Thursday, January 30, 2020

Very occasional quote of the day: artist

“An artist is someone who can hold two opposing viewpoints and still remain fully functional.”

— F. Scott Fitzgerald

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Three notes, one on cymbals - 01

This little assignment is related to several things we've done lately: my harmonic coordination improved method, and my rock drill; playing it in */4 meters with a swing feel gives you something similar to rubadub. It's all the same thing, more or less: facilitating moving around the drums in an even rhythm, using the whole instrument and all the limbs. Each thing just has a slightly different focus.

I suggest moving the non-cymbal notes around the drums somewhat systematically, playing each two drum notes in a row on the same drum, or splitting them between drums:

The stickings on the flams are meant to support conversion to alternating singles— so the flams before a RH cymbal hit will start with the right hand, for example.

You can also play the flams as straight unisons— called double stops— when playing each hand on different drums.

You can practice the patterns in a triplet feel as written, and also in 3/4, or 4/4 (or 2/2)— with straight 8ths or a swing feel:

When playing in 4/4, just play the first set of patterns— as you can see the converted versions of sets B and C occur naturally in the second and third measure.

This is the sort of thing I really need to play along with a sampled loop. I can't just run patterns dry.

Get the pdf

Monday, January 27, 2020


“I grew up happy and rich and I can play blues.” 
— Miles Davis 

“You're not Art Blakey, you're a white kid from Eugene.”  
— some guy

I worried about “authenticity” for maybe a couple of years in the late 80s. How could I be a real jazz musician being a white kid from Oregon? To be for real you had to be from New York, or some other city that sounds like a place. You had to move naturally, and have a cool sounding name, and be from “the streets”... somehow. Whatever that means. You had to have a pedigree, and at that time the Pacific Northwest really felt like no place, even though there was actually a lot of music happening. A couple of years later grunge happened, Bill Frisell moved to Seattle, the movie Drugstore Cowboy came out, and suddenly I felt like the region had an aesthetic. That's all authenticity meant to me— finding a feeling that I had some kind of cultural basis to be a creative musician.

And that was completely dumb. Most artists do not come from New York or wherever, and do not have any cultural pedigree. They come from mediocre places, and had bad teachers or no teachers, and no support, and most of them own it. Many of them appear to be quite ordinary humans like you and me.

In this video, Nathaniel Smith, better known as 80/20 drummer, is talking about something else entirely. Apparently being a jazz musician is a rigorous, savagely competitive enterprise of deep seriousness, not unlike undertaking advanced study of the works of Montesquieu at the Sorbonne. Like, how dare you. Also it's about pain and nausea, and people beating the crap out of you for not being good:

I left a flippant comment to the effect of lol it's not that hard, just learn some tunes and try to sound like you've heard a jazz record. I'm not real excited about the focus on the hostility and misery, the crucible of combat, and all the people eagerly waiting to destroy you for not knowing a tune. This thing is like watching Whiplash all over again. Like, “paying dues” doesn't mean you have been punished a lot so now you're a cat. It just means you've worked— played a lot of gigs, maybe very crappy ones.

We never get a really satisfactory answer to either of his opening questions: What is a real jazz drummer? and Does authenticity matter? Maybe it's a youtube thing, teasing questions you never answer. The upshot is that being a real jazz drummer means you are Nasheet Waits, and people have been really mean to you, and you are a world class scholar. I don't know. This shit wears me out.

“ all just laid on you like a slab of cement, and you wanted to get out and away, they were like heavy stupid parents insisting upon regulations and ways that would make even the dead cringe.” 
— Charles Bukowski

“Here, as you know, whatever a person may do, he is always under the sway of Monsieur Descartes’ intelligence. Everything instantly withers and grows dusty. What France really needs is a good kick in the ass from America.”  
— Salvador Dali 

I mean, the one thing this country had going for it was its unseriousness. The freedom to play around, figure out what you're interested in, and find your own voice. Make some mistakes. There is already a place where the ghosts of great men watch over your every move, like hawks with horsewhips in their talons, and pull down your pants and shame you for your feeble attempts at creativity, and it's called Europe.

Arguably Dali's kick in the ass has already happened— my point is that fetishizing genius, and competition, is not real helpful when you're just some guy exercising your basic human right to have a voice and make some art. Living up to your own idea of what you should be doing musically is hard enough, and motivating enough.

