Saturday, April 27, 2019

Page o' coordination: Afro 9/8 - “African”

I was practicing this POC from last year, and wanted a version of it in 9/8, and here it is. I called it “African” only for the middle of the triplet rhythm on the hihat, and that bass drum double in the middle of the measure. Somehow those are broadly African-seeming choices to me. They don't reference any particular rhythm. I'm aware of no folkloric version of this “Afro 9/8” groove either, but in modern music people adapt traditional styles into non-traditional meters.

Hey, remember that last post where I said you can throw away Dahlgren & Fine? This is the kind of thing you can throw it away for: things that are based on real music, that sound like something when you're done with them. This page is probably a bigger coordination challenge than most players ever attempt, so why not just do this? It's way more rewarding.

Practice this the same as all of the other POCs: learn the patterns— I usually start with the left hand as a rim click on the snare drum— then drill the entire page using a series of stock tom moves.

Get the pdf

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Practice loop: Fela Kuti - This Is Sad

This is a really cool practice loop, sampled from This Is Sad by Fela Kuti, with Tony Allen on drums. You could try to cop the actual groove, or just play anything over it and let the vibe infect your playing. My recent page of tresillo/cinquillo variations works well with this. Do the funk drill with those pages, and play with the kinds of interpretations found in the funk control series. Everything you can possibly play sounds great with this. Stick Control. Anything.

The complete original track is after the break:

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Reed triplet method with RH accents

Writing yesterday's piece I realized I've never posted a really satisfactory explanation of the RH accent triplet solo method— a very useful way of practicing Progressive Steps to Syncopation, which I've relied on a lot over the years. It sounds impressive, and easy to play very fast, with a little practice— even reading the complex full page pp. 38-45 exercises. 

I wrote this up in 2013, but that version is kind of ratty. This is a little better. It has three preparatory patterns, an explanation of the basic elements, an explanation of the major exceptions, and examples from book.

The basic idea is:
1. Play the book rhythms with your right hand, accented, with a swing interpretation.
2. Fill in the unwritten remainder of the triplets with your left hand.

The slightly tricky part are the exceptions; where there are longer spaces between written notes, we break up the multiple LH filler triplets with the RH, unaccented. To be able to play it fast, we want there never to be more than two notes in a row for either hand. 

With completed system you can move the RH accents around the drums, or play them on the cymbals, with the bass drum in unison.

Get the pdf

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Practice tips for drummers with limited time

Get it, use it.
Here are some suggestions for people learning to play the drums, but who have limited time to do it... 1-2 hours a day to practice. That's most people, actually. As you'll see, even on a scaled-back program, there's still plenty to work on, which makes it all the more important that you economize your time.

These are geared to people mostly playing normal, backbeat oriented music, but they apply to everybody. Soon I'll do another post with specific recommendations for jazz students.

Practice like you play
Do everything on the drumset, think about the tempo before you start, and then maintain it; play in two, four, or eight bar phrases; move from your hihat to your ride cymbal occasionally, and add crashes on the occasional 1. Improvise variations on the thing you're practicing, and fill occasionally. Don't stop between exercises. Keep playing while you figure the next thing out— keep vamping on the thing you were just playing, or play a simple rhythm on the hihat. When you do stop, make it a real stop on 1, don't just peter out. Try to do what you do when you're playing for real.

Learn a lot of easy things
Once you know a lot of easy things, you may find you need very little else. There is a lot of very useful drumming vocabulary out there just waiting for you to pluck it from the trees.

Be simplicity oriented
You're not going to become Mike Mangini on one hour of practice a day, and thank God for that. Learn to be very creative with 8th notes. Be non-technical, and generally limit your playing to singles and doubles. Listen to people who sound great while playing simply.

Forget about most rudiments
What are you trying to accomplish with a ratamacue? Seriously.

You can work on: singles, doubles, short open rolls, all non-flammed versions of paradiddles, alternating flams. Those are all easy to become fluent with, and you can do a lot with them. Get my e-book of essential stickings.

Get into Syncopation
That's Progressive Steps to Syncopation by Ted Reed. Read my post on why Syncopation Is So Great. It's the easiest way to cover a lot of practical material in a professional format, reading and playing the way professionals do. Orchestrating single rhythms you hear, think of, or read, is much of your job in playing the drums creatively, and that's what you learn to do by using this book.

