Sunday, March 31, 2019

Three Camps in paradiddle-diddles

For such a simple piece, Three Camps sure is a notation headache. There's next to nothing happening in it, but it takes a whole lot of ink to write it out, and it never looks very good.

Here it is with sixtuplet paradiddle-diddles as the main thing. There are three things in it: 1. accented paradiddle-diddles, 2. unaccented paradiddle-diddles, 3. a single paradiddle ending in a left hand accent. And 4. an ending— I've adapted the traditional ending, rather than the long fp roll I usually do.

Play it many times as written, and with the stickings reversed, starting with the left hand. Don't be confused by the abbreviated notation I've used— those are just more accented paradiddle-diddles in a sixtuplet rhythm.

Get the pdf

Saturday, March 30, 2019

June Germany dates

CYMBALISTIC NEWS: We will be bringing Cymbal & Gong brand cymbals to Germany again in June!

Dates are June 4-12, 2019, and we will come to Berlin, Dresden, and Munich. The purpose of the tour is to to meet fans of this site, to deliver pre-ordered cymbals, and to let people play and buy them— though we don't expect to be carrying many unreserved cymbals. We will also be visiting the Cymbal & Gong smiths in Istanbul.

Here is the rough schedule— days and times still to be determined:

Berlin - June 6-7 | private studio in Mitte

Dresden - June 8-9 | Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber

Munich - June 10-11 | Latin Groove School

If you haven't visited the Cymbalistic site recently, we have a bunch of great new cymbals in stock, with more coming in May. Hit that link and get on our email list for tour updates, and to hear about new cymbals when we get them.

If you like the cymbals and you're not in Germany, never fear, we do ship worldwide.

Cymbal & Gong
is a company from Portland, Oregon, selling small quantities of some of the world's finest traditional handcrafted cymbals, made in Turkey. The true 50s sound.

Cymbalistic is the cymbal-dealing arm of the CRUISE SHIP DRUMMER! site, run by me, Todd Bishop.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Page o' coordination: that with interruptions - 02

Another page of basic jazz comping/independence patterns, coming from a slightly different angle. At a recent John Riley clinic, he talked about one pattern he had been practicing, with variations, for about 50 years: SSBB. He treated that as a kind of scale, dropping out notes to make variations. This page is based on the same idea, but doing the pattern with a samba-type rhythm in the bass drum: BSSB.

Since many of us will already know these patterns well, maybe this is a chance to think about some familiar ideas in a slightly different way. It could also be a good tactic for teaching jazz coordination to some beginning and novice jazz students.

Swing the 8th notes. In a jazz setting, this pattern is more conducive to playing a 2 feel, with the bassist playing half notes. Handle the bass drum on 1 and 3 carefully— be able to play it in a subtle way. You can accent the 2 and 4 on the snare drum to make a heavier shuffle feel, or vary the dynamics to put the snare drum in a normal comping role.

You can also play this in a samba feel. Use the written cymbal rhythm (not swung, of course), or play straight 8ths on the cymbal. Play the left hand as rim clicks on the snare drum, or vary the articulation: rim clicks, rim shots, buzzes, dead strokes.

Get the pdf

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Product review: Bopworks sticks

Related to my Jazz stick round up from January: I got to try out the product line of Bopworks Drumsticks, a small company in Austin, Texas, making sticks for jazz drummers:

Bopworks Drumsticks was formed to create genuine, faithful replications of the designs that produced a sound and feel not possible with those found in the modern market. Our sticks are custom made in the USA from American Hickory with vintage machinery similar to that used to make the original drumsticks in the 50's - 70's.

Making historically-accurate light hickory sticks for jazz is their stated mission, with designs either direct copies or close facsimiles of some well known players' signature models. Most of their sticks range in size from a small 7A to a large 5A... roughly the size of a Vic Firth SD-4 Combo or smaller.