“...I mean, try to sound like you've heard a jazz record...” 
— A very accomplished jazz pianist, to himself, at a jam session, in a very dark mood at the bar after playing with a drummer who did not fulfill that modest standard. 

So yeah: learn some tunes and try to sound like you've heard a jazz record. It's also a community and professional thing, so connect with other musicians and play some gigs. Nobody starts out knowing everything. Some players are serious, eloquent scholars, but what is required is only that you commit and listen a lot and play a lot. Love the music.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Philly Joe solo lesson

In that last Philly Joe Jones transcription— his solo on Sub City, with Bud Powell— I noted a pattern of using his 8th note bass drum phrases to break up the mainly-snare drum passages. It's actually an easy way to modernize an old fashioned rudimental snare drum oriented approach to soloing. I'm more whole-instrument oriented, so I'm coming at it from the opposite direction, trying to learn to use my snare drum chops on the drum set without feeling like a pure caveman.

So let's devise a practice method from this. In all the examples I'm giving a rough hands part and bass drum part only. You should be moving your hands around the drums, varying accents and stickings to make something exciting and musical out of it.

Here are some of Philly Joe's 8th note lines which included the bass drum:

It would be easy to devise some practice phrases, alternating these patterns with improvised soloing. For example:

It's probably wise to practice that way, with everything very clear cut, always changing ideas on the 1. It's easy for people to follow. But I suggest being looser with it, using those types of phrases as a starting point, remembering that you are under no obligation to match them exactly.

For example, this is not a real exciting idea:

These are more dynamic ways of playing the same basic phrase:

So we're looking for ways to introduce some space, and to not always play to the 1. I think it's best to work that out in the course of actually playing the drums, but some people may need to write out some possibilities first. Beyond the scope of this little practice formula, it will help to think about having more than one way to phrase and accent— and start and finish— any basic solo idea. 

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Solo transcription: Philly Joe Jones - Sub City

Here's a drum solo played at a bright tempo with brushes by Philly Joe Jones. The tune is Sub City, by Bud Powell. The form is 32 bars long, and he's basically playing two choruses, but there are a couple of wonky things on the second chorus. The tempo is about quarter note = 245. And the solo starts at about 2:45 in the track.

I've included some sample stickings in the earlier part. A lot of them will be rudimental stickings, but in the fifth line you may want to alternate. 

Note that he never hits a cymbal during the solo. It's mostly played with the hands, with a HBHB (hand/bass) lick frequently used as a connective— as in measures 11, 13,16, for example. He does a few other things with the bass drum:

The other major activity includes the syncopated meter-within-meter lick in the second line and last line of the first page, and also the quarter note triplet lick on the second page.

The second chorus gets shorted four bars, and there's a rough patch three lines before the end— at the 6/4 bar. I think I resolved the discrepancy correctly as Philly Joe was perceiving it, because of the strong down beat on the measure after the 6/4 bar. And you can see that in the following measure, measure 53, he plays a lick that he also plays in measures 10 and 31. The most logical place to account for the missing four bars is on the first A of the second chorus— 33-36.

It also ends a little roughly, with Powell jumping in aggressively, without Jones setting it up— it sounds like Jones wasn't expecting it. For a moment he plays the cymbal accents backwards, on 1 and 3, when it should be on 2 and 4. He corrects it after a couple of measures. He never loses momentum during any of that.

Get the pdf

Very occasional quotes of the day: from Elvin

Jon McCaslin at Four On The Floor has posted a collection of quotes from Elvin Jones, collected by Adam Nussbaum. Here are two of my favorites; there are many more at FOTF:

“Thad told me this many years ago and it got to me when he said it. He probably doesn't even remember saying it to me. He just said: 
Whenever you play, imagine that it's the very last chance or opportunity you'll ever have. 
So just that thought is enough incentive to at least not be wishy-washy or do something insignificant. At least it will bring out whatever honesty is in you to be applied to your instrument at that time.  hat's the only philosophy I know - just to do the very best you can at all times.”

