Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Page o' coordination: Cinquillo

Here's an easy page o' coordination based on a basic bell rhythm, known in Latin music circles as “cinquillo”— which basically means quintuplet. It's not a quintuplet, it's the indicated 5-note rhythm, but that's what the word means. It's a good rhythm for a variety of Latin feels, or pseudo-Latin feels, especially for bright tempos, R&B situations, show music situations, or situations where the other players aren't real sophisticated, and get thrown off by more complex bell patterns.

Learn all the patterns with your hands only, then add the right and left foot parts, one at a time. Then you can combine the different feet parts. You can move your left hand between the snare (rim click) and high tom for most of these. If you want to get deeper into it, you can do the stock moves I always do with these POCs, and vary your articulations and dynamics— rim shots, dead strokes, buzzes, whatever. Play the right hand on a cowbell, cymbal bell, hihat, or the rim/shell of the floor tom. Play it as rim shots on the snare drum (snares off) for a pseudo-calypso feel.

Get the pdf

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Tune list for sessions

This is the tune list for a weekly session I play. We go through a lot of material, most of it kind of unusual, and many things that are rather challenging. I shlep this big pile of paper to every rehearsal.

There's really nothing here you would be expected to walk onto a gig and definitely already know. I have starred the things most likely to come up, either in conversation or on an actual gig. Lead sheets for most of these can be found online through a variety of sources if you want to play them. 

*A Felicidade - Antonio Carlos Jobim
Ambrosia - Kenny Barron
Ana Maria - Wayne Shorter 
Angeles Crest - Larry Koonse 
Aquarius - Joao Donato
Aunt Alice - Rob Thomas 
Backyard Groove - Kenny Garrett
Bananeira - Gilberto Gil/Joao Donato
Bicycle Ride - Toninho Horta 
Big Red - Tommy Turrentine
Black - Cedar Walton
Black Five - Gregory Fine
*Black Narcissus - Joe Henderson
Black Nile - Wayne Shorter 
Christina - Buster Williams
Compulsion - Harold Land
Con Brio - Jerry Bergonzi 
Dance Cadaverous - Wayne Shorter
*Dear Old Stockholm
Debonaire - George Colligan
Del Sasser - Sam Jones 
Desert Moonlight - Lee Morgan
Dhyana - Tina Brooks
Different Places Together - Jerry Bergonzi 
Dual Force - Buster Williams
East of the Village - Hank Mobley
Edda - Wayne Shorter 
Everybody's Song But My Own - Kenny Wheeler

Continued after the break:

Monday, March 18, 2019

Rudiments in 5/8

A page of snare drum rudiment practice phrases, written in 5/8, in a 3+2 phrasing. Keep this with your copy of Haskell Harr (book 2) or Rudimental Swing Solos.

These can all be played at normal rudimental tempos— quarter note = 105-126. You'll probably have to set your metronome to give you 8th notes at 210-252 bpm for that. Or you can set it to give you downbeats only, at 21-25 bpm. The closed 7 stroke rolls are played with a 16th note triplet pulsation; the other closed rolls are played with a 16th note pulsation.

Get the pdf

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Groove o' the day: Lex Humphries - Abana

Back to posting drum stuff after a shocking, depressing last week, with the massacre of a lot of innocent humans in New Zealand. Here's some music for anyone still struggling to find their equilibrium.

I was thinking about what the space alien said to the main character in Stardust Memories

“You're not the missionary type. You’d never last. And incidentally, you’re also not Superman; you’re a comedian. You want to do mankind a real service? Tell funnier jokes.”

So back to drum stuff. 

Here is Lex Humphries playing a very functional Latin groove on Abana, by Yusef Lateef, on the album Jazz 'Round The World. It's a modal jazz tune with a Latin flavor; the cymbal rhythm is a common one used in Cuban music. Only the hands are audible on the recording. Tempo is around half note = 125. 

To add some feet and make this into a full drum set groove, start by learning it with the hihat on beats 2 and 4. I've encountered Latin players who don't like this, but many jazz musicians will expect it.

These are some different things with the bass drum, ordered from “more functional in a jazz combo” to “more authentic”:

The bass drum on 1 and 3 way is very north American, but also more useful in a jazz setting than any of us want to admit. Play the bass drum very softly if you're going to do that.  

It looks like I chose something for which there is not a convenient link from the usual site. Looks like you'll have to buy the album if you don't already own it.  

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Daily best music in the world: Oval

You know what I'm tired of? Music that sounds like it was created with a free Android app. So here is one of my favorite albums in the late 90s: 94 Diskont by the German electronica group Oval. Created using some novel manipulations of digital media— marking up, damaging, and generally messing with CD surfaces, and remaking the resulting screwed up audio into music. A lot of electonica suffers from being made by people who never went through the discipline of learning to play an instrument, but these guys are real artists.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

From the zone: brush things

A little item from Ted Warren, author of the excellent Trap'd blog, who is clearly not suffering from any kind of OCD, having written this upside down on some kind of assignment sheet. I post so much stuff on this site that it's easy to forget that most of what you actually play centers around relatively few basic ideas (actually, what I write also centers around relatively few basic ideas, in different contexts)... so when you get one or two things from a source like this, you should actually spend proportionally more time playing them, and experimenting with them. They're going to be very useful and/or fertile.

Ted gives some explanation of this here.

Definitely also see his series of brush videos— those, plus a lot of playing with people are all you need to learn to play the brushes.

Please send me (see the sidebar) any practice room artifacts you would like to be featured in a FROM THE ZONE post. Don't worry about it looking good, making sense, or being finished.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Mike Clark gig and clinic

A few thoughts and observations relating to a Mike Clark / Donald Harrison gig and clinic in Portland on Sunday and Monday:

First: It continues to impress me that everybody knows that same stuff. Whether it's Mike Clark, or John Riley recently, or any of 50 or so excellent professional drummers I know in Portland and Seattle, or me, it's all the same information. People with long careers playing with famous players will have better stories, professional educators and clinicians will have a worked out presentation, someone like me will have spent time learning to write about it and express it. And individuals will have their own emphases, and pet theories. But it's all the same stuff. There's always an instant recognition that somebody is telling you something you knew, or that you didn't know you knew.

