Monday, November 04, 2019

Groove o' the day: Airto - Street Vendors D'Jmbo

A baiao-type drum set groove from Airto— actually I don't know what to call this. I'm not hearing obvious markers of a particular style. Maybe Airto's just playing. Someone who really knows their berimbau rhythms could probably tell us. It's from the track Street Vendors D'Jmbo, on Airto's album Homeless. It's a sort of impressionistic percussion and vocal piece, backed with some synth.

From the intro:



This is the groove for most of the track, with subtle variations— there's a lot of overdubbed percussion and I can't tell what's happening with the left foot, if anything.




It's actually not difficult to hear that second groove backwards, starting on the fourth beat, so the bass drum rhythm is on 2, and the snare drum accent with the buzz is on 3. 

You can hear that he's swinging the 16th notes in an interesting way, that is different from the “tripteenth” interpretation we've discussed before. Some of the effect is due to the interaction of the percussion parts, but it sounds like occasional 16ths on the a are played late. Or perhaps the a is in the normal place and the 1e& is slightly compressed. Something to explore in another post.


Sunday, November 03, 2019

Rhythms for Reed samba method

A special selection of syncopation rhythms for use with this multi-post samba method in progress (the main post is still to come), but obviously you can do other things with it. It would be good for working up some Ed Blackwell-like solo vocabulary on the tom toms, for example. I've written out the filler rhythms, filling in the gaps in the main rhythms, and some basic variations on them.




Like several recent similar pages, this is written for speed and flow with both parts. The main rhythms have no more than two notes in a row at 8th note speed, and no more than one 8th note between notes. Column A has the plain filler rhythm, column B has the filler rhythm plus the following note, column C has the filler rhythm plus the note before— except where that would result in more than two notes in a row at 8th note speed.

It takes a lot of words to describe it, but these are normal forms of coordination on the drums.

Coming next week will be the main page for the samba drill.

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Thursday, October 31, 2019

Very occasional quote of the day: Fast City

Omar Hakim speaks to Modern Drummer when he was with Weather Report in the mid 80s:

RT : How did you learn to play bop so fast? 
OH : I don't know. With much difficulty. No, with me, playing fast is a relaxation thing. You start to come up with tricks to get that right hand moving. And then it's not always the cymbals; you've got the hi-hat you're working with. To play that kind of bebop is a hands thing. The bass drum is giving the accents and dropping the bombs during the solos. The bass drum is weaving. “Fast City” is one of the fastest songs I've ever played. There were a couple of songs I did like that with Mike Mainieri, but you learn your tricks for doing it. 
RT : But it's funny you would say you had to relax to play at that speed. 
OH : You've got to relax. Before you tense up, you've immediately got to say it's not fast. Victor and I had a long discussion about that when we were learning it. Don't think of it as fast. It's not fast. Never mind the fact that you're going to pass out when it's over; it's not fast.

Here's the tune he's talking about— Fast City by Weather Report, here with Peter Erskine on drums:

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Reed samba method - basic exercise

This is the first in a multi-post series outlining some ways of using Progressive Steps to Syncopation to do a samba. I usually use actual Brazilian rhythms for that, but many of the rhythms in Reed work too.

The first thing is a preparatory exercise for doing a surdo-type part on the tom toms— a basic structure for that feel, and a couple of rhythmic moves that will occur when working out of Reed. Typically this involves a high drum on 1 and a low drum on 2 (counting in 2/2), and sometimes a low drum on the whole last half of the measure— at the end of a two, four, or eight measure phrase. The sticking is simple, but it does have to be worked out to catch the right drum at the right time.




Accent the toms, especially the low tom on 2. Play the snare drum hits generally quietly, adding some accents as you see fit. You can also play rim clicks on the snare drum. I was doing this with the Hot Sand loop, which is a pretty bright tempo.

You should get my book, Playing Samba and Bossa Nova for some practical guidelines and materials for playing these styles. Also see my series of posts on samba cruzado for another way of doing the type of groove in this post.

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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Transcription: Kenny Clarke fours - 02

Put this in your binder with Kenny Clarke's fours from Love Me Or Leave Me that I posted a few years ago. Here he's trading fours on Two Not One from the album Lee Konitz with Warne Marsh. For some reason he has me thinking about Philly Joe Jones— I never thought about Joe being especially a Kenny guy, but I'm feeling a strong semblance here. The tempo is bright, fours begin at 3:55.




As usual, Clarke doesn't play the tom toms at all. The triplet lick in the first two lines, that happens several more times, I suspect is played with a paradiddle sticking starting with the left hand— either LRLLR or LRRLR (I prefer the latter). At the beginning of line 3 play five-stroke rolls ending with stick shots. On the last two measures of line 5, you can start with our previous paradiddle lick, then two double paradiddles, then singles. Or do the whole things as singles. Pencil in whatever sticking you want to use. Use a RRL sticking on the triplets in line 6. The four-stroke ruffs in line 7 are some little personal flash lick of Clarke's; what I wrote appears to be what is played— you can really play them however you want.

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Monday, October 28, 2019

Amazingness in cymbals

Making videos of some new cymbals for sale today, so it's a good time post this thing that has been sitting in my drafts folder for some months:


In selling these fantastic Cymbal & Gong cymbals, I've been trying to work out how to advertise their strength: how well they do their actual job as musical instruments. All of the other professional players who play them say the same thing: they sound like cymbals— they sound like 95% of records we ever listen to.

It sounds obvious. Don't all cymbals sound like cymbals? Not always. It's a big deal. They sound like cymbals the way Charlie Haden sounds like the bass. Sounding the way the instrument is supposed to sound can be pretty rare.

