Friday, July 19, 2019

Ten tunes: heavy standards

Ten more tunes. These are some standards that have kind of a serious aura, that are reasonably-to-very likely to get called. They're not necessarily very hard, but they demand to be approached with respect. It's a subjective thing. Several have unusual forms; I don't feel like any of them just play themselves. Maybe this category only has meaning to me, I don't know.

All or Nothing at All

Alone Together

Central Park West

Chelsea Bridge

I'll Remember April


Mr. PC

The Night Has a Thousand Eyes

Old Devil Moon

Upper Manhattan Medical Group

For example: I'll Remember April is a commonplace tune with a deeper vibe happening. Alone Together has an odd form. There are several trio recordings of Joe Henderson playing long versions of Invitation that are very hardcore. Strayhorn ballads are very deep and always demand special treatment.

These tunes are most likely to come up with better players. I'll Remember April and Alone Together are the ones you'll mostly likely encounter first. The Night Has a Thousand Eyes also seems to be real popular these days.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Daily best music in the world: Bruce Ditmas

Honoring a new Facebook friend: Bruce Ditmas, an American drummer living in Rome.

Here's something he played on with Paul Bley, Jaco Pastorius, and Pat Metheny:

He's also on some Gil Evans records, including the Jimi Hendrix album, and this bananas version of the Brazilian tune Nana, from Where Flamingos Fly. He shares drumming credits with Lenny White on that album.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Groove o' the day: Philly Joe Afro 6

From the Sonny Rollins album Newk's Time, another individualistic version of an Afro 6/8 groove, played by Philly Joe Jones on Asiatic Raes, a Kenny Dorham tune.

On the snare line, the x is a rim click. It sounds like he's playing with just a snare and floor tom, no small tom. They continue the 6/8 feel for part of Sonny's solo, and it feels a little labored; you get the feeling that in 1957 it was still a pretty exotic style. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Page o' coordination: Max's rubadub?

This is a page of jazz comping exercises based on Max Roach's playing on Sonny Rollins's Freedom Suite, which I'm transcribing right now. There's a lot of interplay between the snare drum and bass drum, and there's clearly a concept happening; everything seems to hang off of comping notes on the & of 1/& of 3. It jumped out at me immediately like “this is a thing”, very similar to Mel Lewis's rubadub thing, but not.

How many pages of jazz coordination patterns does the world need? I don't know. This isn't about writing more patterns, it's about forming a concept. Max's playing on Freedom Suite, Mel Lewis's thing, those are concepts. Also with John Riley's thing, with all the things we do with Syncopation, there's a concept. You don't really get that by just playing through the endless junk in Advanced Techniques, or whatever jazz book.

Swing the 8th notes. Use patterns 1, 7, and 13 as your key. Think of them as a sticking pattern played in a swing rhythm: RLRR RLRR. Or RBRR RBRR. Or the two combined with ex. 13-18. Use those as your foundation, learn them well, and hang the added notes off of them.

If you listen to the recording there's a lot more happening than is represented in this one little idea. I'll probably rewrite this page, or at least add to it, if I can deduce any kind of formula to Max's thing.

Get the pdf

Monday, July 15, 2019

Ruff bossa on the drums

This is something I was working on with a Skype student* recently: ideas for practicing Alan Dawson's “ruff bossa” method on the drum set.

...first, nobody ask why it's called ruff bossa, because I don't know. It doesn't make any sense.

But, it's a really handy method for soloing, kicks and set-ups, and modern, textural playing in jazz, using Syncopation by Ted Reed. It has an easy hand-to-hand motion that that seems adapted to the snare drum, so it's especially good when playing brushes. Here I'll give a few ideas for practicing it. Hit the link above to get a summary of the basic method.

* - Did you know I teach lessons online via Skype and Facetime? I do. Hit 
the email Todd link in the sidebar to inquire. 

Anyhow, for the following examples we'll use the rhythm from line 3 on p. 34 in Syncopation:

Here's the ruff bossa pattern for that rhythm, as it would be played on one surface:

1. Play the accents on the cymbals:

2. As above, add bass drum on all of the cymbal notes:

3. As above, but add bass drum only on the accents corresponding with the long notes in the book rhythm— anything longer than an untied 8th note. The example rhythm has long notes on the 1, 2, and & of 3.

4. Play only the accents corresponding with long notes on the cymbal, plus bass drum. So the remaining accents are played on the snare. This is a way for playing kicks and setups, but is usable also in soloing.

5. Play on the snare drum, except the accent on the 1, and the last accent in the measure; play those on the cymbal and bass drum:

A lot of the patterns in the book don't give you an accent on 1, so obviously that won't work for all of them.

6.  Play the last accent in the measure on the cymbal/bass drum:

An obvious thing I didn't mention is to move the accents to the tom toms— or any part of the pattern to the toms. This method has such a strong RLRL motion (albeit with occasional doubles on either hand) that the possibilities for moving to the toms are kind of limited, and not real interesting to me.

You could play through the entire system all of these ways— running the interpretation while reading pp. 34-45 in Syncopation. Or just use this as a guide for different things to try while you work your way through it.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Protecting your business

Maybe not.
This is a situation I had recently, which is common for teachers working with music stores, teaching studios, or other services. Many of those businesses require teachers to sign contracts to keep them from poaching students, sometimes to stop them from competing with them generally.

I worked with a business like that, where I would get paid half my normal rate to teach at students' homes. Presumably it would be worth it if they were able to fill out my schedule a bit. During the two years I was with them, they never provided me with many students. They students they did refer to me were good kids, in supportive households, but retention was poorer than in my own practice. When the following thing happened, I was teaching one weekly half hour student through them.

The company owner called me for a meeting. I thought he was just checking in to see how I was doing, and that we would talk about how to get me more students. So we can all make some more money. When we met I told him my own teaching business was doing well, and answered all of his many questions.

Increasingly it became clear that the non-compete contract was the primary reason for the meeting. There were probing questions about my recent business activities, the relationships between my ongoing students and my new referral students; about me teaching piano to some beginner students, which we had discussed doing with his business. I had been keeping a marimba for them, which they had previously been paying to store— he wanted to know if I was teaching anyone on it. He wanted to know about my activities in “his” part of town.