Mike Clark is best known for playing with Herbie Hancock's funk/fusion group Headhunters in the 70s, most famously on the album Thrust, but he clearly considers himself to be a jazz drummer— a modern player in the post-Tony Williams, Elvin Jones mode. The band did a funk tune on Sunday, but you got the feeling it was for the audience. He said of his funk playing in the 70s that he just learned the style to keep up with the times so he could keep working.

He played fairly forcefully, really digging into the ride cymbal— there is a different kind of groove happening with these older players, who did a lot of funk/R&B gigs. They dig in more, and play with a whole lot of bottom, even when they're not playing anything different. Clark didn't necessarily use more bass drum than normal, definitely didn't feather the thing, but his overall sound was coming from deep in the instrument. Even as he was playing pretty strongly, you could still hear the unmiked bass and upright piano— of course they were expert players who are able to make themselves heard.

...I like to think I play that way, but I have probably moderated my touch to adapt to the prevailing Pacific Northwest thing of playing very softly. I try to get that kind of intensity at a low volume, but was also disappointed when the guitarist John Stowell once told me to play “More New York, less Portland.”

Incidentally, I use a lot of the same licks as him— much of the dense stuff I do here is from the same post-Elvin bag as Clark's stuff. A lot of it is standard vocabulary if you worked through Syncopation the normal ways, some of it I can't recall having deliberately worked out. Most of it easy stuff to do fast.

In the clinic Clark remarked that he sacrifices a lot of his chops in favor of playing directly in the moment— he plays instinctively, and does not try to put his worked-out stuff into the performance.

Solos would be long, with consistent energy. Sort of a Chasin' The Trane vibe. Dynamics tended to be fairly static over the course of a solo— at least relative to the current introspective thing, where dynamics are a primary featured element, and it takes a long time to build up to actually hitting the instrument. Overall it was less climax-oriented than is common now, though there was some of that. I see that climax-seeking way of playing as a crowd-pleasing thing— virtually a device.

Since I think a lot about cymbals now: He used Istanbul Agop cymbals, 22/20/14, I'm not sure what line. They looked similar to Turk and 30th Anniversary series. Very dark and dry. My usual complaint about that type of cymbal was borne out at the gig: they sound great from the playing position, but they're rather insubstantial out in the room. Maybe that's what enables him to play strongly without being overbearing, but you do sacrifice on sound, and to some extent, energy.

Quotes that jumped out at me, from Clark, and from Donald Harrison:

“Swinging is an addiction.” 

That's an idea that comes up when you speak to Brazilians about samba: “like a drug.” They are talking about groove— an infectious, consistent (though not without push and pull), unrelenting pulse. It's a very different thing from what younger musicians think is groove today— either as an arena for displaying your abilities, or as an optional thing that you have to actually be cool to get. You don't have to be cool to understand samba.

“Music is always about vibe. Always.”

Some students played a bossa nova, the same way people always play bossas: routinely. Harrison started his critique with a very immersive story about being on the beach in Rio with a woman, and ended with that line.

Harrison was a very interesting guy, very knowledgeable, and a charismatic personality— a very relaxed, quiet and slow speaker. It was sort of like listening to Monk speak, except that speaking was maybe not Monk's bag, and it is definitely Harrison's. An extremely captivating personality.

One thing he remarked on was call and response in bebop. Usually that idea is illustrated very literally as players repeating each other's motifs; Harrison was talking more about filling in the gaps in a bop line— either a tune or a solo. I've never studied this specifically— I've noticed it more in Brazilian music than in jazz. I'll be looking into it.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Hemiola funk series - basic logic

I want to walk through the logic of this hemiola funk series of posts— at least the logic of one part of it, which may be difficult to see on playing through the materials. I feel I have to explain myself if I'm going to post a lot of pages developing an idea live on the blog like this. Here are the basic steps I am doing on those pages, with a little explanation:

Start with a basic 3:2 polyrhythm, written with 8th notes representing the 3 side. Notated here for cymbal and snare drum:

The native */4 meter for this is 3/4— that's the shortest */4 meter that can hold the uninterrupted pattern in a single measure. We get that by playing that pattern twice:

To be clear, this is not necessarily about a literal 3:2 polyrhythm, with three pulses played against two pulses. It's about fitting a running dotted-8th note rhythm into */4 meters— mainly 2/4 or 4/4. The 3 side of the polyrhythm, the 8th notes, just represent the context— the implied subdivision of the time signature. Our main interest is the dotted 8th notes:

As these rhythms occur in nature, they don't always start the same way. Here's the above pattern starting on its second beat:

Extend the pattern one more beat to put it into 4/4. The dashed “imaginary” barline divides the measure in half, which will be significant in a moment.

Now the weird/interesting part— reverse the pattern to start with the second half first:

...we see that same type of move in clave-based music, with 3-2 and 2-3 clave orientations, and we see it in Brazilian music. It's not so weird if we think of the rhythm as two measures of 2/4 rather than 4/4; I use a single measure of 4/4 only because it's common in modern North American music. The idea of reversing the parts may seem strange in the first place, but it certainly must have evolved organically. I think it's only seems strange because we're imposing a “1” on music that isn't as 1-centric as we are accustomed to— at least in the musics where these rhythms first came into common usage.


The rhythms resulting from the above system turn up everywhere in nature. Two quick examples, using that last rhythm: it is the same as this common bossa nova rhythm, frequently mislabeled “bossa clave.” Here it is in a complete groove:

And it occurs in DC Go-go music— it's the bass drum rhythm that is the foundation of the entire style:

Now, the end game here is not to theorize about rhythm. I'm more interested in developing a fairly complete funk drumming vocabulary with a few simple drumming ideas, based on these concepts. The vocabulary already exists— I just want to turn it into a method. It's also good to understand the extent to which this 3:2 polyrhythm is truly the life blood of African-American music, and Afro-Latin music, and all of their derivatives. Without this, we would all be playing marches.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

CYMBALISTIC: Describing cymbal sounds

This is a new post on the Cymbalistic blog. I do post good stuff there (I think) which I don't share on this blog, so I encourage you do scroll through and check in regularly.