From their FAQ:

Actually, yes, most of them were that small… although, the street/marching sticks were very similar to what’s out there today, both in thickness and length, going up to 17”or so. The orchestra or dance models, however, were generally less than 16” in length with a proportionate diameter. Models like the Krupa, Rich, and Belson models clocked in at 16” or close to it. 
Remember, sticks could be made in any size or length regardless of the decade, so it’s not like these guys had to use light sticks.  
Another interesting thing to consider is that Buddy, Gene, Chick Webb, Sonny Payne, Don Lamond, Jo Jones, Big Sid, Mel Lewis, Jake Hanna, Rufus Jones and a host of others were powering Big Bands with calfskin heads, “small” sticks and no mics.

Before getting into the reviews: Chris at Bopworks was nice enough to send some extra sticks, which I will send out to you all. If you want some free sticks, follow the site (in the sidebar, scroll down), and send me an email with your mailing address. I'll select names at random to receive sticks. US and Canada only, sorry.

The sticks: 

Birdland Model - 15 5/16" .500 - snap crackle
This is a signature stick from the 60s— Bopworks doesn't identify the artist by name, but let's just say it's the Snap Crackle stick. These are the smallest sticks I've ever played; a thin 7A, long taper, slender oval bead. It is not a stick for digging in— I find them to be unforgiving of any tension in my grip. You really have to dance with these sticks, and respect their limitation power-wise.

They are very interesting for their responsiveness to dynamics, especially subito changes in dynamics. They create so little vibration in the instrument that they are very limber in going from loud to soft. They are also interesting for the way they help you blend with the rest of the ensemble— normally drums tend to dominate the piano and bass, and the Birdlands really bring you down to their level, so you're much more co-equal with them volume-wise. They are also good sticks if you happen to have a lot of thin, live, difficult-to-control cymbals.

Mel Lewis 7D - 15 1/8" .540 - short / full
I associate Mel Lewis with good cymbal sounds and deep tom tom sounds, and that's what these give you: big sound out of the drums, and full, pleasing sound out of the cymbals. Very agreeable stick if you're playing a lot of drums.

Good if you like a tight set up, with everything close. They're relatively short, balanced toward the bead, so they feel rather stubby. The Birdlands are only slightly longer, but do not feel that way. My hands automatically seek a balance point, and I often find myself holding them very close to the ends. I like these sticks a lot, but would probably like them to be slightly longer.

West Coast Model - 15 13/16 .520 - general purpose runner up 
Excellent general purpose combo stick. Design is similar to the Birdland, scaled up— though it is still a light stick, roughly in the 7A category. Shorter taper, and balanced more toward the bead end, which I noticed more in testing the sticks than actually playing with them. Slightly mellower cymbal sound, and lighter sound overall compared to the Swing Classic.

40s Swing Classic - 16" .515 - general purpose winner
Signature model of a very famous drummer of the big band era— apparently Bopworks does not have legal clearance to identify him by name, but his initials may be GK. Small arrowhead bead, short taper. Great all-purpose stick, well-balanced, with a nice attack on the ride cymbal. After playing the Birdland and Mel Lewis sticks a lot, these feel quite long, and slender. This is may be my favorite stick of the lot, with the West Coast Model a close second.

Art Blakey 8D - 16" .530 - aggressive cymbal sound
Feels like a slim 5A, with a very robust acorn/arrowhead tip. Weighted to the bead end. Biggest cymbal sound of all the sticks. These are made for a big, aggressive Blakey-like sound. I don't want to overstate it; these are not extremely different from the Swing Classic, but they just seem to want to move long distances and make a lot of sound. I did not get to test these in a large ensemble setting, but they seem like they would be great sticks for big band.

Memphis R&B - 16" .570 - big stick / light sound
About the size of a 5A, with a surprisingly delicate, musical cymbal sound— a lot of highs and not a lot of body. It's a “refined” sound not unlike a Vic Firth AJ6, which is a normal stick that is extremely thin at the bead end. The Memphis is not as extreme as that, but it's a similar vibe. The pair I got seems to be made from very light wood, so although it's bigger than the Blakey model, it feels more limber, and gets a lighter sound. I don't know if the choice of lighter wood for these sticks is deliberate. These compared very well with the other sticks in a normal combo setting, despite being significantly larger— they got a bigger sound from the drums, and a nice controlled cymbal sound.