These practice methods would be good places to start with it:
EZ rock beat method
EZ quarter note rock method
Todd's funk drill
Right handed triplet solo method

Learn Three Camps and its variations
Three Camps is a snare drum piece based on triplet rolls, which can be adapted for working on numerous other things, and it makes an excellent chops builder. I think the most useful versions are:

Accented triplets
Triplet rolls (same as above, just play all the unaccented notes as doubles)
First inversion paradiddles
Six stroke rolls

Always be listening. To real music. Make sure a large part of it is music you could actually play. Limit your intake of amazing drummer bullcrap. Love of music is what keeps you interested and inspired to continue this for the years it takes to learn to do it.

Don't be mindless
Mindless repetition of random stuff is not going to cut it. Think about what you're actually trying to do, and pay attention while you're doing it. Quit waiting/hoping for “muscle memory” to do your creating for you, and start thinking in terms of musical ideas— things you hear on records, and the rhythms you play in Syncopation, and the ways you play them.

If you feel you must do some repetitive, mindless, Stick Control-type practicing, carve some extra time out of your day to do it. Get a silent pad and do it in front of the TV before bed. You could play all of those versions of Three Camps twice in about 10-15 minutes.

Don't do what amateurs do
Things like learning “parts” to songs, getting involved in internet flavor of the nanosecond concerns, spending all your time thinking about gear, techniques, fiddling with your set up, wasting time with fringe techniques. None of that counts towards your real improvement as a player.

Books to use:

Progressive Steps to Syncopation by Ted Reed - Seriously, do it. You can do virtually everything you really need with this book. Plus my book Syncopation in 3/4.

Mini Monster Rock Book by Joel Rothman
- Best practical volume of rock materials I've seen. Nothing in it is truly a waste of time. Will still be adequately challenging for most people.

Chop Busters by Ron Fink
- Just a collection of 1-4 measure technique studies many of which also happen to be usable vocabulary. You'd be fine practicing only the simplest things in it.

Odd Time Stickings by Gary Chaffee
- After you're done with my Essential Stickings book. These are designed to be easy to play, and easy to play fast. And they're not just for odd meters; you can play them in 4/4 by starting them in the middle of the measure. You can also change the rhythm to triplets.

Books to throw away:

Four Way Coordination by Dahlgren & Fine - For most players this is very deep background. It demands a lot of time, and a lot of insight to figure out what it means musically.

Stick Control by George L. Stone - People overdo it with this book. It's possible to use it in a musical way, but the musical content is really buried under the endless 8th notes and Rs and Ls.

The New Breed by Gary Chester - This is a book for people with a lot of time to burn, and it contains too much fringy stuff.

Anything remotely “extreme” or fringy
You know what I'm talking about. It takes a fantastic amount of time to get that stuff performance ready, and even then nobody wants to hear it.

This is mostly not that different from our normal site content, because I'm already always thinking in terms of economizing time, and going for the maximum practical value for everything I do, and the way I do it. Recommendations for jazz drummers coming soon.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Tresillo and cinquillo inversions

I've got way too much painfully unfinished stuff in the docket right now; about a dozen long written pieces languishing in my drafts folder, some in-depth practice materials in development, an ambitious new book project, a cymbal tour to Germany coming up, for which I should be writing emails...

So here's a something easy for me: a couple of pages of on the tresillo and cinquillo rhythms, with all of their inversions. I refer to them by their Cuban names for convenience, but they are extremely useful rhythms for any kind of music. You already have these in your copy of Syncopation, but they're spread out over three pages, with a lot of other rhythms, and not in any particular order. Putting these in logical order on two pages, maybe we can have a little more clarity in learning about these two important rhythms.

Use these the way you use the book Syncopation. Basically do anything with them. Another nice thing about having the variations all together is that all of the interpretations/orchestrations you do will be of equal difficulty, with the same type of flow.

Get the pdf

Friday, April 19, 2019

EZ linear quarter note rock method - drills

Here are a few specific drills for use with the EZ rock method from the other day. Not every single thing you play using this method is going to sound great, but it's a solid method for learning to improvise embellishments on a simple idea, while maintaining a strong quarter note-based groove.

I'll use the same example from last time— line 3, page 8 from Syncopation:

Which gives the follow as our foundation pattern, which we'll be embellishing with the bass drum— on various es, &a, and as added after the written snare drum and bass drum hits:

Add bass drum on all as:

Add bass drum on as after written bass drum notes, and on es/as after snare hits:

Add bass drum on &s after written bass drum hits, and e&s after snare hits, :

Add bass drum on as before written bass drum hits, and on &as before snare hits:

And there are other possibilities. When devising your own drills, you can also think about doing something different on the last snare hit in a sequence. Here we're using line 2, p. 8 from your book as the foundation pattern:

I suggest practicing all of these ideas until you can play all the exercises from the book without stopping— lines 2-15, plus the 16 bar exercise. It will be more fun if you use one of my practice loops.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Groove o' the day: Lex Humphries afro 6

Hm, Lex Humphries has been coming up a lot lately. I heard this tune played on KMHD, Portland's jazz radio station: Taboo, played by Duke Pearson on his Blue Note album Profile.