Here is a glossary of words I use to describe cymbal sound and performance. It's a funny thing about cymbals— even people in the business aren't that great at talking about them. There seems to be an irreducible element of mystery about them.

These are mainly for describing the general sound of a cymbal, or its harmonic profile. They also pertain to the ride sound, crash sound (strong accent on the edge of the cymbal), accent sound (shoulder of the stick on the ride area) and bell sound. Also for describing definition and response, which are qualities of riding, accenting, and crashing.

If you have other words you use, I invite you to share them in the comments.

Higher harmonics are emphasized generally.

Lower Harmonics are emphasized generally. An over-used word; I may use it to describe a very broad category of cymbal, or to mean, with specific individual cymbals, very dark, compared to warm or smoky.

Mid and lower harmonics subtly emphasized, generally harmonious profile.

Lower harmonics moderately emphasized. Many Holy Grail cymbals fall in this category.

The cymbal crashes with a bwah sound; in my mind suggesting a low sound. Can be a pleasing quality, or it can be a flaw.

Suggests an unusual Chinese cymbal or gong like sound or pitch bend.

Suggests a cymbal that is very responsive to crashing, possibly with a high sound.

Focused, harmonious profile.

Harmonics de-emphasized relative to the direct stick sound.

Excessively dry or muffled, lacking in expected overtones. Not always a negative quality.

There's more...

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Groove o' the day: Hot Rod

Update: There is some dispute as to whether the drummer here is actually Idris Muhammad, which would not surprise me at all, because this is the kind of stuff he plays.

This is from a drummer I had never heard of: Tommy Derrick. Apparently his main gig was playing with the organist Reuben Wilson, who I never listened to. But he's great, and here he's playing a cool groove that is very relevant to a current topic of conversation— the 3:2 polyrhythm, or hemiola, in funk drumming. The tune is Hot Rod, from Wilson's album On Broadway, released in 1968.

In the first measure Derrick plays this— he doesn't actually play the hihat on beat 1, but I've added it to make a normal groove out of it:

For most of the tune he plays this:

Play that ghosted bass drum note very lightly, or omit it.

If we isolate what he does at the end of the measure, you can see he's doing the same pattern we've been using with the rub-a-dub:

And at the end of the first measure he's doing a three note pattern we know from Chaffee... and from everywhere else in the world, because it's a very fundamental drumset pattern, RLB:

This integrated three-limb thing is a very modern, drumset-istic way of playing; very different from the old way of stomping out a rhythm with your foot while playing a march on the snare drum. 

I'll put both of those ideas through the hemiola funk series treatment soon—hopefully refining that concept as I go, and eventually rewriting the entire mess. I'm shooting for some kind of unified theory for funk here.

Be sure to check out the entire tune— he has a cool way of playing fills, and he plays a lot of them:

Friday, March 08, 2019

Transcription: Tony Williams - Time of the Barracudas

From the Miles Davis album Quiet Nights, with conducted and arranged by Gil Evans. The tune is a Miles/Gil classic, and appears as a bonus track on the 1997 reissue of this album. The version I know the best is on The Individualism of Gil Evans. The transcription is of Tony Williams playing the slow section of the tune starting at 6:28. This was recorded in October 1963, a couple of months before his 18th birthday.

...I'm not trying to awe you with that statistic, by the way. I don't care about anything being awesome, I just want to see some artistry. However old someone is, and how ahead of the time or behind the time, the product is the product. What we have here is a nice intelligent creative performance, that is still very modern. You could say it's an impressionistic interpretation of blues accompaniment.

Tempo is 72 bpm. 8th notes are swung with a triplet feel; there are a couple of spots where I wrote a dotted 8th-16th rhythm, where he disrupts that consistent triplet feel a bit. There is also a double-dotted 8th-32nd rhythm, where he plays a big accent right before the downbeat. He plays a little bit of double time, also with a swing feel— swing the 16th notes where indicated. Approximately like 16th note triplets with the middle note left out.

Dynamics are very subtle throughout. Indicated accents are generally light; housetop accents are rim shots, but not played extremely loud. The hands are played in unison a lot of the time, with a lot of left foot activity. I believe there's more hihat played on the 2 and 4 than I put in the transcription— he plays it very softly at times, and I can only hear it sporadically. I'm probably missing a little of the bass drum, too. There is also a lot of mixed triplet activity, and you often hear a quarter note triplet rhythm on the cymbal (always starting on beat 1 or 3)— either alternating with the left foot, or with the left hand playing 8th note triplets.

This is a long piece, and there are cool sections in 3 and 4 which I'll try to get to transcribing soon.

Get the pdf

Thursday, March 07, 2019

CYMBALISTIC: new videos are UP

Cymbalistic news: I have posted videos for the latest batch of new Cymbal & Gong cymbals on the Cymbalistic site.

We've added:

• 22" Holy Grail Jazz Ride
• Two 20″ Holy Grail Jazz Rides
• Two 20″ Mersey Beat Crash-Rides
• 19″ Holy Grail Jazz Ride
• Two 18″ Holy Grail Crash-Rides
• 18″ Mersey Beat Crash-Ride
• 18″ Leon Collection Crash
• Two 18″ Custom unlathed “Krut” Rides
• 14″ BARGAIN light hihats – light

Videos for three more very cool cymbals are coming— there are pre-holds on all of these, but they may become available if the reservees pass on them:

• 14" Holy Grail hihats - light-medium
• 20" American Artist special medium ride - ECM-like! Will add rivets for a Billy Higgins-type sound
• 20" Leon Collection crash-ride or light ride with patina

You can also check out the selection video for more options— you may still be able to get some of those if you act fast. Send me an email with your best description of the cymbal: time in the video, and where it is in the lineup of cymbals played— left, right, or middle.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

I played with Coltrane when Elvin couldn't be found

This is fun— Uncle Paul's Jazz Closet, the extremely cool web site sharing recordings and other items from Paul Motian's archives, has scanned and shared Motian's business calendar from 1965-66.

