Friday, May 29, 2020

Daily best music in the world: 1-5 of ten albums

Reprinting this from my Facebook page— I encourage you to head over there and add me as a friend. There's a thing going around where musicians list ten albums that were most important in their development. The idea of narrowing it down to just ten albums is absurd, so I'm not really trying. Mainly I was trying to do things other drummers had not already listed. These are all very, very important records to me, but there are 100+ more albums that are equally important. Here are numbers 1-5:

1. George Duke / Reach For It
My brother gave me a bootleg cassette of this that I listened to all through high school. It's got Ndugu Leon Chancler on drums.  Great 70s LA Latin/fusion/funk, with a couple of soul ballads. High points are Omi, a high energy Afro 12/8, which began my very long engagement with that type of groove, and Watch Out Baby!, a sort of quasi-pornographic funk epic featuring Stanley Clarke— here's my transcription of Chancler's playing on that.

Here is Omi— I made a loop of the bulk of this tune, which is included in my massive zip of practice loops, which is still available to download free.

2. Bill Frisell / Before We Were Born 
Got a cassette of this in a mall in Puerto Rico. I knew about Bill Frisell from the Marc Johnson Bass Desires record, but it was the first I heard of Joey Baron. Includes a pretty radical 13 minute John Zorn arrangement, and Arto Lindsay on one tune. I played these gigs in central Oregon, on the other side of the mountains, and would crank this driving home through the Cascades at 2am.

3. Thelonious Monk - Trio 
Knowing individuals inform me that this is a weak, poorly performed album. The vibe is casual, but I don't know what's WRONG with it. Like, tell me what you want. We'll go to the British Museum and rate the Constable sketches. Settle some accounts.

To me it's a perfect record. This is what jazz is supposed to be. There are ten tracks and ~35 min of music total, so it's tight; the tunes are featured a little more than the soloing. Everybody sounds engaged, people are trying some things, and the total package is like walking in on a Leonardo sculpture— you already knew the whole thing before you even saw it.

4. McCoy Tyner / Blues For Coltrane
I posted about this one before: Blues for Coltrane. I think it's considered a McCoy album. With Roy Haynes, Cecil McBee, Pharoah Sanders, David Murray. At USC I used to listen to this on my way to combo rehearsal with Dwight Dickerson, and arrive ready to kick ass. Pretty sure I made a lifetime enemy out of a bass clarinetist. I never understood why everyone didn't want to play this level of energy all the time.

5. Miles Davis / Water Babies
I only just figured out that I liked this record a few years ago— like 10-12 years ago. It's outtakes from the Nefertiti and In A Silent Way sessions. Compared to Nefertiti and Filles de K they really sound like ensemble sketches. It sounds unfinished, the tunes are not really strong in a normal way, but that's what I like about it. It still sounds like a record. Especially love Wayne Shorter's playing all the way through this.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

2/4 rhythms to triplets

Companion to the late three voice / four note patterns page, in case it wasn't challenging enough for you. This is to aid in playing those patterns as triplets in 4/4— as you play through, you can figure out how any particular part is supposed to lay in the triplet rhythm:

Get the pdf

Monday, May 25, 2020

Very occasional quote of the day: Jimmy Cobb

“Miles could tell me the things he wanted from the drums but I didn’t let him tell me how to play them.”

— Jimmy Cobb, 1979 interview by Rick Mattingly

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Practice loop: slow blues

A new practice loop sampled from Blues at Twilight, from Milt Jackson's album Plenty, Plenty Soul. Horace Silver is on piano here. Tempo is 75 bpm, so this is a good one for getting your triplet coordination together— with my recent pages of triplet patterns, for example, or Gary Chaffee's pain-in-the-neck jazz materials.

Be sure to download my practice loop archive (it doesn't include this) while it's still available.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Three voice / four note patterns

Continuing in the vein of the recent three voice/three note patterns item. Let's call this series “things I have always been against writing that I am now writing.” I've been playing around with an online combination generator, making some Stick Control-type patterns for the drum set, including combinations of limbs. I'm trying to do it in a rational way; it would be easy to produce an insane collection of patterns that would be totally unusable.

This is a practice-able collection of four-note patterns, written for three drum set voices, including single notes and RH-LH and RH-RF unisons. It adheres to my usual rules for what makes something very playable: no more than two SD or BD hits in a row, and no more than three cymbal hits. It's similar to things found in Dahlgren & Fine, and Chaffee, but different.

So: what is this good for, and how do we practice it?

1. There are 120 patterns, so you have to move as quickly as possible. Try to cover all of the patterns in 15-30 minutes.

2. Use to develop an ECM-type texture, or as conditioning for breaking up a normal funk texture. Could also be played with a swing feel, addressing some possible coordination/timing gaps.

3. The patterns are written as 8th notes in 2/4, but you can play them on a four note or three note subdivision, as 16th notes or triplets. Doing them as triplets, it helps to know how the cymbal portion of the pattern lies in 4/4— a separate cheat sheet for that is coming soon...

4. Try these moves:
• Play the written cymbal/snare unisons as snare/tom unisons, or as flams on any drum— I suggest doing them left-handed, meaning the right hand lands first.
• Play cymbal/bass drum unisons on a different cymbal than the plain RH cymbal notes.
Doing those moves makes this very similar to what I do with my harmonic coordination improved system, except with more potential for speed.

5. Add hihat in unison with the left hand only notes, or the right hand only notes, or the bass drum only notes. Or add hihat in any basic rhythm suitable for the style you're playing.

5. Combine patterns from different sections to make linear funk grooves. Play patterns starting with a bass drum first, and patterns starting with a snare drum second. I arranged them on the page to make that fairly easy— sections A and B combine well, and C and D combine well. You can also do A/D and C/B. Section E could come first or second. That creates a vast number of combinations, which... there may be better ways of working on that sort of thing. I'm not a proponent of endless systems. But it's a possibility.

Get the pdf

Friday, May 22, 2020

RIP Thee Hippy Slayer

Sad news, Portland drummer Steve Hanford, aka Thee Hippy Slayer, has died. Best known for playing with iconic Portland punk band Poison Idea. I'm not a follower, but I have a lot of fondness for them; my friends and I, in our Iron Maiden shirts, saw them play in a basement in Eugene in 1983. We were not the coolest kids there. That was my first serious rock & roll experience.

