciling a few different concerns: doing the rub-a-dub lick, designing a system that will be readable with the long exercises in Reed, while making sense in terms of playing big band figures. Somewhere on the radar should be the idea of suggesting a standard time feel— jazz, funk, or samba— for when there is no obvious rub-a-dub type interpretation for a rhythmic passage, or when we need some variety.

Playing out of the book will be challenging, especially with the full-page exercises; interpretation is very dependent on the context. The way you play a rhythm will depend on what comes before and after it, so you may play a rhythm differently in the full-page exercises than in the one-line exercise. You can use a simple long-note/short-note interpretation with the cymbal in unison to get through parts where it's not obvious what to do.

Anyone actually playing around with this rub-a-dub idea should also check out Jack Dejohnette and Charlie Perry's book— they outline a method very similar to what Smith describes, that will be very helpful in working it up.