It has all his gigs, finances, and personal business for that year and a half. Some fun items in there, like the thing about Coltrane, and playing with Mose Allison at Birdland from 8:45-2:30 am, then playing with Sheila Jordan at Cafe au Gogo from 4-8 am for $10. Plus buying “plastic drum heads”, dental bills, jury duty, unemployment checks, and his address, so you can see where he lived at the time.

The site has been going since 2016 and they have shared a lot of music... I don't have to tell you to follow them... on Facebook too. In addition to the other things, they have published some volume's of Motian's tunes, which I need to buy because my transcriptions of them probably suck.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

Hemiola funk series - SB-BS

I like this series. It's a little half-baked, and I'll probably have to rewrite it eventually, but I feel we're closing in on something. A theory of rhythm and playing the drumset not based on marches? That will take another couple of generations of development. For now we'll just settle for a thorough understanding of this 3:2 compound pulse fit into common meters, along with a basic, powerful piece of drumming coordination.

This is the inverse of the last thing, where we started with the bass. Now we're starting with the snare.

See the last entry for comments on practicing this. Play the patterns, preferably in a context, and count the quarter note in the meter of the exercise, out loud. 

Get the pdf

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Mingus riffs

A quick little transcription project, before I get into making a lot of cymbal videos. These are the rhythms for the horn riffs on some Charles Mingus tunes. A riff is a repeating background figure, usually played behind a soloist— an essential ingredient in large ensemble jazz arranging.

In jazz drumming we're accustomed to playing off of tune structures, or playing off of the soloist, or playing a drum groove, e.g. the Philly Joe beat; this is another way of thinking about your comping. We're looking to develop riff consciousness here. Listen to the tunes, play the rhythms as an independent part, along with a jazz time feel, on the snare drum, bass drum, or both. Several of these emphasize the 1 more than we typically want in drumming— handle that with care. You don't have to play as fast as the original tunes.

Get the pdf

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

CYMBALISTIC: Cymbal day 2/26/19

Cymbalistic news: I visited Cymbal & Gong HQ in southeast Portland yesterday to play cymbals and acquire stock, and the word of the day was GREAT LITTLE RIDE CYMBALS. Phrase of the day.

I played a number of really good 18 and 19″ rides and crash-rides, and as always, the consistency of these cymbals was impressive. Everything I played was very solid, and most of my selections were made on very subtle distinctions, or just stylistic choices of what I wanted to have in stock. I’ve noticed that each shipment of cymbals has its own character; this group was generally moderately light, with prevailing clean, controlled sounds, rather than very dark, funky, or exotic sounds.

I picked up:
• Two 20″ Holy Grail Jazz Rides
• Two 20″ Mersey Beat Crash-Rides
• 19″ Holy Grail Jazz Ride
• Two 18″ Holy Grail Crash-Rides
• 18″ Mersey Beat Crash-Ride
• 18″ Leon Collection Crash
• Two 18″ Custom unlathed “Krut” Rides – Both dry cymbals, light-medium, one very dry, with a handsome smoky finish.
• Two sets 14″ BARGAIN Hihats – one medium, one light. Nothing particularly wrong with these— they were just used by endorsers a little bit before being returned to C&G. Generally bright, higher pitched cymbals with a bright finish.

Here is the video of the selection process— the sticks I’m using are Bopworks Birdland model, and Mel Lewis model. The Birdlands are very light, and I have struggled a bit to find my touch with them. The Mel Lewis sticks are more robust 7As, and get a little fuller sound from the cymbals.

If you hear any cymbal you like, let me know, and I may still be able to get it for you. Many of these will be shipped to other dealers soon. Videos and descriptions of the individual cymbals is coming later in the week on the Cymbalistic site.

After the break there is a list of everything played in the video, with times:

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Rub-a-dub lesson: Fables of Faubus

Another example of rub-a-dub applied, using a passage from the Charles Mingus tune Fables of Faubus. In previous lessons we've just used this idea on the head of some tunes as an exercise. Here we're using rub-a-dub for its actual purpose: setting up, playing, and filling in between arranged ensemble figures. When you play Fables of Faubus, you could actually play this part of the tune this way... if you choose, after having duly listened to the way Dannie Richmond plays it on Mingus's recorded versions.

Which... by the way: if you do play Fables, and are reading it out of the Real Book, that chart has this figure notated incorrectly. It puts the hit on 3 in the third measure on the & of 2— it's written as 1&-&. That's wrong. Make the band get their pencils out and change it to what is written here.

Practice each line individually, repeating several times at least— the figure doesn't repeat on the actual tune though, remember. The accents just indicate the rhythm of the figure; you don't necessarily have to accent all of those notes on the drums. I've given the running rub-a-dub lick in all its inversions, and a couple of lines with the lick modified to better fit the figure. As always, this is written in the initial orchestration, with the right and on the cymbal, and left hand on the snare drum. As you learn it you can move the left hand around the drums, and move the right hand note with no bass drum to the toms or snare.

Get the pdf

Here, I've made a loop which with which you can practice this:

Monday, February 25, 2019

Beginning snare drum books

Winner 1
A brief roundup of some available beginning snare drum books— books for first year students who have never played before, roughly age 10 and up. May also use them with more experienced players with little reading background.

This is one of the main types of books I use in my teaching, for learning to read, count, and play rhythm, and understand basics of drumming and of musical structure. Technical issues and rudiments are secondary, but I appreciate a summary of rudiments.

I generally prefer short one or two line exercises covering basic rhythm in 4/4, 3/4, and 6/8. Covering single notes, flams, ruffs, and rolls. I like for there to be duets included.

Most of these books include an introductory chapter explaining the very basics of what a drum is, how to hold the sticks, maybe a picture of a dude in horn rimmed glasses wearing a parade drum. Some attempt to teach drum technique via print, resulting some very cluttered-looking books. I think technique should be handled by the teacher, and I prefer books that don't try too hard in that respect. I like a clean page.

