Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Page o' coordination: feet in the gap

Another little item inspired by the ongoing Chasin' the Trane transcription— in which Elvin Jones does this a lot. Here we've got both feet in unison, played on the &s of 1 and 3, in the space in the cymbal rhythm. I've never practiced that exact move, so it's a little awkward. What's cool about dumb easy things you never practiced that are a little awkward is that you can work on them briefly and your body actually learns something new.   

The whole idea is to refine the timing of the feet unison on the & of 1/3— don't crowd the cymbal hits on 2/4. Don't play this page if you're not going to be really careful about that. It's probably a good idea to alternate one or two measures of exercise with one or two measures of regular ad lib jazz time. 

Do this together with the other recent page o' coordination with the repeating RLRR sticking, and add the left foot in unison with the L. 

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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Transcription: Elvin Jones - Chasin' the Trane - 03

Third minute of Elvin Jones playing Chasin' the Trane, from John Coltrane Live at The Village Vanguard. The 13th-18th 12-bar choruses. I just noticed that the tempo— around quarter note = 235— is about the same as another famous Elvin track, Passion Dance, from McCoy Tyner's The Real McCoy. So this is now officially Elvin's tempo around here— like 286 belongs to Roy Haynes

This time I'm noticing he plays the snare drum on all of the &s in a lot of measures.  

Also look at the triplet in measure 177— throughout the transcription there are a number of SD/BD unisons on &s that are almost that— they flam slightly, with the bass drum landing a little early. At this tempo there's only the slightest difference between a flammy unison on a swing &, vs. just playing a complete triplet.   

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Monday, December 28, 2020

Bass drum rhythms for feathering

I wrote this up after listening to Mel Lewis's history of jazz drumming tapes, where he was raving about the importance of playing time on the bass drum (he really gets into it after 43:30). He basically describes this exactly, for making a syncopated accent with the bass drum, and then going back to feathering. This, together with some other things I've suggested, should make you functional enough to work out your timekeeping voice with the bass drum through playing with people.  

Loren Schoenberg, who did the radio interviews with Lewis, has posted the tapes on YouTube— and a lot of other interesting stuff. He's a good person to follow.  

Play the rhythms on the bass drum along with the normal jazz rhythms on the cymbal and hihat. Play the unaccented notes softly, but get the timing and coordination before sweating any extreme dynamics. My whole objection to this type of thing is that I don't want to work out vestigial bass drum— I'm not going to work out perfect 1" bass drum strokes in the practice room. It has to be an organic process. 

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Saturday, December 26, 2020

From the zone: two-note coordination patterns

From Manuel in Augsburg, Germany. We've met a couple of times in my travels— in Berlin and in Augsburg, and I got to help him put together a really nice set of Cymbal & Gong cymbalsa 22" ride and some other things. He's sent in a little Chaffee-esque library of all possible combinations of two-note patterns for four limbs:

Manuel says “I practice it on the set as a warm-up to 'remove friction' (as some authors put it) and to work on balance between the different volume levels of Ride, Snare, Bass and Hi Hat.” 

I may try it— I always had a problem with things like this (see Chaffee's Time Functioning book, Dahlgren & Fine), because I wouldn't know when it was OK to stop. Now I'm more able to just play through something once. Get through it in however long is reasonable. 

Friday, December 25, 2020

Transcription: Elvin Jones - Chasin' the Trane - 02

Happy Saturnalia everyone— although it seems a shame to call it that, with everyone celebrating in isolation. Nevertheless, here is the second minute of Elvin Jones playing Chasin' the Trane— 1:13 to 2:13— from John Coltrane Live at the Village Vanguard. Only fourteen more of these to go if I'm going to complete it. 

The hihat is a little bit looser through this section— seemingly a fair amount of loose, semi-controlled activity. Also noting a repeating SBBS pattern reminiscent of a thing inspired last year by John Riley— “that, with interruptions.” Also take a look at measures 95-96 for a repeating 3/8 pattern, BSS, with some unexpected accents. 

On some of the phrases where there is no bass drum written, it almost sounds as if he is feathering time on it, but I wasn't sure. I can't recall ever seeing or hearing him do that, although he seems to play a lot of semi-audible stuff on it. Let us know in the comments if you've ever seen Elvin feather quarter notes on the bass drum at bright tempos.

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Thursday, December 24, 2020

Three Camps for drum set - inverted quarter note triplet fill - 07

 I'm telling you this is a good system. It gives you the thing, some basic variations on it, starting on 1 or 2, straight and syncopated, and it makes you do it for as long as you should do it. Basically that's what you should do with every single identifiable idea you play on the drum set. 

This is the inverse of what I posted last week— we're playing a jazz time feel, with the bass drum playing the major TC accents, filling in the remaining notes of an inverted quarter note triplet on the snare drum. And there is an accompanying Reed-type method to develop all of this further.  