Rhythm & Groovz - 16 1/4" .590 - mellow heavy
Fat in the grip area, very long taper, smallish flattened acorn bead. About the size of a 5B at the butt. Not unlike the Vic Firth AJ12, but larger— the AJ12 also has an extreme taper. Rhythm & Groovz actually get a slightly mellower sound, with less highs in the attack. Very subtle stick on the cymbals, for having such a fat shaft. Seems a great stick for situations where some real power is called for, but also a nice cymbal sound.

Comments, comparisons, conclusion:

I have been using maple sticks for many years, but have become increasingly dissatisfied with them for drumset; they get a nice musical sound, but I feel I need something a little brighter on the cymbals. I tend to associate hickory with a hard, crude, “thuddy” sound— a feeling carried over my experience with Vic Firth American Classics, which I have used from time to time. That is not the case with these sticks; they are slimmer, and designed for a good cymbal sound— brighter than maple, with better projection, but still a musical sound. It is probably an ideal cymbal sound, since we are looking to be heard in an ensemble of players, in environments with varying degrees of background noise.

These are all excellent sticks, no actual dogs. Quality is excellent; sticks are well balanced, and made out of good wood— no detectable warpage or weird sounds/stick response that come from cheap, indiscriminately-selected wood. They do not appear to be matched for pitch, which is not a concern for me— I only need that in a concert snare drum stick. They are closely matched for weight, which is important to me. The closest thing to a design flaw I can find with any of them is the shortness of the Mel Lewis stick. But it's Mel's stick the way he wanted it, so...

For a general purpose combo stick, the most solid choices are West Coast and Swing Classic. Swing Classic has a stronger attack, with more highs. West Coast feels distinctly lighter (it isn't actually, so ???) with a mellower attack on the cymbal. The other models are all a little more particular, satisfying a more specialized need or taste. All the sticks work well in a combo setting, except Rhythm & Groovz, which are more suited to amplified music.

I definitely recommend trying out, and coming to terms with, the Birdland model, both for how they affect your blend with the ensemble, and to learn the touch required to use them effectively.

I compared these sticks with Vic Firth American Classic 7As and SD-4 Combos. The Combos are a very popular jazz stick, and the 7As are a conventional equivalent to the WC/SC/AB models. The 7As produced a very aggressive attack not unlike the Art Blakey model. The Blakey had a clearer attack, and the VF sounds relatively crude. The Combos produced a similar sound to the Swing Classic, but darker (Combos are made of maple), and with a mediocre attack.

See the jazz stick round up for more stick reviews and comments.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Groove o' the day: a funk samba

This is kind of a throwaway track by Gal Costa, but the drum groove is cool— both the pattern, and the way it's played. Most people would call it a funk samba, and it has something of a partido alto type thing happening. Maybe somebody who really knows their Brazilian styles can inform us in the comments. The drummer is a very famous Brazilian player we haven't talked about much, Paulinho Braga. The tune is A Mulher, from Costa's album Agua Viva.

He plays basically the same thing on a ride cymbal part of the time, with some accents in unison with the snare and bass parts. The bass drum note on the e of 4 is often omitted. I suspect there are a lot of right hand doubles in the tom fills.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Jazz rhythm book

There's a good book on rhythm that is kicking around on the internet for you to download and read: How to Read Jazz and Other Syncopated Type Rhythms It's by Micheal Longo, who had a long relationship with Dizzy Gillespie as his pianist and musical director. I learned about the book from a Hal Galper video. I had never read it, but in it he discusses some things I've been talking about on the site for a long time, and there's a lot that is relevant to drummers.

It is described as a course in sight reading jazz rhythm:

The purpose of this course is to provide you with a technique for training your instincts to respond to the type of rhythms which appear in jazz, rock, Latin, or any other of the syncopated styles of music that originated in the United States.

Students of jazz generally have trouble with reading due to the fact that they were taught rhythm in terms of European music, and jazz rhythm has an African basis.

