Thursday, November 28, 2019

Very occasional quote of the day: late arrivers

“There’s a certain kind of people that are more or less late arrivers, you can – even though he was certainly on the scene and known and respected – you can hear him building his abilities from the beginning very consciously and very aware of every note he played, theoretically and motivically and everything. And it seems like those kind of people that have to really develop more analytically and consciously and dig into themselves and more or less the late arrivers, they don’t have the kind of facility — I know Miles has spoken about how he didn’t have the facility that a lot of trumpet players had, and fast tempos and all this stuff, and Bird would just tell him “Just get out there and do it,” but that kind of person, when they finally do arrive at their own expressive level, to me, seem to contain so much more.

Now there are always a lot of early arrivers that have great facility. And these guys say 'God, he’s only 15 and listen to that young guy play, man, he’s all over the horn and he seems to have it covered.' But often those people, and I’m saying this because maybe some people will be listening that have those feelings, and I certainly, myself, I’m kind of a late arriver. I knew a lot of people with those kinds of facilities, and they don’t know what to do with it often. They don’t have the ability to discard and add, and what they really do is reflect the scene and it’s a marvelous talent that they have, and I love to hear them play, but as real contributors and so forth they don’t add up that much. So often the person that has to go through a more laborious, long, digging, analytical process finally arrives at something which is much more precious.”

— Bill Evans on Miles Davis

Definitely read the entire interview— it's mainly about the making of Kind of Blue. It was broadcast once on WKCR/NY in 1979, and comes to us via a transcript of a cassette recorded off the radio at that time by Lewis Nash.

(h/t to Kurt Rosenwinkel, who shared this on Twitter)

Monday, November 25, 2019

Jazz waltz with Chaffee

Let's detail something I mentioned in the Chaffee jazz post: using the patterns in that system as 8th notes in a jazz waltz. They're three-note (or rest) patterns, so playing them two times = a complete measure of 8th notes in 3/4 time. This gives a strong feeling of a dotted quarter note pulse starting on the 1, & of 1, or 2— an Elvin Jones-like thing. I've found this to be a very interesting form of conditioning.

As I said, Chaffee's system should really be used by people who already have a working jazz vocabulary. What we'll do here is actually more practical than the regular system, but still, if you need more explanation than I'm giving here you probably shouldn't be doing it.

We'll play the patterns as 8th notes in 3/4, along with a jazz waltz cymbal rhythm. It is slightly odd to make that translation by looking at a single beat of a triplet rhythm, so here are the pattern rhythms as they appear in the book, and how they will be played in this waltz method:

I suggest playing it both with swing 8ths and straight 8ths. You could also also just play quarter notes on the cymbal, or a different jazz waltz rhythm.

There are a lot of patterns to cover, and it's very difficult to give them all equal attention. But if you have an appropriate level of experience to be doing this, you will have played many of them already through other methods, and you can move through them very quickly. Play maybe 2-8 measures of each pattern, more on the ones that are more difficult for you.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Hemiola funk series: back to back

Continuing this project to see how much standard funk vocabulary can be derived from two 3:2 polyrhythm licks. Here we're doing the two main BS-BS and SB-SB hemiola licks back to back, and putting that in 2/4 and 4/4 in various permutations. 

Patterns 1-4 summarize the basic licks found on the HFS beginner sheet. The main forms of this back to back thing are in patterns 5, 6, and 17. The patterns in 2/4 and 4/4 are created by adding or subtracting beats from the main patterns in 3/4. Some of the 2/4 patterns make more sense as funk vocabulary if they are played with the beats reversed, as I've written in patterns 9 and 11.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Very occasional quote of the day: established discipline

“Bach taught how to find originality within an established discipline— actually how to live.”

— Jean-Paul Sartre

Friday, November 15, 2019

Rock unisons drill

I'm very big on drills with the hands in unison these days. It strengthens the left hand, and is excellent training for playing singles solidly, in time, without rushing. This is a very basic rock drill which I've never seen written or taught, but which I think should be included in the basic ways rock drumming is taught. It probably exists somewhere.

Like I said, it's simple: use my basic rock drill with both hands playing running 8ths in unison, accenting the 2 and 4:

Get my e-book EZ  Rock Drumming for a fuller, updated explanation of my basic rock drill, and its variations. Of course you can do this drill with any book of basic rock beats.

Play the hands on the snare and floor tom, or on any two drums. Or any one tom. Or moving between drums. To me there's something rather Joey Baron about this drill— I can't explain it any further than that.

You can improvise additional accents on 2&/4& or &2/&4 to fit around the bass drum part for whichever line of the rock drill you're playing:

Another way of experimenting with the orchestration would be to do something different on the 2 and 4— flamming on the snare drum, or accenting on the snare drum and crash cymbal together:

An excellent endurance drill would be to play pages 14-15 from Syncopation (using my rock beat application above) along with my Bill Frisell/Child At Heart loop.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Making sense of the Chaffee jazz materials

Patterns, vol. 3 by Gary Chaffee
Let's talk about a big scary hard thing: the jazz section of volume 3 of Gary Chaffee's Patterns series— the Time Functioning book. It's in a similar category with the harmonic coordination in Dahlgren & Fine, in that the materials are hard, and they're written in a way that makes it hard to practice them, so hardly anyone ever does.

Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm supposed to just work on what they put in front of me and shut up. Before I waste a lot of time practicing something I've always needed it to make sense musically, and time-economically. But Patterns is a big important series of books, so let's try to figure out what can and should be done with it, if anything.

