Saturday, October 24, 2020

Best books: Jim Payne's Complete Funk Drumming Book

I've long felt there isn't a truly good basic funk drumming book. There are many bad ones, and a few decent/acceptable ones. I most often use A Funky Primer out of habit, or Joel Rothman's Mini Monster book. The Roy Burns/Joey Farris book is solid. But I don't really have a universal method book for backbeat-based music that is ideal for most of my students. 
So I was pleasantly surprised recently when I revisited Jim Payne's Complete Funk Drumming Book, which I used a bit in school in the 80s, and realized it's pretty good.  

It's 88 pages long. Like all of the above books, it's focused on playing funk time in 4/4— which today applies broadly to all areas of backbeat-oriented drumming. The progression in difficulty is well-paced, and it gives teachers a lot of options for using it with students of different levels of ability. Good for middle school to college level students.

It's nicely balanced— verbal explanations are straightforward and not over-long, and there aren't too many practice patterns— enough to teach a basic concept and its major variations, so the student can develop it further through his or her own playing.   

It's music-centered, with the focus on informing your playing for real music. The more advanced materials are of normal complexity for real world playing and improvising. There are many transcribed examples of (now-classic) grooves, with metronome markings and complete citations for the songs and records they're from. Very important for the student, and very helpful for the teacher, and, with the destruction of the recorded music industry via pirating, streaming, and YouTube, it's easier than ever to actually listen to them and play along with them.  

Most practice patterns and transcribed examples are one or two measures long. There are a few groups of single-beat technical studies. I use that type of thing with students quite often now— usually just to help get the coordination. Other teachers and students might be more into exploring their creative possibilities than I am. 

There is a chapter on the connection of funk grooves to clave, and to Brazilian rhythms— not unlike some things I've done on this site. He presents these as ideas, with authentic rhythms, without getting into pseudo-hip made-up grooves, preparing you to do your own things with them.   

The last half of the book, with the more advanced materials, is quite a bit looser in structure— I think it's probably more appropriate for mature students who are playing regularly, and have a good, creative relationship with a teacher. Students who can derive a lesson from something and run with it without having it spelled out or developed via many practice patterns.   

It isn't until the very last pages of the book that we get into things that I wouldn't have a lot of use for; some technical patterns with a lot of three-way unisons, and some composed “hip” grooves. There's just five pages of that; and just because I don't dig it doesn't mean somebody else can't use it.  

So, a very solid product. If my Syncopation-based funk methods provide the reading, textural, and improvisational training, this book provides the common real-world vocabulary and funk-theoretical background information I'll be using both with my students. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Three Camps for drumset - 16th notes / basic - 04

This is the basic form of Three Camps for drumset, converted into 16th notes. I continue to dig this format for practicing jazz coordination. For me the main attraction of this page is the Elvin-like thing we see at the end of measure C of the first version, and throughout the page. We really get to polish that sucker. 

Check the form carefully for each version— each version has the measures in a different order. It's not as difficult/weird as it seems.  

You can play these substituting the left foot for the bass drum— in that case ignore the written hihat part. Doing it that way, at faster tempos I might eliminate the second note of any double— on the a-1 or a-3 in measure D of the first version, for example. Play the hihat on the a, don't play it on the 1.  

You could also mix things up by playing the 1e-a rhythm (on whatever beats it occurs) as a triplet, as in the original triplet version of this page, and play the full beats of 16ths as 16ths. That's a thing Elvin Jones does a lot. 

 Get the pdf

Thursday, October 15, 2020

CYMBALISTIC: You never know

Thinking about this fabulous product I'm selling, Cymbal & Gong cymbals, in this precarious time, it struck me that they could just go away at any time. 

I think— as do many of the the pros I've shown and sold them to— that they're consistently the best traditional jazz cymbal available right now. And they only exist because one guy in Portland is nursing his little business along producing them, and there's a shop in Istanbul with one master cymbalsmith, and a handful of employees, who make them. 

Not to be morbid, but the whole thing hangs on the health and financial stability of a handful of middle-aged people. One substantial crisis, and it becomes, eh we can't really afford to do this any more, and bang, they're gone. It's a big deal to me, because I spent most of my career hating all the cymbals I played. If I haven't gotten everything I need if that fateful day ever happens, I'm back to poking around online, hoping to get lucky, and making due with a lot of stuff I don't like.  

So... if you're thinking about getting some of these, don't screw around— get them now. I picked out everything I sell myself, so you know they're good— at least they had to get past one discriminating pro's ear. I think they'll end up being your main axe for the rest of your career. Shoot me an email (see sidebar, or contact on Cymbalistic) and let's talk about it.  

By the way, someone online was just commenting about the cymbal Elvin Jones uses on the Coltrane Village Vanguard recordings— specifically on the tune India: 

As always, I looked in my stock and instantly found something that could be its brother:  

Check out the blog on my Cymbalistic site— there are a couple of other cases. Like the cymbal Blakey used on some famous early 60s records, and a reasonable match for Tony Williams's famous cymbal— as recorded on the Plugged Nickel recordings, at least. That cymbal— a 22" Holy Grail called “Eloi”— is still available, by the way. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Very occasional quote of the day: Mickey Roker on practicing

More from Mickey Roker's Modern Drummer interview by Jeff Potter, October, 1985, on the subject of practicing the drums: 

It has always been hard for me to practice, because I get bored if I don't hear music—if I'm just hearing the drums.

I go from one thing to the next to keep me from being bored.

I learn all the rhythms basically. Then you learn how to create— how to improvise. If you can think, then all you've got to do is think. I learned the rhythms in their basic form— the calypso, bolero, reggae— but then you need music. You learn how to do things when you're on that bandstand or rehearsing with other musicians.

When I practice, I don't say, “I'm going to get this or that lick together.” 

I don't discourage my students from formal practice or using books. There are great things in drum method books—as long as you can make it sound natural. You want to sound natural, not mechanical. 

Monday, October 12, 2020

Extended shuffle stickings

This is just a little exploration of a special set of stickings for drum set. I wrote it to practice myself, and see if it's worth developing as a concept. A lot of what we do here is play around with different approaches to ordinary ideas, to see if it helps us use them creatively, or practice them productively. That's all. 

