Thursday, October 17, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 14, 2019

Equivalency of tempos

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

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

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

Let's walk through it:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Syncopation exercise - singles, 2-3 8th intervals

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

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

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

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

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

Get the pdf

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Daily best music in the world: two bootlegs

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

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

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

Friday, October 11, 2019

Very occasional quote of the day: let go lightly

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Common time

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

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

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

Most drummers learn early in their education that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Four drum solos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The solo starts after 6:15:

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

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

Monday, October 07, 2019

Bill Bachman news

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

Saturday, October 05, 2019

CYMBALISTIC: Cymbal day, 10/4/19

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

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

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

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

What's played, at what time:

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

Friday, October 04, 2019

CYMBALISTIC: Cymbal day today - Seattle event coming up

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

A couple of cymbal-related items:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An EXCELLENT time to support the blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But you can also: 

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

Thanks everyone! - tb

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Practice loop: Chenrezig

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

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

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Uptempo bailout drill

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

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

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

To something like this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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