In the late 90s Hanford produced a demo by my rock band The Raging Woodies— originally a very aggressive acoustic guitar-led project, it took a Black Sabatthian turn under Hanford's direction. He was having substantial drug problems then, but he was a skilled rock producer, and a fun, hilarious guy to be around. At about that time we saw him play a great show at The Satyricon with a short-lived band called Pink (formerly Slowface). He was a great rock drummer, and played with a lot of power.

Here's a groove o' the day from 2015, from Poison Idea's Marked For Life.

Here he is playing with Poison Idea in 1988:

Monday, May 18, 2020

Favorite albums: Trio Jeepy

Records that were important in my development, that might be in yours, too. Should be a major recurring feature, but very difficult for me to write. My problem is I don't have much intelligent or glib to say about most of these albums. Everything there is to say is on the record itself. I'm not into history, scene, or writing plaudits, or speculating about players' psychology, or grading performances. So this is just a way of directing you to the thing, and saying spend a lot of time with this, if you haven't already.

So: Trio Jeepy by Branford Marsalis, released in 1989. With Milt Hinton (and Delbert Felix) on bass and Jeff Watts on drums. I bought a cassette of this because Wynton Marsalis's Standard Time and Live At Blues Alley records were very hot then, and I wanted to get more of Watts. Most of us who were students in the 80s were trying to find a voice somewhere between fusion and the neo-classic thing, and at this time neo-classic was where most of the energy was. Fusion was declining into fuzak, but its major artists were edging away from that, towards a more acoustic conception. See Michael Brecker's first solo record, Chick Corea's Akoustic Band, Scofield's Time On My Hands, Metheny's Question & Answer.

This is a nice, loose little recording with a lot of blowing and a lot of great featured drumming. They included some outtakes and talking in between tracks, which adds to the spontaneous vibe. Marsalis is doing his Dexteresque thing that is nice to listen to. The record introduced many of us jazz neophytes to some tunes we would play a lot in coming years: Doxy, Makin' Whoopee, UMMG, Three Little Words, The Nearness of You. Now I realize that it took some nerve to put Doxy on a record in 1989, and present it with an attitude of THIS. IS. THE. SHIT.

There's always an element of doctrinal pronouncement in recordings by any Marsalis; you come away feeling like you've been told how you're supposed to play. I don't know to what extent mainstream jazz was actually dead when the Marsalises came around— but they needed to declare it so, so they could bring it back. There was still jazz education, and a professional culture where people were still playing old tunes. But maybe all the big records were in the fusion arena, before they came along. 

Jeff Watts is fantastic of course. He has a much deeper, more muscular sound here than we're accustomed to today. Similar to post-60s Tony Williams, but less outrageously aggressive. Listen to Watts if you want to find a sound different from the current twitchy, trebly thing. There's also a great example of “melodic” drumming, with his playing on Housed From Edward— hearing that was an unavoidable instruction to get a concept of playing blues.

On that track he does a big time displacement thing, which is a pretty audacious move. It doesn't add anything, and is kind of crass, showing off his fearlessness of blowing a take— and also Milt Hinton's unshakability. I wrote a page on how to do it. Good luck ever finding musicians you can do that with, or on having the courage to actually attempt it in a critical situation.

Here's Housed From Edward— listen to the video, but the proper way to do this is to buy the physical record, and play it many, many times.

Friday, May 15, 2020

What's with resting the sticks on the drum?

Item just in from the pet peeve department: there's an extremely slovenly practice, apparently done by half the drummers in the world: resting the sticks on the drum head before playing. I have students who do it, and I see it done in many drumming videos by players of all levels: they're getting set to play, and before they start, they let the sticks go drzz on the drumhead.

It's very strange— like resting your hand on a basketball on the floor before dribbling it. It doesn't compute. It's not an organic component of playing the instrument, or of being at rest at the instrument— it puts an unnatural pressure on your hand, and you have to grip the stick harder to hold it there. Can you imagine a violinist dragging the bow across the strings when getting set to perform— screet. What? Does a pianist push the keys down before playing? 

Where I come from, the sticks never touch the instrument unless you're playing it. Standards are looser on drumset, but generally, anything you do with the sticks that is not actually playing the instrument should be done silently, or at least discreetly. In all of concert percussion, and in drum corps, silence and no contact is an absolute rule. Yet I still see those guys doing it in their videos. 

Look here: a student of Buster Bailey, king of the world in concert percussion, doing it (in an otherwise very good video):

Here's an old school rudimental guy doing it. And technique god Bruce Becker— granted, he appears to be doing it silently. In a video I can't re-locate, Gordy Knutsen does it— also with delicacy, like Becker.

Often you see people doing it on a practice pad— it's silent, so maybe they're just not aware of what they're doing. But here's a pipe band drummer doing it on a drum.

Here is how it is done: not only does Shaun Tilburg never touch the sticks to the head when he's not actually playing, when he sets the sticks on the drum, he takes care to do it very discreetly. With his demonstrations here he makes some preparatory motions very close to the head, but never touches the head:

If you're Bruce Becker you can do whatever you want— well, everyone can do what they want— but if you're any normal person, try to break this habit. It suggests a lack of performance discipline, and may well bite you on the butt if you do it unthinkingly in a sensitive situation. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Three voice / three note patterns

The sort of thing you write when you're under quarantine— a library item strictly for maniacs, in the same ballpark of extremity/uselessness as Gary Chaffee's jazz patterns, from Patterns vol. 3. In fact that's exactly what I'm working on right now, and what led to this.

I've written some three-note sticking patterns for three voices: R, L, B. Then I wrote them out for drumset, with R on cymbal, L on snare drum, and B meaning either Both hands or Bass drum. Then I did some additional patterns including right hand/bass drum unisons; and some more patterns including both hands unisons. 