Basically, he was taking a proprietary interest in things that were none of his business, trying to find out if I was taking money out of his pocket.

Obviously, it was way out of line. No rational person would expose himself to this kind of scrutiny, and possible legal action, in exchange for $17.50 a week— that's what I was making with him at the time. Him thinking that employing me for $17.50/week entitled him to do that was very troubling.

This was my response to that meeting:

Hi [the business owner]— 
I was very surprised at the nature of our meeting yesterday— I was not expecting an interview about contract enforcement, and was very surprised to learn what you were construing as possibly infringing on my contract with [the business].  
It made me wonder if I understand our relationship correctly. I believed our arrangement was that I provide services at a substantially discounted rate in exchange for a) students in bulk, b) reduced office work. At present, with you offering a) negligible employment, and b) interviews about contract enforcement, it is objectively little more than an agreement for me not to compete with you (interpreted sweepingly) in exchange for very little. 
I sympathize with your business needs, but there is obviously no incentive for me to agree to a relationship on those terms. I can't conduct my own business while worrying about whether anything I do could be construed as conflicting with my contract with you. It would be very difficult if you were providing substantial employment for me; it is obviously impossible when you're giving me nothing.  
I am happy to continue offering my services as a feature of [the business's] product, with a verbal agreement to work ethically and respect that [the business's]contacts/clients are not my contacts/clients; I can't do it under the cloud of a sweepingly-interpreted non-compete contract. 
Please let me know how you want to proceed.  
Todd Bishop

His response was to refuse to continue the relationship without a contract, and I responded to agree to end the relationship. I have a fairly robust teaching business of my own, and it was not difficult to walk away from the speculative income they offered, but showed no sign of being able to deliver.

Just because there's some small amount of money involved, you do not have to tolerate any conditions people want to impose. Especially when it involves a contract— which always carries a background threat of legal action.

At some point, you have to move out of the just-out-of-college mindset, where you will take anything, and start acting like a professional, and protect your own interests. You are the talent, without whom they have no business. Beware of people who see you as simultaneously their employee and their competitor.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Transcription: Jack Dejohnette - Tennessee Waltz

Jack Dejohnette plays Tennessee Waltz! One of the most cursed tunes in the standard repertoire. I don't know what's going through his head here— maybe he's having a wonderful time. I know a couple of guys who will confidently tell you what Jack Dejohnette or anybody else is feeling based on what he's playing. I find that annoying, so let's leave it at this: for me it would be a bit of a struggle making a jazz performance out of this tune. There are a lot of funny tunes on Sonny Rollins's records. This is from Falling In Love With Jazz— made in 1989, which certainly has to be the low ebb for that tune as far as jazz musicians are concerned.

Here he's playing behind Jerome Harris's guitar solo, starting at 2:03.

There's a good amount of variation in the dynamics on the ride cymbal— quite a few accents with the shoulder of the stick. To me, that's a modern, post-Tony thing— I feel like I don't hear as much of that with drummers in the 50s. I notice at the end of phrases he'll accent before the 1, but still play the 1 with the bass drum. Not a lot of independence happening here; usually he's playing one foot or the other. There are a couple of standard Dejohnette licks near the end— similar to what he plays in this very old John Scofield transcription.

Get the pdf

Friday, July 12, 2019

Ten tunes: solid standards

Continuing our little ten tunes series of often-played tunes to learn— today's theme is solid standards; standards that are called a lot, that everyone still likes to play. Some things you play a thousand times and you want them permanently flushed (a list for another day?), but these are extremely durable— inherently pleasing and rewarding to play, for players of all levels.

There are multiple great recorded versions of all of these:

All the Things You Are

But Not For Me

Have You Met Miss Jones

I Could Write A Book

I Hear a Rhapsody

If I Should Lose You

If I Were a Bell

My Romance

The Song Is You

There Will Never Be Another You

There Will Never Be Another You may draw out a few whiners— it has to be one of the half dozen most played tunes ever— but it's still great. I get a little tired of playing All The Things You Are, but nobody else seems to.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019


Everyone has seen things like this polluting the internet:

What fun. I get that I'm the only person who thinks these are the trashiest possible associations to attach to anything musical— judging from the delighted responses that always accompany someone reposting them. I just don't get the concept of this as a teaching aid. What, the student is going to remember to associate particular rhythms with a laundry list of quasi-food items, and then remember the notation like it's a hieroglyphic? And this is easier than just teaching them to count 1&2&?

And who says “grape, soda” anyway? “I'll have some cheese. Ravioli, please.”

Come on. If you're going to do this, do it right with this fun and educational, non-inane, CRUISE SHIP DRUMMER! approved “rhythm guide”:

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

3/4 rhythms - a special set

See, this is what I'm talking about: no matter how much drum stuff gets written, no matter how many thousands of pages of drum books I have in my studio, and even after having written a book on this very subject... I always need something else.

I was playing with a rumba practice loop in 2/2, doing a basic thing out of Syncopation, and began playing some variations in three-beat groupings— a basic meter-within-meter thing I/we do all the time— and it occurred to me that I could use a page of *all possible 3/4 rhythms with a note on beat 1, and no more than two notes in a row on consecutive 8th notes. It's easiest to do this one thing, at the speed I was doing it, with rhythms with those parameters. So:

At the bottom of the page there's a summary of the thing I was doing. I also marked with an * the patterns that have no more than two filler notes in a row. That's helpful when playing a rhythm on the cymbal, and filling in with the left hand. Another thing we do all the time.

* - I see I left off straight quarter notes. Oh well.

Get the pdf

Monday, July 08, 2019

Transcription: Mel Lewis fours

Here is Mel Lewis trading fours on Stoppin' at the Savoy, from Bob Brookmeyer's album The Blues Hot and Cold. These are pretty interesting. Lewis isn't anybody's idea of a chops guy, but he's not dumb. The fours begin at 3:49 in the track.

There are a couple of funny items— at one point he's throwing a stick down on the floor tom, hitting the rims. The part on the sixth line with the ruff right before the stick shot will take a little practice. Play this by itself, a lot, and work it up to speed:

It's a natural motion; you have to get the left stick onto the head to make the stick shot, so you just press it into the head on that note. We're not going for a quality buzz stroke there. I have a feeling Mel didn't practice it, but just played it on the job a few tens of thousands times.