It's fun doing the standard left hand moves with these pages, playing a rim click on the snare drum— gives a nice Elvin-like texture.  

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Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Page o' coordination: jazz / RLRR

Working on this Elvin project the last couple of days, I noticed that, similar to Max Roach on another recording, he plays the snare drum in the gap in the cymbal rhythm a lot, for a sticking of: RLRR RLRR. It's almost like a foundation pattern, a home base. This a page using that pattern, adding some basic things to it.  

I already wrote this page, more or less, last year, but this version is easier. I'll use this with a few of my novice jazz students. I really like teaching the same basic thing several different ways. Like if we just teach jazz comping rhythms with Chapin, people start thinking jazz = one-measure left hand independence patterns vs. a static cymbal rhythm. If we only do Syncopation, maybe they won't have all finer points of the coordination worked out. You never know what idea is going to click for what person, so they really understand what they're doing, and are able to use it creatively. 

Swing the 8th notes. Treat the complete exercise patterns as extensions of the base RLRR pattern— they're places to go from the base pattern. Add the hihat on beats 2 and 4, or— and this is another thing I notice Elvin doing a lot— on the & of 1 / & of 3, in unison with the snare drum. Actually Elvin does it most often in unison with the bass drum, but that'll have to wait for another page of stuff.

Also see my other pages of sticking patterns for jazz. Also check out a post from a long time ago, The Kenny Note, in which I noticed the Kenny Clarke sure does play that comping rhythm a lot.  

Monday, December 21, 2020

Transcription: Elvin Jones - Chasin' the Trane - 01

Ending a truly bleak, shameful year— and four years— in United States history, with an ambitious transcribing project. A little act of penance, devotion, purging, re-centering. I'm hoping to clean myself a little with this.  

Elvin Jones was one of the supreme artists on our instrument, and one of a handful of creators I basically regard as religious figures. The project is to transcribe his complete >16 minute performance on Chasin' the Trane, the modern epic from John Coltrane's album Live at the Village Vanguard. In the end it should be over 30 pages long. I don't know if anyone will do anything with that, it doesn't matter. Hopefully the only thing that will stop me from completing it is if I hit a lot of untrancribable things as I get deeper in.  

I have a lot of history with this record. When I was living in Los Angeles, working for a messenger service, for about four months I had four cassettes in the car. Two of them Coltrane Live at the Village Vanguard, and Coltrane Live at Birdland, and I would just cycle them for 6-8 hours a day. This tune especially I would rewind and play over and over.   

There was originally some critical controversy with this album— stunningly. Some critics famously called what Coltrane was doing at this time “anti-jazz.” This track was considered to be particularly offensive in that respect. Here's a sample of that from a Downbeat column from 1962, in which Coltrane and Eric Dolphy were interrogated on their creative direction. Hoping to learn something, I dug this out of the stacks at the University of Oregon library, now you can just read it online:

“At Hollywood’s Renaissance Club recently, I listened to a horrifying demonstration of what appears to be a growing anti-jazz trend exemplified by these foremost proponents [John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy] of what is termed avant-garde music.

“I heard a good rhythm section… go to waste behind the nihilistic exercises of the two horns.… Coltrane and Dolphy seem intent on deliberately destroying [swing].… They seem bent on pursuing an anarchistic course in their music that can but be termed anti-jazz.”

It turns out that what critics say about music is not very enlightening for people trying to learn how to play it. Or for anyone. 

With that, here are the first six choruses of Elvin Jones's playing on Chasin' the Trane— about one minute, 14 seconds. The tune is a 12-bar blues, and the tempo is about quarter note = 235. 

There are a lot of ghosted notes here that are really hard to pick out listening at normal speed— I think I was able to get a pretty complete picture of what he was doing on the snare drum. Not so much with the bass drum— I think he's probably doing more than what I've written, but I could only get shadows of it. All the parts resolve pretty well as intentionally played notes. A lot of times there will be accidental/automatic notes sounding that don't really make sense as anything you would play on purpose.  

Generally the timing is pretty accurate. There are quite a few bass drum accents on a downbeat, with a ghosted note on the & before it— that note is usually played very tight to the main note, closer than an ordinary swing 8th note. The only place where I had to compromise a little bit was in the very last measure; Elvin is flailing it in there, you probably should too.  

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Friday, December 18, 2020

Another Reed tweak

Another minor tweak on a normal Reed method, in a jazz feel. It's good to have some easy options to relieve the tedium, and to bring more of the texture of real playing into it. 

Do this with the ordinary Reed snare drum comping method— jazz rhythm on the cymbal, melody rhythm on snare, 2 and 4 on the hihat. But now let's hit the last note of the melody as an accent on the cymbal and bass drum— usually on 4, the & of 4, or the & of 3. 