Like Chafee's thing, these are ordered by a mathematical logic, not the way a rational person would use them. Very useful patterns are mixed in with not very useful ones, and normal vocabulary items are mixed in with not at all normal ones. It limits how fast you can do the complete system, and doesn't lead you directly to normally-useful material. So the only people who should be using this are hardcore practicers, or lifers like me who can already play, but who want to fill in some gaps. It should be helpful for developing a triplet-feel version of a ECM feel, or a ballad in the manner of Tony Williams playing Fall, maybe. 

Saturday, May 09, 2020

Transcription: Roy Haynes comping

UPDATE: Download link is fixed!

Did you ever transcribe 72 bars of Roy Haynes, just to realize that all of the really cool stuff was in the NEXT 36 bars? I wanted to do an easy little comping transcription, but with this one I just had to keep going. And that was after I wrote most of a page of another track, before I realized this is the one I wanted to do: Blues For Liz, on Paul Gonsalves's album Cleopatra Feelin' Jazzy. Not obviously a record to immediately grab on seeing it in a record store, but it's great.

The transcription is from Gonsalves's solo, starting at 0:47, and is nine choruses long— 108 bars long.

You could make a serious comping lesson out of this. Most of it is playable, and conceptually clear; there are some things on the last page that would not make sense to try to duplicate. The parts are mostly non-independent— the hands are largely played in unison, both feet are often played in unison. The bass drum is sparse and subtly handled, with relatively few big accents. He often splashes the hihat with his foot— they have a soft sound that blends nicely with the overall sound. His handling of the snare drum is very nuanced, much more than can be communicated in a transcription. He frequently punches the & of 3, or & of 3/& of 4 with a buzzed stroked on the snare drum. He plays that “single stroke four” item quite often.

Get the pdf

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Hemiola funk series: S3B

Another variation on the hemiola funk thing, with the main pattern ending with a double on the bass drum— a snare hit + 3 bass hits. I continue to tweak the basic template to cover the major rhythmic possibilities, with some practical variations, while still being playable for younger students. I have a couple of students under age 10 who are sounding great with these materials.

Ex. 1 is simply the hard part of the pattern isolated— play it a few times with a long pause after, to get the coordination. The main potential problem with this system is if students play the ideas by feel and accidentally lapse into 3/4 when they're supposed to be playing in 4. I have the students count the overall rhythm of the patterns before playing them, and this has not been a problem— my students can improvise variations on these ideas without getting lost.

Get the pdf

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Four on the floor: Stone meets Ghana

Here's something very rare, an idea to base your whole life on: Stone-type patterns based on Ghanaian bell patterns. This is from Jon McCaslin over at Four on the Floor, given to him by the percussionist Russell Hartenberger. Just go over there and get them, and print them, and keep them in your notebook forever.

Monday, May 04, 2020

Practice loop: Dexterity / Bird's chorus

UPDATE: If you want the loop archive, you should get it fast— my ISP is complaining about the large files stored on my account, and I'll probably have to delete it soon.

I assume everyone is busy rifling through my practice loop archive, which I recently posted online. Most of the samples are quite short, from vamp sections of tunes, and there isn't much regular jazz in 4/4. So lately I've been making more loops from whole solos. I'm starting with Bird— probably every jazz musician in the world between 1945-1960 beat their Charlie Parker 78s to death playing along with them.

This is sampled from Dexterity, written and recorded by Charlie Parker. Nobody ever plays this tune, despite it being massively available to jazz students forever, through the original Real Book. Sample is of Parker's 32 bar solo. Tempo is quarter note = 217.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Double paradiddle inversions for drumset

Following up on my big rudimental tantrum post, here's a little exploration of double paradiddles— I mentioned that a good friend, and one of the most creative drummers I know, Steve Pancerev, is a fan of these. I've put the rudiment through its inversions, starting on each note of the pattern, and converted it to a linear pattern, then converted the right hand portion into a syncopation rhythm in 3/4.

Those are the first, most obvious things I would want to look at when practicing these creatively on the drum set. The syncopation rhythm may seem remote from the original rudiment, but when you practice them many of the ways we normally do, you'll end up with some form of double paradiddle.

I've retained the accent on the linear version just to illustrate the first note of the double paradiddle— that doesn't mean you have to play it.

A few things you notice right away looking at the patterns, especially in linear form:
• Versions 1 (normal double paradiddles) and 2 are very similar to the standard Afro-Cuban “short” bell rhythm.
• Version 3, with the measures reversed, is similar to the “long” bell rhythm.
• Version 6 is very similar to 6/8 rumba clave.

At the end I've given a few possibilities for orchestrating the linear version— note that the pattern is not always played just with the hands. You can interpret the linear patterns as representing any two voices, or combinations of voices.

It's beyond the scope of this post, but as with anything in 6/8— any six-note pattern— there are a lot of metric/rhythmic possibilities regardless of what time signature you're playing/practicing in.

Get the pdf

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

40 international drum rudiments— a frank appraisal

Here at last is my opinionated commentary on each of the 40 PAS international drum rudiments— the good are praised, the questionable are denigrated and hounded from the public sphere. The abstruse are eschewed.

I'll put my bias up front: I'm most interested in what helps me play creatively on the drum set, and on that instrument I'm not a very snare-drum centric player. I don't do band, orchestra, or rudimental percussion professionally/seriously, though I did get a serious education in them.

We should also be clear on the basic terms the way I use them, the way they were used in the community in which I was educated:

Roll is reserved for running doubles, singles, or multiple-bounce strokes that are rapid enough to sound like a long tone.
Ruff = an unmetered multi-stroke embellishment.
Open = double strokes, closed = multiple bounce strokes. Traditionally in rudimental drumming, those are often taken to mean slow and fast.
Drag = one multiple-bounce or double stroke, played as an embellishment, or as part of an ongoing rhythm. This is not a universally correct definition, but it's how the word was used in the field by people I was around.

Download the Percussive Arts Society's pdf of their 40 standard snare drum drum rudiments and proceed:

Single stroke roll rudiments

Single stroke roll
Rapid single strokes are used for making a long tone on most percussion instruments— cymbals, mallet instruments, timpani, concert bass drum, almost all other concert percussion instruments except snare drum. It's usually a mundane thing, with discussion of it centered on what is correct for the particular instrument— mainly for sound. Speed is only a concern to the extent that instruments with long sustain call for a slower roll, and instruments with shorter sustain call for a faster roll. As technique enthusiasts have taken over, now the single stroke roll is thought to be just a high performance item, and the major concerns about it are speed, and training methods.