Get the pdf

Sunday, July 07, 2019

Page o' coordination: Simple 3:2

Coming at that 3:2 hemiola polyrhythm from the triplet side— all of our recent hemiola funk stuff has been using it in a duple subdivision. Here we'll use the 2 side as the primary pulse, played with both feet in unison, and the 3 played on the cymbal, felt as a quarter note triplet— the 12/8 rhythm here is equivalent to a quarter note triplet in 4/4.

I've written a hundred pages like this, and if you've done one of them, you know the method: learn the whole page as written, then drill it with my set of stock left hand moves.

Get the pdf

Saturday, July 06, 2019

Groove o' the day: John Von Ohlen - Love for Sale

A Latin groove played by John Von Ohlen on Love For Sale, arranged for the Blue Wisp Big Band by Carroll DeCamp. From their famous album Butterfly. This was one of the first serious big band arrangements I ever played, in high school. It's funny, I barely remember working out a Latin groove for this, but I must have played something.

The groove is another quasi-Mozambique— at least Von Ohlen settles on that standard bell pattern by bar 5. He plays the bass drum lightly throughout; I've only written the accents. By the third measure he's playing half notes, then quarter notes around the fourth measure. The ending fill is played with both hands almost in unison on the same drum.

There's no YouTube link for this, but you should already have it. If you don't you'll have to scrounge it up from somewhere.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Q & A: Turned around

I received this question in the comments a while ago:

I wanted to ask you a quick question about listening to (not playing) up tempos. I find that sometimes my brain shifts the hi-hat 2&4 so that I am hearing them as the downbeats 1&3. I find it hard to correct this once it “settles in” and the music is flying by, unless there are some clear accents on the 1, for example. Do you have any tips for correcting my brain if this happens? Also, should I continue to listen if I know I'm not hearing it right? I know that sounds strange, but I feel like listening in the “wrong” way is training my brain to hear in the “wrong” way.

It's probably not a good idea to just go along hearing it wrong.

Although it's not a wrong instinct, if Michael Longo's book is any authority. Those are the accented beats. The problem is how we resolve what you're hearing with the real agreed-upon rhythmic structure, which says those beats are the 2 and 4.

You can try actually saying “2” (or “2, 4”) along with the hihat. Hopefully your counting instincts are developed enough to tell you that the 1 is therefore somewhere else. Or you could say “&” along with the hihat. That should really drive it home that these are not the downbeats. That would be counting the fast 4/4 in 2/2— 1 & 2 & instead of 1 2 3 4, both at the same rate. You could also try saying 4-1 or &-1 out loud.

I find that lapses like that happen to me less often as my rhythm and time improve— a not-insignificant part of which has centered around developing a healthy relationship with the 1 and 3. And with quarter notes in general. For many years I thought myself too hip to be thinking about that, and it ended up being a point of weakness in my playing.

Monday, July 01, 2019

Practice loop: slow blues

Here's a loop you're going to need this week, as I finish writing the 6/8 prep for my patented(?) Harmonic Coordination Improved™ method. Sampled from Melvin Sparks's Blues for JB, the tempo is a stately 66 bpm which should give you ample space to work out the coordination— for my thing, or anything else you need to do slow with a triplet feel.

The drummer here is playing a Midnight Special-type groove, with the hihat on the &s of the shuffle— on the skip notes. Maybe that beat has a name, I just know if from that tune. 

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Very occasional quote of the day: random factors

“Life is a cut-up; consciousness is a cut-up. Every time you walk down the street or look out the window, your stream of consciousness is cut by random factors.”

— William S. Burroughs, The Adding Machine

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Page o' coordination: 3/2 over 12

Adding to our already-voluminous background for playing an Afro feel, or any 6/8 or 12/8 feel. Here we're phrasing in 3/2 and 12/8 at the same time, using a common cymbal pattern.

It's easier to see what's happening when we isolate the cymbal and hihat:

It's a natural rhythm for any jazz or funk drummer to lapse into when improvising. I've put the normal bass drum leading into the 1, plus the basic left hand coordination parts based on the 4, and on the 3:

Learn the patterns, then work out with them doing all my basic left hand moves. Use my practice loop in 6/8 sampled from Eddie Palmieri.

Get the pdf

Friday, June 28, 2019

Daily best music in the world: what it is

Slow getting back into regular posting, but here are two great tracks that are better than anything I could write. If you don't have a good jazz radio station in your city— you probably don't— you can listen to KMHD online.

This came on the radio yesterday in the middle of a lot of contemporary stuff, and it didn't register as being an old recording. I thought, finally, someone who gets it. Of course it turned out to be Smoky Robinson, recorded 45 years ago. What the hell.

Another thing that came on as I was running around like a maniac getting ready to fly to Germany, deeply stressed about some flight issues. I found it to be very centering:

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Hemiola funk - repeated beats

More of this hemiola funk idea, putting the two basic 3/4 patterns into 4/4 by repeating each beat of the pattern... starting on each beat of the pattern. I don't know if there's a special need for anyone to play through all of these posts; I'm just developing an idea live on the site, running it through some logical permutations and seeing what I get. A lot of it ends up being primary funk vocabulary, and it's not hard, so maybe you want to play through it once. Do it with one of my practice loops to hear some context.

I'm not into writing materials just based on mathematical logic, but with this particular idea, much of what you get from that turns out to be actual things that somebody played in real life. So I'll continue developing it, and hopefully end up with a more concise HEMIOLA THEORY OF FUNK DRUMMING.

Get the pdf

Monday, June 24, 2019

Ten tunes: oxygen

What a lot of people used
to learn this tune.
A professional drummer friend wanted to get my take on ten essential tunes to learn, for drummers playing jazz. It's a hard question, because an actual practical essential tune list would start at a couple of hundred things long. I thought I could do it more realistically by narrowing it to several lists of certain categories of tunes. So let's do this as a series.