“When I start, I keep the structure and melody and content of the tune in my mind and work up abstractions or obbligatos on it. I count the choruses as I go along, and sometimes I'm able to decide in advance what the pattern of a whole chorus will be, but more often five or six patterns will flash simultaneously across my mind, which gives me a choice, especially if get hung up, and I've had some granddaddies of hang-ups. If you don't panic, you can switch to another pattern.  
I can see forms and shapes in my mind when I solo, just as a painter can see forms and shapes when he starts a painting. And I can see different colors.  My cymbals will be one color and my snare another color and my tom toms each a different color.  I mix these colors up, making constant movement. Drums suggest movement, a conscious, constant shifting of sounds and levels of sound. My drumming can shade from a whisper to a thunder. 
I'm not conscious of the length of my solos, which I've been told have run up to half an hour. When you develop a certain pattern, you stay with it until it's finished.  It's just like you start out in the evening to walk to Central Park and back. Well, there are a lot of directions you can take - one set of streets going up, then in a certain entrance and out another entrance and back on a different set of streets.  You come back and maybe take a hot bath and have some dinner and read and go to bed. You haven't been somewhere to lose yourself, but to go and come back and finish your walk.”

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Flam combinations in 6/8

Way too many wordy posts recently, with more coming, so let's do a simple page of flam exercises in 6/8— in a triplet feel. Like p. 34 in Stick Control, but more robust. Whenever I play that page I am... unfulfilled... I want more. Left handed flam accents on the drums are a thing I do.

I'll practice this adding some extra accents, on the opposite hand of the flam— the left hand in exercise 4, for example. I suggest also playing these with the a duple pulse, in 3/4, so the rhythm for each measure becomes 1&2&3&

Get the pdf

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Building rubadub - 01

For intermediate jazz students, here is a page for learning the basic pattern for Mel Lewis's rubadub concept (as helpfully explained by Chris Smith), about as thoroughly as possible, while also developing solid execution with swing rhythm generally. The only thing I've really left open to question here is the ability of the student to interpret swing 8th notes. We can't do everything in one page. Another page is coming for putting this into 4/4 time.

This is approximately what I would have a student do in a lesson if he was not immediately able to play the pattern, or was having problems with the rhythm. I prefer to do this verbally, but it helps some students to see it written out. It looks like a lot, but it's really only nine actual things.

As you can see, we are learning the pattern starting on each of its notes— first the partial pattern in 2, stopping on beat 2, then the partial pattern in 3, stopping on beat 3, then the full pattern in 3, stopping on beat 1. Each of those is written twice, with the right hand staying on the cymbal, and with the right hand moving to a tom tom. Practice each pattern played once with a long pause or a measure of rest afterwards, then play them repeating. I suggest learning it at three tempos: ~100-120, ~160-200, and at a bright tempo with straight 8ths.

That's a lot of ink dedicated to only one pattern, but it's an extraordinarily useful pattern, but one that can get inexperienced players in trouble. And again, we're using this as an excuse to polish the student's execution of swing rhythms overall. The page can be worked through quickly, and will isolate and correct anything problematic with the student's execution.

Get the pdf

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Dealing with it: bad time

We'll see if this becomes a regular feature: dealing with it. If anyone has thoughts, ideas, frustrations in real life playing situations, mention them in the comments, and maybe I can write something about it.

Today let's talk about people with bad time, or who play in a way that interferes with good ensemble time, which... what's the difference? Players who make everything you play sound bad, or at least it feels that way. Someone on a drumming forum suggested an astoundingly bad way of dealing with it:

I have found that playing with musicians who have bad time is far more difficult than playing with ones that have really good time. I wonder if there’s an app that has a setting for bad time programmed in so you can practice playing with players whose time is very poor. If there’s not one, I wonder how hard it would be to create one, or modify an existing one.

So, that's not how performance works. The world is not a playalong track. You are an actor in this thing we call reality— you are a co-creator of the musical time, together with the other musicians on stage. Just as what they play influences you— to want to die, or live— what you play should influence them. Understanding that is the first step towards dealing with it constructively.

First you have to know what is actually happening. Time issues I have encountered include:

Habitual rushing
Some players just rush, especially when soloing, and if you listen to them too closely, you'll rush along with them. This has caused me a lot of problems, because I place a high value on listening.

Dragging at phrase endingsOne set of players I know got way too sensitive about phrasing with each other, and turned music that was supposed to swing almost into rubato chamber music.