Here are the books:

Elementary Drum Method by Roy Burns and Sandy Feldstein
For about the last ten years this is the book I used younger beginning students. It has a little bit of everything, none of it is too hard, and the studies are short. It has a few too many studies written in school band style notation, for snare drum and bass drum, which I do not dig— learning how to count endless measures of boom-chuck is what band class is for. But overall it is solid. Includes a summary of drum rudiments.

Vic Firth Snare Drum Method - Book 1 by Vic Firth
Excellent book, with short studies in 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, and 6/8. Well-designed one page lessons, which I like a lot. I live for well-designed one-page lessons. Rudiments covered are flams and various short rolls— mostly 5-stroke. Studies are short— 1-4 lines long usually. No duets, but I can print those from other sources. I'm currently phasing out Burns/Feldstein, and starting most of my beginner students on this book.

Winner 2

Elementary Snare Drum Studies by Mitchell Peters
I'm very fond of Peters's materials, and this may be the best book here for serious, talented, mature beginners. More in depth than the others, with lessons covering some finer points of musicality than the other books. The book is thorough, but the pace of the materials is nice and brisk— Peters keeps the studies to a moderate length. I'm not as wild about the style of notation (stems-down) and the page design, but you can't have everything.

Primary Handbook for Snare Drum by Garwood Whaley
Very good, well-organized book. Progressive daily assignment pages include two short musical studies, a rudiment, and a stick control-type pattern. Rudiments are presented in textbook form, with no context or supporting studies. Odd meters are prioritized more than you would expect— there are studies in 5/8 (including a long duet) and 7/8 even before 16th notes are introduced. Gentle learning curve for technical elements like rolls, flams, and ruffs. Includes some multi-drum studies, and student composition assignments. Has practice logs on every page, which I don't like seeing, but they're probably effective. I would reserve this for more talented, engaged students. Includes a CD. Whaley has another beginner book which predates this one, Fundamental Studies for Snare Drum, which I have not seen.

Basic Drumming by Joel Rothman
Not a snare drum method per se, but it could be pressed into service as one. It's a compendium of all standard snare drum and drum set vocabulary from beginning to moderately advanced. A lot of technical studies, somewhat fewer musical studies. Mostly easy to read, with some good things not found in other books. There is a lot of material, and little explanation, so a teacher will definitely be needed to give appropriate assignments. With so much stuff, you have a lot of flexibility assigning things helpful for the individual student.

Runner up
Alfred's Drum Method - Book 1 by Sandy Feldstein & Dave Black
Not a terrible book, but I have a difficult time with it, for a lot of small reasons. The introduction is good, and I like the general scope of it. A number of style elements bother me. For me there is a general uncomfortable institutional feel. I don't like seeing two measures of an exercise spread across a full page. The one line exercises are just multiple measures of the same rhythm— if that was what I wanted for this purpose, I would use Reed. In a snare drum book, I prefer that the studies make a musical phrase. The “solos” are long school band-style pieces for snare drum and bass drum. They're exactly like any number of junior high band parts, without rests. The whole enterprise feels like it's made for creating school band percussion section students, rather than musicians.

Snare Drum for Beginners by Morris Goldenberg
Very good, maybe not for its advertised target audience. Mostly focused on reading rhythms, including ties. Flams are the only technical/rudimental element included. Rather strangely, there are no dynamics indicated anywhere in the book, and no triplets, no compound meters. My major criticism is the pace of the materials. It starts out glacially slow, with six dense pages covering quarter notes and quarter rests, rapidly progressing to complex 8th note/8th rest and 16th note studies. By the end we're reading pretty advanced jazz style syncopation. To me the tie studies are unnecessary at this level. The practice pieces are longer than they need to be— mostly full page. I've used this with a few younger students, and found that it needlessly tried their patience.

Haskell Harr Drum Method by Haskell W. Harr
Book 2 of the Haskell Harr method continues to be one of my favorite books for traditional rudimental drumming. Book 1 is definitely a beginner book; probably the definitive book of its type circa mid-20th century. It is heavily marked up with technical detail, and is too rudimentally oriented for me. Most studies written in band music format. At this point I think Book 1 is out of date, and there are better options for beginning drummers.

Stick Control by George Lawrence Stone
This is not a method book at all, but it is mentioned so often on the internet as the only snare drum book people use, I should talk about it on the same terms as these other books— how it functions as a beginning snare drum book. I do teach beginners some exercises from its first page, and sometimes the first short roll combinations. There is nothing in it dealing with the other things I need for beginners. Using Stick Control as your only snare drum book would be like taking up the piano and only working on fingering patterns, never learning an actual piece.

Progressive Steps to Syncopation by Ted Reed
I should also include this, because though it's not supposed to be a general purpose beginner's book, it kind of looks like one, and it's very tempting to use it as one. I do use it in in lessons before the student has his own book, for first learning rhythmic basics. And of course I use it for all levels of drumset instruction. But as a snare drum book it's really boring, and doesn't cover rhythm and meter as broadly as is needed to give novices a true understanding of it. And of course there are no other technical or musical elements present at all. Get a real snare drum book.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Syncopation p. 37 in 16th notes

Continuation of this item, in which I transcribe exercises by Ted Reed into 16th notes. Here I've done the famous page 37 exercise. I won't be doing any other pages because that would be obsessive and excessive hahahahaha. I don't want to start being that. A few note values have been altered, but this plays exactly like the original piece. The dashed barlines show where the barlines were in the original.

Stick this in your copy of Syncopation, and use it instead of the regular book occasionally, when doing my funk applications, so you don't forget how to read 16th notes. You could also use it to get your 16th note comping together.

Get the pdf

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Hemiola funk series - BS-SB

Further exploring hemiola rhythms in various meters and drum set orchestrations... there will be several more posts like this coming soon. It's a simple idea that nevertheless needs to be written out, and it takes a lot of ink to run it through all of the permutations... I'm not sure to what end. We'll see when we're done. There's something very fundamental happening here, both rhythmically, and as a piece of drumset vocabulary.