These are ten extremely familiar tunes, that still get played a lot by players of all levels, that are still fun to play. You may know them so well the tune structures tend to vanish while you're playing them— there's no distance between you and the tune, and they feel more like playing free. Or maybe a better way to say it is that you experience them as pure music, rather than as external structures to be performed. Playing a 12-bar blues form is the same way. That's my experience with them.

Most people who have played any jazz gigs at all will already know these. If you don't, you can learn them by playing them, without a lead sheet. Solar is a little more rhythmically specific, so you can use one for that.

All of You

Beautiful Love


In Your Own Sweet Way

Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise

Stella By Starlight


There Is No Greater Love

What Is This Thing Called Love


Note that I haven't included a rhythm changes tune, even though it's one of the most common forms in jazz. To me that falls in a different category— it's more like playing Sweet Georgia Brown. Horn players will have endless things to say on it, but as a drummer, it feels a little formulaic. There's always the pat little move to the bridge. During the blowing you have to know where the top of the form is, rather than be taken there. Playing it often has a chaotic edge as the younger players forget which A they just played, and the bridge starts coming up in all kinds of unexpected places. So, no rhythm changes on the oxygen list.

More lists coming— I'll try to do one a week.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Transcription: Art Blakey - The Egyptian

Here's a drum intro... hey, this could go in my Book of Intros, which HAHAHAHA is still languishing a few hours of work away from completion... a drum intro, played by Art Blakey on The Egyptian, from the Jazz Messengers album Indestructible. I was checking this out for the cymbal sound; he's using a rather famous 20" K. Zildjian ride that he also plays on The Big Beat. But what he's playing is a little Art Blakey microcosm— it includes several little stylistic things he does quite often.

Some of these things don't resolve exactly the way they look in the transcription. In bars 13-14, what Blakey plays is actually somewhere between these two things. There's also a second cymbal note at the end, right before the following downbeat, which I didn't even try to include.

Something similar happens in bars 19-20— six notes seemingly evenly-spaced notes, like in the first example, except he starts it on the & of 4, like in the second example:

I actually think he plays it the second way, and that my ears were just fooled into hearing the fill as six evenly spaced notes— he does play the extra space as in the second way.

Get the pdf

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Groove o' the day: Like Sonny - alternate version

An Afro 6 feel recorded in 1959 by Lex Humphries on an alternate version of Like Sonny, from the John Coltrane Alternate Takes compilation. The master version of the tune was released on the album Coltrane Jazz with Jimmy Cobb on drums, playing a straight-8th Latin feel.

On the early (late 50s-early 60s) recordings of this type of triplet-feel Latin groove, the drummers generally seem to be making up their own way of playing it. I don't know how it found its way into the jazz idiom, if there was a particular recording, or what. I imagine it was just through general exposure to Latin musicians in New York. There's more of Lex Humphries playing an Afro 6 feel here.

The first measure by itself is the actual repeating groove; the second measure is a fill he plays in bar 8. You can play it as a two measure groove, the way I've written it, or play just the first measure, and use the second measure as a fill/variation as on the record. The bass drum is played very lightly.

Friday, June 21, 2019

I'm back

As you know, I just made another cymbal demo-and-delivery tour to Germany, with a side visit to Istanbul to meet Cymbal & Gong's production team... which is just a bunch of guys working in a really grungy metal shop in the city's vast outskirts. It's insane, the cities I slept in the last four days of the trip: Saturday - Istanbul, Sunday - Berlin, Monday - Reykjavik, Tuesday - Portland. Taking a flight a day for four days, going to and from the airport, is itself a little silly, but by the end we were traveling light, and it worked out OK. Visit my Facebook feed to see pictures and video from the tour.

A few notes from the tour:

Cymbals in Turkey
One thing I realized on this visit to Istanbul is that Cymbal & Gong cymbals— consistently the finest traditional handcrafted cymbals in the world, I believe— would not exist without proprietor Tim Ennis.

Obviously, it's his company, so yeah. And he does rely on master Turkish cymbal smiths to realize them and produce them.

BUT: Having met Cymbal & Gong's smiths, and played a few dozen of other Turkish brands' cymbals: the C&G product is unlike anything they are producing on their own. Creating a traditional 50s-60s sound could not be further off their radar. In the shops, a lot of what I played seemed to be designed to stand out in a drum shop environment. As musical instruments, I found maybe three things I could actually use... if I didn't know C&G was out there, and was better. Even the things with a famous jazz drummer's name on them, I get the feeling they're getting it right (occasionally) by accident. There's a large disconnect between what is being produced, and why, and what I want/need as an artist.

So, for Cymbal & Gong to happen, somebody who knew what a good, normal cymbal is had to go to Turkey, find the right guys, get them to make it, and have it be consistently excellent. Not a simple process in itself, considering the distance, expense, a significant language barrier, and music-cultural difference. Try it some time.

I knew Cymbal & Gong was a big deal because I always had a hard time finding cymbals I liked, but yeah: what they are doing is a really big deal.

Cymbal & Gong vs. Ks and others
I did get to play the C&G Holy Grail cymbals next to some Istanbul K Zildjians, and a Spizzichino, and several cymbals by a boutique shop in Germany which modifies 30th Anniversary Agops. Both Ks were interesting; one very nice, one a little funky, but playable. They were both clearly in the same family of cymbals as the Cymbal & Gong, but a little mellower; the C&G had a slightly brighter edge, with more highs present. The Ks sounded a little prettier by themselves; but I, and others I've spoken to, find that their sound tends to get lost. The C&Gs have a true traditional sound, but cut better.

And both of the Ks were idiosyncratic; there were things about the way they handle as instruments that I would have to work around when playing music with them. There were aspects of the sound that I would have to handle with care— to varying degrees. To me the Cymbal & Gong cymbals are better realized; they do all the right things when you want them to do them, with any kind of stick. Soft ride sound, strong ride sound, explosive crash, accent, bell sound. There may be some idiosyncratic examples, but I don't select them for sale on my site.

The Spizzichino is owned by Michael Griener, a great drummer in Berlin who has been extremely supportive and helpful in getting these cymbals and me to Germany. To me that cymbal had a sound
like a Paiste 602 version of a K[???]— a clean, very pretty K-like sound, distinctly different from what Cymbal & Gong makes. It had a certain quality that bothered Michael, and I believe he now mostly uses a 20" Mersey Beat instead.