In the cymbal-enthusiast world the sought after sounds tend to be sweeping, lush, dark... bottomlessly dark. Big amazing sounds that stand out from all the other big amazing sounds in the drum shop. This is a community of people buying 22 and 24 inch crash cymbals— useless items at any other time in history— dreaming about 26 inch cymbals, edge wobble, bendability. People love brutally bending the crap out of cymbals to demonstrate... something...

The sought-after sounds are dwaaash and whooosh. Sort of a bwaaaah or a durshaaaah sound. If you can get a good bwaaaaorrrsssh with a single stroke of a 7A, you know you've got something. The presence of a bizarre slinky-like tonality is regarded as very interesting.

The problem: I can't use any of that in actually playing music. I'm a player. I can't use a cymbal that goes dwaaaah when I play it at a mp, and GWAAAARRR??? when I play a mf. I can barely use the first sound, the second one is right out. I see a lot of cymbals like that in drum shops. On the rare occasion that I hear a cymbal like that on a record, it's usually a distraction. It sounds out of place.

Musical needs
What music normally requires from the cymbals are a ride sound, a crash sound, and a bell sound. With ride cymbals we also need an accent sound— with the shoulder of the stick, not a full-on crash. A crash cymbal needs to give an explosive crash sound, and be usable for light riding. With hihats, a solid foot sound and open sound, and a closed sound played with a stick. Some people also play a bell sound on the hihat. It's a nice bonus if we can get a good crash out of the hihats. From a Chinese-type cymbal we need a short trashy crash sound, and perhaps some kind of ride sound, while not being too wild or obnoxious.

Playability
The best cymbals— or the best cymbals for you— produces those sounds at an appropriate volume for the situation, the way you normally play, with your usual sticks. Playing your normal situations shouldn't demand any special care in how you hit the cymbal.


Font created to get people
to download the font
Being the what
Music is always about what is played. Sound is important, but it's secondary to what is played, in what context. The sound has to communicate the what, not be the what.

Sounds that “are the what” are known as effects. The point of them is to make one special sound that jumps out at the listener. Nobody wants to have the one crazy sound leaping in their face all night, so they have to be used with some care. As Peter Erskine said in another context: sounds that are too “interesting”, used too much, can be like bad wallpaper. Or like reading a novel rendered in a “cute” font.

Strictly business
I know we're all serious artists here, but playing the drums is also a job. We are buying tools for doing a job, and big purchases for things like cymbals need to make some kind of business sense. Our tools need to be versatile enough to handle a significant part of our performance obligations. I can't be spending $700 on something that is only usable, with great care, in a narrow range of situations... and even then, if you poll the band, it may not even be doing that very well.

Drummers don't usually have a lot of money. When we buy something, we need to be able to use it happily forever— or for many years, at least.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Hemiola funk - doubles - beginner sheet

Getting into doubles with my hemiola funk series— two notes in a row at 16th note speed on the same drum/cymbal. Using the same format as the last beginner sheet, which I've found to be effective with my younger students.

Patterns 13 and 14 are the essential idea we're developing; patterns 1-12 isolate the elements, and begin playing them in sequence. Patterns 15-28 put the idea in 2/4 (with inversions) and 4/4, and re-orchestrate it slightly. 




Play patterns 1-12 several times, with an unmetered rest in between repetitions— play it once, take a breath, and play it again. Play patterns 13-28 one time as with 1-12, then play them repeating.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Practice loops: two McCoy loops

A couple of practice loops sampled from McCoy Tyner. The first is from Reaching Fourth; it's the vamp from Old Devil Moon, and at 142 bpm it's a nice medium tempo, good for working on any of your normal jazz materials:




Then a short excerpt from McCoy's solo on Song of the New World. Too short; do go listen to the whole album with Alphonse Mouzon on drums. Nobody really talks about the type of vibe that's happening here— high intensity blowing in a straight 8th feel— but it's as much of a thing as an “Elvin-type” feel, or an “ECM” feel. It's not Latin, not a samba, not funk, not anything else. You could call it a McCoy thing.

Tempo here is 220, which is kind of a crux tempo for this style— your right hand wants to imitate McCoy and play a lot of running 8ths, but it's a little too fast to do that the whole time; settling into a half time vibe also doesn't quite make it. You have to straddle the two.

Sorry I mis-titled it “Song FOR the New World” on the video.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Transcription: Jack Dejohnette - Peasant Dance

Hey, the longest transcription we've done in awhile, here, a three pager. It's Jack Dejohnette playing on a very interesting record I had not really heard before: Peacemeal, by Lee Konitz, recorded in 1969. It's a quintet, with Konitz on alto and tenor, and some electronic device, and Marshall Brown on valve trombone and baritone horn. This is a jazz arrangement of Peasant Dance, from Bela Bartók's Mikrokosmos. This is the blowing over a vamp starting at 1:20. 




It was difficult at times for me to isolate the bass drum from Eddie Gomez's bass playing, so I probably left some out, or put some things in that were actually the acoustic bass. Dejohnette swings his 16th notes for much of this; relating that back to this recent post, that's equivalent a normal jazz tune played at quarter note = 230— getting towards the upper limit for swinging the rhythm.

After the recent Max Roach series, I like the idea of making study guides based on transcriptions— maybe I'll get to that later in the week.

Get the pdf 

Sunday, October 20, 2019

What it is: beats and BPM

Following up the tempo equivalency post from the other day:

There's a lot of confusion among drummers on the internet over what “BPM” means. I don't want to have to re-explain it every time I mention it, so I'll link back to this as necessary.

It means beats per minute. It does not mean notes per minute. Drummers on the internet like to talk about speed, and talking about numbers of notes gives you higher numbers, which makes it more fun, so they talk about numbers of notes. It's become a thing largely thanks to Metal drumming and the World's Fastest Drummer competition, and it's a symptom of people not understanding how rhythm, meter, and music work generally.

beat is the primary felt pulse of a piece of music. If people were dancing or marching or tapping their feet, it's the pulse they would be dancing/etc to. If there were a conductor, it's the thing his or her conducting pattern would be marking.