It's a three-beat idea which I've written in 3/4, 2/4, 4/4 (single measure, and repeating over three measures), and 5/4, starting on each beat of the pattern. Since the pattern doesn't fit into a single measure of most of those meters, it has to be shortened. I've also written some of the patterns in an inversion, with the pattern starting on 2 (in 2/4) and on 3 (in 4/4). I've seen that kind of hemiola inversion in Brazilian music and DC Gogo drumming.

No page in this series should require a lot of practice. After you learn the first pattern in 3/4, the other practice patterns are the exact same thing, with slightly different orientations. To get full value out of this, you need to hear them in context; play them along with any practice loop of your choice.

You can experiment with a few easy creative moves to make the patterns sound more like real funk vocabulary:

• Add bass drum on 1 if it's not already present. Also add bass drum on 1 every two measures.

• There's no snare drum backbeat in these patterns. Where possible, accent the a of 1 or 3 on the snare. Where there is a bass drum on 2 or 4, play the snare drum instead.

• Play an ad lib funk groove in 4/4 in two-measure phrases; play the one-measure practice patterns at the end of the phrase. Patterns 1-3 will start on 2 of the second measure. Patterns 4-9 will start on 3 of the second measure. Patterns 11-16 will start on 1 of the second measure. Patterns 17-19 will start on 4 of the first measure.

Get the pdf

Friday, February 22, 2019

Practice loop: Black Sabbath / Breakout

Practice loop sampled from Breakout, an instrumental jazz odyssey-type number from Black Sabbath's 1978 album Never Say Die. Tempo is quarter note = 57 bpm. Nice and slow, good for getting into my very challenging harmonic coordination whatsis, or the actual harmonic coordination portion of Dahlgren & Fine.

It's actually a fun track, and well-performed. They got some good session horns to play on it. My other Black Sabbath loop is also a lot of fun.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Page o' coordination: that with interruptions

A rare opportunity to do a POC in 4, with lightning turnaround, no less. I attended a clinic by John Riley and Terrell Stafford in Portland this afternoon, and they were each telling what they practice. This was something Riley said he had been practicing as a core drumming idea for basically 50 years, continuously. He played pattern number 1 on the page, and said, “That, with interruptions” and demonstrated some variations on it.

“My C major scale”, he called it.

So let's learn John Riley's C major scale. I've written up all the possible variations on it, plus one multimeasure idea, because I had some extra room at the bottom of the page. I believe he played a triplet version of the same SSBB pattern, which will have to go on another page.

Obviously the context here is jazz, so swing the 8th notes at slow to medium up tempos, and play them straight at very fast tempos. Do the stock tom moves (also something I began doing in part from using Riley's books) with the left hand in whatever way is reasonable for the tempo.

By the way: John Riley, a right handed drummer, writes with his left hand.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Hunting the Tony cymbal

Cymbal, and player, and stick, and microphone.
In all of drumming, the most sought-after ride cymbal sound has got to be that of Tony Williams in the 1960s. To an extreme; in people's enthusiasm for that sound, they sometimes seem to forget there are other sound concepts and possibilities... a concern for another blog post, in which I address monomania in internet drumming topics...

This is something I'm writing for the Cymbalistic blog, in a slightly more formal, less opinionated edition, which is taking me longer to finish.

The ride cymbal Tony used on a lot of records throughout the 1960s, until it broke, was a 22" K. Zildjian, said to be approximately 2600 grams— not quite a medium. He selected it with the help of Max Roach, and in an interview in Modern Drummer magazine he called it a “high, dark sound.” Listening to the Miles Davis LPs, it never struck me as a particularly high sound. I would call it semi-dark, with relatively focused harmonics; full spread, but never overwhelming the stick sound; capable of an explosive crash; non-metallic, with a pleasing, well-defined stick sound through a range of dynamics. Despite the claimed heavier weight, it is in the family of airy, expressive light cymbals and not stiff, chunky medium cymbals.

For me the definitive recordings soundwise are Nefertiti and Four & More. The ride cymbal sounds incredible on those recordings, especially on the original vinyl; but they may not be great guides for actually choosing a cymbal. Four & More seems to reflect the large hall in which it was recorded, with the more subtle harmonics absorbed by the room— the attack is emphasized, and the cymbal comes across as drier than it would be in real life. Nefertiti is better, although— I don't know if you're like this— I find I have a very strong but idealized concept of the sound on it— to the point that it dominates what I actually hear. I've heard the record so much, it takes a lot of focus to hear what's actually going on with the sound, and relate it to other cymbals in the real world.

The Plugged Nickel recordings give us a fresh, seemingly more natural picture of that cymbal— it really sounds like we're in the room, not too far from the drums. Its sound is a little funkier, with somewhat wilder harmonics than we hear elsewhere, with a slightly less ballsy/more exotic crash sound, and more highs present (though that might be attributable to digital mastering). And it's a familiar sound— I feel like I've played cymbals like this before.

After about 3:50 we can give it a good listen:

It's actually reminiscent of a number of Cymbal & Gong cymbals that have passed through my hands, for example:

That's a reasonable take, depending on what's played on it, by who, under what conditions, recorded or live... and which Tony Williams recording you're comparing it to. Of course, I have been told that C&G cymbal is much lighter than weight claimed for Tony's cymbal. I know the bell shape is wrong, and probably other things about its design and construction. No matter, because I've heard the cymbals that faithfully copy the original, and they don't sound any more like it than many other cymbals of this general category.

Even if they did “sound like it”, we are not playing with Miles's band, we are not making those recordings, and if we were, we might not sound as good as Tony did, even with the magic cymbal. On one of your gigs, the actual Tony cymbal might not sound like the Tony cymbal— to you while you were playing it, to the audience, or both. If Tony himself wanted his cymbal to sound like Nefertiti every time he played and recorded it, he would have been disappointed, because it certainly didn't.

So: what is our goal? What are we trying to do, duplicate, create? At a certain point, a player's attitude has to take over, where we are creating our own musical space and statement in the present situation, with the instruments in front of us. We stop grasping to be things we heard on records. Working with a cymbal to get a sound in the given set of circumstances is something we're always doing, and would be doing even if we found that chimerical magic hunk of metal.