Here are a couple of lines of Reed played this way: 

Catch the accent with the shoulder of the stick in the riding area— that's a technique you never hear discussed, that I do all the time. It's a normal part of playing the ride cymbal. 

While practicing you can hit that accent every measure, or every two measures. In real life you'll do it more sparsely of course. 

Making that accent disrupts the cymbal rhythm, so come back in with it on beat 1 of the next measure, except with an accent on the &of 4; then play the cymbal accent as a tied note, and come in on 2. But play the complete melody rhythm on the snare drum regardless. You might not ordinarily do that in real playing, but doing it in the practice room it will help you perfect the timing— it's easy to rush from the & of 4 to the 2. 

I didn't include a hihat part in the examples. You could keep it going on beats 2 and 4 throughout this, except maybe when the accent is on the & of 3, you could drop it out on the 4. Do what you want. 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Three Camps for drum set - quarter note triplet fill - 06

I started doing these because I wanted a composed drill, like Alan Dawson's Rudimental Ritual, that I would actually play. It has worked out really well. This entry is the same as the first one, except the snare drum fills the remainder of the the quarter note triplet— whatever isn't covered by the bass drum. It's similar to the new Reed method I outlined last month. 

Learn them, paying attention to the different form for each version, memorize them, find a practice loop you like, and drill them.  

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Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Practice loop: Night & Day - Bill Evans

Here's a brighter-medium tempo jazz practice loop, sampled from Night & Day, played by Bill Evans on his album Everybody Digs Bill Evans— one of my favorite records, period. The loop is one chorus of Evans's solo— 48 bars, or ABABCB, with each section 8 bars long. Tempo is 169 bpm. 

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Very occasional quote of the day: kindness

“When I was a young drummer, I never got that many compliments and I never got that much criticism. The men I played with liked me enough not to repudiate my shortcomings. They wouldn’t do anything deliberately to hurt me.

You give kindness to human beings, you allow them to grow.”


Shared by Michael Shrieve— I encourage you to follow him/friend him on Facebook.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Transcription: Bill Stewart solo

Something released in a year starting with a 2, for once. Here Bill Stewart solos during James, from Pat Metheny's Trio - Live record. Stewart is a few months older than me, and is sort of the archetypal drummer artist of my generation. I first heard him on John Scofield's Meant To Be in 1991, and it was instantly obvious that he was doing something fresh and extra-musical. It's routine now for drummers to sound like him, with that pretty tom tom sound.    

The solo begins at 3:50, the tempo is quarter note = 166— on the real scale of tempos, that's pretty bright to be double timing, playing 16th notes. I'll talk about what I mean by that another time. 

It's mostly 8th notes, and he mostly stays on the cymbal and snare drum. There are some open drags with the left hand— that's the occasional 16th notes you see— and a big 16th note lick near the end of the first page. He plays his one note on the third tom tom on that. There's a passage of 16th notes in the second page, too— notice he repeats the same idea in measures 30, 31, and 33. Plus a BSSB pattern with a cymbal on the first note. 

He uses that pattern repeatedly. As I do— it's extremely useful and sounds cool— it's good to get very friendly with it. Let's credit Elvin Jones for originating that one. 

The open hihat lick in the middle of the first page is questionable. I've written it as if he plays the open notes with his left hand, but he could be splashing it with his foot. If that's the case it's a pretty developed technique, which you'll need to spend some time with. 

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Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Two minor Reed items

Two jazz comping practice suggestions, which aren't big enough to merit a full-fledged treatment, for the full-page exercises in Progressive Steps to Syncopation. Play these on the snare drum (with bass drum added in the second one), along with the regular jazz cymbal rhythm, and hihat on 2 and 4. The examples below are the first and fifth lines from Exercise Three, p. 40 (in the current edition of Reed). 

Accenting for hard bop

For about 35 years I've practiced these with the idea of phrasing the melody part like a horn, putting a musical phrasing on it, varying the accents, but mostly accenting any hanging &s— a note on an & with nothing sounding on the following downbeat: 

Recently I felt I don't have a great touch for that stronger Art Taylor style of comping, when I want to do it, so I've started accenting on the last note of every 8th note-spaced run of notes:  

That helps to develop that more forceful sound hard bop sound. Using it in real life does require some taste— if you play like this routinely and relentlessly, someone will take your drum outside and throw it in a fountain. 

Half-feathering the bass drum
An obvious thing I never thought to do: playing the melody on the snare drum while filling in 8th notes with the bass drum. We already play the melody on the bass drum while filling in with the snare, but reversing that gives a different thing that is really useful. 

Two things happen with this:
• We get some nice Billy Higgins-like, New Orleans-esque interactive lines with the snare drum and bass drum.
• We end up playing a lot of down beats on the bass drum, which we can treat as feathered notes. Play the interactive stuff stronger, and play the downbeats quieter. 