Standard 4-stroke ruff notation
Single stroke 4
Traditionally known as a 4-stroke ruff, written as you see on the left, and played with single strokes, with three grace notes embellishing a main note. PAS now writes it as a rhythm, with four even notes. Somebody just decided 4-stroke ruffs are not a thing any more, despite it being a common item in concert snare drum literature.

Single stroke 7
Since when was this a rudiment? Why is there a single stroke 7 and no single stroke 5? A 4 and no 3? If this is how we're going to do it, just give all of the standard roll rudiments a single stroke equivalent. Quit fooling around.

Multiple bounce roll rudiments

Multiple-bounce roll  
Or “buzz” roll, or closed roll. I use all three terms. This is the only type of roll used in band/concert snare drum— and only on snare drum. No buzz rolls on timpani or cymbals, please. It is a fundamental technique for anyone serious about the drums; still, many set players rarely need to play one.

Triple stroke roll
This is a way of playing sixtuplets in corps drumming, and serves no purpose at all outside of that activity. Really not in the same category as a multiple bounce roll; multi-strokes are not the same as multiple-bounce strokes. The triple stroke roll is a flash corps item, a multiple bounce roll is universal snare drum technique for making a long tone. I might conceivably use a variation of this as a chops developer, starting with a single note, so the last note of each triple stroke falls on the 8th notes.

Double stroke open roll rudiments

Double stroke open roll 
Just say double stroke roll or open roll, saying them both is unnecessary. I say open roll. Used in drum corps, and in soloing and embellishing on the drum set. It's an essential drumming technique, despite not being widely used in concert percussion.

5-stroke roll, 9-stroke roll
Two essential short rolls. These are played multiple-bounce as frequently as double-stroke, so it's misleading to put them in this category. Same with the 7 stroke roll and longer rolls.

6-stroke roll
One of the hippest of all rudiments for flashy, fusionoid soloing. Much used and abused by many, many “choppy” drummers. Typically played with double strokes, in two major forms: as a sixtuplet (which to me is not a “roll”), and as 16th note accents / 32nd note doubles.

7-stroke roll
Another essential short roll, and Exhibit A for why learning rudiments from a list sucks. This needs at least three examples to demonstrate its most common usages— 16th pulsation starting on the beat, 16th pulsation starting with a tap, 16th triplet pulsation starting on an &.

13-stroke roll
One-beat roll played with a sixtuplet pulsation. I never use this term, but like the 5, 7, and 9 stroke rolls, this is really one of the essential short rolls.

10-stroke roll, 11-stroke roll, 15-stroke roll, 17-stroke roll
I never use these terms, ever. With any roll longer than one beat, or more than 5 movements, I'm thinking overall duration and pulsation. To me these are relics from the days when drumming was just about stringing together named rudiments.

Much more after the break:

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Daily best music in the world: Pete La Roca with Coltrane

Busy this week finishing an e-book outlining my “harmonic coordination improved” method. I think I'm going to call it Drumset Control. There are at least two other books with that title, by Mitchell Peters and Dahlgren & Fine. My thing is the only one that is like the book Stick Control— or Accents & Rebounds really. It's essentially A&R orchestrated for four limbs, and massively expanded, and made accessible to players of all levels. I'll go into it more when I'm ready to release it.

So while I do that, here's a bootleg recording of Pete La Roca playing with John Coltrane in 1960, with McCoy Tyner and Steve Davis. Coltrane formed his quartet with Tyner, Davis, and Elvin Jones through this engagement at the Jazz Gallery in New York. 

Thanks to Marco Zondervan in the Netherlands for sharing this.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Transcription: Max Roach - Dexterity

Max Roach's drum breaks on just about the first jazz recording I ever noticed and liked— Dexterity by Charlie Parker. I dug an old LP compilation of Parker 78s out of my dad's record collection. Recorded in 1947. It's very 40s bebop— just snare drum and bass drum, no hihat, no tom toms, only cymbal is at the end. I wrote out the solos on both takes of the tune, from the Complete Dial Masters compilation. They're both 8 bars long, on the last A of the piano chorus, before the head out.

In a break from my usual practice, I've included the feathered bass drum— which is pretty loud. The flams in the first two measures are pretty wide, with the grace notes on the beat. Almost a 16th note timing. Note the untied rolls at the beginning of the second break— play them as two or three tight multiple bounce strokes, with no release. The endings are basically the same; the timing on the second one is just a little different. Worth noting that the tempos are basically exactly the same, and the solos happen at exactly the same time.

Get the pdf

Audio after the break.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Hemiola funk series: Funky Primer - p. 22

Here's an easy little thing, bringing together two funk items: I've taken a familiar page from Charles Dowd's Funky Primer, and re-written it with the patterns used in my hemiola funk series.

You know what to do with a page of beats. The numbering is different than in the original book. I couldn't be bothered to match them up. One beat from the original page is missing because it didn't work with the HFS patterns; instead I added a variation on the previous beat.

UPDATE: Here's how I work this with my students— lay this page over the book so corresponding beats from each column can be played together:

The numbers are different, so that's a little bit of a pain. Beat 5 from Funky Primer has no corresponding variation on my page.

Get the pdf

Sunday, April 19, 2020

EZ jazz solo method: alternative triplet stickings

Let's begin expanding the quick and easy jazz solo lesson from the other day— here are some alternative triplet stickings you can use with it. You'll recall that it consisted of a “stock” pattern element and a “reading” pattern element— use these stickings with the reading element, using pp. 14-15 of Syncopation.

Wherever there is more than a single beat of triplets, substitute these for the repeating RLL or RRL sticking. Of course you could also do the triplets with an alternating sticking, which I didn't bother writing out.

Get the pdf

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Very occasional quote of the day: Lee Konitz

From my friend and collaborator saxophonist Tim Willcox on his lesson with Lee Konitz, who died yesterday:

When it came down to asking Lee my very specific questions about how he practiced and learned to do this and that, Lee said, “I never really practiced that stuff. I just learned by osmosis... from playing with those guys every night.” And then he said, “why don't we play?”