Rushing on easy stuff and dragging on hard stuff
Vocalists do this a lot.

Dragging generally on ensemble passages
Horns so focused on playing together with the other horns they lose the thread.

Inaccurate rests and figures
Self-explanatory. Everybody does it.

Badly timed countoffs, pickups, intros, and solo breaks
They're not really thinking about the tempo they're counting off. Or they're vocalizing it badly. Intros and breaks played by people with weak rhythm, setting up what comes after them poorly.

Deliberately “floaty” time
Horns or vocalists. Not necessarily wrong, but it doesn't help you with the time.

People trying to be hip with their “feel”
People who listen to too much hip electronic music and not enough actual groove music.

Unsupportive bullshit 
As people get more into chops they tend to forgot their actual job, and play too much of the wrong stuff. Their time may not even be bad, but what they play is such noncontributive musical clutter that it compounds other players' time issues, and gets in your way in dealing with it.

It's partly a problem of getting people to listen. For advice on that we have to go back to the very beginning of this blog, where I reposted an answer Joey Baron gave in a master class— from a transcript I found on usenet a long time ago. The question was how do you make the band listen? 

Um, drown them out? No, well, you can't make somebody listen. You can try to hint, you can do things like with the dynamics— seriously, you could drown them out— you could lay out, you could do something with the time, like take it into a different feel, you could jump up and down and make funny noises— I've kind of tried all of those and they all work. It just depends on the context, who you're playing with. But you can't make someone else do something, but you can try, and those are ways. If you're playing in a funk groove and it's a constant backbeat going on, and the soloist is going on and on and on and on and on and just you feel like, wait a minute it's like this is turning into like, they should get a rhythm machine or a sequencer, instead of... 
You can do things like: don't affect the intensity of the groove but just don't do a backbeat, like in hiphop stuff— or in the stuff that's all about mixing— a lot of times, they'll just mix out the backbeat with the rest of the track is going on. That's a big change, if you're not listening. I mean you'd have to be deaf not to notice that kind of stuff. In a more subtle situation, like if you're playing jazz or more softer type of music, you know just change the texture. If you've been playing on the ride cymbal for a while, play on a closed tight sound, change up the sound, do something to kind of wake people up or something?

You can also:

Learn to ignore them
If they're playing bad time, what kind of information are you hoping to get by listening to them? You have to have a concept of time independent from what you hear.

Independence is necessary even with good players. Not everyone improvises perfectly rhythmically accurate stuff 100% of the time. They (we) need to feel that the time is not going to go to hell just because they rushed one line. That push and pull creates energy. None of the ahead/behind the beat stuff people love talking about is possible without it.

Focus on the one other solid player
Often that's enough to make the gig tolerable, and maybe even worth listening to.

Make sure you're playing in a way the others can follow
Don't play unsupportive bullshit all the time. If you're way too into your patterns and ghost notes and linear funk grooves, you may be making the problem worse. In dealing with a bad time situation, I moved towards a more 70s way of playing funk, which is more chunky, with the full 8th or 16th note grid stated strongly. That's actually a better way of playing all the time. It's nice to play hip, fascinating shit, it's nicer to create an unmissable groove.

Develop a high level of awareness and confidence in your own time
How are you going to know what to do if you don't even know what's going on? Read my post on things that helped me improve my time awareness, and have more confidence in my time.

Be realistic
On the internet especially I have noticed drummers adopting some highly unrealistic ideas about what good time is, and adopting some extreme practice habits in service of that. Time squishiness is inherent to human beings playing music. Through a lot of playing experience and a lot of listening (to non-quantized, non-click track music) you learn what actual professional tolerances are.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Snare drummers vs. drum set players

This came up in the Neil Peart piece: the idea of snare drummers as opposed to drum set players. People who play the drums as a single four limb instrument vs. people who are essentially hands players, rudimental players.

In this video (embedding is disabled) Jeff Hamilton distinguishes between snare drummers and cymbal players— cymbalists, if you will. I would say whole drum set players, because there's a lot more to that approach than just playing a cymbal. But the cymbalist label is accurate to the extent that a lot of what you play follows from what you do with your right hand.