I've talked before about my problems with feathering the bass drum as a general thing. Mainly I object to practicing vestigial bass drum. Let's practice something that takes a lot of refinement to not sound stupid, that you have to coordinate with the rest of the instrument, and work around to play other things with the bass drum, that is also mostly inaudible. It just seems like a losing proposition.

But I would like to use more bass drum in a time-supporting role, and this helps with that. It should also help people who do feather all the time, but have trouble getting away from it to do other stuff. Those people should play this exactly— don't play any bass drum other than the filler in the snare drum part. 

Exercise 3 from Reed is a good one for this application.  

Monday, December 07, 2020

Listening: Idris Muhammad grooves

Hey, I've concluded that Idris Muhammad is awesome. There's a lot going on with him, that doesn't necessarily give itself up to the casual drumming listener— it's a very deep fusion of jazz, R&B, funk, and New Orleans drumming. To the extent that those things are even distinct from one another. 

I was listening to Charles Earland's The Mighty Burner, from the album Black Talk! It's just a three minute bright swing groove item. 

This is the kind of situation where it's impossible to play bad time— there's guitar, percussion, and organ all playing strong time, and you couldn't derail it if you tried. You might think this calls for some very simple drumming, hitting backbeats, regular cymbal rhythm, etc, but Muhammad moves around a lot. No backbeats (hihat is on 2 and 4, though), he varies the cymbal rhythm, and is pretty busy playing some aggressive syncopated comping and accents. This is all about propulsion— it's a different way of playing groove from just slamming backbeats.   

He's repetitive in the way he varies the cymbal rhythm, which is a very important clue about his playing. There's a piece of his rhythmic DNA hiding there, a personal clave. Which, I promise, developed naturally over a lifetime of playing— it's not something he worked out. The main thing is that he plays minor variations on these rhythms, suggesting a 2+3+3 beat phrasing over two measures: 

In places he suggests a 3+3+2 phrasing— which is more common in music generally: 

You'll hear drummers do that at the beginning of a solo, or section. Any time you hear someone hitting the 1 and 4 at the top of a chorus (try Philly Joe Jones), see what he does after that— if he goes into straight time, or does something on 3 in the second measure. Elvin Jones or Roy Haynes, or any number of other modern players might continue playing groupings of three beats longer than that. 

...aaand since I sell cymbals now, I'm always listen a little closer to people's cymbal sounds. We're hearing another totally classic sound here— very much in the same bag as the Cymbal & Gong Holy Grails. I think it's a 20" K. Actually it's a lot like my own 20" C&G

Friday, December 04, 2020

New Joel Rothman book - Ambidexterity

So new I have to use this
crappy scan I did myself.
I just received a new book in the mail:

The Holy Grail for Total Independence At The Drum Set 
by Joel Rothman
41 pages. 

Joel Rothman has got to be the most prolific drum author in the world. He must have written at least 100 books in approximately the last 60 years. Many of them are micro-focused on one issue, others are extremely expansive— to the extent that they sometimes duplicate each other's material. Surprisingly(?) a lot of his stuff is quite modern, and he has a lot of good materials for developing an Elvin Jones type of thing, an ECM feel, and Jack Dejohnette's playing-fast-at-slow-tempos thing. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with his catalog, and don't hesitate to order any titles related to you your current interests. 

Rothman and I share a practical focus, and we agree on a number of basic principles— one of which is that writing practice ideas different ways, in a different context, helps you practice more productively. So the idea for this book is not necessarily new, but it's written in a way that should be useful for people getting deep into a certain thing— putting it in a single volume is a major help in developing this one idea. 

This book has the look of a technical library, with a lot of patterns written as two drumming voices, on opposite stems— as you see on the cover of the book. The rhythms generally overlap, and swap each other in the second measure or beat. There are some linear patterns with no unisons, which are more ordinary; I imagine they're included as warmups. Patterns are mostly written as 8th/16th note combinations in 4/4 or 2/4. There are also patterns with 16th note triplets; and with 8ths in 6/8, 9/8, and 12/8. And with 8ths and 16ths in 5/8 and 7/8.    

The idea is that you practice the patterns with every combination of individual hands/feet, and with unisons of both hands and both feet vs. the remaining single limbs. I would suggest also doing them with right hand/right foot unisons, and left hand/left foot unisons.

This would be a good book for anyone developing an independence-heavy way of playing. There's plenty of that going around the drumming world. Jazz drummers working on an Ed Blackwell kind of thing will like it— you could play the hands on the tom toms with a simple rhythm in the feet for a crash course in that type of playing. It could also just function as a Stick Control like “conditioning” manual.

It seems like a rather dense, abstract book, but I think it's pretty accessible for ambitious students, and it stays within the realm of musical reality. The right student or teacher to do a lot of useful practice with it. As with any purely technical study, students should have an idea of where to go with it musically— played with a funk interpretation, or Latin interpretation, or ECM-like interpretation, mainly. 