A legit tempo or BPM indication consists of a number + what kind of note the number refers to, e.g. quarter note = 100 beats per minute. If the note value is not indicated, it is assumed that the number refers to the normal beat for the time signature of the piece, e.g, quarter notes in */4 meters, dotted quarter notes in regular */8 meters, half notes in */2 meters.

For talking about speed without a specific musical context, I give the rhythm value, the beat value, and the tempo, e.g 16th notes at quarter note = 120. Sixtuplets at quarter note = 140. The default beat value is typically quarter notes. Absolute speed of notes as a statistic, without a rhythm or beat reference, is for me not musically meaningful— there's no reason to assign numbers to that, unless people are just into training for its own sake.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Syncopation exercise: singles, doubles - 2-3 8th intervals

Another original syncopation exercise. The last one had single notes, spaced one or two 8th notes apart. This one has one or two notes in a row, one or two 8ths apart. Both are really designed for speed when playing the right hand on a cymbal (often with bass drum in unison) or tom toms, with the left hand filling in— with that interpretation you never play more than two notes in a row with either hand. 




See our voluminous archives of Reed interpretations for ways of orchestrating this for the drumset. 

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Friday, October 18, 2019

About vibe

Vibe: a scientifically accurate illustration
I've been thinking about something the saxophonist Donald Harrison said in a clinic some months ago:

“Music is about vibe. Music is all about vibe.”

It was a useful comment for him to make in the context of critiquing a group of student musicians who had just given a very tepid performance of an often-played Jobim tune. Music may not actually be all about vibe, but for me the message was you have to think about vibe. Thinking about vibe means thinking like a producer, which means thinking about the total product, and how your music sounds to a general listener.

Being too much about vibe is also a current thing. I get most of my new music from Portland's excellent jazz station KMHD, and I hear a lot of stuff that doesn't make it for me, because it seems to be about nothing but a sort of feeling of non-specific hipness, with no real depth. It sounds like it was mostly created in post on a laptop, and I come away thinking “what is this for?”

I don't need any piece of music to justify itself with a purpose, but I should not be listening and thinking “this music has no purpose.” I don't know what this Decoding Society record is “for”, but it never occurred to me to think about it. It's just inescapably great and that's it. What is Song X for? It's just pure sonic art, no further justification needed.

Some music does evoke more specific feelings. Azymuth feels like cruising on La Grande Cornice in your Mercedes convertible, wearing some very crisp whites and being beautiful. Bill Frisell feels like living in a silent art film. Ligeti feels like living in the mind of a genius Swiss serial killer.

And there are other competing issues, which you could say music is “all about”:

Groove, for example. Groove is not vibe, but often what people think is groove is really vibe. Groove is not about signifying something funky sounding. Defining it will have to be a subject for another post, but serious preoccupation with groove supersedes and forgives everything else good or bad about a piece of music.

Pop craft is its own thing, and is not vibe. Pop songs may have vibe, but specifically crafting something for effect on the radio, to hook listeners to want to listen repeatedly, is something else.

Genre is all-important for genre fans, who want one formula, repeated forever. Whatever originally attracted them to that music, they want that to continue, and something is good if it fulfills that expectation. For more discriminating listeners, genre pieces need to include some fresh element to make them sound like unique, memorable works.

Vocalists and featured instrumentalists have to think about how they render a melody; composers have to think about the pure application of melody and harmony. Those are not vibe, and you can succeed in those things without thinking about vibe. There's probably more, but I have things to do. It's something to think about.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Groove o' the day: Milton Banana - Samba do Perdão

A moderate samba groove using the tom toms, from one of my favorite Brazilian drummers, Milton Banana. He plays this briefly at the beginning, middle, and end of Samba do Perdão, from his album O Trio. Briefly is the only way to do it; the track is only 1:45 long. The entire record is under 29 minutes.

Here I've transcribed the groove from the end of the tune:




Note that there's no hihat played with the foot— as is often the case with a lot of drummers.

During the body of the tune he uses both of these one-measure grooves— mostly the first one, with the second one as a variation. A few times he plays them both in sequence (minus the rim click on the & of 4) to make a two measure groove.




This tune is the first one in the video, and the transcription above starts at 1:32. Banana has a way of sounding like a conductor when he plays figures and fills— the attitude feels different from someone who's just playing the arrangement.


Monday, October 14, 2019

Equivalency of tempos

Object To Be Destroyed
by Man Ray
A rhythm issue I've been thinking about is the equivalence of tempos and their halves and doubles. I was wondering how small a range of tempos would cover the entire practical range of performance tempos. A mathematically minded individual could probably figure it out in a second, if he knew anything about music. I checked, and he doesn't, so I had to actually think it through myself.

The answer is 52-100, which includes sixteen standard metronome markings:

52 54 56 58 60 63 66 69 72 76 80 84 88 92 96 100


Let's walk through it:

Standard metronome tempo range: 40-208
Before digital metronomes, that's what they used to mark on all metronomes. It's a realistic practical tempo range for most music.


Tempo range in actual performance: 25-400
At least, there are examples of recorded music in approximately that range. Tempos from 200-280 are common in jazz, tempos from 280-400 are increasingly uncommon. Quarter note = 400 is an extreme tempo, and is very rare. Let's consider that the outer limit of what a very ambitious jazz drummer will ever be asked to perform. We can have a conversation another time about whether a 400 bpm pulse can even be considered a “beat” in any meaningful sense.

You can decide for yourself how to approach very slow tempos. Dig into Shirley Horn's recorded works to get an idea of the practical lower tempo limit in jazz.