I should think about Humphries more— he is on a lot of records, and he's great. Here I've transcribed the Afro 6 feel he plays on the head of the tune, but the reason it caught my attention was the strong groove during the piano solo. He plays the cymbal beat with a strong quarter note pulse. As I listen to it on my computer, there's a pronounced tension between the bass and drums— the bass is on the front of the beat, and the drums behind. The main felt pulse is actually somewhere between them.

He also has a really nice sounding 20" ride cymbal. High pitched, clean, dark sound with sort of a pillowy quality. Mellow bell sound that is just metallic enough to give it some energy. How are you outfitted for cymbals? I sell the things, you know. I have a couple of light 20" Holy Grails in stock with a similar vibe.

Anyway, here's that Latin groove from the intro. The cymbal rhythm is unusual— it's kind of square. You hear more not-that-correct Latin interpretations from jazz drummers in the 50s than perhaps you do later. He only plays the bass drum audibly on the first measure of the tune:

He also plays it just with the snare and high tom:

He varies the cymbal when he does this move to the floor tom:

A couple of variations from the head out:

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Page o' coordination: the with interruptions - 04

I don't like giving you pages with too many patterns on them. When I do that, the idea is that you move through the patterns quickly, and cover them all in one unit of practice— 15-40 minutes. I include so many patterns in this post partly just to illustrate how many ideas come from the one simple original thing.

These pages go with the original “that with interruptions” page o' coordination. We're adding some middle-of-the-triplet filler notes that go with the starting pattern, and including them in the variations. The first pattern is the hardest; after you learn that you should be able to cruise through the rest of them pretty easily.

Print out the original page, and keep this with it. The line numbers on the left correspond with the same numbered exercise on the original page— except the last four. There is a duplicate pattern on the original page. It shouldn't be too hard to figure out.

Play the exercise on the original page, then learn variations A-C on these pages. Hopefully after playing these pages a few times, you can throw them away and just improvise your practicing with the general concept from memory.

Get the pdf

Monday, April 15, 2019

Daily best music in the world: tax day

Listening to the Japanese band Boris while I finish my taxes. First rock band I've liked in a long time— mashing up all of the 90s (or the first half, anyway) and making it better.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

3/16 Control - 01

BOPWORKS STICKS NEWS: For those of you who asked about getting some free Bopworks sticks, I'll be sending them out this week. I'll email everyone who will be receiving them.

While I finish doing my taxes, here is an item in development. This is related to the late hemiola funk series, but I'm tired of looking at the word hemiola, so I'll call it 3/16 Control instead— since we're dealing with three-16th note patterns, played in */4 meters. The exercises develop some fundamental coordination and rhythmic ideas.

Play patterns 1-4 as written, and substituting the bass drum for the snare drum. I've given some practice ideas on page 2. Also try playing the 3/4 and 2/4 versions repeating unbroken in any meter— 3/4, 4/4, 5/4. Dig through my practice loops to find something to play with. Don't neglect patterns 3 and 4.

Get the pdf

Thursday, April 11, 2019

EZ linear quarter note rock method

I may have written this up before, but I can't find it in the archives, and I probably didn't include the embellishments I'm going to tell you today, so what the hell, let's do it again.

This is an easy rock method using the linear quarter notes pages from Progressive Steps to Syncopation— that's “Lesson 3” in the new editions of the book, or pp. 8-9. For once we'll actually use the written bass drum part— I almost always ignore the stems-down part in the book. Do the following things with exercise lines 1-15, plus the 16 bar exercise. You should quickly be able to play exercises all the way through without stopping. If you have my book Syncopation in 3/4, you could also do this drill with the equivalent patterns in that book.

For the examples we'll be interpreting line 3 from the book:

The first step is extremely simple: play the book as written, add 8th notes on the hihat:

This is how I'll write the rest of the examples— I like to put everything on the same set of stems:

Next add some more bass drum; first on the &s after the snare drum hits:

You could also add it on the & before the first snare hit:

No reason you can't do some other rhythms, like the a of the beat after the snare hits:

Plus the a before the first snare hit:

You can also add these other rhythms after the snare hits:

There's no reason you have to do only one of these things at a time— once you're basically familiar with the method, you should be able to improvise your own combinations. The method is so easy you'll probably get tired of it before you run all the combinations exhaustively. It's fine; the goal is just to play the patterns in the book with some improvised embellishments. Play through it with one of my practice loops

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Three Camps in 6-stroke rolls

For awhile I was campaigning to get this RLLRRL sticking called “Swiss sixtuplets”, based on an overheard conversation from drum corps days, when George Tuthill and Alan Kristensen, two corps legends, were talking about rudiments. George was my corps director and Alan was the drum line instructor. George mentioned that Swiss rudimental drummers routinely played sixtuplets this way, instead of as singles. I haven't found any evidence of that being the case, but I wanted to try to force a piece of my personal lore into the drumming literature anyway.