This extended quote from Elvin Jones, from his 1982 Modern Drummer interview by Rick Mattingly, became the foundation for my concept of the drum set:

“[The drum set] is one instrument, and I would hasten to say that I take that as the basis for my whole approach to the drums. It is a single musical instrument of several components. Naturally, you've got tom-toms scattered around, and the snare drum is in front of you, and the bass drum is down there, and you have cymbals at different levels. But all in all, just as a piano is one instrument, a drumset is one instrument. That is not to say that the cymbal isn't an instrument. But in order for it to be an instrument you have to use it as an instrument. They are individual instruments if you have them set up that way and you have a tom-tom player and a bass drum player and so on. Okay, then they are individual instruments. It just depends on how one chooses to apply it. So I think that's probably where people get confused. 
In a dance band, or a jazz band—small group, big band, combo— then this is a single instrument. You can't isolate the different parts of the set any more than you can isolate your left leg from the rest of your body. Your body is one, even though you have two legs, two arms, ten fingers, and all of that. But still, it's one body. All of those parts add up to one human being. It's the same with the instrument. People are never going to approach the drumset correctly if they don't start thinking of it as a single musical instrument. 
We live in a world where everything is categorized and locked up into little bitty compartments. But I have to insist that the drumset is one. This is the way it should be approached and studied and listened to, and all of the basic philosophies should be from that premise. If you learn it piecemeal, that's the way you're going to play it. You have to learn it in total.”

It was settled once and for all after I spent about ten years in the 00s-10s working out a lot of snare drum stuff, only to discover it made zero difference* in my actual playing. No matter how much snare stuff I got together, I couldn't sit down at the drum set and just play hands stuff. Or rather I did not, because it's not how I play. I didn't start hacking out snare drum stuff in my solos.

You can recognize the difference if you listen to someone and a lot of rudiments jump out at you, and if you see a lot of hand to hand motions. Banging out accents on the toms, with more worked out crossover licks and whatnot. And more sparse, traditional, and simplistic— or more worked out— use of the feet.

Drumset guys will be guided more by the right hand, and will have more interactive use of the feet, and be more sound oriented. They will sound more melodic (or melodic in a more sophisticated way), and textural, and less choppy, maybe with more worked out patterns between three or four limbs.

You might give a listen to these players, while thinking about these categories of approaches:

Snare drummers:
Buddy Rich
Louis Bellson
Ed Shaughnessy
Philly Joe Jones

Drum set players:
Mel Lewis
Roy Haynes
Paul Motian
Jon Christensen
John von Ohlen
Tony Williams (60s!)
Bob Moses

Obviously it's a complex thing, and often players won't fit neatly into one category. To me the whole instrument approach is more modern and more conducive to musicality, but there are obviously a lot of great drummers who did the other thing. And assessing players is really not the point— we're just looking for something to inform how we think about our approach to the instrument. We'll do some guided listening about it later.

* - Not zero difference; it did give me dynamic control. But for the actual content of what I played, it made no difference.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Neil Peart

Well, dang. Everyone knows by now Neil Peart has unexpectedly passed away. He was certainly the most celebrated drummer of the past ~ 45 years, maybe ever. A few are more famous, but I don't know if anyone inspired the same rabid following dedicated to knowing every single note of his recorded output. The only time I saw Rush live, in 1991, there was a not-insignificant percentage of the audience air drumming his fills along with him, and clearly knew them all exactly. That's kind of unique.

A historical curiosity about him is that the excitement was generated by things played on records. During the highest point of his career— say 1978-88, there was no YouTube, and none of the current drummer world apparatus. There were records, radio, tours, rock press, and MTV. With Rush it was mainly about the records. You put them on and listened to them a lot, and the music did something for you.

It's almost quaint. A lot of drumming fans seem to have completely moved on from mere music, and are just into worshiping prowess. There is no Spirit of the Radio or Tom Sawyer for any of the famous drum guys of the past 15 years. There was certainly an element of spectacle to Peart's thing, but compared to much of the current thing that is nothing but spectacle, he looks extremely dedicated to pure music.

He's also more effective than any those players. There are millions of idiots who can play the drums fast, relatively few who can play effectively. I never regarded Peart as very sophisticated strictly as a drummer— compared to his better non-rock contemporaries, he's pretty retrograde. But what he plays is extremely effective. Listening back to Tom Sawyer for the first time in many years, all of the things I thought were rather gratuitous actually make compositional sense, and bring a lot of energy to what is basically a stilted little composition.