You could call these extended shuffle stickings, after the RH rhythm of the three note pattern. They're mostly-alternating, and starting and ending with a single right hand. Sometimes we have to add a double left near the end to make them come out right. 

Three notes: RLR
Four notes: RLLR
Five notes: RLRLR
Six notes: RLRLLR
Seven notes: RLRLRLR
Eight notes: RLRLRLLR
Nine notes: RLRLRLRLR

Clearly this is not about playing shuffles— these are all common, useful stickings in other contexts. On this page I've written them as 8th notes in their native meters, and in their closest opposite type of meter— simple (straight 8th) and/or compound (triplet feel). The tick marks on some of the examples show where the pattern begins. 

Play the right hand on the cymbal, left hand on the snare drum. Add bass drum on some or all of the cymbal notes. Add a simple rhythm with the left foot. Vary the dynamics with the left hand. 

You don't have to play these only in the written time signature. The 5/4 and 15/8 versions of the five note pattern, for example, are just to show you how that odd sticking lays in a straight 8th or triplet feel. I'll be playing most of them in 4/4, 3/4, or 12/8. 

Get the pdf

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Transcription: Shelly Manne - What Laurie Likes

Here's Shelly Manne playing a funk jam— What Laurie Likes, by Art Pepper, from Pepper's album Living Legend. This is really just to get you to listen to Charlie Haden— that's a bassist— who is AWESOME on this whole thing. The drumming is great too though. Longer transcription than usual, because Mr. Manne was kind, and this was an easy performance to write out.

I have a number of notes on this one: 

This isn't a mono-volume funk jam. At different times Manne plays a 2/2 funk groove, or a fast 4 groove, or running 8th notes, or he'll improvise on the cymbals, or on the hihats. Occasionally he'll play soloistic stuff on the snare drum. He always sounds like he's going somewhere— much of the time he's building or backing off. He's not waiting for the soloist to lead on that; he's making it happen on his own, acting as a conductor. 

The 16th note fills usually crescendo. I think a lot of us do that routinely, but it's not the only way to do it. A funk drummer might take more of a bam bam approach, with the fills at basically an even volume all the way through. That's stronger for maintaining the groove. You can hear that done greatly by Ndugu Leon Chancler, or crudely by Ginger Baker. Manne's fills usually crescendo, but they don't necessarily end with a big cymbal crash on 1. There are relatively few actual crashes here.

Manne often plays bass drum through 16th note fills. I've noticed several 70s LA guys do this— Jeff Porcaro and John Guerin, for example. I don't think this is just a carryover from jazz drumming. The music settles a little bit when you come off the cymbals, and playing the bass drum keeps the intensity of the groove through the fills. Something to think about when playing groove music. 

We're not hearing a ton of funk vocabulary; there are a few basic moves he uses again and again. The three-8th note RRL pattern, or even plain old RLRL played between the hihat and snare drum; a cinquillo rhythm on the cymbal when he's grooving. Much of this is not unlike things on my EZ Tresillo Orchestrations page, or what we get from my cut time funk drill.  

There's a lot of open hihat here, usually with a half-open sound, indicated with a tenuto mark. 

As a personal taste thing— to me many of the 16th notes are kind of gratuitous. The groove is strongest when he's just doing 8th notes and quarter notes. Drummers generally always want to go to double time, to the hand-to-hand stuff, to prove this is a jazz performance, and the result is... not that great. Here, even with a lot of improvising and playing around, the 8ths and quarters still sound better. And Charlie Haden doesn't need to play a lot of 16th notes to sound F— KILLER. We'll talk more about this another time.

Thursday, October 08, 2020

Jazz fundamentals: more stick control for jazz

Another jazz fundamentals item, that pairs nicely with Monday's thing. These are some stick control patterns designed to be played on the drumset, for a specific jazz vocabulary lesson. That's a lot of what we do here. I wrote something like this back in March, with a slightly different purpose— a nice thing about having software like Finale is that it's easy to focus our materials.

This page is meant to help with adding the left hand to some basic cymbal rhythms, and also to help get the timing of some common figures— “additive rhythm” style. We'll be seeing that term again in coming days.

Swing the 8th notes. Play the right hand on the cymbal, left hand on the snare drum. Add bass drum to some or all of the RH notes. Add hihat on beats 2 and 4.

Some of the patterns have the option of playing the left hand on beat 1— those are to get the timing of a cymbal accent on the & of 4. 

Get the pdf

Monday, October 05, 2020

CYMBALISTIC: Leon Collection!

CYMBALISTIC: Heads up, if you're thinking about getting some new cymbals. I'm holding a few new odd-size Leon Collection cymbals right now— 21", 19" and 17"—on approval from Cymbal & Gong.

The Leons are really lovely— “like 602s, but better”, said my friends in Berlin last year. They generally have a bright sound that is airy, complex, and very musical. They handle similarly to other jazz cymbals, and they blend well with them. I have an 18" crash that works beautifully with my other Cymbal & Gongs. I may well buy one of this group for myself.

Video of the new cymbals will be coming in a couple of days.

This very light 20" ride captures the spirit of them— our man in Berlin, Michael Griener, owns its companion:

Oh, also, thanks to my skype student Robert in San Luis Obispo for buying this wonderful Holy Grail, “Desmond.” These are the kind of cymbals you use your entire career.

Jazz fundamentals: playing basic rhythms on a cymbal

Usually people start with jazz coordination by playing snare drum independence patterns along with a static cymbal rhythm— see Jim Chapin's Advanced Techniques, for example. It's a thing to do, and it should be done. But it's not the only thing to do, and I don't think it's the directest way to becoming a functional jazz drummer. Jazz does not necessarily require a rigidly unvarying cymbal rhythm, and  complicated left hand activity. 

What it does require is a cymbal rhythm played with a strong quarter note pulse. If you can do that, and play some simple things with a little creativity, you're in OK shape as a novice jazz drummer— at least as far as pure timekeeping vocabulary is concerned. 