Tony's 60s cymbal is rightly a definitive model for a jazz ride cymbal, but I take that not as a specific magic cymbal, but as a category: an agreeable, full, dark, non-exotic, harmonious, crashable, moderately light weight 22" ride with a defined stick sound. Plus a little bit of magic.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Transcription: Brian Blade - Alabama

Here's an easy look at some medium tempo playing by Brian Blade, on the swing portion of the tune Alabama. From Pursuance, Kenny Garrett's album of the music of John Coltrane. The transcription begins where the bass comes in with time after 1:50 in the track.

Garrett's trio plays this section with a different vibe from the way Coltrane's band played it— with a rather Ornette-like, “free bop” feel, not leaning on the four bar phrases as strongly as Coltrane. Blade plays some superficially Elvin-like things here, but clearly things are happening for a different reason with him. 8th notes are swung, of course, and Blade's cymbal rhythm here tends toward a dotted-8th/16th interpretation, though there is also a triplet interpretation very present in the comping. A lot of people seem to have a misunderstanding about jazz rhythm— typically everything is not worked out to a single subdivision grid. 

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Monday, February 18, 2019

Groove o' the day: Street beat in 7

Here's a New Orleans street beat-style groove in 7/4, played by Bill Stewart. The tune is 7th Floor, from John Scofield's album Hand Jive. This is the basic groove from the intro of the tune; he mixes it up for most of the track.

Swing the 8th notes slightly. Play the 16th notes as an open drag with the left hand, and crush the buzz on beat 7 with both hands. Hihat splashes with the foot every two beats all the way through. Some call that playing the “big” 7— playing two measures of 7/4 as one measure of 7/2... with the hihat on the offbeats, in this case.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Playing weird tunes

You go through stages of learning jazz repertoire. In high school I would play Charlie Parker tunes on the snare drum— just the melody rhythm. Then I learned about some standard forms, like 12-bar blues and I Got Rhythm, and common tunes with a built in arrangement, like A Night In Tunisia, Airegin, or Stolen Moments. When I was playing the river boat gig for which this blog is named, we went through a lot of of old material, which I would learn by performing it, often without hearing the titles. Along the way you encounter some tunes with unusual forms, like Moment's Notice, Stablemates, Sea Journey, Gloria's Step— everybody listens to the records they're on, and knows about them, and just learns them.

Through that process, you develop expectations of what normal tunes are, and you learn how to play effectively on them, whether you have played them before or not.

As players with advanced degrees become more commonplace, you get asked to play more unfamiliar weird tunes. Those players seek out more challenging material, and they write their own hard stuff. You get more hard tunes, with less time to learn them, and you spend more time being lost, and generally feeling unable to play anything that makes sense.

Look at Radio by Steve Swallow. A good tune, mildly weird— this and a lot of other great charts are available free at Swallow's web site. Give this a quick scan, and follow along with the recording below:

It's a through-composed (meaning nothing repeats) 27 bar tune, in 3-4-6-8-6 bar phrases. The coda happens at the end of the tune only. Listen to the head in, and the head out starting at 3:38. Roy Haynes is the drummer.

It's not illogical as a melody, but it has a funny arc; it doesn't develop the way you might expect, phrase lengths are odd, and it's not obvious how to play it effectively on the drums. You can hear that much of what Roy does is outline the melody. He accents the 1 quite often. He plays a big accent on the B7 in bar 7, and on the B9 in bar 19; in bar 20 there's an ensemble accent on 2 that is not in the chart. He improvises more on the head out. We don't get the big rewards from his playing that we get from Matrix or Played Twice. Maybe he could have played it better, or maybe that's just not what this tune is for.

Anyway, here are some suggestions for dealing with these increasingly common reading situations:

Most of reading is actually listening. Some good hard-to-read tunes become much easier if you just listen and follow your ears. More on that in a moment...

Play time
You are not obligated to play a lot of stuff on the drums. And doing something on the drums is not necessarily the solution to every problem with a composition or arrangement. Of course, part of the problem with some weird tunes is that it's hard to settle on a good time feel for them. You can always play quarter notes.

Play the written notes
Some of these things are seemingly written just as series of events, not necessarily meant to form a coherent whole designed for maximum emotional impact. To an extent they are made coherent by the fact that somebody put them together in the same tune. Give up on trying to see the bigger picture (for now), and just hit the written notes by playing them more or less exactly. If you play the thing more than once, you'll begin to get some ideas about how to contribute— making a dynamic shape, seeing which things you should be hitting, where you can fill, and where you can just play time or texture.

Follow the harmonic rhythm
The harmonic rhythm— the number of chords per measure— is important. Typically, more chords per measure = more compositional motion, and multiple measures of the same chord = space to open up. Listening to the harmonic rhythm helps with not getting lost during the solos.

Learn how odd-length phrases feel
Four and eight measure phrases should feel normal to you. Three and seven measure phrases feel truncated, chopped-off. Five and nine measure phrases feel like they have a long ending. Six and ten measure phrases feel tagged. That's speaking generically— the actual tune may suggest something different. For example, the six measure phrases in Radio are phrased in 2+4 measures, vs. the 4+2 most of us would feel instinctively.

“Play the riff” writ large
Old school advice for playing odd meters goes: play the riff. Meaning you just listen to the rhythm part and play along with it, without necessarily understanding it. Some of these tunes can be approached the same way; through listening and some repetition the melody begins to stick with you, and you can just follow your ears through all the weird changes, even if you don't actually know what you're doing. Best with tunes without a lot of ambiguity, repetition, or sequences (repeating transposed melodic motifs). For example, Jogral is a busy but singable Brazilian tune with 15 bar A sections, that is easy to approach this way.

Count measures
Look at the chart, figure out how many measures per phrase, and count your way through. This is the worst thing in the world, which I do only as a last resort, when I can make no musical sense out of what I am reading. Frankly I'd rather just be lost. The necessity of doing this suggests a directionless, pointless tune.