Get Ambidexterity and other books from

UPDATE A COUPLE OF DAYS LATER: I've been practicing this book a bit, and it's quite enjoyable. It's an alternative kind of independence study, that's a little different from everything else I do. There are some interesting things happening with resolving these patterns and playing them— it exercises your brain in a special way. 

Monday, November 30, 2020

Three Camps for drumset: Funk shuffle - 01

Another page of Three Camps interpretations for drumset, based on a 4/4 funk shuffle groove, with a normal jazz rhythm on the cymbal. These focus on pretty normal vocabulary for that type of thing. I wrote it to go with a practice loop of Ummh by Bobby Hutcherson, with Mickey Roker playing a nice deep shuffle groove. 

The foundation groove is the B portion of each drill— practice that by itself, if you need to, before playing the drills. Unlike the other TCFDS pages, these all use the normal form of the piece— there are no starting-on-2 or syncopated versions.  

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Here's that track— I'll post my loop soon: 

Friday, November 27, 2020

We get mentioned on YouTube sort of

Hey, it looks like one of my posts was a catalyst for a video by a semi well-known opaquely-named YouTuber. He has been the victim of some kind of smear campaign to make his videos seem negative, competition-oriented, and status-obsessed. Which they are, but he wants them not to be thought of that way. 

At least the few I've seen. I tried to “research” this further by watching a couple more videos, but I couldn't hang with it. Clearly I am not the intended audience. Looking at the list of his videos en masse I'm getting a very similar vibe as some YouTube nitwits I've written about previously. Not good. I know he he's had an education, but I'm not seeing any evidence of any depth at all. If it's there I wish he would put it in his videos. But he doesn't. I'm starting to feel cheated for the 15 minutes it costs to watch them.  

Sidebar: If you want to know what substantive, positively-focused content looks like, take a snoop through the archives of fellow bloggers Jon McCaslin and Ted Warren.  

So, this new video is partly a reaction to my post Authenticity, which he quotes and screencaps, but doesn't mention this site by name, or link to the post. Normal etiquette would be to at least identify the subject of your quote, but YouTubing is not really about that. 

My post was partly about my own experiences with the concept of authenticity, as a young white jazz student and musician from the Pacific Northwest; and it was partly about my reaction to his video “DOES AUTHENTICITY MATTER?”, in which goes at great length about authenticity in jazz as being about achieving supreme status, and surviving punishing combat, and people being mean to you— a lot of sturm und drang.   

Anyway, here, because I link to things I talk about, is the new video: 

Noted that it wraps up with a pitch for his method of learning jazz by learning hiphop instead, which I also reviewed in a previous post

So, I feel I'm seeing a strange act of deflection; he argues against himself being perceived as a kind of mean, gatekeeping “music school jazz nerd” drummer, while putting that same criticism onto others, who presumably are guilty of it. 

The opening is pure fear and adversary— the frame is that people are trying embarrass you for being interested in what they're interested in... jazz drumming... to which the natural response is to be scared and aggrieved and run away and give up. 

Marketing adolescent fear is very popular on the internet. People love the idea that there are disapproving, purely ego-motivated jazz snobs who will correct your errors unapologetically, and to punish them by quitting and not listening to them is awesome. Hop over there and look at the comments. It's one big celebration of quitting jazz for the hatred of mythical jazz snobs.      

He claims to be encouraging to newcomers, but saying I am encouraging is not the same thing as being encouraging. Especially when, in the very next sentence, he helplessly reverts to the old crucible of high performance competition business. 

Arguing with that framing is like turning on Fox News and saying “well, at least they put their bias up front.” But it's influencing you in ways you don't even understand. You think “well, I know this is bullshit, so the truth must be the opposite of that.” But you're still living on their terms, while the real truth is in another country and time zone, speaking a language you've never heard of. Like, I'm talking about making wine and you're talking about clawing your way to the top writing an android app. Bringing the mentality of the latter into the former is a recipe for some fucked-up wine. 

I'll close by saying I don't care about the superficial conflict aspect of this— beyond being a little bit irked at not being credited for my quote— none of this is personal, it is about the content of a line of video product, which happens to reflect some very common negative attitudes promoted on the internet. I only comment on it because we can learn something about being musicians, teachers, and media consumers from it. Today the lesson is beware of living in other people's narratives, doing so may mess you up in ways you don't expect or understand. And maybe don't sell fear and ego

[h/t to Anthony Amodeo, an excellent drummer and teacher living in New York, for alerting me to this video]

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

From the zone: ECM feel

Here's something sent in by Ed Stalling of Missoula, Montana. He mentioned being inspired by my ECM feel post from 2012— which definitely needs to be revisited and some links updated— but he's got his own thing happening here. 