This is a summary of a lesson item I've done with a number of students— adding easy things to a varying basic rhythm played on the cymbal. Use the rhythms in pp. 10-11 in Syncopation, or pp. 14-15 in my book Syncopation in 3/4. Or pp. 6-7 in Joe Morello's New Directions in Rhythm. You could spend some extra time on the rhythms that are most like the normal ones; lines 2, 4, and 15 in Reed pp. 10-11, for example.

These are quite easy, so you can just memorize the concepts, and practice them in a free form way— after playing through them, with all of the cymbal rhythms from the books, working out the coordination with the standard hihat/bass drum rhythms.  

Play the rhythm on the cymbal
The top line rhythms in the book, on a cymbal, with your right hand. Swing the 8th notes, and play them with a strong quarter note pulse, and a steady rhythm.

I'll use those same two rhythms for all of the other examples.

Add standard rhythms with the feet 
In 4/4 play 2 & 4 on the hihat. In 3/4 play 1 on the bass drum and 2 on the hihat:

I won't write these parts into the remaining examples, but you can continue playing them while you do the other things. Or not. If the rhythms conflict with the later things, or if the groove starts suffering because there's too much going on coordination-wise, stop doing one of the things. There's time for punishing rigor later. Do what you can do reasonably quickly, while making the cymbal rhythm sound good.   

Hey, there are a lot of examples— let's put a page break....

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Very occasional quote of the day: play sessions

“We used to have sessions right here in this house where I was raised. Lee Morgan, Reggie Workman, McCoy Tyner—all those guys used to come right here and my grandmother would be back there cooking. We would be in here all day.

Each guy would have a jam session on a different day at his house; Sunday was my day. So we played every day when we were young— Kenny Barron, Arthur Hopper, C Sharpe, Jimmy Vance—a bunch of Philadelphia musicians.”

— Mickey Roker, Modern Drummer interview by Jeff Potter, October, 1985

Monday, September 28, 2020

Daily best music in the world: Clifford Jarvis with Kenny Drew

Here's a nice record from 1977— Clifford Jarvis playing with Kenny Drew, along with Portland's own David Friesen. Straightforward power bebop, you could call it. There's so much uncontrived tradition in this, it makes you question if the young neo-bop classicists, who came along a few years later, were as needed as they claimed to be. That kind of music never went away. Blue Note could have just given those fat contracts to people like Drew. I guess they needed an advertising hook.

I haven't listened to a whole lot of Jarvis's playing. I associate him with Sun Ra, Freddie Hubbard, and Archie Shepp, but I never had many of the records he was on. His playing here is really strong, with a deep groove that reminds me of people like Al Foster and Art Taylor. Like them he's assertive, but economical. There's a little flavor of Roy Haynes in his soloing on the last tune.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Double-paradiddle / paradiddle-diddle inversions - linear, all on one page

I wrote this up for myself, maybe you'll use it, too. These are the 6/8 linear versions of the double paradiddle and paradiddle-diddle inversions page, written for snare drum and bass drum— that's easier for me to read for what I'm doing with them. Doing lots of triplets lately.

I've written the accents just to show where the inverted rudiment begins. You don't need to play the accent. I'm using these as independence patterns along with a jazz cymbal rhythm. Also playing them with the hands in unison— snare and cymbal, two drums, or flams on one drum. And playing with cymbal added on the bass drum notes. If you play these with the measures reversed, and play each measure of 6/8 individually, that adds up to a pretty complete unit of triplet patterns for jazz.

Get the pdf

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Practice loop: Milt Jackson medium blues

This is the main loop I've been using with late Three Camps for drumset materials. Most of them— to my taste yesterday's thing is better to practice without a loop. This is sampled from a portion of Milt Jackson's solo from SKJ, a bonus track on the CD release of his album Sunflower. The tune is a 12 bar blues, and the tempo is about 125 bpm.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Three Camps for drumset - RLL/RRL/six stroke - 03

UPDATE: I noticed a typo in the “syncopated / starting on 2” version, plus I changed the sticking on the A measures. Notes on the updates further down... 

Settle in, kids, we're going to be seeing several more of these, because a) I like it and I think it's an effective format, b) I can't think of much else to do right now. Times are weird.

This one uses all the basic things found in Alan Dawson's “Ruff Bossa” method— that's a triplet system using all the parts of the six stroke roll, with RLLs, RRLs, RLLRRLs, plus occasional alternating swing 8ths.

Memorize all four of these and practice them as a complete unit. Alert on the first syncopated version: on the “first camp” (AABA), play the B measure as a full measure of RRL. The swing 8th on the first beat only happens on CCBA parts.

Notes on the updated page: 

• The typo in the syncopated/starting on 2 variation was that beat 4 on the A measure should have been on beat 1.

• I changed the sticking on the A measures to include a six stroke roll sticking— RLLRRL. Or you can just play the main sticking for the whole measure— RLL on the first two versions, or RRL on the second two.

Get the pdf

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Daily best music in the world: harmolodic rock

From the 80s, when you could play this kind of music and get an apparently-decent recording contract, here is some James Blood Ulmer. It seems to fit the mood of the day.

Harmolodics, for the unitiated, is a homebrewed theory of improvisation practiced by Ornette Coleman. I suspect it's more “some things Ornette did or suggested, as elliptically described by him” than a true theory. See also Ornette Coleman's Prime Time and Ronald Shannon Jackson.

A little stylistic feature in this type of playing is that they like to put a stop or accent on 4— every measure or every two measures. A minor thing you'll hear a lot.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Paradiddle-diddle inversions

Remember that page of double paradiddle inversions I wrote back in April? April 2020. Or, ~198,000 United States COVID deaths ago, for those of you who have abandoned calendars and moved over to a death-count based time scale.   


Anyhoo, I like that double paradiddle page, and I always keep it close at hand in my pile of practice materials. Here I've done the same thing with alternating paradiddle-diddles— writing them as 8th notes in 6/8, as a two-voice linear pattern, and as a rhythm (based on the right hand part) in 3/4. Doing them alternating makes the inversions a little more interesting, and also has us doing three notes in a row on each hand or part.