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

3:2: varying the 3-side

Here we're essentially doing straight 8th notes against a broken triplet-feel cymbal rhythm, in a triplet-feel context. For me this is mainly for playing straight 8ths in an Afro 6/8— which I already covered back when I was just writing what I was using, and letting people get it, or not. Now I like to break things down more, giving you my own strategies for figuring things out.

It's pretty straightforward. Learn the patterns with your hands, then learn that page I linked to above, which includes variations on the straight 8th rhythm within an Afro 6 groove. You could play a dotted quarter note— or 8th note, or dotted 8th note— pulse with one or both feet while you play the exercises with your hands. You can also do the patterns on this page between all combinations of limbs. In order of priority, I would say— 3 side limb is first: RH/LF, RH/RF, LH/RH, LF/LH, RF/LH, RF/LF, LF/RF, etc. 

Get the pdf

Sunday, April 12, 2020

A quick and easy jazz solo lesson

UPDATE: Download link works now!

This is an easy, non-technical method for learning jazz solos/breaks/trading, which I devised in lessons with an older Skype student. It involves a few basic patterns, and several easy practice methods to use with the book Progressive Steps to Syncopation. This should work well for students who are new to jazz, and don't know how to begin soloing, and will create a good foundation for development of more sophisticated forms of soloing.

I named two of the stock patterns at the top of the page “Philly Joe” and “Billy Higgins” to have a convenient reference for them in teaching this— I notice that each of them plays those things quite a bit. As do a lot of other people.

We're going to approach this like the United States Marines [stands up, salutes flag], quickly grabbing as much musical terrain as we can, bypassing whatever parts are hard for you, and mopping them up later. Dumb analogy, but now that I think of it, it does sum up my whole approach to everything. We want to be fluent with the major structures without getting hung up on technical concerns. Do the following, swinging the 8th notes:

1. Play the warmups, repeating.

2. Learn each of the seven interpreted methods while reading from Syncopation— play lines 1-15 plus the long exercise on the indicated pages.

3. Then play the practice phrases:

  • One measure of a stock pattern / one measure of a reading pattern
  • Two measures time / one measure stock pattern / one measure reading pattern
  • Trade all combinations of time / stock patterns / reading patterns in 1s / 2s / 4s

The goal is to improvise your solos, so I don't believe there's a need to learn this rigidly by the numbers. Once you can recognize and handle all the basic ideas, play them in time, and move them around the drums, while keeping the basic form together— trading 1s/2s/4s, you're fine.

Get the pdf

Friday, April 10, 2020

COVID SPECIAL: Practice loop archive

Hey, since everyone is confined to home, with nothing to do but practice, I thought I'd share my personal archive of sampled practice loops— hit that link to see the previous ones I've posted. It's kind of a bootleg item, so this will only be up for a limited time. There's a bunch of great funk, jazz, Afro 6, Brazilian, rock, odd meter stuff, and more. The zip file is about 2 gb.

If you are so moved you can make a $1-??? contribution to the site by hitting the DONATE button in the sidebar. Help keep us in business if you're able.

Afro 6 bass drum studies

A page of practice rhythms for the bass drum, in an Afro 6 feel. For the most part these are not conventional bass drum rhythms, though a lot of them will sound cool, and will open up a lot of creative possibilities.

You can try adding the rhythms on this page with your left hand for an extra challenge. Look through my practice loops and find an appropriate one to play along with. I'm using this one this week.

Get the pdf

Thursday, April 09, 2020

From the zone: Al Foster intro

Hey, it looks like everyone but me is getting a lot writing done right now. I have a couple more of these “from the zone” items to share— a series where people send in their personal stuff, scraped off their practice room floor. Feel free to email me (see the sidebar) any coffee-stained hand written stuff you want to share. It doesn't have to be particularly legible or even make sense to outsiders. Any old thing you needed to write out to practice.

This looked familiar when drummer Larry Nagel shared it on a forum; it's something I transcribed to include in my Book of Intros... a major project that is currently stalled. It's basically done, but I haven't released it yet because???

...anyway, it's a young Al Foster's intro from Chick's Tune, from Blue Mitchell's album The Thing To Do:

Here's my version of it for the book— most of the 8th rests are filled in with ghosted triplet doubles, and I included possible stickings and a few measures of the main groove from the tune:

Here's Nagel playing it, very professionally:

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Page o' coordination: Olé - 01

A Portland jazz educator asked me about what Elvin Jones was doing on the tune Olé, by John Coltrane, so I wrote this up. He plays a few different major patterns, and this might be the easiest one— and I've simplified it a little bit.

There are a couple of different options with the bass drum; you can eliminate the circled note, and/or add bass drum on 2 or the & of 2 in the first measure. Or, hell, you could eliminate the bass drum altogether while you get the hands happening. You could also pencil in a hihat on 3 in the second measure if you want. He often plays it on 2 in the first measure and 2 and 3 in the second measure.

Do my stock left hand moves. With this Elvin type thing, maybe play the snare drum hits as rim clicks.

Get the pdf

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Annals of wrong things: UNUSED POTENTIAL

Here's a little sub-rant of my other recent teaching rant. I wrote this in January, and wasn't going to post it— it's kind of silly. But people seem to enjoy these, and it's not totally devoid of educational value, so here it is.

Some things are so wrong you have to talk about them at great length just to understand how wrong they are, so here's that graphic from that other post:

I grabbed it off the web and shoehorned it into that post because I couldn't find anything better to illustrate the subject: drum instruction that is totally divorced from reality.

What are we seeing here?
The graphic is taken from from Dom Famularo's book It's Your Move, and posted online at a site called The Black Page, where it is used to illustrate an article called “Pedal control.” I don't know the site, but it appears to be about the development of extreme drumming chops in the Jim Chapin / Dom Famularo mode.

It's a kind of diagram of the universe of developing drumming abilities. There are axes of SLOW/FAST and SOFT/LOUD, each expanding outward into infinity. Within that field there's a sort of Venn diagram of the overlapping slow/fast/loud/soft requirements for three ways of playing the drums: JAZZ, FUNK, and METAL. The three ways.