Traditional standard bpm values for mechanical metronomes: 
40 42 44 46 48
50 52 54 56 58
60 63 66 69
72 76
80 84 88
92 96
100 104 108
112 116
120 126
132 138 144
152 160 168
176 184 192
200 208

A total of 39 markings. Note that if we halve the values from 40-76— 80 and above are doubles of lower values— they increase in single bpm increments from 20-30, then 1.5 beat increments from 30-36, then a two beat increment from 36-38.


That's the answer: 40-76
We can derive all of the values above by doubling the values from 40-76. I've extended that to cover our entire range up to 400 bpm, or 54 markings:

40 / 80 / 160 / 320
42 / 84 / 168 / 336
44 / 88 / 176 / 352
46 / 92 / 184 / 368
48 / 96 / 192 / 384
50 / 100 / 200 / 400
52 / 104 / 208
54 / 108 / 216
56 / 112 / 224
58 / 116 / 232
60 / 120 / 240
63 / 126 / 252
66 / 132 / 264
69 / 138 / 272
72 / 144 / 288
76 / 152 / 304


More practical answer: 52-100
Most of us don't play or listen to a lot of tunes in the 40 bpms— it's not real familiar terrain, musically. The 52-100 range is much more common in day to day usage. Double everything twice, and half-time the tempos from 80-100 to get the metronome range plus the faster jazz tempos.


For slow-click practicers
Working with a slow click, regardless of the actual tempo you are practicing, is an extremely effective way of developing your time, so here are the 40-76 tempos halved.

20-30 (1-bpm increments)
31.5 33 34.5 36 38

Most metronomes won't let you use decimal points, so you'll probably have to get these by using the 40-76 numbers, and setting the device to give you downbeats every two beats, and then silence the quarter note pulse. If you're really sick in the head, you could do the 10-19 gamut by setting it do give you downbeats every four beats, and silencing the quarter notes.


Conclusion
So, the real range of tempos is fairly small, if you think in terms of this matrix-type concept. Being aware of it may help you structure your practice, and improve your concept of time and rhythm overall.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Syncopation exercise - singles, 2-3 8th intervals

Let's start a little series here: some full page syncopation exercises, each designed for a special purpose. Good for fluency and ease of practice with certain practice methods, good for a particular challenge with others.

This one has single notes, quarter or dotted quarter (or equivalent) spacing— good for 2/2 or fast 4/4 8th note applications, or anything based on two and three note patterns. Excellent for playing with a bossa or samba feel. For triplet methods, the Ruff Bossa will be easy, the right hand accent/left hand fill way will be a challenge. Good for a floating feel with my Elvin-type method with broken triplets*. Not a lot of interest here for any long note/short note methods. Of course you can do anything with it.




* - I can't find the original link outlining my Elvinish broken triplet method, so a quick explanation:

A standard Reed method is to play the written melody rhythm on the bass drum; fill in the remaining triplet rhythm with the left hand on snare drum, add jazz cymbal rhythm and hihat on 2 and 4.

My way: Any time you would play more than two successive filler notes with the left hand, break it up by not playing any triplet partials on the downbeats. So your LH never plays more than two triplet-spaced notes in a row. You could also play only the middle partial with the LH when there's a bass drum on the &. I like to mix it up. 

Get the pdf

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Daily best music in the world: two bootlegs

Two good live bootlegs that have been shared among my Facebook friends recently— you'll want to friend both of these guys, because they put up a lot of good stuff.

From the great bassist Glen Moore, one of my favorite bands ever, and one of the least-recorded, Ornette Coleman's two-bass quartet with Charlie Haden, David Izenson, and Ed Blackwell, playing at Shelly's Mannehole in Los Angeles in 1967:




Shared by the drummer Alan Cook, it's Jack Dejohnette's New Directions quartet with Lester Bowie, John Abercrombie, and Eddie Gomez, playing in Portland in 1978:


Friday, October 11, 2019

Very occasional quote of the day: let go lightly

“When I let go of what I am, 
I become what I might be.”
— Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

“I used to call myself a free jazz drummer, now I just want to play tight arrangements.”
— Todd Bishop

“Hang on tightly, let go lightly.”
— The Croupier


This is an important idea for me— for developing and continuing to develop as an artist, but also practically for learning how to play. Ambitious students are aggressive about forming a concept of themselves, about getting ideas about how things are done, and about learning what they're turned on by, what kind of art they want to do.

The process is about finding things to be attached to, and then working really hard developing them. You get ideas like I'm an Elvin guy. I'm a free guy. I'm a “hard hitter.” Whatever. “This is my technique.” Eventually you have to let some other things in, or you become one-dimensional. The effect may be to just broaden your range, but you also may end up being into the exact opposite kind of work you thought was irrevocably “your thing.”

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Common time

The pedant is a disturbingly-slender,
reedy-voiced, scrutinous man.
There's a lot of confusion about rhythm, making the subject an easy target for low-grade, often barely-informed pedantry. See any internet music forum, or rehearsal of college age players, or gathering of amateur musicians.

Your hard-core rhythm pedant doesn't care if it's easy for people to do actual musical work, he cares about textbook precision— his version of it, anyway, because he may actually know jack squat on the subject. He just likes bringing conversations to a screeching halt and changing the subject to one he's comfortable with: music theory pedantry.

Sure to drive such people bananas is the useful idea of common time functional equivalence— referring to rhythm functions by their values in 4/4.

Most drummers learn early in their education that:

Quarter notes = “one beat”
Half notes = “two beats”
Whole notes = “four beats”
8th notes = the hihat rhythm— a two-note subdivision
16th notes = hand-to-hand fast notes— a four-note subdivision
Triplets = the triplety things— a three-note subdivision

And so on. Simple, obvious references for rhythmic values. Students will be screwed for really understanding rhythm if they get too attached to them, but they're usable for initially getting it.

