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.

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