The accent on linear version is just so you can see where the inverted pattern begins— usually I would accent the right hand, and vary the accents with the left hand. The linear version is written as RH/cymbal-LH/snare, but you can play it on any two limbs/sounds. See the practice suggestions on the second page of the pdf.

Get the pdf

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Three Camps for drum set - alternating triplets - 02

9/30 UPDATE: Lots of updates these days! I caught some problems with the second page. I'll detail the corrections below.

OK, I officially like this new system— adapting the format of the rudimental piece Three Camps for drumset. It does exactly what it's supposed to do: trick you into practicing some common things longer. The format is 32 bars long, and for every basic idea there is a regular version and an inverted version, so you're playing two standard choruses of each idea, with basic variations. That's a good amount of time to do one thing.

My biggest concern, that the altered form on the inverted versions would be too much of a pain for easy practicing, is not a problem. Actually my biggest concern was that the whole thing would be pointless, but it isn't. It makes sense, and I feel more together after having played through it.

In part 2 we'll use triplets alternating between the snare drum and bass drum. The first page is the version I use; the second page is a slightly simplified version that is a little closer to the original piece.

You can add the hihat on 2/4 when playing it with snare drum and bass drum, and then run it again substituting the hihat for the bass drum part. Find a practice loop at the tempo you want— or make one— and hit it. Here's a slow one, and a slow medium tempo, or a slightly brighter medium tempo.

Updates to the second page:
• Finale did something weird and the letters for each measure got screwed up.
• Made some changes so patterns would be consistent for each version.
• On the versions with the pattern starting on beat 2: on the AAAB and CCCB parts you have to make a small change on the last A or C. Read the note on the page and figure it out. It makes sense if you just play the piece. 

Get the pdf

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Transcription: Billy Cobham - Introspective

Ahhh good times here in the Pacific Northwest, with the forests burning, and the entire city blanketed in smoke so it looks like we're in Blade Runner, or the Mexico sequences from Breaking Bad, with lunatic heavily armed country folk creating their own ad hoc checkpoints to hinder evacuations and catch imaginary antifa arsonists who they believe have swarmed to the countryside to destroy the forests for reasons unknown.

It's good stuff. So I'm just going to post this transcription and leave it. I can't think of anything intelligent to say about it. This is Billy Cobham playing rhythm figures on the head of a swing tune, alternating with an Afro 6 feel. The tune is Introspective, from Stanley Turrentine's album Cherry. I've included a rhythm part outlining the kicks. Maybe it will help in analyzing Cobham's interpretation of them.

Making the transcription I did notice what Wilson Taylor mentioned in the comments on the recent Cobham piece— that Cobham plays very much on the front of the beat. It does sound like it would be challenging to play with him here.

The transcription begins at the start of the track. The meter change is no big deal; he just switches to an Afro 6 groove at the same tempo.

Get the pdf

Monday, September 07, 2020

Very occasional quote of the day: prove to yourself you are a drummer

“The first thing I'd say is forget about making it big. If you're that good and it's in the cards for you to make it big, you probably will and no one can stop it. 

However, I say first prove to yourself that you are a drummer.”

— Rufus 'Speedy' Jones, Modern Drummer interview by Robert Barnelle, 1983

[h/t to Ed Pierce for directing me to the interview]

Sunday, September 06, 2020

Three Camps for drum set - 01

I like the traditional rudimental snare drum piece Three Camps as a practice format because it's simple and finite— you can play the piece a few times and be done. You've done your work on the one thing. It's a good format for developing speed and endurance. 

I improvised this while I was practicing, and we'll see if it becomes a major part of my “routine.” To the extent that I have a routine. A very disciplined, structured practicer should be able to get a lot of value out of it. I've written some ways of playing the piece on drum set, with a triplet texture in a jazz feel. This is one of the major systems we do when reading from Syncopation, except we've simplified the bass drum and removed the reading element, so we can focus on pure fluency.  

There four different forms: 
• Basic, with the bass drum playing the same accents as the original piece.
• Basic form with the accents displaced one beat, starting on beat 2.
• Syncopated, with the original accents moved to the &.
• Syncopated, accents on the & starting on beat 2. 

You'll notice that the order of the measures changes for each version to accommodate the displacements. I've also written it with Frank Arsenault's form, which repeats the 3rd camp. Usually it's played:
 3rd | 2nd | 2nd-coda
Arsenault does it: 
3rd | 2nd | 3rd | 2nd-coda
That gives us a little more of that brief 3rd Camp variation. See previous posts for explanation of the “camps” terminology.

Add the hihat on 2 and 4 if you want. Memorize all four versions, and play them continuously— one to the next without stopping. Usually the last measure of the piece is a coda— either a fp roll, or a little drag pattern with a stop. Elvin Jones improvised(?) a two measure break at the end. I saw him do that in a clinic. So that's your spot to get creative and insert a hot lick of your choice. Or just play it as written.   

Get the pdf

Thursday, September 03, 2020

Roy Haynes waltz lesson - practice suggestions

So, I wrote that Roy Haynes waltz lesson in about ten minutes— I just listened to the tune and picked out the most obvious possible ways to cop the basic thing he's doing there. And since I titled it WORLD'S SHORTEST ROY HAYNES WALTZ LESSON, one could get the impression that it's something you can learn to do quickly. Not so! Just playing through the things on the page takes some time, then you have to learn to improvise a texture from those ideas. When I sit down with something like that I inevitably do a lot more with each thing.

On this page we'll look at the first pattern for that lesson, and run through some of the things I play when I practice it. I do as many of these as I can on the fly, but a few of them I would need to see written down. Not all of these are suited for the tempo on the Chick Corea recording— not right away, anyway.

I would also play the bass drum one note per measure, on every single note of the cymbal rhythm, especially if trying to cop the Roy thing. There's only so much you can put on one page. You can add the hihat on beat 2 and/or the bass drum on beat 1 wherever you like. Swing the 8th notes.

Continue thusly with the other sticking patterns on the lesson page. I hope everybody knows you have to find your own groove with these things— you speed through some things, and work longer on the ones that are harder for you, or that have a lot of creative and musical possibilities for you. That goes for everything else on the site and everything else in drumming. No written materials anywhere are a linear map for getting good. 