What it is 
It's 12 pages of three-note (or rest) independence patterns, for up to three voices— snare drum, bass drum, and hihat. Starting on page 25 of the version with  the cover you see above, which is probably what most people have. It's intended that you play the patterns as triplets, along with several one- or two-beat jazz-type ride cymbal rhythms. There are exercises for each voice by itself, linear combinations, and “harmonic” combinations (meaning the patterns include unisons). Basically all possible 3 note/rest combinations for the three sounds.

Why it's hard
It's less a playing method than a straight technical library: a collection of raw patterns, presented in math-logical order. Which is not necessarily most helpful for actually learning to play them and use them.

Taken as a whole the materials serve a rather narrow category of jazz drumming. Single-beat comping ideas are a very small part of what is possible musically, and complex triplet-based comping materials are practical only at the lower end of the normal tempo range for jazz. Many of the patterns have a single voice playing all three notes of the triplet, which imposes a further technical limit on their maximum usable tempo.

There is also no broad concept for using the patterns in real playing. Some patterns will recognizable as normal jazz vocabulary (presented more concisely in other books), some will be useful to individual players who will figure out their own way of using them, and some will serve only as independence conditioning.

What to do with it
Just playing the system as intended at a slow tempo takes a good amount of time, but that is the first thing to do. Play all patterns with each of the four suggested cymbal rhythms.

As you increase your tempo, the first major edit I would make is to skip all rhythms where any single voice is playing all three notes of the triplet. Then if you want to develop high-speed running triplets on whatever limb, you can make it a separate project, focused on developing the special technique required for that. As you get faster you can cut the more impractical patterns, but at some point you're better off working from a book that is designed to be played at normal tempos.

I also work the patterns with a jazz waltz cymbal rhythm (still with the patterns as triplets) quarter note triplet cymbal rhythm, and an Afro 6 bell rhythm— anyone who has spent significant time with my Afro 6 pages o' coordination may want to explore that.

You could also play the patterns as 8th notes in 3/4. Any pattern played twice = one measure of 8th notes in 3/4. There's a lot of potential here for developing a rolling, Elvin-style jazz waltz.

Honestly, drummers looking to use this book to develop a functional modern jazz vocabulary could also include part of the funk section of the book— the snare drum/bass drum linear exercises and hihat exercises in 2/4, starting on page 15. Just double the rhythms so 16th notes = 8th notes, swing the 8th notes, and practice them along with the same cymbal rhythms as the regular triplet section.

I should point out: there are a lot of patterns to play in this system, and playing all of them is not the only way to approach it. In real life drumming, any one thing you learn to use effectively is a big deal. In the past, part of why I could never get through this system is that I would play one exercise, or a few exercises, and would spend so much time exploring it/them, that I would never get to the rest of it. That's not a bad idea. 

The upshot
This is a difficult book requiring a lot of time, and some ingenuity, to use effectively. It's really for elite students with extreme work ethic, operating in a very healthy musical environment. Hardcore maniacs who are also very musically together. Also good for lifers like me who never stop practicing, who like devising their own practice systems, and learning different ways of doing the same thing.

This method is more a system of conditioning than a way of playing, but it naturally supports a modern, abstract, ECM type of feel in a triplet rhythm— a la Jack Dejohnette or Jon Christiansen—at slow to moderate tempos. It will also be good for developing some freedom with normal 12/8 grooves. It's a good technical library for whatever creative purposes you can cook up for it, especially 12/8 grooves, 3/4, and meter within meter applications.

The musicianship is not in the book. With a book like Art of Bop Drumming, which is primarily a style guide, a diligent student who knows very little about jazz could actually learn to be a passable jazz drummer. That's not going to happen with Chaffee's book.

Monday, November 04, 2019

Groove o' the day: Airto - Street Vendors D'Jmbo

A baiao-type drum set groove from Airto— actually I don't know what to call this. I'm not hearing obvious markers of a particular style. Maybe Airto's just playing. Someone who really knows their berimbau rhythms could probably tell us. It's from the track Street Vendors D'Jmbo, on Airto's album Homeless. It's a sort of impressionistic percussion and vocal piece, backed with some synth.

From the intro:

This is the groove for most of the track, with subtle variations— there's a lot of overdubbed percussion and I can't tell what's happening with the left foot, if anything.

It's actually not difficult to hear that second groove backwards, starting on the fourth beat, so the bass drum rhythm is on 2, and the snare drum accent with the buzz is on 3. 

You can hear that he's swinging the 16th notes in an interesting way, that is different from the “tripteenth” interpretation we've discussed before. Some of the effect is due to the interaction of the percussion parts, but it sounds like occasional 16ths on the a are played late. Or perhaps the a is in the normal place and the 1e& is slightly compressed. Something to explore in another post.

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Rhythms for Reed samba method

A special selection of syncopation rhythms for use with this multi-post samba method in progress (the main post is still to come), but obviously you can do other things with it. It would be good for working up some Ed Blackwell-like solo vocabulary on the tom toms, for example. I've written out the filler rhythms, filling in the gaps in the main rhythms, and some basic variations on them.

Like several recent similar pages, this is written for speed and flow with both parts. The main rhythms have no more than two notes in a row at 8th note speed, and no more than one 8th note between notes. Column A has the plain filler rhythm, column B has the filler rhythm plus the following note, column C has the filler rhythm plus the note before— except where that would result in more than two notes in a row at 8th note speed.

It takes a lot of words to describe it, but these are normal forms of coordination on the drums.

Coming next week will be the main page for the samba drill.

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