As you learn more, you discover that all of that always depends on the time signature. There is no blanket term for a one-beat rhythm, or for a two, four, or three note subdivision. For example:

In 2/2 (or cut time), a half note = one beat
In 12/8, a dotted quarter note = one beat
In 3/8 counted “in 3”, an 8th note = one beat  
In 2/2, a quarter note = a two-note subdivision
In 3/4 counted “in 1”, a quarter note = a three-note subdivision
In 12/8, a quarter note = a three-note subdivision over two beats, the equivalent of a quarter note triplet in 4/4.  
In 4/4, a three note subdivision = 8th note triplets
In 6/8, a three note subdivision = 8th notes

So, to talk about ordinary rhythmic concepts like beats and subdivisions, we either have to refer to the correct rhythm for the current meter (and interpretation of that meter), or we have to say two/four/whatever-note subdivision of the beat, and get into rhythmic terms that most people don't knowIt's annoying, and tends to confuse students, and readers.

So for the sake of having a functional language for rhythm, I often use the common understanding of those rhythms, and refer to them by their values in 4/4.

This is not just for convenience because everyone is so poorly educated about rhythm; it's also an objective reference. 4/4 is called common time not just because a lot of music is written in it, but also because it's the native meter* for our system of notation. The whole note is the fundamental rhythmic value from which all the others are derived, and a whole note = one whole measure of 4/4 time. For our system of rhythm and meter, 4/4 is normal.

We're using 4/4 as a reference point in a similar way to other instruments using the major scale as a reference point when talking about modes and other types of scales. 

The point of this is that in drumming, we have some common rhythmic functions like the beat, and the two note subdivision, and the four note subdivision, and the three note subdivision, and quarter note, 8th note, 16th note, and triplet, respectively, are the best known words for those things.

So regardless of meter, I may refer to notes of a four note subdivision as “functioning like 16th notes.” That comes up most frequently in 2/2, where 8th notes are the four note subdivision. As I mentioned in this post, 12/8 inherently uses a three note subdivision, which I'll refer to as a “triplet feel”, and refer to the parts of individual beats of 8th notes the same way I do 8th note triplets in 4/4.

You do have to educate people on the correct terms and theory, so I don't make these references casually. That's what hacks do. I use the words feel and functioning as, and explain what is meant by them.

* - Meter = time signature = time. The terms are practically interchangeable. I prefer to say meter. Time signature sounds like it refers to the written indication that tells you what meter the piece is written in, but I don't know any musicians who make that distinction. Musicians say time signature or time or meter or meter signature

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Four drum solos

After Ginger Baker finally died the other day, I was thinking about his playing, and the playing of some of the other big drummers to come out of the late 60s. I listened to a lot of drum solos last weekend, and wanted to offer some notes on them.

It's kind of silly to talk about these like they're pieces of music; the idea was to make a spectacle out of the drummer going crazy and shaking his hair and blowing everyone's mind by going fast, for a long time. People used to mention how long the solos would go as evidence of how good they were. But they are music, too, and in any case, that's the only way I know how to talk about the drums. So here we go:


“Toad” - Cream - Ginger Baker
I don't think I've ever listened to this all the way through, nor the much longer solo on Wheels of Fire— I'm trying to listen to that as I write this, and I completely lose focus about every 15 seconds, and finally I just want to turn it off.

I don't enjoy Baker's playing, but he was clearly very influential. The previous big drum thing in rock was Wipeout, which is very Mickey Mouse by comparison. Baker is bringing sort of a Buddy Rich / Louis Bellson type of vocabulary into the rock world— he cites Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, and Max Roach as influences, but I hear nothing of them in his playing. To me it's a straight bam-bam style rendition of big band drumming.

Baker wrote the tune, and it's nice. Most things in this category seem to just be simple blues riffs with some solo breaks.





“Moby Dick” - Led Zeppelin - John Bonham
John Bonham was to all appearances a big, simple, heavy drinking British farm country lummox, but he was a real musician, and to me this is the best, most musically successful, of these types of solos. It's concise, it has very effective dynamics, and melodic and sonic interest, and it develops nicely. It made musical sense to me as a 13 year old, and it makes sense to me now. It's just a very effective, non-dumb rock & roll drum feature.

Part of what I like is that he is not just doing that big band thing, which so many of these drummers do— apparently that was the way young white drummers who were into the drums learned to play at the time. His concept of the instrument is different. His sound was also different, which perhaps we'll talk about another time... 





“In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” - Iron Butterfly - Ron Bushy
This was a famous tune and drum solo in the 60s, that was largely forgotten soon after. It's not hip at all, but I kind of like it. I'm happy to not have to listen to a lot of snare drum junk. He's playing simple little melodies on the tom toms, and he doesn't repeat himself. All of these rock guys step on their bass drum the way he does, but he has a nice groove with it, and it hearkens back to Baby Dodds a little bit.

The solo starts after 6:15:




“Working Man” - Rush - Neil Peart
Peart is a generation after the other players here, but I wanted to put this up to compare with Ginger Baker's playing. To me this is coming out of that same big band bag, which is why Peart's thing always seemed a little retrograde to me, compared to Bonham's concept, which was more modern.

The solo is well composed. It had better be— he played this same solo for many years. Compare this performance with the one on Exit... Stage Left five years later. It's more of a production number, featuring his elaborate drumset, than it is a piece of music. Basically he's lining up a lot of fun drumming ideas and novel sounds in an exciting package. As a show number it's very effective.


Monday, October 07, 2019

Bill Bachman news

The drummer, clinician, and technique expert Bill Bachman has just shared on the Drummerworld forum that he had a stroke recently, which took out his ability to use his right hand. For a drummer, that's like losing... name the most critical body part for any profession. It's that. He's optimistic about making a full recovery, in time, but this is certainly a good time to reach out and offer some encouragement.

Saturday, October 05, 2019

CYMBALISTIC: Cymbal day, 10/4/19

UPDATE: Oops, I'm an idiot— I uploaded the unedited video from the meeting, which has lots of inane conversation on it in between playing cymbals. Below is the correct video, with times matching the cues below.