Get the pdf

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Let's talk about Billy Cobham

I was working on this post about Billy Cobham some weeks ago, and felt I couldn't finish it—  it's not that easy to write a complete portrait of the playing of a great drummer. Try it sometime. But this should be interesting to read in light of my recent thing on Rufus Jones. Take it as a starting place for thinking about what you're hearing when listening to him.

Billy Cobham is one of the most recorded and talked about drummers of the first part of the fusion era— from roughly 1970 to 1980. He was on a lot of records, and made a huge splash playing a large drum set in a really exciting way. He took drumming chops to a new level— maybe not exceeding Buddy Rich, but using more modern drumming language than Buddy. He was involved with a number of technical innovations expanding the concept of the drum set as an instrument. He was the first major player to play the drums “open handed”, that I know of.

He's probably the most effective player of a large drum set ever. Neil Peart, a totally different type of player, would be another example of that. With so many tom toms, he can do some pianistic lines not really possible on normal sets, that I haven't really heard from other large-set players. The modern, fusion era usage of the Chinese cymbal, with the cymbal mounted upside down, is his thing. The way he used it was extremely effective, and was widely copied for a long time. Not so much any more, except among Metal drummers.

There is a specific overall vibe on his records that you don't really hear any more— fusion music shifted to a different kind of product, and the type of music on Cobham's records has never really been revived among younger players— unlike Miles Davis's 70s thing, for example. In terms of drumming, by the 80s Steve Gadd's concept and sound became the prevalent thing in the fusion and studio drumming. When I was a student in that period, Cobham wasn't one of the first people talked about. Drummers today largely talk about him in terms of chops and technique, and he's often mentioned by open-handed drumming enthusiasts. If his playing is talked about at all, it's generally in terms of spectacular drumming feats.

You do have to talk about excitement when you talk about Billy Cobham. He plays with a lot of bravado, and is often wildly dramatic. He can be very flashy and very dense, and it's easy to see how people just take him as pure drumming confection. In a way he's the prototype for the current high-performance drumming thing.

And some of his recordings are like that: parts of them are there to blow away an audience. This is to me a festival-style performance, designed to blow a festival audience's mind:

On most of his records there are extended open drum features, which you can take a number of ways. You could just hear them as early versions of the modern drum chops display events, opportunities to marvel at his technical awesomeness. Or you can take them as examples of 70s bloat and “pretentiousness”— a meme from the 70s rock press— like on Crosswinds there's a solo with a lot of flanger on the tom toms, which sounds corny to us now. I listen to them as music, as creative percussion features:

So it can be difficult to distinguish legit musical energy from just excitement over a spectacular performance, but it's something you have to figure out. Cobham is a great musician and people should understand his playing as normal drumming, doing all the things normal drumming is supposed to accomplish. It may be easier to do that listening to him on records where he's not a leader.

His general approach to playing the drum set could be taken as “snare drummy”— hands-oriented, but modern, not particularly rudimentally based. On fills and solos he seems to play a lot of singles, and a lot of open rolls with accented singles. The bass drum tends to be used in normal funk ways, and for accents, and ostinatos, often tied to the cymbals. We don't often hear a fully integrated linear thing, a la Steve Gadd, or Elvin Jones. In that way maybe he's more similar to Tony Williams than either of those drummers. I think he actually uses his bass drums pretty economically, when he's not doing his showy double bass stuff. In interviews he mentions using his left foot to play time, but I don't feel that I often hear that with him. These are all just my impressions from listening— it's not meant to be the complete last word on his playing.

We don't hear drum sounds like his much any more— it doesn't seem to have been widely copied. It's an energy sound, not a deep “power” sound, which is where things were moving in the 80s.  Particularly the tom toms, which are live and tonal, with a sound that is throaty rather than deep/punchy— maybe a combination of Black Dot heads, and moderate tension on the bottom head— as opposed to the loose top/tight bottom for the Gadd-like sound. His snare drum has a very tight, dry sound; it's tuned rather high, with the snares highly tensioned. Clearly his bass drums are large, and somewhat live, but it's a controlled sound, not a huge sound.

This is all set up for listening to him a lot, so please do that. If you're into vinyl, many of these you can find cheaply in used record stores:

As leader:
A Funky Side Of Things
Total Eclipse

Mahavishnu Orchestra:
Inner Mounting Flame
Birds of Fire

Miroslav Vitous - Purple
George Benson - White Rabbit
Milt Jackson - Sunflower
Miles Davis - Jack Johnson
Stanley Turrentine - Cherry
Deodato - Prelude

See his selected discography on Wikipedia for more.

Friday, August 28, 2020

World's shortest Roy Haynes waltz lesson

UPDATE: See the page of practice suggestions for more on this!

Someone on the internet asked me to explain what Roy Haynes is doing on the Chick Corea tune Windows, from the album Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, so I wrote up a little lesson on some of the basic elements, on getting started making the approximate vibe:

Listen to the recording, play through the page in all of the suggested ways, then improvise combinations of things to make a continuously developing waltz texture— that's the part that will take some practice; the ideas themselves are not difficult. Vary the dynamics and articulations with your left hand— use buzzes, rim shots, etc. Roy really exaggerates his accents, and tends to put them in odd places.

Obviously there are some other things happening— he plays some triplets between the snare and bass drum, and plays both hands on the snare drum occasionally— usually 3- or 4- stroke ruffs, open, as singles.

To continue developing this beyond the scope of this page, you should be able to play a regular jazz waltz, and have some basic coordination together with that. See Joel Rothman's 3,5, 7, 9, Jazz! or Joe Morello's New Directions in Rhythm for materials. Get my book Syncopation in 3/4 for more practice resources.

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Thursday, August 27, 2020

Syncopation in 5/4 - another format

A little throwaway item, as I continue working out the formatting for my upcoming book, Syncopation in 5/4, to be released God knows when. The problem is how to deal with phrasing the measures 2+3 or 3+2— both normal ways of phrasing 5/4, that affect the way you write the rhythms. Here I've borrowed the format used by Rick Kvistad in his accents book I reviewed recently— he just writes back to back measures of 2+3 and 3+2.