I like the idea of notating flam rudiments for two voices this way. Normally on drumset I would write them with two complete rhythms on one set of stems. Here you can ignore some of the notes, and just play the basic sticking pattern, and add the flams to make the more challenging overlapping independent rhythms. It really suggests some interesting possibilities for ways of practicing Stick Control. You could do that with the flam pages from Stone, but I don't find it real inspiring with the flams/unisons in the same place every time.  

Get the pdf

I encourage you to send in your own writings for inclusion in a “FROM THE ZONE” post— seriously, anything scraped off the floor of your practice room, where you wrote something out to figure it out. I don't care how bad it looks. I want it to look bad. Take a picture with your phone and send it to my email link you see in the sidebar. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Transcription: Art Blakey fours - Well, You Needn't

Just a couple of solo 4s from Art Blakey, from the 1953 Miles Davis 10-inch release, Vol. 3. You'll most likely find it on a later Blue Note compilation. The tune is Well, You Needn't. Miles and Blakey trade on the first two A sections of the head out, Miles plays the melody on the bridge. The first drum break happens at 4:18. 

He's mostly playing stick shots on the snare drum, as you can see. The normal snare hits are played with the left hand, the shots with the right. He feathers the bass drum throughout. 

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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Reed method: bass drum with quarter note triplet filler - key

See, this is what I'm talking about— writing/organizing materials a certain way, you get practice ideas you wouldn't have gotten just practicing the books. I could have used this 30 years ago, but it came up yesterday when I was practicing my syncopation exercise with two notes per measure. It's totally impractical and pointless to do this with the regular exercises in Syncopation, and a pretty obvious thing to do with my two-note pages.   

We're playing jazz time, with the exercise melody rhythm on the bass drum, and filling in the remainder of the quarter note triplet, or inverted quarter note triplet, on the snare drum. Creating an Elvin Jones-like texture.  

Play through the examples on this page, then run the method with my two-note, one line exercises, and then yesterday's full page exercise. I left out the hihat for visual clarity— play the hihat on beats 2 and 4, or whatever you want to do with it. 

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Monday, November 16, 2020

Syncopation exercise: two notes per measure - 01

Another syncopation exercise written with a special set of parameters— this one just has two notes per measure, with quarter note or greater spacing. Last year I did a page of one-line exercises that way. This is good for basic jazz comping at faster tempos. I always include a stems-down part in quarter notes just for tradition, out of respect for Ted Reed. I never incorporate them with any of my practice methods. 

And a basic solo method this is good for: Hit the melody notes on a cymbal + bass drum, fill the rest of the grid on the snare drum with 8th notes or triplets, alternating sticking, playing the fill notes as taps or double strokes, or multiple bounce strokes.  

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Sunday, November 15, 2020

Very occasional quote of the day: the point of doing things

“When I was 15, I spent a month working on an archeological dig.  I was talking to one of the archeologists one day during our lunch break and he asked those kinds of “getting to know you” questions you ask young people: Do you play sports?  What’s your favorite subject? And I told him, no I don’t play any sports. I do theater, I’m in choir, I play the violin and piano, I used to take art classes.

And he went WOW. That’s amazing! And I said, “Oh no, but I’m not any good at ANY of them.”

And he said something then that I will never forget and which absolutely blew my mind because no one had ever said anything like it to me before: 

“I don’t think being good at things is the point of doing them.  I think you've got all these wonderful experiences with different skills, and that all teaches you things and makes you an interesting person, no matter how well you do them.”

And that honestly changed my life. Because I went from a failure, someone who hadn’t been talented enough at anything to excel, to someone who did things because I enjoyed them. I had been raised in such an achievement-oriented environment, so inundated with the myth of Talent, that I thought it was only worth doing things if you could “Win” at them.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

Thanks to my former student Karen for sharing this. 

Friday, November 13, 2020

Another set of patterns for improvisation

File this in the same category as the recent “extended shuffle” stickings page— it's a unified set of patterns based on a simple idea, organized to make them easy to improvise with. They're not new patterns, but we haven't seen them collected as a single idea before. 

These are right hand-accented, alternating stickings ending with a RRLL— or a RRL with the odd-numbered patterns. Get a feel for the premise by playing the first pattern on the first five lines— they all lean heavily on the strong beats. The last three patterns are really just inversions of the extended shuffle patterns, but I've included them so you can play them as an extension of this basic idea. 

Practice tips:

  • Play them as 8th notes, 16th notes, or triplets in any time signature. 
  • They are for soloing, for playing texturally, or for playing an ECM-type feel. 
  • It's easy to play them fast, but they're meant for all tempos. 
  • Play the hands on different instruments/sounds, and improvise moving them around the drums.
  • Play with the RH on a cymbal, with the bass drum in unison.
  • Add/vary accents with the left hand.   
  • Try other stickings with the same accents, as in my harmonic coordination method. Best to start with straight alternating, and single-handed. 