Video from yesterday's visit to Cymbal & Gong HQ. I got Holy Grail 22" (1) and 20" (2) rides, and 17" (2) and 18" (1) crashes, which will be available for sale on my Cymbalistic site. Videos of individual cymbals coming soon. If you hear anything you like, let me know ASAP— the ones I didn't get will be going out to other dealers soon. Hit EMAIL TODD in the sidebar.

The rides I got were in the range of light-medium jazz rides, some with the rounded K-type bell, some with the higher, squarish 50s A-type bell, all with a warm, clean, full jazz sound with good stick definition.  The crashes are all thins, with excellent crash response, and a slight funky edge.

Visit Cymbalistic.com to see and hear what else I have in stock.




What's played, at what time:

0:00 -  Leon Collection 20" Thin Flat Ride
Very glassy but complex, delicate sounding cymbal.
0:28 - American Artist 17" Medium Flat Ride
This looked like an 18", but Tim said it was 17". Very similar sound and feel to my old Paiste 602 18" Medium Flat Ride.
1:25 - Prototype: 20" Swish/China Type 
I may have the size wrong— these two swishes may be 22s.
1:53 - Project cymbal: 20" “Dizzy Gillespie” Swish with cutout, drilled for 17 rivets
Very interesting “Swish Knocker” type cymbal, primarily intended as a ride. Sound improved as we added more rivets. The last time it is played here there may have been 10 rivets inserted.
3:19 - playing flat rides again
3:35 - Dizzy cymbal with more rivets added
4:00 - 20" Holy Grail Ride
All of the Holy Grails played here sounded great.
4:11 - another 20" Holy Grail Ride
4:20 - another 20" Holy Grail Ride
5:15 - 22" Holy Grail Ride
5:40 - another 22" Holy Grail Ride
5:53 - another 22" Holy Grail Ride
6:10 - another 22" Holy Grail Ride
7:30 - 17" Holy Grail Crash
7:47 - two more 17" Holy Grail Crashes
8:10 - 18" Holy Grail Crash
8:20 - another 18" Holy Grail Crash

Friday, October 04, 2019

CYMBALISTIC: Cymbal day today - Seattle event coming up

At the Cymbal & Gong foundry
in Istanbul
UPDATE: Found some really great Holy Grails— 22" and 20" (x2) jazz rides, 17" (x2) and 18" crashes! Videos coming soon.

A couple of cymbal-related items:

• We're currently setting a date for an October Cymbal & Gong event in Seattle— a chance to get together with some drummers and hang, and play, and buy some really great cymbals personally selected by me.

Email me (see sidebar) or visit Cymbalistic to get on the mailing list for updates.


• I'll be visiting Cymbal & Gong HQ in southeast Portland today, selecting a few new cymbals for sale on my Cymbalistic site. I'll be looking for new 20" and 22" Holy Grail jazz rides, and 17" and 18" thin crashes.

There are also supposed to be some Leon Collection thin flat rides in this shipment. The Leons have been a very popular item recently, with a pleasingly bright, ECM-like sound somewhat reminiscent of a Paiste 602.

Hit the links above and check out what I have available, and let me know if there's a size, type, or sound you're looking for. The time to make your requests is now, when there is a fresh shipment in— these cymbals are not available in large quantities.


Listen: I've played a lot of cymbals, I'm picky about what I like, and I say with confidence: Cymbal & Gong cymbals are the s***. The real 50s-60s jazz sound. C&G's medium-weight cymbals are a true 70s sound, recalling Harvey Mason playing with Herbie Hancock. Anybody who follows this site will love them— this is what real cymbals for real players sound like.

For example: Dig this 16" Holy Grail crash, “Bastien.” It's a great funky little cymbal, and everyone who has played it loves it. Somebody buy this thing.

An EXCELLENT time to support the blog

UPDATE: I'm going to keep bumping this to the top of the site this week, but I will be posting every day, so scroll down for new content.

It has been a long time since we've done any kind of a fund raiser, and since my car was just stolen— second time this year, believe it or not— maybe this is a good time to do one. I need to raise some money towards getting another modest vehicle that will be beneath the dignity of a thief to actually steal. Maybe a nice meal-colored 15 year old Kia.

I don't want to just beg for cash, so if you value what we do, and want to support the site, please avail yourselves of the following goods and services:


Get Skype lessons
Questions about anything we've ever covered? Want to learn to do the myriad Reed interpretations that are the backbone of this site? Time to get more serious or at least more effective with your practicing? Anything else? I work with students of all levels, and I enjoy a challenge, so hit the email Todd link in the sidebar and let's set it up.


Buy cymbals
I am, on a very limited scale, a dealer of the wonderful Cymbal & Gong cymbals. They're the true 50s-60s sound, they're beautiful, they're personally selected by me for playability, you've got to have them!

Visit Cymbalistic.com to see what I have available. Email me with questions, or to make a purchase, or to request something not found on the site. 


Buy books
I have a number of print books and e-books available. If you like doing the Syncopation-based stuff I write about, you'll want to get a copy of my latest book, Syncopation in 3/4


But you can also: 

Make a cash donation
Hit the contribute to the site button in the sidebar, and give some amount proportionate to your appreciation and your resources.


Thanks everyone! - tb

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Practice loop: Chenrezig

Some of my practice loops are as much for inspiration as they are about learning a style or practicing drum ideas, or whatever— for example, the Sivad loop or the Attica Blues loop.

Here's another one like that, sampled from Chenrezig, from the Don Cherry album Brown Rice. Billy Higgins is the drummer. Tempo is 169, so you could do a bebop feel in double time to practice yesterday's uptempo bailout drill.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Uptempo bailout drill

I'm not great at playing superfast tempos. I can sound really good at the magic Roy Haynes tempo (half note = 143, which sounds very cooking to normal people), with diminishing results as we get into the more ridiculous tempos. Above about half note = 165 is where things really get rough. We'll have an honest conversation about how all that works soon. There are other factors besides can you demonstrate a pristine superfast bebop feel by yourself.