It's a pretty good option for one-line exercises. With the full page exercises I may have just do them half in one, half in the other. As always I welcome any feedback.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The case of Rufus 'Speedy' Jones

I'm kind of narrow in my listening habits— I never listened to a whole lot of big band, so I never knew about the drummer Rufus Jones until I saw this video on the internet. He was a big band drummer mainly active in the 60s, in the spectacular, chops-intensive mode of Sonny Payne, Louis Bellson, Buddy Rich, et al, though Jones is clearly a sideman, a road guy, rather than a marquis name.

I saw this and I needed to figure out what the hell is going on— clearly I'm missing something here:

Now, to me it's extremely weird to play a full-on drum corps style drum feature in the middle of very intimate piano trio music. My entire playing life, what you do on the drums is play to fit the situation, and make some kind of musical statement. Treating the drums like it's a musical instrument in an ensemble.

In a similar vein, here's the drum feature tune from Jones's one record as leader:

There are probably a few snare drum guys somewhere for whom this is really exciting stuff; I can barely process it as a piece of music— the soloing at least. It's like one player gets a feature and busts into a parallel universe and runs a triathalon— sonically. It doesn't compute. I have known some jock-type corps guys who were definitely not in it for the music; their creative playing had a similar effect.

On Jones's actual supportive playing with a band, he generally plays with a lot of taste. He sounds great playing with Maynard Ferguson's band, on the Roulette recordings, so long as opportunities to get both hands on the snare drum were limited. Here he is playing an arrangement called The Fox Hunt— the owner has disabled embedding, so you'll have to click this link to listen on YouTube. He sounds great.

But it depends. This track, and this record generally, really wears out my ears. I want to throw this cymbal in the street:

I'm not unsympathetic; there are times when you're really playing for the band and the situation, where you end up playing in a way that might not record well. There are other considerations besides making a pretty-sounding drumming performance. But I also can't remember feeling that way about any recording I've heard by players I really like.

Interestingly, he doesn't seem to have a lot of chops for playing actual fast tempos in the usual bebop way: the way he handles Cherokee on that same record— playing quarter notes on the cymbal, accenting the 1 and 3, lots of bass drum on 1, lots of left hand and bass drum activity, and not much happening with the hihat— it's really a different kind of groove.

I think possibly we're in more of a show musician rather than a purist jazz musician mentality here. He plays the arrangements impeccably, and lays on the spectacle when he's featured— maybe all that was required of a road guy— and he simply didn't have a lot of musical vision or ambitions beyond that. His 1983 interview in Modern Drummer*, much of which is about soloing, and getting a response from an audience, seems to support that I'm curious to hear people's comments about him.

* - Thanks for the tip, Ed!

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Transcription: Elvin Jones - Survival Blues

Hey, we haven't done any Elvin Jones in a while. This is the beginning of Survival Blues, from McCoy Tyner's album Extensions. I started where McCoy begins the vamp, and did as much as I could do in about 90 minutes, and that happens to be where something is changing musically— we're easing into the tenor solo. The tune is a loosely structured modal thing, with a swing feel.

We get a pretty clean look at his playing here, including a useful 16th note thing he does a lot. He plays the hihat pretty sparsely, often one note per measure, which seems significant, somehow. The hihat and bass drum are generally not active at the same time here. I'd pay attention to the big accents lower on the page. Playing “like Elvin” seems to call for a lot of listening to McCoy's left hand....

The transcription is generally playable, but there are sketchy fills in measures 12, 32, and 40— if anyone is serious enough to try to figure them out. I gave some possible/likely stickings where I could. Bar 12 is the flakiest, both the fill, and my notation of it. Beat 1 is accurate, the rest of the measure you have to slur like crazy. Bar 32 should clearly start with a RLLR, then play fast singles where a roll is indicated— the two slash marks on the quarter notes indicate 16th notes, but play them whatever speed you need to. That bass drum note on the & of 4 should be in swing 8th timing. Bar 40 sounds like it's in an even rhythm all the way through— he doesn't speed up for the quintuplet in beat 4, so you have to slur the whole measure and fit it in. Or you could treat the last three notes as a 16th note triplet, and the rest of the measure as 16th notes.

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Thursday, August 20, 2020

Three little-known books

For a long time Steve Weiss Music has been my go-to site for unusual and hard to find drum books. Their warehouse must be full of stuff that never quite caught on, that has been sitting around for a few decades waiting for someone to be interested. I just made a little order and got these three books:

Accent Studies for Percussion by Rick Kvistad
A nice focused little book of studies in accented 8th notes in all meters from 2/8 to 9/8, and 12/8. With robust sections in 5/8 and 7/8. Includes one-measure exercises, and full page etudes. I like that all of studies are in 8th notes, and that he generally doesn't get too cute with it. More and more I feel 8th notes really are the common language of drumming, and accents on an even rhythm a major area of our vocabulary, not just on snare drum— it has has been the major way my students get into my harmonic coordination method, for example. 

You could cover most of what is in this book with parts of several books, but it's nice to have it all in one place. And I like the etudes. It's a good thing to have in your practice room. We played several of Kvistad's compositions in percussion ensemble in college, and it's nice having his name represented in my practice library. 

39 pages. 

Theory Manual of Musical Snare Drumming - vol. 1 by D'Artagnan Liagre
First of three volumes of an interesting-looking series of snare drum method books by a French writer— published by the Professional Drum Shop in Los Angeles, curiously. This volume covers beginning to approximately intermediate level, and also introduces music theory terms— not only those normally associated with percussion. Each part of the book ends with a duet with snare drum and a melodic instrument.

It's sort of a curiosity. I don't know who the intended audience is. It has a sort of pre-college or remedial college vibe about it— I can imagine it being used with freshmen percussionists to bring them up to speed.

The engraving is beautiful; obviously they got a top-level LA copyist to write it out. Text is in English and French. I might buy the complete series just to learn my French percussion terms. 

42 pages. 