In the ether of that dual-binary cosmos, beyond the scope of all abilities you could conceivably need  for THE THREE ways of playing, floats the infinite gulf of your UNUSED POTENTIAL. We could alternatively call that “technical skill unneeded for any known music.” It hovers out there forever like Original Sin, since it is infinite, and every human being will always have unused potential.

What? No.

In plain old musical reality, there is no infinite frontier of speed and volume. There's no such thing as SLOW, for example. It's an illusion. In drum technique terms, there is nothing slower than a single isolated note, regardless of the actual space between notes, or the tempo of the musical context. To play slow tempos we subdivide; converting the slow tempo the audience hears to a more easily performable faster tempo. So slowness is not a thing.

Fastness has the problem of the long tone barrier. We've talked about this before; above a certain rate, the human ear perceives single notes as a long tone. The rate at which that happens varies with the instrument, but it is well within the reach of any committed student. Rates faster than that are purely statistical, because they have little musical effect, beyond a slight change in texture.

The pursuit of infinite quietness is checked by the meathook reality of the signal to noise ratio. There's a certain level of volume beneath which room noise, the sounds of player's fingers on their instruments, blood pressure on the human participants' ear drums, tinnitus, the waitress serving drinks, begin to disrupt the perception of the music— for the listeners, and just as importantly, for the other performers. All music intended to be heard needs to be loud enough relative to environmental sounds to be perceived continuously. Try it sometime. Learn to play really quiet, and then play that way on a job. You may not get any complaints, but it will be a weird experience for everyone.

I'm getting bored, so let's just say this of infinite loudness: is anyone really asking you for that? If so, get a PA.

There are other things
What did these qualities slowness/fastness/loudness/quietness ever do to earn this claim on your time and energy? Try listening to records, learning about African music, playing piano, composing, arranging, learning about recording, learning to paint, writing poetry, raising your kids, finding a spouse, maintaining your relationship with your spouse. Learn to cook.

It's just a graphic from a drum book. I know this. But you can't introduce the concept of infinity and UNUSED POTENTIAL and then limit your scope to these tawdry and ultimately wrong metrics of ability. Come on.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Long rolls, Reed format

A supplemental Reed item— this is about the level of thing I'm capable of right now. Not written out of any pressing need, hahaha, except this is a basic thing it's not easy for intermediate students to do reading from Syncopation. I've just rewritten “lesson 1” in the current editions, replacing the rests with rolls, and made a long roll out of line 1. There's no shortage of existing materials for practicing quarter note and longer rolls, but what the hell, the Reed format works, so let's have this, too. This would be a good page to use to get your Baby Dodds groove together.

Tempo is always important in practicing rolls, because it determines the rate of the pulsation you will use— the rate of the strokes during the roll. With this page you could use anything between 32nd notes (very slow tempos) and 8th notes (very bright tempos)— including triplets, quintuplets, sixtuplets, and septuplets.

Get the pdf

Friday, April 03, 2020

Best books: 143 Binary Algorhythms Applied to Paradiddles

This book has been out for a couple of years, but fellow Portland drummer Ed Pierce just brought it to my attention: 143 Binary Algorhythms Applied to Paradiddles.

...possibly the worst book title ever, but who am I to cast that stone. It's a collection of practice methods to use with the first pages of the book Stick Control, mostly for snare drum, some for drum set. Steve Forster, the author, was a student of Joe Morello's, and you'll notice a definite continuity with materials found in Morello's books Master Studies I and II. 143 BAATP is definitely a worthy addition to that canon— Stick Control, Accents & Rebounds, Master Studies, as well as the other two new recent Stone titles.

This has got to be the final, authoritative volume on the subject of what to do with Stick Control on the snare drum... the first pages, at least. The method it details is infinitely expandable, and someone could keep writing if they wanted to, but what would be the point.

The concept is to make new exercises out of Stone patterns by substituting things for the Rs and Ls, basically:

R = play X / L = play Y

Those are the binary “algorhythms” (that's the way they spell it) referenced in the title, and we are given many ways of doing that, as well as some verbal explanation and background on Morello's methods— well-edited and concisely presented, which I like a lot. The book also includes 43 exercises based on Ravel's Bolero, an idea I approve of completely. The design and layout are not exactly elegant, but they are functional... and surprisingly appealing in such a serious book.

My reservation about Stick Control has long been that patterns of Rs and Ls are not music. For many years I didn't use the book at all. I've changed my mind on that— Rs/Ls may not be music, but they are drumming language, and it's useful to be fluent in those terms. It's a creative tool you want to use sometimes.

I do want the Rs/Ls to have some connection to physical reality, however— in physically playing the drums, right side and left side are things. I want my Stone-based methods to reflect that, somehow. I'm resistant to reading Rs/Ls as a pure abstract variables— like X/Y, containers for anything at all. Some of the more distant advanced methods here approach that level of abstraction.

Most often, I want my interpreted practice methods to have some basis in music-reading reality, and I think many of the drills in this book could be done to better effect by reading out of Syncopation— which Forster himself notes in the introduction. Much of Syncopation uses “binary” patterns, written as rhythms, and it would be easy to find pages in Reed that imply the rhythms used in a particular “algorhythm.”

So I think we're reaching the limit of what can/should be done on the drums while reading Stone-type patterns. I don't believe endless snare drum training is the best way to learn to be a good drummer, and this body of materials is far larger than I think anyone can or should reasonably practice. Every drummer will choose to focus on different things, and it's up to us to determine how far to go with any particular thing.

And to be useful, a book doesn't have to be the final word on everything; the main attraction of this one is that it outlines an essential creative attitude towards our materials, one that is widely used by professionals. Anyone playing or teaching the drums seriously will want to get it.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Accented singles with rumba clave

I was playing along with a loop sampled from the track below, and wanted to have this page to work with. We're doing accented accented singles— with a three note and five note spacing— along with rumba clave played with the left foot. You can play each line individually, then run 1-3 and 4-8 straight through for the accents to make a running cross rhythm.