The German modified Agops were clearly specialty items— extremely rough and dark sounding, for me barely controllable as musical instruments. The player who owned them was having a hard time with them, too. I think this is a problem in the cymbal-fetishist world: we get these “amazing” sounding cymbals because they sound amazing in a drum shop, and then take them onto a job or session, and they just don't work right.

Let's talk a little more about the cymbals I played in Turkey: there were a lot of “fascinating” cymbals, three or four that I normally would have considered buying, one that I did almost actually buy (a 20" lightish Mehmet Turk). They weren't terrible. Generally speaking, they all had a “dark”, distantly K-like sound. A number of things seemed to be going for a Chris Dave-like noisy, dry, trebly, rattly sound, which I can't really use. The qualities that made me reject most of them were that they were interesting-sounding in a way that detracted from their usefulness as an instrument; or they clearly would not do the things I listed above the way I want (soft ride, strong ride, explosive crash, accent, bell); many of them had qualities that just sounded wrong— something about the tonality is not what I want in an instrument. You can tell when you crash something, and the crash sound is just off. There was a lot of that feeling of not quite making it.

After the break are a lot of thank yous to various people and entities:

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

I'm in Germany

Wow, after weeks in airline booking hell, we actually made it to Germany-- to Berlin, the city I actually bought the tickets for, and only a day late. I'll tell you the story about what an amazing miracle that is another time. Basically, as late as the morning of our flight I didn't know if the trip was even going to happen.

Today we're heading to Dresden for our first cymbal meet, then back to Berlin for another meet tomorrow, then to Munich on the 10th, then to Istanbul to meet Cymbal & Gong's smiths, and to visit some other foundries.

So we'll be on very light posting for another 12 days or so, making this a fine time to pore over our voluminous archives.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Lots of action

Details at
Had a great time at the Celebration of the Drum event on Wednesday. A really nice lady, a student of Seattle drummer Matt Jorgensen, won the 24" Holy Grail, which was very satisfying. Steve Korn, who was performing at the event, bought the other 24. Got to hear and hang out with a lot of great drummers.


Several big things coming up, mostly cymbal-related, one performance related: doing a couple of events with the Ballard Jazz Festival, then doing another Germany tour, delivering and showing Cymbal & Gong's wonderful cymbals, ending with a trip to Istanbul to meet the company's cymbal smiths, and visit some other cymbal foundries. 

A lot cymbals will be going to Germany, so if you want to order a cymbal, now is the time to do it— stock will probably be limited for awhile after the tour. Go to to see what we have, and let me know what you like.   

If you're in Germany and want a particular cymbal, let me know, and I will bring it. Prices are lower if you pay in advance. I will be limited to what I can carry, so choices may be limited by the time we get to Munich. Another reason to order in advance! 

Wednesday, May 29 - SEATTLE
Celebration of the Drum - Ballard Jazz Festival
Company owner Tim Ennis and I will have a display of Cymbal & Gong cymbals for people to see and play. There will be a drawing for a free 24" Holy Grail ride, which you will stand a pretty good chance of winning, depending on how many drummers are present and visit the booth. Performing will be D'Vonne Lewis, Steve Korn, and Jeff Busch, emceed by Michael Shrieve. 

Starting 8:00 pm at Conor Byrne Pub - 5140 Ballard Avenue NW 

Saturday, June 1 - SEATTLE
Brittany Anjou at Egan's - Ballard Jazz Festival
I'm performing with pianist Brittany Anjou, formerly of Seattle, now of New York, and doing stuff all over the world. Part of the Ballard Jazz Walk, and there will be a lot of other great music happening around the neighborhood that evening.
10:00pm-12:30 at Egan's 1707 NW Market St, Seattle, WA 98107 - (206) 789-1621

Thursday, June 6 - DRESDEN
drummer meeting 
At the meetings I will be meeting drummers, delivering cymbals, letting people see, play, and buy Cymbal & Gong cymbals. 

Starting 2:30 at Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber - Wettiner Pl. 13, 01067 Dresden

Friday, June 7 - BERLIN
drummer meeting
In the afternoon at private studio, Brunnenstraße, Mitte - contact me for details 

Tuesday-Wednesday, June 11-12 - MUNICH
drummer meeting
Time and location to be announced; get on the Cymbalistic email list for updates.

I hope to see you there!

Oh, here are the cymbals for the drawing in Seattle— giving away one, winner gets to choose. It's about a $500 value.

24" Cymbal & Gong Holy Grail rides

Monday, May 27, 2019

Tresillo rhythms - EZ rock orchestrations

UPDATE: pdf link works now. I'm doing too many things this week. I've been running some students through this, and it sounds good. A more accessible version of my funk control series.

Some basic rock orchestrations for the tresillo inversions I posted recently. It's normal to practice these without writing them out, so learn the idea, and as soon as you can, apply it while you read the straight rhythm from the original page. But when first learning the system, it goes faster for some students to see it written. See my Reed funk drill, rock drill, and Funk Control posts for explanation of the basic concepts— and for the next level of stuff to do with these ideas. Or, hell, just email me for a Skype lesson.

This is all closely related to things we've covered many times before, but I'm trying to hone in on a non-technical funk drumming method based on these rhythms, and the 3:2 polyrhythm.

Some of the things happening are: fast 4 feel, 2 feel, 2 feel with added ghost notes on the snare drum, 4 or 2 feel with bass drum added on 1 (if not already present), practice rhythm played on cymbal and bass drum, with snare drum filling in— alternating sticking, and RH-cym/LH-snare. The ghost notes are usually added on the 1 or 4, by playing a RL. I'm calling them ghost notes, but you don't have to play them extremely quietly.

Memorize all of those ways of interpreting and modifying a simple written rhythm— know them well enough to start thinking of them as obvious things to do.

Get the pdf

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Filling a Mozambique

This is something I was working through with a student recently: filling during a Mozambique groove. Latin grooves need to be worked out more than other things, so it's a good idea to break it down substantially, so you can get back to the groove after the fill. Start by practicing these mostly non-repeating: play them one time, stop, and play them again. I've put all of the fills on the high tom tom in these examples; you can move them around however you like, vary the accents, play rim shots, embellish with flams or ruffs, use whatever sticking you like.