Throughout this process you do have to sacrifice a feeling of completion, and of playing effectively— there will be incomplete phrases, abrupt changes you don't have time to set up, and soft changes where you can't tell where the new phrase begins, or where the top of the form is unclear. To an extent you have to make the notes and give up playing for effect— at least until you actually learn the tune, and figure out what it is trying to be.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Syncopation rhythms in 16th notes

This is a library item— you can print it and keep it with your copy of Progressive Steps to Syncopation. I've transcribed the one-line syncopation exercises from Reed into 2/4, doubling the rhythmic values. Just so we have a Reed equivalent based on a 16th note subdivision. 

Just practice from these pages instead of the equivalent exercises Syncopation occasionally— any time it makes sense. You could also apply to these rhythms all of the interpretations from my Funk Control series.

Get the pdf

Friday, February 15, 2019

From the zone: fill ideas from Tbilisi

Wrapping up a coo-coo week with some easy stuff. From the studio of Giorgi Lomidze, a drummer in Tbilisi, Georgia, who shares a lot of interesting practice materials on Facebook, here are some pages of ideas for orchestrating fills:

In this from the zone series, I share things artifacts from people's practice rooms— things they have written for their own practicing. Send me any handwritten things you want to share— the more illegible, unintelligible, coffee-stained, screwed up and stepped-on the better.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Practice loop: Resolução

Practice loop sampled from the intro of Resolução by Edu Lobo, the great Brazilian songwriter. Style is bossa nova, tempo is quarter note = 167— standard bright bossa tempo. The sample is an arranged lick, rather than a straight groove, so maybe this will be a chance to work on your bossa-type stuff without being locked into the stock rhythms.

Listen to the whole tune.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

CYMBALISTIC: 18s, hihats

A few new Cymbal & Gong cymbals in stock, hand selected by me: In addition to the usual Holy Grail series, there are a couple from the American Artist series, which are “A-type” cymbals with a bright finish. They are generally brighter and slightly heavier than C&G's Holy Grail cymbals— a more contemporary sound, still very refined musical instruments suitable for all kinds of music. There is also a set of factory second hihats.

Sticks in the videos are Bopworks Birdland Model, and Vic Firth SD-4 Combos— Combos only with the hihats.

Click EMAIL TODD in the sidebar for orders and questions.

18" Cymbal & Gong Holy Grail Crash-Ride “Henry”- 1595 grams  
Categorized as a crash-ride, but this is more of a light-medium ride. A classic clean jazz sound. Does not quite open up for an explosive fortissimo crash, but accents very nicely with the shoulder of the stick.


18" Cymbal & Gong American Artist Crash “Gregor” - 1379 grams
Full, responsive, lower pitched, all purpose medium-thin crash. Powerful crash sound. Fine for light riding in a jazz setting.


15" Cymbal & Gong Holy Grail Light Hihats “Grady” - 836/1019 grams
Lovely, lush, complex, thin hihats. Relatively soft foot sound, with a beautiful sizzle played half open.


14" Cymbal & Gong American Artist Medium Hihats “Brock” - 992/1210 grams
Medium hihats, high pitched, pleasingly bright timbre. Solid foot sound. Excellent, musical, all-purpose cymbals, good for jazz, as well as music where a stronger sound with more cutting power is needed.


15" FACTORY SECOND light hihats “Campbell” - approximately 850/1025 grams
This would be a wonderful set of Holy Grail hihats, but someone at the factory dropped them, and there are dings on the edge of both cymbals— approximately 2-3mm. I think that is what's commonly called a “flea bite”— it should not significantly effect the life of the the cymbals. The patina looks nice, but is somewhat more irregular than is normally expected. As factory seconds they do not bear a C&G cold stamp or label. Great cymbals at a bargain price!


Friday, February 08, 2019

Two hemiola coordination patterns

This is partly about rhythmic education, partly about drilling a couple of basic drumset coordination ideas, and partly about education on the polyrhythmic foundation of common funk rhythms. It is based on this page of hemiola variations, starting with the snare drum, and with the bass drum. I've put the patterns in some common meters, repeating unbroken, and in single measures of 2 and 4, which disrupts the pattern. I've also inverted those single-measure patterns, putting the beginning of the pattern on beat 2 (in 2/4) or 3 (in 4/4). The logic should be obvious when you play through the exercises.

You'll note a certain similarity to our recent rub-a-dub series of posts— file them in the same family of materials.

Put these patterns in context by playing them along with any of my practice loops. Playing through both pages of patterns a few times should be enough to learn everything you need from this.

Patterns with a bass drum on 1 and/or a snare drum on 2 and/or 4 suggest a funk time feel; patterns with the snare drum on 1 suggest a funk fill. For patterns starting with cymbal only, you can try adding a bass drum on 1. 

Get the pdf

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Transcription: Connie Kay 8s and 4s

I think of Connie Kay as the quintessential background player, so I'm always interested to hear him actually do something— like play a solo, or some more assertive comping. Here he trades some 8s and 4s on Three Little Words, an uptempo tune from the John Coltrane/Milt Jackson album Bags & Trane.

Tempo is quarter note = 250— roughly what is called “medium up”, and about as fast as most people ever play. It's notable that he never hits the tom toms— he barely comes off of the ride cymbal for most of it— and uses the hihat only part of the time. He does feather the bass drum much of the time, but I haven't attempted to notate it. 

The transcription is of the drum solo breaks only, and begins at 5:50 in the recording:

Swing the 8th notes. I have written a lot of accents, but they are mostly pretty subtle; his actual dynamics are fairly even. Use a mixed sticking on the triplets— a double on the first two notes of each triplet.

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Monday, February 04, 2019

Afro 12/8 - funk - updated

This page is an update of something I wrote in the wilds of 2013— a page of bass drum variations for a funk-feel Afro-Cuban 12/8, with a backbeat on 3. I had a student play that page, and I realized I didn't like the last few lines of bass drum rhythms. I tried to get too cute. This page has six lines of performance patterns, and a few optional technical exercises:

Play the unaccented snare notes very softly. Play each pattern many times, and be able to play the entire page without stopping. Approximate tempo goal should be about here— Ndugu Leon Chancler plays drums on that record. You'll also want to listen to Steve Gadd playing this type of groove.

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