Whatever: this is a companion for the recent Three Camps in paradiddle-diddles; taken together they're an opportunity to really smoke your major sixtuplet stickings. You should be able to do these fast.

Normally when playing this rudiment I accent both of the singles— the R at the beginning and the L at the end; doing that here messes with the integrity of the piece. Accent that trailing L lightly, if you must.

Get the pdf

Monday, April 08, 2019

Groove o' the day: Charli Latin

One more item from that tune Fuss Budget, by Curtis Fuller, from the album Two Bones: there is a few bars of a Latin groove on the head of the tune, during which Charli Persip plays this:

That should look very familiar— there's barely even cause to share it, except to say haha, look, another example of someone using that same Mozambique-type bell rhythm. It's a very useful, hip rhythm for a lot of different Latin styles in jazz. It just flows nicely from the middle of the first bar to the ending 1:

Persip seemingly plays the bass drum on the first 1 only; 1 and the & of 2 is another good possibility for jazz applications— though not correct for clave-based music. A good generic bass drum rhythm for occasions when clave is being observed is & of 2 of both measures. That would work here, since the bassist is playing a quasi-Cuban rhythm on that section.

Friday, April 05, 2019

Page o' coordination: That with interruptions - 03

 I like this little series. Nothing radically innovative, but a slightly different way of thinking about normal jazz comping vocabulary, courtesy of John Riley. These pages aren't ordered for total beginners— if I were teaching this to a student new to jazz, I would reverse the order.

This is intended as a jazz thing, so swing the 8th notes. Playing it as straight 8ths in cut time will also be useful for some other styles. Approach this in page-at-once mode— cover all the patterns in fairly rapid succession, in one session.

Get the pdf

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Time and whatnot

Object To Be Destroyed
by Man Ray
It is often said that in a musical ensemble, keeping time is everyone's responsibility.

And in some hypothetical quantum universe or other fantastical musical fairyland, people may actually follow that in practice. In reality, it's all on you, the drummer. You will always be the one blamed when there are problems with the time. You are the receptacle for everyone's problems with the time— both real and imagined— and you will be expected to fix everything.

So your time has to be good, so good that you know it's good, and can speak with real confidence when it comes up.

Here are a few general philosophies and practical tips for improving your time effectively:

Feeling bad
For professionals required to play modern music in a wide variety of tempos, styles and settings, where you are basically expected to maintain metronomic accuracy, I don't believe you can rely on body motion, technique, listening, feeling... “innate groove”... whatever mickey mouse theories people have about the mysterious place good time comes from. It doesn't lie in your muscles, your soul, the motion of the sticks, or the structure of your anatomy.

It resides in your head. The time has to be conceived. You could say it's an intellectual process, I would say it's about awareness. Time awareness can be learned.

I should clarify: there is plenty of indigenous/folkoric music, some of which is extremely rhythmically sophisticated, in which the time may be very much reliant on the things I listed above. That music may be the greatest art in the world, but the demands are different for professional musicians playing the drum set.

Time is the point
In learning to play, we work on a lot of stuff. A whole lot of drumming crap, none of which matters if it isn't servicing the time. Not only do you have to be able to do it in time, you have to use it to construct the time. So we have to resign ourselves to the idea that time is something we have to build and constantly maintain with what we play. There are times where you are allowed or able to take a looser attitude, but you have to be able to do the constructive thing.

The nice part is that when you're playing really good time, little else matters. The crap you wanted to play doesn't seem that great any more. You can be a great drummer with very little drumming crap.

Counting rhythm
Vocalizing is how we make sure our brains get it. It gives you internal concept of the musical idea, which you can then express by playing it on an instrument. Counting the rhythms out loud is a functionally OK way for  doing that. I think of it as a low-grade version of the very ancient, sophisticated and effective Indian rhythmic solfege.