When practicing I basically never play anything on the drum set in a “neutral” way— I always use a musical touch, move around the instrument, and vary my sound, dynamics, and articulations. And I'll play whatever variations occur to me as I go. Very often I won't make it through the full page of stuff. It's an organic process. And maintaining the left foot ostinato is not particularly important to me; it's less about making parts and more about learning this clave as a rhythmic form. 

If you want to add bass drum, put it on the & of 2 in the first measure, or maybe the 1 and & of 2.

Get the pdf

Monday, March 30, 2020

From the zone: cycling patterns

Since I am completely blocked for writing anything other than profane tweets right now, here are a couple of things from the practice room of our friend in Berlin, Michael Griener. It's a very elegant way of cycling inversions of three note patterns by alternating measures of triplets and 16th notes.

First as a solo idea, using the extremely useful RLB (B = bass drum) sticking in the first half, and LRB in the second half. No reason not to do these substituting the hihat played with the foot for the bass drum. Or both feet in unison— something I'm doing a lot lately. After learning the basic exercise, you should move your hands around the drums, of course. 

The same basic idea in context of a time feel, played along with a cymbal rhythm— first with snare drum and bass drum, then with snare drum and hihat: 

You could extend either of these to drill each individual inversion by repeating the triplet measures, or by extending one of the 16th note measures into 6/4:

You only have to do one of them— as independence practice, at least— because that includes all inversions of the pattern against the cymbal rhythm. 

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Transcription: Philly Joe Jones - Gone

From the Miles Davis album Porgy & Bess, here is Philly Joe Jones playing Gil Evans's arrangement of Gone. It's mostly just drums and horns, with a lot of drum breaks, plus a bridge where the rhythm section plays, and a trumpet solo. I've written out the whole track, except for the solo— give that a close listen or transcribe it yourself if you want to know what else to do while playing that Philly Joe beat, with the rim click on 4.

On the breaks he has a complete, simple little language happening, along the lines of what we did with that Philly Joe solo lesson from January. There's a lot of forward motion here— the tune starts at around quarter note = 205, and speeds up to around 240 by the beginning of the trumpet solo, where it stays, more or less, for the rest of the tune.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Daily best music in the world: Elvin plays brushes

You would think with all of this extra quarantine time I would just be writing up a storm, but I'm actually kind of blocked this week. So here's Tommy Flanagan's Overseas—a nice record with Elvin Jones playing only brushes. Recorded in 1957 in Sweden, while touring with JJ Johnson.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Transcription: more Max

More from Max Roach: his solo on the same tune from last post— Flossie Lou from Clifford Brown & Max Roach At Basin Street. It's 32 bars long, and starts at 2:39.

He plays quarter notes on the bass drum through much of it but I've only written the accents. It's quite audible at the beginning, and I'm not going to call it “feathering” just because that's the only word people know for playing the bass drum that way. You'll need to mark in stickings on several passages— whatever works for you.

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Friday, March 20, 2020

Very occasional quote of the day: solitude

“Solitude fuels creativity, whereas brotherly camaraderie tends to dissipate it. Isolation is the one sure way to happiness.”

— Glenn Gould

(h/t to Dean Frey)

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Velocity patterns in 3/4

Here's something I've been working with, similar to the patterns in these alternative versions of Three Camps. They're easy to play fast, and so are good for blazing, double-timey playing. These can be played on snare drum and cymbal, plus bass drums, or all around the drums, or whatever. Sound hip and amazing by setting stuff on your drums and moving around a lot, while doing these really fast. That's the current thing.

For some reason I wanted to see the 12/8 versions of the same patterns, so I have included those here. That's the way I do things— everything is always what it is, and something else.

Play the bass drum with all of the cymbal notes, or none of them, or some of them. A good way to streamline for speed is to add bass drum to just one note of the RH doubles, for example:

Try it with the All Blues loop.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Transcription: Max Roach comping

Part 3 of a little mini series, looking at some comping examples by Tony Williams, Mickey Roker, and now Max Roach. This is Max's playing during Clifford Brown's solo on Flossie Lou, from Clifford Brown & Max Roach at Basin Street. The solo is 32 bars long, and the transcription begins at 0:45.

Max plays the hihat on 2 and 4 throughout, but I've only written it where he plays something different, or where seeing it will be helpful. He also plays the bass drum throughout, but I've only written the accents. It's audible between those frequent & of 3/& of 4 comping hits, but I mostly didn't write it in. In this small sample, Max always hits the cymbal on the downbeat after an accent on the & of 4; compare that with the Mickey Roker transcription, where he would often not hit the 1 (or ghost it) after an accent. It's a subtle point, but that's the kind of stuff we check out.

Note the rubadub-like meter-within-meter phrase in the last four bars of the chorus. I always check out what drummers play in the first 1-4 bars behind a new soloist— that's the last bar on the page before the slashes.

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Monday, March 16, 2020

Book reviews: Two new Stone books

Two new works by and about George Lawrence Stone have just been released:

Technique of Percussion is a compilation of articles Stone wrote for International Musician Magazine in the 1940s-60s. It's over 400 pages long, with hundreds of musical examples in the author's own handwriting. It's a fascinating look at the drumming world in the early to mid 20th century, and it's a major addition to the literature of percussion. If you teach, if you are in concert percussion, or if you have any interest in the history of the instrument, just buy it now. It's an essential library item.

The articles, plus W. Lee Vinson's extended introduction, give a much fuller picture of Stone himself than we have had so far. Most of us only know him through his technical books Stick Control and Accents & Rebounds— typically on the internet he is invoked as a kind of technique oracle, and author of page 5 of Stick Control, and that's it. But he was a complete musician and percussionist, who performed and toured as a vaudeville and classical musician, and ran a teaching studio, and was involved with drum corps and NARD.

The book really illustrates a music centered approach to percussion. There is relatively little about technique in the modern high-performance sense, and much more about execution and interpretation— which is much more interesting and valuable information, to me. This focus feels very familiar, like the basic approach I learned (painfully and incompletely) from Charles Dowd, which Dowd got from Saul Goodman, whose career was contemporaneous with these columns. It's a professional concert percussionist's approach, centered on how you execute a part musically; with technique mainly about sound, presentation, and making the part— less as a means for achieving ultimate virtuosity.