What we'll do here is practice what you play when you're playing something really fast, you over-committed in the first minutes of the tune, the fourth tenor player is starting his solo, and you're tired and completely falling apart, and death is coming for you right there on stage. This is about finding a core of solidity when you're in that zone.

Usually when your time feel breaks down, it will go from this:




To something like this:




The first thing to die is the 1. That's bad. You're not really contributing to the groove at that point, you're just making manic upbeats and trying to survive. It's hard to go anywhere productive from there.

When bass players are tired, or don't have the chops to play a tempo, they play just the 1 and 3. This will be the ostinato, our fallback groove for when we're falling apart.




At least for training purposes. Hopefully you'll never be so wasted you can't even make straight quarter notes on the cymbal.

This puts us more in a zone like Ed Blackwell on Lonely Woman, recorded by Old And New Dreams (buy the record). The groove during the solos on that track has the effect of bebop morphing into a kind of African groove that is very grounded. That's a creative choice on his part; he's certainly able to play tempos as fast as any other drummer.

The two major libraries we'll use will be the quarter note unisons pages, and the quarter note linear pages from Syncopation— pp. 6-9. This is one occasion where we will actually play the written bass drum part from Reed as part of the exercise. Just play the written exercises with the ostinato above. Here is how you would play line 3 from page 6 and page 8:





I think it's a good idea to break these up, as well. Play four beats of each line in isolation, starting on each beat of the measure. So you would play beats 1-2-3-4, then 2-3-4-1, then 3-4-1-2, then 4-1-2-3. With however much space in between as you like.





You should also do this method using the quarter note portions of my book, Syncopation in 3/4— played in 4/4, so a four-measure line of music in my book = three measures of 4/4 time.

Good practice loops for this are Nexus by Gateway, and Shedim by Masada.

An obvious next step after this would be to play the drill again with quarter notes on the cymbal, then the complete normal cymbal beat— at a tempo you can do it without just hacking at the cymbal. Then you could do some of my other uptempo drills. I especially recommend looking at my Stone method.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Page o' coordination: Tekufah rhythm

Page o' coordination using the rhythm from the bass line on Tekufah, a John Zorn tune from which I recently made a practice loop. The cymbal rhythm is actually an inversion or mode of the normal Afro 6 “short” bell rhythm— the rhythm here starts on beat 4 of the short bell rhythm. I'm not aware of any other recording using this rhythm, but playing it this way does give a little more clarity on the structure of the short bell thing— two beats of shuffle rhythm, two beats of middle-of-the-triplet rhythm.

This is a little gratuitous to me, actually— I've posted a lot of stuff for this same basic Afro 12/8 groove, and anyone who learns maybe two or more of the Pages o' coordination for it should have this style covered for all practical purposes. The returns get smaller and more subtle as you practice more pages. But to me this is a very deep area of drumming, which carries over into other areas of my playing, so I work on it a lot. Still I probably won't use this page on more than a few practice sessions.




I say the same thing about every POC, so read the following in a weary, exasperated tone:

1. Learn the page.
2. DRILL the page, doing stock left hand moves.

Get the pdf

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Alternating singles vs. other stickings

This is an elementary question I often get from students, when learning different ways of playing 16th notes: why learn to play a paradiddle when you can do the same thing with alternating singles? They both sound the same, right?

It's not a bad question, if we were just playing snare drum. Different areas of drumming use different sticking methods. Concert snare drummers, for example, basically always alternate and rarely use rudimental stickings. They certainly practice them, but they don't use them in performance.

On the drum set, stickings directly affect what you can play on the instrument, and how.

Try this:


Very easy.


The right hand plays accents, the left hand plays very quietly, and each hand plays its notes on a single conveniently placed drum.

Now try doing the same thing with the same dynamics using an alternating sticking.


Uhhh...


Apart from how the sticking looks on paper, that's a much more complicated affair. It's an extremely difficult way to play that idea, and in fact if you only used alternating sticking, you would never play that. You could conduct a similar experiment using the patterns from the beginning of Stick Control. See how many things that are easy to do with a simple mixed sticking, that are just about impossible to play alternating.

There's also a natural drum set orchestration where the right hand plays the cymbal (often with the bass drum in unison) and the left hand plays the snare drum. Obviously that would be pretty dull with just a RLRL sticking. Try the paradiddle sticking again, with your right hand on the hihat, or the ride cymbal, with some added bass drum:




And again try to do the same thing with an alternating sticking:




It's rather awkward doing this using the hihat, and it's quite impossible to do it with the ride cymbal.

As a rule: Stickings with combinations of singles and doubles are easier to play fast, and there are vastly more possibilities for moving around the drums. They'll naturally have a little texture to them; they have built-in accents, and the doubles will tend to sound different from the singles. It takes developed technique and deliberate execution to make them sound as even as straight singles.

Alternating singles are good where an even sound and solid rhythm is desired, where you want to reinforce the rhythmic grid, like in pop, rock and funk. When playing faster, singles are better when you want perfect evenness... though that takes developed technique, too. Many under-developed players habitually accent with their right hand, a la Wipeout. Drags and rolls are naturally associated with alternating singles.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Reed method: 32nd note linear lick

Another easy little practice method, for playing soloistic stuff, using Progressive Steps to Syncopation, which you can play in conjunction with this other recent item. This one uses a favorite Gary Chaffee linear lick that sounds great, and it's easy to play fast.