For any piece of music you should be able to vocalize the rhythm of the notes only, and the notes plus rests, counting rests as if they are notes. Playing something written out for the drumset, you should be able to count the combined rhythm of the snare and bass drum parts, and the combined rhythm for all of the parts. Personally I only take this to the 16th note level: 1-e-&-a 2-e-&a. At normal tempos I wouldn't count complete rhythms for sixtuplets or 32nd notes— I count those as 8th notes, with no syllables for the subdivisions.

A major place where your time will get messed up is with anticipations— long notes landing right before the beat. You hit a lot of &s of 2 and &s of 4 in jazz, and they tend to rush. When you hit a long note on the & of 4, know where the 1 is, and know how long the space is from the & of 4 to the 2.

1 and 3
Jazz drummers can get almost phobic about the 1 and 3, like they're the white beats that will show everyone how ungrooving you truly are if you acknowledge them. But they're the context for all the super-hip stuff you play. You have to know where they are, and state them accurately, especially if you're doing an Elvin Jones type of cymbal interpretation

Slow click 
Practice with your metronome set to the slowest speed you can handle, regardless of the tempo you're playing. Like a quarter or 1/8th speed. So if you're practicing something at quarter note = 120, set your metronome to 30 or 15. This forces you to conceive the time in your own head, the exact same way you need to do when you're playing music. The metronome just comments periodically to tell you how well you're doing it. I set mine from 15-40 BPM all the time, unless there's a good reason to do something else.

People like to get cute with their metronomes, programming them to drop out for a few measures or whatever. That's just dancing around the real issue, which is ongoing focus on the time. Just learn to deal with a constant slow click.

Memorizing sound
BPM numbers and metronome pulses are lousy media for learning time. Instead, memorize sound. Here: think about the song Kashmir; hear the recording in your head, clap the beat, then check the recording to see how accurately you called it:

Try it with any other recordings you know well. If you wanted to, you could memorize the BPMs for your remembered music catalog, so you can recall the entire functional range of tempos just by thinking about it. Fool your friends.

The more important thing is just to know that this is a thing, learn to trust its accuracy, and begin exploiting it in your playing every day. For example, in playing and recording, I will often memorize the sound of the countoff— not the tempo, the actual sound of the person's voice— or the horn pickups, to check the timing of the tune in progress.

See what you think. These things have all worked very well for me, I think they'll work for you too.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Groove o' the day: more Brazilian funk

Another funk groove with a Brazilian flavor, from Shebaba by the guitarist Bola Sete. The album must have been recorded in Los Angeles, because on it are the saxophonist Hadley Caliman, and my old combo leader at USC, the pianist Dwight Dickerson. He used to do our rehearsals and then go play his regular gig with Tootie Heath.

This is an instrumental arrangement of the Gilberto Gil tune Roda. The drummer is Ronald de Mesquita, a Brazilian who did a lot of road gigs and also lived in LA then.

This arrangement adds a funk interlude and intro:

It's a partido alto funk groove, which you can see most clearly in measure 5— compare that to the Airto and Ivan Conti recordings under that link. He's playing it pretty simply here, basically a Brazilian bell rhythm with snare drum and bass drum added on the accents.

The tune starts at 17:00 in the video, and the transcribed groove happens at 18:33.

Monday, April 01, 2019

Transcription: Charli Persip comping

There are a few drummers who I really, really love despite having not heard them on that many records. I have a relatively few albums I listen to all the time, and some people are just underrepresented. Charli Persip is one. He's on a ton of stuff, just mostly not the records I listen to— with a few notable exceptions. But he's basically the perfect high bebop drummer, with a perfect balance of intelligence, groove, assertiveness, hipness and taste.

This is him playing behind Curtis Fuller's solo on Fuss Budget, from Fuller's album Two Bones. It's super hip, economical, modern bebop drumming— somewhat like Roy Haynes, but less flamboyant. The transcription starts at 0:43, at the beginning of the solos:

A bebop groove, with the repeating cymbal rhythm, can begin to feel somewhat static if the comping is too predictable— and this a good example of not-that. He's mostly comping in single notes, but they're not always in the same place in the measure; some of what he's doing suggests 3/4 within 4/4 (like in the first four bars) but he's not obvious about that either. He picks his spots for the more assertive punctuations.

Here he plays his cymbal beat with all the notes basically at an even volume. It's an interpretation I associate with Billy Higgins, but where Higgins has a very relaxed vibe, Persip is emphatic and grooving. He's got quite pocket with it— it's worth listening all the way through just focusing on the cymbal.

He is feathering the bass drum for much of this, but I've only notated it in a couple of spots where he plays it pretty strongly, and it sets up something different.

Get the pdf

Note: the album cover in the video credits Al Harewood on drums, but that was a mistake. Persip is credited for this track on the Blue Note box set. And it sounds like Persip.