Get the pdf

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Listening and loops for jazz students

For my jazz students, here is a list of much loved, mainstream, historically important recordings to listen to in your first few years of learning. 

I'm also in the process of updating the practice loop labels, to group them by genre or interest. So here is a link for all my loops, and a link for just the jazz loops.  

Miles Davis
Round About Midnight - Philly Joe Jones
The New Miles Davis Quintet - Philly Joe Jones
Workin' / Steamin' /Cookin' / Relaxin' - Philly Joe Jones
Milestones - Philly Joe Jones
Kind of Blue - Jimmy Cobb
Bags' Groove - Kenny Clarke
Walkin' - Kenny Clarke

Thelonious Monk
Trio - Max Roach, Art Blakey
Monk's Dream - Frankie Dunlop
It's Monk's Time - Ben Riley
Criss Cross - Frankie Dunlop
Misterioso - Roy Haynes

Sonny Rollins
Saxophone Colossus - Max Roach
Freedom Suite - Max Roach
Newk's Time - Philly Joe Jones

More after the break!

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Three Camps for drum set - inverted - 05

Another page working on normal jazz drumset vocabulary using Three Camps— we're sort of inverting the basic version, except I've taken a few liberties with it to make a normal Elvin-like texture out of it. 

I really like this whole method, and I think it is really worth your while to learn it, figuring out all the correct form for each version. It's easy when you do it. It's really good for people who like clearly-defined lesson assignments, or for undisciplined people like me who tend to drift into creative practice rather than practice things thoroughly.

Get the pdf

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

A great jazz ride cymbal


This question was asked on a drumming forum: “What makes a great ride cymbal?” I answered it for  jazz cymbals specifically, because that's what interests me, and that's the music where the ride cymbal is most important:

20, 21, 22" are normal, full-voiced ride cymbals. 18, 19, 24" are semi-normal, but a little more limited— 18/19 are simpler, 24 is grandiose. Not every situation calls for the Gustav Mahler of ride cymbals. 

<18" ride cymbals are specialty items; >24"... seek help. 

A jazz cymbal should be multi purpose. It needs to handle well and sound great when riding, crashing, playing accents with the shoulder of the stick, and playing the bell.

It should be well suited to your touch, so you can play in a way that is comfortable to you, and have it be the right volume— not louder or softer than you intend. It should be controllable and sound good played soft or loud, through the usual range of styles/settings you play. It should sound good with a variety of normal sticks for the music— it shouldn't demand special sticks. 

It should have a fairly complex sound— sought-after sounds are either warm/dark (a la K Zildjian) or bright/airy/musical (a la Paiste 602), or moderately bright/complex (a la pre-1960s A. Zildjian). The ride cymbal is your main voice, so it shouldn't be overly ear-catching or unusual by itself— just like any other normal instrument, an acoustic bass, piano, tenor sax. For their main voice, musicians typically seek sounds that are classically excellent. It's an instrument, not the main show by itself.

It should make you want to play it. It shouldn't be annoying, or cause you to flinch because it did something you didn't expect. It should sound like a record that defined a great cymbal sound for you. You could sacrifice playability a bit if it leads you to play more thoughtfully, without being a distraction.        

“Left side” ride cymbal
The second ride cymbal is usually about forming an ensemble, complementing the main cymbal. You can make moderate compromises on the above criteria. Most often the second ride will be in the area of a crash/ride— a little lighter and airier than you might use for your main cymbal. It should contrast the main ride, and have a nice melodic interval with it. Usually smaller and lighter, sometimes heavier, it could also be a brighter or darker sound, too. Possibly with rivets, if the main cymbal doesn't have them. 

Head over to my cymbal site, Cymbalistic, to check out some examples of cymbals that embody these qualities— including the blog, which has some posts looking at classic cymbal sounds for jazz. 

Monday, November 09, 2020

Beginning of the end

 Well, that was the longest week of my life. I'm still recovering, and after I've recovered I probably won't want to write about this. I hope everyone is celebrating the electoral defeat of the most destructive, abusive, fascistic, anti-American president the United States has seen in modern times, possibly ever. And I hope everyone has been radicalized by this experience to vote in every election, and vote effectively to deny power to the party that foisted him upon us, and enabled and exploited his abuses. 

By effectively I mean voting for opponents who can win, which usually means Democratic Party candidates. I understand the attraction of voting for third party candidates who may be closer to your views, but if it is 100% impossible that they will be elected, what are you accomplishing? Unfortunately voting in the USA often means voting to mitigate harm. As more states adopt ranked-choice voting, it will be more realistic to promote very progressive candidates without sacrificing the one piece of political power you truly have. 