The source lick is the Chaffee 5 note + 3 note linear phrase:




Here we'll play it with the beats reversed:




Use the 16th note/8th note pages from Syncopation— pp. 22-23, lines 1-15. Ignore the written bass drum part, and play the top line part as follows. On exercises with one beat of 16th notes, play only the first beat of the lick:




Use any sticking you like on the 8th notes— alternating, hands in unison, improvise, whatever. Alternate at first. Once you can play lines 1-15 on the snare drum, you can move things around the drums, and experiment with the 8th notes portion, varying the sticking, putting some or all 8th notes on a cymbal, with the bass drum in unison.

On exercises with two beats of 16ths in a row, play this:




On exercises with three beats of 16ths, play this:




On the exercise that is all 16th notes, you can just play the lick for four measures.

Like the previous thing, I'm playing these in 2/2, so the 16th notes are functionally 32nd notes— 8 notes for one beat of music. See that previous post for recommendations of which loops to practice this with. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Very occasional quote of the day: mistakes

“The idea of a mistake is beside the point, for once anything happens it authentically is.”
- John Cage

Monday, September 23, 2019

Transcription: Ed Blackwell intro

A 16-bar drum intro played by Ed Blackwell on The Way You Look Tonight, from Mal Waldron's album You And The Night And The Music.

I like to post these things to shame myself for still not releasing the Book of Intros— a three year old barely-unfinished project. The thing is almost done, and I don't know when I'll actually release it. Next year? This is how it is. It's hard to open up a project again once you've gotten away from it.




This is a good candidate to actually learn to play— you'll want to figure out stickings for the more technical parts. Most of them here may be singles. Blackwell has a rather muscular sound on the drums that I attribute partly to that.

Get the pdf

Saturday, September 21, 2019

EZ 32nd note Reed method

Well— cut time 16th notes, which are 32nd notes functionally, if “common time” is our reference point. Perhaps a subject for another occasion. This is a very simple drill for playing fast singles in context as part of a high-energy texture. I was playing it along with my super-awesome loop sampled from Miles Davis's album Live Evil, and found it to be a lot of fun.

A quick note about these “EZ” practice systems: simple does not mean dumb stuff for stupid people who can't play the drums good. This is all professional vocabulary, involving real professional music reading skills, and a person who learned all of those methods and was able to use them musically would be a pretty solid player. You'd probably work more than some of us artist jerks who always have to be playing a lot of drum junk.

We'll use the 16th and 8ths section of Progressive Steps to Syncopation as our library— pp. 22-23. I'll use the line 3 rhythm for the examples:




We're going to reorchestrate the top line rhythm for the drum set. We always ignore the written stems-down bass drum part. To start, play the entire rhythm on the snare drum, with an alternating sticking, starting with the right hand. Later you can move it around the drums, and use different stickings (like playing the 16ths as doubles).

First, hit the cymbals with bass drum in unison on the RL after the 16th notes:




I've put the cymbal on a single line, but you should hit a right-side cymbal with your right hand and a left-side cymbal with your left hand.

Then hit the cymbal and bass drum on the RL before the 16th notes:




You could also hit the cym/bd on the RLs before and after the 16ths if you want:




Or hit the cym/bd on the RL on beat 1, if there are 8th notes on 1:




You could also just play cym/bd on all of the 8th notes. Why not:




All of these are subject to availability, of course. On many or most lines, one or more of those options will be duplicates, or won't be possible with the book rhythm.

BONUS: You could also do something with an open hihat. I often play running quarter notes with my left foot, which makes it easy to play an open sound on the &s with the left hand, with the bass drum in unison:




If you're hung up on this not being 32nd notes, despite the title of the post, here's what the above Reed exercise would look like with the values doubled, and how it would be played with the cymbal and bass drum on 1:



You could play this along with that Miles loop, or the Attica Blues loop, which is a little faster— or the Betty Davis loop or the Black Sabbath Breakout loop, which are slower.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Hemiola funk series - beginner sheet

Continuing to develop a method for this hemiola funk idea. Please forgive the repetition— when this is a finished method, I'll release it as an e-book. In the mean time, I'll be posting a lot of things not very dissimilar from previous pages. This is a page I wrote to use with a couple of my younger students.





Exercises 1-16 are for clarity about the basic coordination. Teaching this page, I have the student play them one time and stop, and ask them to play it again as necessary. Patterns 5-16 can be played repeating in time if you choose. Play exercises 17-28 one time, stopping on beat 1 of the repeat; then play them repeating.

Get the pdf

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Very occasional quote of the day: spirit

“Now-a-days the technical information is available. A lot of people have it, which proves all the more that it's not the key to the music. The key is what's inside, the life you live, and that's what I really learned from those people. Where the music came from, how much dedication and how much love was in it. People who just study the music will never sound as real. There are piano players who analyze McCoy or Bill Evans or Chick Corea. They know analytically what it is, but they didn't live it and I hear that immediately. That's what I hear first, before the note. I hear the aura and spirit. I hear what's inside. But that's an ability I've always had. I see the inside before I see the outside.”

— Bob Moses, Modern Drummer interview, December, 1979


Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Transcription: Al Foster - Egg Head

A smoking short drum solo by Al Foster, playing with Cecil Payne and Duke Jordan on their album Brooklyn Brothers. The tune is Egg Head, a little three minute burner. It's a blues, and Foster plays two choruses— 24 bars. The tempo is about 275, so half note = 137. At the low end of what are considered up tempos.




Mark in your stickings if you're going to play this, using doubles wherever possible, especially on the fast triplets at the end. The rolls in bars 17-18 are played at 16th note speed, so play them as doubles on a straight 8th pulsation.

There's some hip modern stuff in here— I'll actually break it down a little bit in a follow up post, and give some suggested stickings. I like what I did with my Max Roach / Freedom Suite transcription, and will probably be doing more little study guides developing playing ideas found in the transcriptions.

Get the pdf

YouTube isn't giving me an embed code for this video, so you'll have to dig it out of your record library, or open it in a new tab to listen.