It goes into the additive rhythmic concept, in which syncopated rhythms are conceived as all downbeats. So this simple “Charleston” rhythm, which breaks down like this:

Would be conceived more like this:

He explains:

This is precisely the way composer Bela Bartok achieves the accentuation of Hungarian gypsy music in his compositions. Much of the world's folk music, or music of the people, seems to accentuate the off-beat consistently. Bela Bartok uses an asymmetrical metric scheme similar to the concept expressed in example 47. 

This is the underlying concept for his reading method, and whether you learn the method or not, it's an enlightening alternative way of thinking about rhythm.

Longo gives some interesting notes on the cymbal rhythm, which relates to some of the “skiplet” talk on this site. He told about Oscar Peterson singing the jazz cymbal rhythm like this:

And Dizzy Gillespie singing it like this:

Longo notes:

It is of extreme importance to notice that in both the Peterson and Gillespie examples the phrasing of the cymbal beat begin in the bar before the downbeat bar
This produces an entirely different “feel” than the common interpretation beginning on the first beat of bar one and should be considered as an important conceptual distinction.

We saw this before with Art Taylor, who started on beat 4 when demonstrating his cymbal rhythm. I based a whole system for learning jazz independence on it, with my “skiplet” method, based on a single repetition of the cymbal rhythm, starting on 2 (or 4).

He goes on to illustrate a thing with jazz rhythm where notes on the &s are conceptually linked to the following beat, not the beat before. So instead of feeling 8th notes as:

1-& 2-& 3-& 4-&

You would feel them:

&-1 &-2 &-3 &-4

Which has been a very useful idea for me— attaching &s (or as, with 16th note rhythms) to the beat after.

Longo's actual reading method is rather strange to me— he puts the actual beat numbers (from the beat after the note) on the &s... I haven't had enough time to digest it. I don't feel it's strictly necessary, since we are all practicing out of Ted Reed's book every day, so we're more naturally fluent with these types of rhythms than other instrumentalists.

Anyway, it's a concise little volume that is nevertheless full of things to think about— there's also a section on polyrhythms I haven't fully processed. Get it here.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Daily best music in the world: Tamba Trio

Here are a couple of albums by Tamba Trio, a Brazilian group primarily active in the 60s-80s— the pianist I have used on my last couple of records, Jasnam Daya Singh (née Weber Drummond) was actually the last pianist in this group. There are a number of hip Brazilian piano trios from this period doing a similar thing, with all three members singing as well as doing heavy stuff instrumentally. Quarteto Novo, Jongo Trio, Bossa Trio, for example.

A lot of drummers understand nothing but more intensity, and this music is so light it could sound insipid to them. It's not insipid. It's deep light.

Here is Tamba, from 1974:

And Samba Blim from 1968, with an altered lineup called Tamba 4:

Friday, March 22, 2019

Groove o' the day: Billy Higgins - Una Muy Bonita

Some variations on a groove Billy Higgins plays on the Ornette Coleman tune Una Muy Bonita, on Bobby Hutcherson's album Stick-Up!. It's a New Orleans type thing, reminiscent of parts of Poinciana, as played by Vernel Fournier. Higgins plays hip stuff all the way through this tune, some of it related to some other things we're working on— I'll have to transcribe a longer portion of it soon.

Play with the snares off. You can play the bass drum lightly on beats 1 and 3 throughout. Check out Higgins's legato feel on the cymbal— he plays it a little straighter than most people. Much of the time he doesn't play repetitively, but these patterns happen at least a couple of times in a row at different points in the track.

This happens on the intro:

This variation occurs frequently:

During the solos he sometimes plays this variation, with a bass drum accent at the end:

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Anything at all, with energy

Why do they always look surprised.
Today there is two big pieces in The Atlantic about social media advancing some very dark ideas, and about trolling and fascism, so maybe it's a good day to post a long-form rant about a somewhat related, relatively minor irritant, which has been kicking around my drafts folder for a couple of weeks.