Fundamental Instruction for the Junior Drummer by Charley Wilcoxon
I'm always on the lookout for good beginning snare drum books— right now my favorite is Elementary Snare Drum Studies by Mitchell Peters. I've seen this one around for years, and finally decided to check it out. It's quite a simplified version of Wilcoxon's Drum Method. It has the same problem as that book, only more so— it is heavily marked up with visually distracting little instructions. He'll write an accent, plus LOUD (or HIGH), every time it happens. A decent page of 3/4 rhythms includes some ties, and on every tie he also writes TIE and THIS NOTE IS NOT STRUCK with an arrow. Together with the stickings, the counts, the names of any rudiments, and other notes indicating things like 8TH REST, and markings indicating that the quarter note does indeed include the 1 and the &— it's quite an eyeful. You can often sense a writer's fear that the audience won't get it; here that manifests in some very cluttered pages. 

As with Drum Method, it takes a few minutes to realize oh, this is meant to be a drum set book! As the drums were played in the 1930s. It's interesting from a historical perspective, but it's quite useless for modern students. There are a few good pages but no one will want to work through this as intended by the author.  

This is a Ludwig Masters edition, edited by Robert L Matson. 52 pages. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Chapin exercises in 5

This is what you do during quarantine when it's too hot to practice or doing anything else serious: capture jpegs of a well known drum book, open it up in, and cut it up to put it in a new time signature.

We talked about this a few days ago in the Easiest 5/4 post. This is the first part of Jim Chapin's Advanced Techniques for the Modern Drummer, with the first beat of each pattern pasted onto the end to turn the 4/4 patterns into 5/4. I could have just written this up in Finale, but this is more fun.

Hihat goes on 2 and 4, add a bass drum on 1. After doing this you should get the formula, and be able to work through the rest of ATFTMD in 5 without seeing it printed out. Easy variations you can do to get a little more vocabulary mileage out of this might be:

• On beat 5 just play a quarter note on the cymbal, or on the snare and cymbal with both hands in unison.
• Leave out any snare drum in unison with the bass drum on 1.

I'll write up a summary of some other possible variations soon. I find them to be an important part of the process of learning to play in 5. 

Get the pdf

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Mainstream Records on Bandcamp

Just directing your attention to the Bandcamp site for Mainstream Records— an independent record label in the 60s-70s. Founded by Bob Shad in '64, folded in '78. There's a lot of 70s jazz in a funk/Latin fusion mode, some blues, and more. You used to have to get lucky to find these used on vinyl, now you can download their stuff instantly for $8.

Here are some highlights— I think I've seen two copies of this Roy Haynes record in the wild before, one of which I bought:

Roy Haynes Hip Ensemble - Equipoise

Hadley Caliman - Iapetus
With Sonship on drums! 

Billie Holliday - In Rehearsal
Rehearsal tapes from 1954— “a very casual rehearsal with start and stops and conversations with Billie.”

Shelley Manne - Mannekind
With John Gross, Mike Wofford, and Gary Barone.

Hal Galper - Inner Journey
With Dave Holland and Bill Goodwin.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Very occasional quote of the day: you figure it out

“I hired you because of who you are & what you do, so DO it. I’m having a hard enough time playing my instrument, so you figure out how to play your own.”

— Reggie Workman, quoting John Coltrane

Key line from jazz writer Richard Scheinin's interview with Workman.

Follow Scheinin on Twitter.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Groove o' the day: Art Blakey tom tom groove

This is a fast Latin groove played by Art Blakey during a solo on a concert video filmed in Japan, posted on Twitter by jazz writer Ted Gioia. I'm sure Blakey plays it on his records, too— first place I would look would be A Night In Tunisia.

For clarity I put the left hand, which plays rim clicks on the snare drum, on its own line—  the rest of it is played with the right hand. Play with the snares off. He's probably playing the bass drum, either quarter notes or half notes, but I can't hear it. Tempo is above half note = 150.

He plays this variation:

You can see the video here, as long as it stays on Gioia's Twitter feed. It happens at about 1:15.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Alternating flam rudiments tree

Just a little throwaway graphic illustrating the connectedness of flam rudiments. People think of them as “omg a bunch of different things”, but they use very similar motions.

The key rudiment here is the Flam Accent #1— you get the others after it by just doubling one note, and playing with the rhythm. The pattern named Unnamed Awesome Rudiment is now named Unnamed Awesome Rudiment, or UAR. I like it better than the other 16th note flam rudiments— Windmills are easy but dull, Flamadiddles are just loathsome. UARs are difficult but hip.

Sunday, August 09, 2020

Afro 6 warm up patterns

This is how I operate, after about ten years of writing the really hard stuff, I get around to giving people the easy way in. These are some preparatory exercises for playing an Afro 6 feel, that will help you get the major coordination, the timing of the cymbal rhythm, with everything in its right place. Or you could just learn the beat the way I did— learn one pattern, then screw around with it a lot, and play a lot of music, then 25 years later write a bunch of ways to work on it.

The foot pattern here is the same one used in the Freddie Waits groove we covered the other day, you could do that page after learning this one.

Count in 2. Use exercise 3 if you have any problem with the timing of exercise 2— those two should sound identical. Learn the patterns as a sticking, but put your focus on the right hand, and on how it relates to the rhythm played with the feet. Use the optional foot patterns if you want. Better to just give this thing a quick once over and then get into the real stuff on the Freddie Waits page.

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Thursday, August 06, 2020

Syncopation rhythms in 5/4

Hey, who wants some practice rhythms in 5/4? Here are several pages of them. I'm working on a new book, Syncopation in 5/4— companion to my other book Syncopation in 3/4There are some formatting decisions to be made, mainly to reflect a 2+3 phrasing or a 3+2 phrasing, which I'm working out here. I want the same exercises to be usable in either phrasing, and I think there may not be an ideal solution. Let me know in the comments if there's one version you like for that purpose.

Here's a fresh link to my practice methods for this type of thing. for See also John Ramsay's book The Complete Drummer's Vocabulary.