Here's the basic groove— for hands only. Learn to play it, if you haven't already:

There are a few key points: the & of 4 of the first measure, where we'll be breaking to get into the fill; the & of 1 of the second measure, where we'll be starting the fill; the 2 of the first measure, where we'll often be getting back into the groove pattern.

First, practice starting the groove on 2:

Then build a simple fill with alternating 8th notes, starting with two rights. Practice each of the following phrases repeating, then add two measures of the groove at the beginning, making a four measure phrase with the fill at the end. Note that the first four notes of the fill have the same rhythm and sticking as the second measure of the groove pattern: RRLR.

Then grab some rhythms from the book Syncopation, and play them as a lead-in to the groove pattern, accenting the last note of the syncopation rhythm— if possible with a cymbal in unison. If the fill ends with running 8th notes, just end it with a rim shot. Then come in with the groove on beat 2:

Then play some syncopation rhythms as a fill, with the complete context. Use rhythms that start with an 8th rest, and start the fill with your right hand. So these fills all start the same way as the previous one. Play the first measure of the groove, break on the & of 4, play the fill, accenting the last note as above, and come back in with the groove on beat 2:

I suggest practicing these last two things non-repeating; stop after a couple of measures of the groove at the end, and restart. You can easily use this same structure to practice hitting a bass drum/cymbal accent on beat 1 after the fill, which isn't that hip, but you will do it a lot.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Practice loop: Attica Blues

This will put some intensity in your playing: a practice loop sampled from Attica Blues by Archie Shepp.

For that I also recommend my loops of Sivad, The Free Design, and Magdalena.

By the way: One nice feature of YouTube's royalties system (maybe the only one?) is that with all of these quasi-legal uses of other people's music, the copyright holders still get paid. One of my brother's groups, the Seattle piano trio New Stories, has had an mp3 of theirs included with every copy of the Windows OS since 1999. So it's convenient for people to grab and use when they make their cat videos for YouTube, or whatever. But since the file is imprinted, they get paid when any part of it is used. They've made several tens of thousands of dollars that way.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Harmonic coordination practice notes

Hard on purpose.
A few notes on practicing my recent harmonic coordination improved thing. I can write a lot of verbiage about this system because it's very abstract and time consuming, and I want to be clear on how to do it productively, and the reasons for doing it.

You could play the original materials in Dahlgren & Fine with the illusion that you're going to learn something the authors call “complete independence.” Whatever those words mean to you, it doesn't really work that way. The only thing we're really accomplishing is to learn to play the cymbals with both hands, along with the bass drum— a standard, core drumming orchestration— and learning to get to the drums and back to the cymbals at inconvenient times. And we're developing some facility with the left foot, in coordination with the bass drum.

Mainly we're creating opportunities for unexpected things to happen. If the premise of the Syncopation-based method is to do things in the easiest, most natural way, the premise here is to do things in ways that make no sense. Most of the stickings do not make the easiest way to execute the notes of the exercise. We're practicing inconvenient ways of playing things, systematically.

So, it's hard on purpose, and you can't do it all at once. You really have to be oriented around finding a reasonable workout for today. There is no finishing it— there's nothing to finish—  and no particular way of doing it that is going to make you great, while another that will screw you up. I don't see a particular need to develop a lot of speed, or to work on the harder exercises much more than the easy ones. As long as practicing the method is a moderate pain in the neck, that should mean there is improvement happening.

Terms in the following notes: the system is a combination of exercises and stickings. The exercises are sets of notes played on the drums and cymbals; the stickings are which limbs you use to play them— specifically, which hands; the parts for the feet are preset by the exercise.

General attitude
People seem to like the idea of “setting and forgetting” an ostinato, and then playing other things “over” it. For this system, I think it's better to pay attention and account for every single note— learn the exact sequence of combined limbs, and hit them accurately. This can mean sometimes working through things only a few notes at a time.

All exercises, one sticking
Play through the entire page of exercises using one sticking. To get your initial basic familiarity with the system, do that with the first set of stickings.

One exercise, all stickings
Run all the stickings with one exercise. This may be necessary as you get into the more complex exercises— one at a time, learning all the stickings for it. Again, early on, you could learn the first two exercises this way, using all of the stickings.

Make obvious edits and additions
To keep the introduction to the system a manageable length, I did not include every sticking combination forwards and backwards. Sometimes it will make sense to reverse the sticking with a particular exercise. There will also be duplicate stickings with some exercises, which you can skip.

A lot of people like to start complex exercises beginning with an ostinato— by playing the easiest part, and adding other things. I'm not convinced it's the most productive way of practicing this system. I think you should work on starting the exercises complete, with all the parts at the same time.

Another small thing that can nevertheless cause you a lot of grief. Try to go from one exercise or sticking to the next without stopping.

Open hihat
If you play the hihat with your hands, any BD/cym note immediately before a SD/foot hihat note will naturally create an open sound. It's a common drumming effect, and you could spend some time focusing on it. You may have to adjust the timing of your left foot motion to get a good open sound.

Moving around the drums/cymbals
Moving the drum notes between the snare and toms in a systematic way would be adding another level of complexity— and length, and unfinishability— to this system. I just improvise moves, or work on them occasionally with a few exercises, moving to a different drum on every note, according to the stock moves listed in the link above.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Guaguanco - two ways

A little more on general fluency with a Guaguanco-type groove on drumset. It's not a style that authentically uses a drumset, but the groove is a hip alternative for non-traditional situations. It has a nice melodic element that is at first a little confusing in how it relates to clave; mainly, it sounds like aligns with the 3 side, but it's really on the 2 side. On recordings of Cuban musicians, usually the melody is on the 2 side. But I've heard some recordings— seemingly authentic situations— where it does actually align with the 3 side.

I'm not expert on Cuban music, and don't regularly play with people who are, so I'm not going to try to draw any conclusions on it. I can say the first way is correct, but sometimes it is done the other way for reasons unknown. With these exercises we'll learn to play it both ways, with some small variations in the melodic part to give it a little life.