You can see that he did play the drum set as a complete instrument— another way he's closer to my heart than many other drummy players: he was not a snare drummer. With those guys you can always feel the pull towards playing more crap on the snare drum. Peart does some of that in his solos, but he's clearly not a member of that tribe— he has too many other things he wants to show off. He actually has some interest in rhythm, and in the full instrument.

Also quaint is that he got people interested in essentially band instruments, concert percussion instruments— it was a big deal that he had some crotales up there, a glockenspiel, some cowbells. A lot of drummers of the 70s played huge drum sets with a lot of pointless extra percussion, but Peart actually featured the instruments in the songs.

I don't know if we're too cool for all of that now, or what. We've got Moeller, which is better than music. Certainly the current drum-pornographic thing doesn't leave much room to get excited about playing a glockenspiel. 

A few thoughts about his playing legacy, anyway. But the first thing I actually thought about when I heard about this was that I was glad he was able to rebuild a family after the tragedy he experienced at the end of the 90s, with the deaths of his daughter, and then partner. He seemed like a basically healthy amiable goofball, and he was appreciated.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Listening to Kenny Clarke

Let's do a little guided listening. I caught this on Portland's excellent jazz station, KMHD— If you don't have a good station locally, and you probably don't, you should be streaming KMHD live 24/7. The tune is Bags' Barney Blues, played by French saxophonist Barney Wilen, with Milt Jackson (on piano), Percy Heath, and Kenny Clarke.

This recording should tell you some things about playing the ride cymbal. Like, the interpretation you use does not have to be consistent all the way through the tune. Clarke plays with a strong quarter note pulse throughout— not with the accent on 2 and 4 many associate with bebop. You can also hear that he varies how he plays the “skip” note— sometimes he plays it with a triplet feel, with all the notes at a roughly even volume, sometimes he plays a dotted-8th/16th feel, with a very soft skip note. His comping is mostly played with a triplet feel, and the cymbal rhythm agrees with that— he's not playing triplets with his left hand with the dotted-8th/16th rhythm with his right.

Whatever he was doing leading up to it, at phrase endings Clarke often plays the triplet feel very emphatically, while dragging a bit, clearly conducting the time. Listen to his beat 4s. He's really bringing up the rear timewise here— he's way on the back of the beat, while Wilen plays very much on the front of the beat. Wherever Clarke is trying to take it, he succeeds, and the tune ends a little slower than it started. In his smooth way, he's playing assertively, acting as conductor of this tune.

With his comping, you can hear a lot of what I once called “the Kenny note”, which is actually a regular punctuation in swing drumming: a snare drum punctuation on the & of 3 in the second or fourth measure. As pure independence, it's an easy place to start when you're inventing a vocabulary for comping on the snare drum. We also heard a lot of that from Max Roach recently. In general, most of his comping happens at the end of the measure, and end of the phrase.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

RLB intro page

This is based on a page I wrote in 2012— I was using that with a younger student, and marked it up so heavily that it was unreadable. So here's a clean version of what we were doing with it. We've got the RLB linear pattern played 1-3 times, in some rhythmic variations/inversions, to help get the coordination, and to learn to not just see the pattern one way. It also ties in somewhat with the hemiola funk pages, which I was using with this same student.

Play the right hand on the hihat or on a tom tom. Play the left hand on the snare drum or a tom tom. Then move them around. Play the patterns repeating, as indicated; also play them one time, fast, with a long pause after— mainly 2-16, and 20-22.

Get the pdf

Saturday, January 04, 2020

New gear rules

I'm getting a little punchy from working on this new book, so I just started writing rules about gear.

Consider the following to be LEGALLY BINDING. Failure to comply may result in a SUBSTANTIAL PENALTY:

• No rubber practice pads. Everybody has to use the pieces of crap that Remo pads have become.

• No more 10" tom toms, unless it's an 8 and 10" concert tom, like Ndugu Leon Chancler. Mounted someplace difficult to reach, so you have to really have a purpose in using them.

• No deep bass drums. I'm tired of looking at them. And they all have to be 18" or 20". Quit screwing around.