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Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Daily best music in the world: Buck Hill

Here's a really nice 1978 recording of some 70s powerhouse bebop by Washington DC saxophonist Buck Hill. Wikipedia says about him:
Hill began playing professionally in 1943 but held a day job as a mailman in his birthplace of Washington, D.C. for over thirty years. He played with Charlie Byrd in 1958-59, but was only occasionally active during the 1960s. 

In the 70s, after age 50, he began recording as a leader. Here the rhythm section is Kenny Barron, Buster Williams, and Billy Hart— as a young man Hart actually knew Hill in Washington, and played with him. Hart says Hill gave him his first jazz records, a couple of Charlie Parker 78s.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

EZiest swing in 5/4

Teachers' item here. In working with various beginners, younger students, and hobbyists, you have to be flexible and creative in how you show them things. At those stages, differences in how people learn are really amplified— they're slow to get some things, and faster to get others, with no consistency from individual to individual. I don't want them getting hung up if a certain part of the process is not working for them yet, and I don't need them to learn things in a specific order, so I'll try a lot of different things to help them get their foot in the door. Then they can learn the hard thing over time, while still progressing with their actual playing.

This is an easy procedure for teaching a 5/4 swing groove without the student having to read it, or even learn a new pattern. It should be simple for anyone who can play a jazz beat in 4/4, and more natural and direct than just throwing a book at them.

First, play one measure of a jazz feel, with bass drum on the first note, and stop on 1 of the second measure. With new things, I often have them play it one time only, followed by a long, unmetered pause.

Play this one time, counting out loud: 1 2 3 4 1. Swing the 8th notes. 

Do it again, one time, except count 1 2 3 4 5

Despite the written time signature, we're effectively in 5/4 now. Play the above thing repeating. At first I may have them put a long pause in between measures— without counting or tapping their foot during the pause: 

They can shorten that pause until they're just playing the repeating pattern in time. Continue counting in 5.

Of course many students won't need to do all that, and some may need more help, which I improvise based on whatever seems to be hanging them up.  

More advanced students will want some independence patterns to go with that, for which you can just go to Jim Chapin's Advanced Techniques for the Modern Drummer. Just add an extra beat one to the end of the pattern. So this: 

Through the magic of Photoshop, becomes this:

And this pattern: 

Becomes this: 

Just repeat the first beat. Or don't. You can play the book pattern exactly as written, and simply add a quarter note on the cymbal at the end.

See my series Cracking 5/4 for more introductory materials/concepts for learning to play this time signature. 

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Page o' coordination: Freddie Waits Afro

UPDATE: A student brought it to my attention that according to Wikipedia, Idris Muhammad is the drummer on this track. Which surprises me, but there you go.

A combination groove o' the day and page o' coordination here. On MC by Andrew Hill, from his album Grass Roots, Freddie Waits plays a Afro feel with a simplified cymbal rhythm that is similar to the “Afro Blues” rhythm (my phrase) I wrote about a few years ago. It's a good introductory groove for this type of thing, and, with a stronger dotted-quarter note pulse, it's probably good if you're playing with a weak rhythm section. Or, what the hell, if you just want a cleaner groove with a stronger main pulse.

On the top line are the cymbal/feet ostinato, and the complete groove as Waits played it on the record, and the rest of it is the practice patterns:

Learn the page, then drill it while doing my left hand moves.

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Friday, July 31, 2020

Grooves o' the day: Art Blakey Latin

Two very similar Latin grooves recorded by Art Blakey in 1960 and '61. On both of them the bell pattern has that little syncopated move across the barline that we see a few years later in the Mozambique rhythm. There was a lot of Latin music happening in New York in the 40s-50s, but I'm nowhere near informed enough about it to try speculate on where Blakey and others got that motif; it does also happen in Cuban conga de comparsa, from which the Mozambique is derived. 

Johnny's Blue, from the Jazz Messengers album Like Someone In Love:

There's no audible bass drum on either thing. On both tracks when Blakey comes in he starts with an accent on the high tom on beat 1. Note that he swings the cymbal rhythm when he first comes in.

El Toro, from the Jazz Messengers album The Freedom Rider:

A little brighter tempo, using two tom toms, with a broken rhythm on the cymbal in the first measure.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Very occasional quote(s) of the day: consecrated and desynchronized

A couple of quotes from the pianist Ethan Iverson.

From blog post Rhythmic Folklore:

“Consecrated jazz drummers have less accurate time than rock and fusion drummers for a reason. The beat is connected to the cycle of life and playing with an ensemble. It has warp and woof and slip and slide.”

Article from The Threepenny Review, Hands & Feet:

“Magic happens at the drum kit when the four limbs are slightly desynchronized. Any truly swinging or funky drummer does not always place the articulations of the two hands and two feet at exactly the same time (even though it may look simultaneous to a lay person). These complex techniques are not covered by the European tradition of music notation; the groovy result is often simply called 'feel.' The tradition of 'feel' is at its most exalted in various hand-drumming languages of Mother Africa, the continent where most of the rhythmic motifs in American music come from. A drummer with 'good hands' may not have exceptional 'feel.' Naturally, the very greatest drummers have both.”

Monday, July 27, 2020

Transcription: more Max Roach comping

Posting lots of 50s stuff these days. Here is Max Roach playing on Infinity Promenade, from the Miles Davis Lighthouse All-Stars record, At Last! In 1953 Miles was living with his father in East St. Louis, trying to get a handle on his heroin addiction, and Max Roach and Charles Mingus picked him up and took him to Los Angeles for a few months. Max was working in LA at the Lighthouse, and Miles sat in, and the record got made. There are some good stories about this period in Miles's autobiography, about fighting with Mingus and whatnot.

I've transcribed Max's playing during the tenor solo, starting at 1:06 in the track. Infinity Promenade is a cool West Coast-y tune by Shorty Rogers. I don't know what tune it's based on, but the soloing changes have a bright Duke-like feel. There's a nice groove happening, which is what attracted me to this track.

Max uses a few basic comping ideas here, and plays very crisp four-bar phrases without being too obvious about it. You can get a sense of what he's thinking phrasing-wise by checking out the bass drum— he plays it sparsely, mostly on downbeats, and doesn't put it in the same place in the phrase all the time. He often plays the busier things at phrase endings a little louder, acting like a conductor.