For an authentic sound, play the RH/palito part on a dry sound— jam block, rim, floor tom shell, or hihat. Or play it on a cymbal, cymbal bell, or cowbell. You can see that the variations are very small; we're just doubling different notes of the melodic part. Learn to combine them freely when playing the groove. Also see my previous page of Guaguanco, and other related posts.

Get the pdf

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Holy Grail

A video shared by Sebastian Merk, a great drummer living in Berlin, who teaches at the Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber in Dresden. He's playing a 20" Holy Grail jazz ride by Cymbal & Gong, which he bought from me on my last visit to Germany in December '18. It's a fairly funky cymbal that was given a special patina that gives it a drier sound. It sounds really great here, with him playing it— just a perfect, classic, dry jazz sound:

Check out the videos of the cymbal before the special patina, and with the patina.

I'll be returning to Germany, with cymbals, between June 6-12. Visit and get on the mailing list to get updated tour info.

Friday, May 17, 2019

EZ fill developer

This might be more of an item for teachers. This is a sketch of a method I've found to be effective for teaching younger students to play fills, and play them in time, with both hands at an even volume. I teach this verbally, and by demonstrating it. The hand motion is virtually the same for the hands-in-unison version and 16th note version of each exercise; the left hand just falls later on the 16th note version.

A few notes:

•  On all of the exercises, the right hand does not change speed— it plays 8th notes throughout. As a warmup, some students might have play the hands-in-unison exercises with the right hand only.
• Exercises are written in 4/4, but most often I count Ex. 1 in 2/4, and Ex. 2 in 3/8. I try to minimize the counting element with this lesson.
•  When both hands are played on the same drum, flam them a little bit— rock & roll-style, with both hands at the same volume. Make sure the right hand falls first.
•  Start with three different basic ways of moving around the drums: both hands on one drum; LH on snare, RH moving; both hands moving, to the same drum. Both hands can also move to different drums independently, but it's best to do the other ways first.
•  Line 2 is really preparation for line 3, which is a common rock figure. Unless the student is already playing 6/8 or triplet feels on the drum set, there's no reason to turn this into a lesson on playing in 6/8.
• Line 4 is meant to be played non-repeating.

Get the pdf

Thursday, May 16, 2019

CYMBALISTIC: Cymbal videos up

Individual videos of our new cymbals are up. Picking out cymbals in a storage room at Cymbal & Gong HQ is not really an optimal acoustical situation, so when I get them to my studio to make the videos I'm always blown away.

With this shipment I added:

Two 20" Holy Grail jazz rides
Two 20" Leon Collection rides
Two sets 16" Holy Grail hihats
15" Holy Grail hihats
14" Holy Grail hihats

All great cymbals, but the Leon Collection cymbals really impressed me. It's a series created by Cymbal & Gong's lead smith, and until now they have been mostly crash cymbals. The few rides they've delivered have been really cool. These two are surprisingly light (~1575-1600g @ 20"), for how well they perform as ride cymbals— I've found extremely light rides by other brands to be mostly useless. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Harmonic coordination improved - preparation

UPDATE: Here are some additional notes on practicing this.

For some time I've been trying to work out a way to practice the very difficult “harmonic” coordination section of Dahlgren & Fine's 4-Way Coordination without feeling driven to murder somebody and trash my office. That's what those half-baked harmonic coordination whatsis posts were all about.

Problem: The materials are hard, and they are presented in a way that is utterly pitiless, unconscionable. Otherwise the book is lovely. But the authors essentially make you play one stick control pattern with your hands while playing a different one with your feet. That's what it is. It's presented according to a mathematical logic, and they didn't try very hard to soften the learning curve, or make it look anything like musical reality. And it's notated on a staff system they made up. It's a giant nightmare.

It took me years of brutally hacking through it to make some sense of it, and devise a method that actually starts easy and gets harder, and that relates to the way the drums are actually played.

The answer is, you have to orchestrate it: play a cymbal in unison with the bass drum, and play the snare drum in unison with the hihat. You move your hands between the cymbals and snare drum, according to which foot they're in unison with. Obviously the parts of the feet are set, since they're on pedals attached to one instrument. Doing this orchestration seemingly makes the system more difficult, but it gives it a raison d'etre, a drummer logic. To me it's harder to play things that make no drumistic sense, because they don't sound like anything, and you can't use your ears to tell if you're doing it right.

So, these exercises: This is a set of warm-ups for a larger system— or, for most people, this could be the entire system. For the real nutjobs we will go on to create an actual Reed-based method. Here are various basic cym+bass / snare+hihat combinations, with which you use some different stickings to play the cymbal and snare.

When playing the cymbals, use the closest cymbal for that hand. There are four sets of stickings to play through. Practice one set at a time, moving onto the next one when you can play them at a reasonable speed, say around half note = 50-60 bpm. The first set is easy; normal stickings used by all drummers, for basic familiarity with the practice patterns. The second set introduces some independent moves. The third and especially fourth sets will take some practice.

The end result is that you will have more flexibility in playing normal stuff. You may find yourself moving around the instrument in new ways; your musical impulses may resolve themselves in in unexpected ways. Mainly this will influence your funk, ECM-type jazz, and Latin playing. Complicated Cuban-style independence will get easier to learn.

 Get the pdf

Postscript: More about the logic of that orchestration system— cym+bass, snare+hihat. Cymbal and bass drum playing a rhythm in unison is a normal part of drumming. So is filling in between those notes with the snare drum. The odd element is the hihat in unison with the snare drum; there's no normal musical effect associated with that— and it'll help you do those funk “barks” with the hihat. There's one. Doing the system this way wasn't my idea; it's Dahlgren and Fine's. I'm just telling you how their thing works in practice. There are creative possibilities with it which you'll discover through playing it.

Monday, May 13, 2019

CYMBALISTIC: Cymbal day video

UPDATE: Bumping this to the top— there are a couple of newer posts below this...

Video of my visit to Cymbal & Gong headquarters in southeast Portland,  with company owner Tim Ennis, selecting cymbals for the Cymbalistic site, and for our Germany tour in June.

I played 14/15/16″ Holy Grail hihats, 20″ Leon Collection rides, 20″ and 22″ Holy Grail jazz rides, and 20″ Holy Grail medium rides. Scroll down for a complete list of all cymbals played and selected.  As always the quality and consistency was extremely high. I don’t believe there was a single bad/difficult cymbal (or set of cymbals) in the lot.