• No snare drums that sound like static. Do you talk in a squeaky voice? Listen to some 70s records.

• No more punchy tom toms. Life is not a YouTube video. Get a different sound. Listen to Billy Cobham.

• I'm not going to ban every drum head in the world except Remo Ambassadors, but I would be fine if somebody did.

• No more mentions of Gretsch drums made after the 90s. If it's part of a “line” and not just Gretsch drums you don't get to talk about them.

• No more mentioning most brands. You can talk about Gretsch (real only), Yamaha, Sonor, Ludwig, Pearl, Slingerland, maybe Premier. I kind of don't want to hear about Tama any more. Whatever defunct brands you want, Fibes, Corder, Rogers, whatever.

• But no wistfully mentioning defunct brands that were crap in the first place. Maxwin. Royce. CB700. No more mentioning student/middle lines by any company, defunct or otherwise.

• I'm a nice guy for including Ludwig.

• Bass drums are sounding too nice. Put on a CS Black Dot until further notice.


• No more cymbals with really long creative names, no ultra thin cymbals, no dry cymbals, no putting the word “POWER” on cymbals. No more luxuriant cymbals. Play luxuriant.

• I don't ever want to see another Moon Gel. Flick that disgusting thing in the trash.

• From now on no more than 5% of your talk about drumming and music can refer to gear. Get into playing.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Hemiola funk series: SS-BB / BB-SS

Another permutation on this basic hemiola funk format I've devised, doubling up on the BS, forwards and backwards... wait. I'm deliberately not really giving you a finished concept here— I just wrote this up to see how it played out. It seems like an obvious idea, but it actually doesn't convert into normal funk vocabulary as well as some of the other pages. I'm not hearing it.

If you've been working with my previous pages, there's no reason not to play through this at least one time. The whole point is that none of this is technically difficult, and just because something doesn't really work for me, doesn't you won't get anything out of it. This will be my next publishing project after I finish with the 2019 Book of the Blog, which should be available for purchase next week.   

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

2019 in review

2019 basically = billionaire blood diamond
heir rampages around Los Angeles making up new 
traffic laws to promote downright ugly vanity truck.
Let's take a break from me inching painfully towards completion of the new 2019 Book of the Blog, and take a moment to reflect on the welcome end of 2019, the weirdest year on record.

It was a cool year, actually, if you just ignore every single thing happening in the world on a macro scale. My major project was the new Cymbalistic site. I made a second trip to Germany, making friends, and promoting this site, and the very special Cymbal & Gong cymbals which you should buy. And I visited their cymbal factory in Istanbul, and gained a newfound respect both for the smiths and for Tim Ennis, the company owner. These are not the normal cymbals being made in Turkey— without Tim, nobody would be doing them.

This past year has been my first significant time in Germany, and I loved it for a lot of reasons I'm still figuring out. And Istanbul was really just a magnificent city, with a surprising humanity— given that it's a) enormous and b) a massive tourist destination. I like going different places and seeing things, but the most important thing about travelling is always the people, and I really appreciated the people in Germany and Turkey.

Last year I posted more on the site than I have since 2015. My major writing projects were:

— The hemiola funk series, which will hopefully be a new book in 2020. It has been an interesting journey with those materials. I feel like it will be a very powerful teaching tool.

— Developing a usable independence/conditioning method based on Dahlgren & Fine's harmonic coordination materials. I'm finding it to be good for teaching fills without being overly specific. I've never had a truly satisfactory method for teaching them, and I hate the usual thing of just practicing written out fills out of a book. It's good also for conditioning general facility on the drum set— Kind of like Stick Control for the drum set. It's different than anything I've ever done, and the effect on my playing, as someone who is already a mature artist, has been noticeable and very interesting.

— More EZ materials generally. More and more I've been appreciating the value of simple materials.

I released a print edition of Syncopation in 3/4, which is a really big deal, and I should be advertising it more, demanding that everyone buy it. Every serious student who is doing the real stuff with Ted Reed's book should own it. I have several more book projects in the works, and hopefully we will see them released in 2020. We will not speak of the Book of Intros, but that's one of them.

Time to get back to work on the book. Let's do another post about my wonderful plans for 2020, or I'll just get to work on them.

Happy 2020, everyone!