We've been seeing a new ilk of drumming video lately, that is a kind of hyperactive bastard offspring of the famously terrible old “Expert Village” videos, mated with that crummy, lazy clickbait you see on Fxcebook:

“9 out of 10 can't name the capitals of three states.” 
“PERSONALITY TEST: What kind of omelette are you?” 
Answer: DENVER

That kind of blather. These new videos follow a similar formula, that is extremely simple:

1. Think of a dippy, urgent-sounding title.
2. Babble about nothing on video for 5-12 minutes.
3. Cut in footage of you acting funny. Edit out every microsecond of dead air. Plaster the video with text. Make a title card showing you looking non-specifically surprised.
4. Make a couple of hundred of those.
5. Beg for follows and likes.
6. PROFIT$$$

Titles and concepts can be anything you can think of in one second:


You have to really activate your 5-year-old brain. The idea is to monetize people's intolerance for uncertainty, their fear of doing something wrong, and their unwillingness to trust themselves to figure anything out; so play up the consequences of screwing up:


There is frequently a subtext is preteen insecurity. Play on these kinds of emotions:


But what is most important is that you do not try. The “answers” you provide don't have to be good. You have only to offer a dim hope that you will address the thing you have triggered the target to care about, which he feels powerless to solve without the aid of a *kof* smart phone.

I'm serious: any crap idea at all that sounds like a drumming problem— take it and GO! Now! Run! Make the video. There is no such thing as being too inane. Don't try to improve it or make it good or valuable in any way. Every second you waste thinking about that nonsense, you are being denied the money and attention that are rightfully yours.

You can't worry that you are in any way unqualified to be making instructional videos, or that you lack any kind of talent as a media personality. This is about seizing attention, not about giving anything of value. Just be willing to say anything at all, with energy.

It doesn't hurt if you have a face that looks like an undisturbed plate of milk.

I hate to link to these people, but look at this once. You lose nothing by jumping ahead frequently.

Now, if you watched that and thought “Did I just give up nine minutes of my life for him to tell me to move my hand over here a little bit? Is that what just happened” you are not the target audience of that video. Your attitude is all wrong. You need to just be mesmerized by the screen for a few hours, letting the wash of drum-sounding nonsense cascade over you. Let the algorithm take you, and stop being so me focused— what can learn, blah blah blah. Sit there and be monetized.

It's pointless to criticize the substance of the videos, because that is absolutely not the point. The only point is attention. If you are interacting with them in any way— even to hate them, as we are doing here— you are serving their purpose. If you know or care anything about the subject, the videos are actually a form of monetized trolling.

This guy has made half a dozen versions of this same video:

Watching that, anyone who knows anything will observe:

1. What the hell was the point of that? What's the “lesson”? 
2. What he's doing doesn't even work. Playing an AC-DC beat badly along with a recording of Take 5... what???

The fundamental dynamic of this kind of trolling is that knowledgeable people will attempt to make an ordered statement out of nonsense, and correct it on its merits, while the troll just wants to prolong the argument and get more views. So much the better. It gives their followers someone to fight with, something to defend.

Normally when I criticize drumming videos I feel a little bit bad about it. I care about the quality of the information, so I'm going to make my criticism, but often the videos are made by well-intentioned people just overstepping what they know. I usually hope they don't see my responses.

Not so with these exploiters. I want them to know. I want them to know that I want them to know. This puts me in the category of being a “hater”, another type of essential character in this grift.

You never hear ethical people calling others haters. It's always people doing something indefensible. Scammers can't be fielding criticisms on their merits, so they have turn it into these people are jealous of my youth, good looks, and success. There's also a primitive amoral egoism at work, that says I am me so I am good so what I do is right, and people against me are bad.

Happily, you can only run a business on vapor for so long. YouTube is managed by very clever people who are rabidly jealous of every cent they have to pay out to people making the actual videos. They frequently burn video makers by changing the rules on monetizing, collapsing their businesses overnight. I don't begrudge anyone a living, but if you're going to pretend to teach people about the drums, make an effort not to suck, and don't be a scumbag.

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