The book also gives a more complete picture of the world of early modern drumming— for me almost a prehistoric period. Early recording technology was not up to the task of recording drums; there were  fewer drum books, many of them hindered by archaic notation and terms; and the authors were largely not genius theorists or communicators. The columns in this book were written in mid-century, but they refer to the entire 20th century, and before— Stone's career in percussion spanned the whole century until his death in 1967, and his father was a professional drummer in the late 19th century. Technique of Percussion gives the first living, relatable picture of that period I have seen. There are mentions of correspondences with Sanford Moeller, Alan Abel, Edward B. Straight, Charley Wilcoxon, Fritz Berger, and many other venerable figures, discussing ordinary problems with students and points of music and technique.

In fact Technique of Percussion shows a remarkable continuity between then and now. Percussionists of that era were dealing with many of the same issues as we do now: discrepancies between “ancient” and modern practices, interpretation of drum notation, and problems with it; points of terminology; use of rebound; whether to play left-handed or right-handed; developing speed. Excuses given by students for not counting out loud. What's a flam. What's a ruff. When to alternate and when to use “side” (non-alternating) stickings. There's a lot about interpreting and executing rolls— still a very poorly understood area. He mentions things I do that I haven't seen others talk about much: “side” triplets (RLL/LRR/RRL/LLR sticking), use of the B (both hands) sticking, for example.

Stone's writing style in the columns is conversational, and quite dated— this is a personality formed in the 19-oughts. But it is readable, his terms are modern, or at least not opaquely old fashioned. The information that is not fully relevant to modern practice is at least very interesting history. This book is essential for anyone serious about percussion. Buy it now.

An index would be helpful for future editions.

The second book is Drum Lessons with George Lawrence Stone, 90 pages long. Written by Barry James in collaboration with Joe Morello— both students of Stone's— and completed after Morello's death. It is advertised as “a personal account on how to use Stick Control” and “based on actual drum lessons” taught by Stone. The beginning of the book reinforces the idea that this is at last the real story of how to practice Stick Control. Vic Firth, in his introduction, calls it “Stick Control 2.”, I consider Accents & Rebounds and Joe Morello's Master Studies I and II to be Stick Controls 2, 3 and 4, but to continue...

Having one “right” answer on how to use Stick Control is a sort of holy grail for a lot of people, but this book is really not about that. I see it more as a practice room companion to Technique of Percussion. It consists mainly of written examples from that book, re-engraved, with re-edited text, and commentary by Morello and James, printed in a more convenient drum book format. I haven't checked to see how many lessons are pulled from TOP, but many are.

There is an effort towards making this a general method book, with an extended introduction about technique, explanation of the level system, and a list of rudiments, and some other fundamentals. It is presented in “lessons”, but the organization feels quite scattered. As a practice book, it's very text heavy, with most of the musical examples are illustrating something in the text. There are practicable materials, but they are scattered throughout the book, which I don't find to be conducive to practicing them in an orderly way.

For example, the subjects of lessons 20-25— from one to the next they couldn't be further afield:

20. Interpreting the single and double drags
21. Alla breve
22. The finger roll
23. Left hand velocity
24. Breaks and solos
25. Embellishments with grace notes

It also includes some things from TOP which are questionably relevant today: “the 6/8 band and 2/4 drummer”, for example— who knows what performance problem (circa 1920s? Teens?) that lesson was addressing. Interesting as a historical item, but not particularly relevant to present day drumming, certainly not something I need to think about in the practice room. The hihat lesson is another example; a major standalone issue for show drummers in the 1930s, today it's just one item in a larger jazz education.

So part of my problem is figuring out what to do with this. It could be thought of as a condensed teacher's guide for digesting materials in TOP. Or a collection of general pointers for serious students and enthusiasts.

This book is a little unsatisfying for my purposes, but it is still worth purchasing— for taking the things in TOP to the practice room, and for James's and Morello's additional insights into Stone's teaching methods. Get it here.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Transcription: Mickey Roker comping

Mickey Roker's accompaniment of Dizzy Gillespie's solo— the first three choruses anyway— on Birk's Works, from Gillespie's album Big 4. Roker has a deep groove I associate with musicians who have played a lot of R&B. It's a very substantive sound, without necessarily being loud.

He plays the bass drum through most of this— “feathering” it, if you want to call it that. This is someone who learned to play the bass drum in music where it was meant to be heard. That's a different thing than the modern jazz ed thing of learning it as a vestigial technique in the first place.

The hihat is consistent, but he doesn't play it strongly. I associate him with a strong quarter note pulse, but he also plays a lot of anticipations— see the accents with cymbal tied through the following downbeat.

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UPDATE: Seattle cymbal hang CANCELLED

Never can be too many asinine plays on the word cymbal.

COVID response in Seattle has really gotten serious, and we've decided it would be wisest to cancel this event. Hopefully outlook will improve, and we'll be able to reschedule for the summer or fall.

I may still do a delivery run to Seattle, and meet a couple of people one on one, so let me know if you'd like to do that.

Visit Cymbalistic to see what I currently have available. A shipment has just come in at Cymbal & Gong, so if you want something not on my site, I may be able to get it from them.

Monday, March 09, 2020

Stick control patterns for jazz

Because some novice jazz students get hung up on the idea of left hand “independence”, here is a little set of exercises for helping coordination between the hands when playing jazz time. We're using some sticking patterns to make some common cymbal and comping rhythms.

You can play the patterns in 4, or in 3, by just playing up to the dashed bar line. Play the Rs on the cymbal, Ls on the snare drum:

B means both hands in unison:

Focus on the rhythm— which is running swing 8th notes— and the sticking, and don't make the leap to “I'm playing this rhythm on the cymbal, and this rhythm on the snare drum.” Play with just the hands at first, then add the hihat:

You can add bass drum on 1 when you're playing in 3.

This isn't meant to be a comprehensive method— it's more a remedial method for people having trouble getting the coordination, and/or with making a solid rhythm between all the parts. After working through this page, continue with normal jazz materials.

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