Electoral wins have been happening on some very tight margins in recent years. The 2016 election was decided by less than 100,000 voters in three states— a population of 29 million people. If a few more people had turned out and/or voted effectively, we would have been spared this four year nightmare, and there would not be a hard core right wing lock on the Supreme Court— who are shameless and aggressive enough to not only block all future progressive legislation, but also dismantle what we have. And we would not have ~300,000 dead people, and hundreds of thousands more who are guaranteed to die because COVID-19 was allowed to get out of control. Go through the list of egregious acts by the current administration. Child abuse as official United States policy, separating refugee families. 

We just dodged a very dire situation— people like Donald Trump destroy nations— but all the people who enabled him and supported him are still around, still trying to do all the same things. I hope everyone is radicalized to never forget, and show up and vote in all future elections.   

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Stick Control patterns for a certain type of funk

 A thing we do here is to rewrite/re-organize existing materials to make them better for practicing certain things. I hate hunting around the page while I practice, flipping pages, dodging things that are no good for what I'm practicing. 

Playing with a loop from a Meters song, I played some Stick Control combinations on the drumset to make a funk texture— I combined all the four-note patterns starting with an R with all of the four note patterns starting with an L. So beat 1 was an R, beat 3 was an L.  

You could just memorize the first thirteen patterns from Stone and figure out the combinations in your head while you play, as I did— or I can write them out so I have something to post on the blog, and maybe a few people will actually do it. Some of these combinations are already in the book, others are not. There are two pages, the first is most useful. 

Play this in 2/2, with the Rs as cymbal + bass drum, Ls as snare drum— with the appropriate hand. I put an accent on the cut time beat 2; or beat 3 if you're counting in 4/4... look, do this: 

I played quarter notes on the hihat with my foot, and played the unaccented snare drum notes pretty strongly— I wasn't ghosting them. It's an ordinary orchestration we do with Syncopation all the time, but it's hard to do this exact thing without using Stick Control-type patterns. 

It's similar to what Zigaboo Modeliste does at times, de-emphasizing the cymbal rhythm. And it's a lesson in a certain un-intricate concept of funk. I like unintricacy in funk. We're playing an 8th note grid, but it's a grid of interlocking parts, which creates a strong groove. To me, groove-wise, plain 8th notes played on a single sound is a weak structure; interlocking parts is a strong structure. You may not play this way all the time, but it sets you up to move some different directions— especially if you're used to playing funk with a repeating cymbal rhythm, or a linear cymbal rhythm. 

Get the pdf

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Miscellaneous: cymbal and book

UPDATE: Feedback from the buyer of the cymbal: “I think perhaps I've never owned a nice sounding cymbal before b/c all my current cymbals sound like garbage compared to the Hassan.”

Please forgive the light posting— I think we're all a little frazzled waiting on this election to finally be over, and some balance of sanity restored. So, just a couple of items here: 

Congratulations to Casey in Illinois, who just bought an excellent 22" Cymbal & Gong Holy Grail Jazz Ride, “Hassan”— a particularly clean and pretty sounding K-type cymbal. Another cymbal you could play your whole life

I've been reading a book recommended by Casey, which every teacher and serious student should read: Peak, by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool. Apparently they are the researchers that Malcolm Gladwell relied on to make up his 10,000 hour nonsense. This book is about high performance, and how to achieve it. The message is that you can achieve remarkable feats of performance with the right kind of focused practice. Talent is practiced and acquired, basically. 

The first example they use is a study they did on memorizing numbers. Previous studies showed that people generally can hold a series of eight or nine numbers, and no more, in their short term memory. Ericsson and Pool's study participants were able to recall strings of 80-100 numbers with a certain kind of focused practice. They give similar examples in sports and music, and obviously the methods the book describes are very powerful.    

You probably know by now that I'm not enamored with feats of amazingness in music— but we should know what are effective practice methods, regardless of our performance goals. 

The thing to remember is that high performance does not equal high artistry. Without something to say, high performance chops are totally meaningless. What you have to say still comes from loving music, listening to it, and playing it— from being a committed, enthusiastic music centered human being. Anyone can be that, but it can't be acquired like learning faster paradiddles.    

The other thing to remember is that you need to know what to practice. Novice drummers often have strange ideas about what they need to practice to learn to play. Applying these methods people like that are destined to become like the guy who became a champion Donkey Kong player— freakish masters of something utterly useless. See the “World's Fastest Drummer” competition, if that's still going.  

So, it would be easy to read this book and be evangelized into just thinking in its terms, where improvement = statistical performance gains, but the inherently messy process of becoming a player really can't be avoided by just practicing more and better. You still have to go and play in situations where you don't know what you're going to do, you still have to have favorite records that you wear out from repeated listening, you still have to learn human interaction with other performers via the live playing of music. You have to have a visceral emotional idea of what you want to say. Hopefully this book encourages us to do more uncomfortable practicing, to help us get over the technical considerations faster, so we can get directly to making music.  

Election day

 Make sure you vote. 

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.