Individual videos of all the cymbals we took are coming next week. Most other cymbals should be available in Cymbal & Gong’s stock for a short time, so if you see anything you want, let us know as soon as possible, and I'll try to get it.

In addition to all of the great 50s/60s style jazz cymbals played, the Leon Collection rides were fantastic, with an airy, pleasingly bright sound— I think of them as the Cymbal & Gong equivalent of a Formula 602. The 20" Holy Grail medium rides were also great— light by modern standards, with a nice 70s vintage sound. Everyone should own a 20" medium ride.

Complete list of all cymbals played in the video, with times, after the break:

Preparation for Reed triplet studies

A page of short triplet exercises that are preparation for some of the major practice methods I do with the book Syncopation: the right handed solo method, and the so-called “Ruff Bossa” method, found in the book The Drummer's Complete Vocabulary.

It seems funny to learn the lick to get ready to learn the lick, but practicing out of Syncopation is not so much about initially learning the lick, it's about learning a way of reading, and putting the lick in context. So it's helpful to work out some of these things in isolation first.

Play these many times. I've included an ending downbeat on some of the exercises because I want to end all of these on a long note. Play exercises 1-5 at a fairly even volume, accenting lightly. Play 6-24 with stronger accents, and very soft unaccented notes.

Get the pdf

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Soloing on a form

don't let this happen to you
“My idea of a drum solo is that you play like you sing. It comes from different things you listen to. And the beauty is always in the simple things.” —Kenny Clarke

This is part of a question came up on the Cymbalholic forum:

I'm supposed to solo over the form and I should know where I am in the tune so that I can get in and out of the solo in the right sort of way. But I'm not nailing it. I'm losing track of myself and the tune.

He went on to ask for some “resources” for learning to do this. I'm not aware of any. It's really a thing that happens in your head, at your drums. Contemporary drumming is very enamored with the idea of muscle memory— that your body can just figure out how to do everything great if you do a lot of calisthenics. Maybe that kind of conditioning works for paradiddles, it doesn't work with higher order functions like keeping track of a larger context while playing creatively on the drums.

It's about awareness
Everybody knows the Charlie Parker quote:

You've got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail.

The problem is, everyone's in a rush to forget what they never knew in the first place. Playing without thinking at all is a false goal; or rather, it's a rare thing— it's a very special occasion when you can play that way. Most of the time you have to know what you're doing. As I've said elsewhere, it's not about playing “intellectually”, it's about awareness.

Know the tune
You do have to know the tune, and you can't forget it while you play. Be able to sing it, however badly, and count through the form. Over time it takes less effort to be aware of the tune while you play. At first you have to prioritize thinking about the tune over what you're playing.

Start from nothing
Can you sing the tune by itself, while not playing anything? Can you count through the form without getting lost? Then you can solo without getting lost. Sing or count, and add things on the drums as you are able, without forgetting where you are in the form. You'll have to start with single notes, on downbeats, leaving a lot of space, and build from there.

Start from time
Can you play time and comp while singing the tune, or counting through it, without getting lost? Do the same thing as above— play along, and do more soloistic things as you are able, without losing track of the tune. The time itself is your solo, so you don't even have to do that much. Going from time to playing soloistically is much easier if you do the next thing:

Practice Reed-type methods
The Reed methods teach you how to play a lot of different ideas accompanying a jazz-type melodic line, and to integrate those ideas with each other, moving seamlessly from time to soloing. You can then solo by directly interpreting the rhythm of the tune, or by improvising your own lines. Practicing that way gives you the world's easiest transition from practicing to real world playing. This is what I've been trying to tell you all this time.

Think in phrases
If you can improvise in 4/4 without losing track of the 1, you can then begin thinking in 2, 4, and 8 bar phrases. Once you can play 8 measures without getting lost, awareness of the larger form becomes a simpler matter, learning to play blues, then 8 bar phrases in an AB form, and then an AABA form, and beyond.

Musical significance of the sections
The different parts of a form have to have some musical significance to you. Blues is eight bars of “free time” plus a four bar turnaround. A 16-bar AB form is simply a matter of 8 bars solo / 8 bars contrasting solo. AABA is 8+8 bars of blowing time, a contrasting bridge, and an end. For 32 bar tunes with a tag (e.g. All The Things You Are), you can do that same basic thing, and remember the extra four bar ending.

Awareness on longer forms
If you listen to a lot of blues tunes, you should know what the turnaround, the last four bars of the form, feels like. If you listen to a lot of tunes based on I Got Rhythm, which is an AABA form, you know what it feels like when you hit the bridge. Both of those things are very common, particular musical feelings, which you can express as a change of feeling in your playing. It takes a little more imagination to distinguish the last A of Rhythm changes tunes from the other As; you have to keep a general feeling of this is the last A while you play; that section is dedicated to setting up a return to the top of the form. On an AABA with a tag, you do the same thing, but then use the 4 bar tag to set up the top of the form really clearly.

So you have to be able to create contrasting phrases when you play; you have to be able to sound like you're at the top of the form; you have to be able to play something that sounds like an ending, that sets up the band to come back in. As you listen more and play more, you'll get more ideas of how to express those things in your playing, and more ideas about the broad meaning of different parts of the form, and different directions you can go with them.

Tunes to start with 
It's a good idea to start with tunes that are commonly played, that are rhythmically active, and very singable. For example:
Blues: Bags' Groove, Sonnymoon For Two, Mr. PC, Things Ain't What The Used To Be, Sandu. Listen to John Coltrane's album Coltrane Plays The Blues, which has several tunes that are simply an 8 bar vamp plus a turnaround. 
AABA: I Got Rhythm, or anything based on it: Ornithology, Scrapple From The Apple, Oleo, Rhythm-a-ning. I like playing over Bye Bye Blackbird; it's easy to hear the last A as the end of the form. Don't Get Around Much Any More is an easy medium tempo AABA tune. Doxy is a 16 bar AABA tune with four bar sections.
AABA with a tag: All The Things You Are is really ABCD, or A-A1-B-A2-tag. It may the most common tune of this type that you will play.