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.

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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.”

...now, 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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Friday, March 06, 2020

Four on the floor drill - 01

This is a little lightweight thing that came out of practicing along with that recent Fela Kuti loop. I was playing four on the floor in a half time feel, with some variations on the cymbal, and some snare added. I'll explain:

 Make one of these your main groove:

Grab some cymbal rhythms from pp. 10-11 of Syncopation. For example:

Add some left hand filler wherever you like. You could start by adding it on the & of 1 / & of 4, wherever there's a gap in the cymbal rhythm. In these examples I've eliminated the bass drum for visual clarity— keep playing it.

Move the left hand around the drums, play around with sounds/articulations— rim shots, rim clicks, buzzes, doubles. The resulting groove is similar to a Everett Morton type of ska groove, with a mixed cymbal rhythm a la Stewart Copeland. Here's a Morton-esque embellishment for you, while we're at it: 

I'll do a few more of these. Like I said, it's a very easy, lightweight little thing, more an invitation to play around with an idea, while learning to be happy playing quarter notes on the bass drum, than it is a hard and fast drill to be rigorously worked out. 

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Tony Williams phrase endings

Some things Tony Williams plays at phrase endings on Moose The Mooche, from the Great Jazz Trio at The Village Vanguard. There's a lot more to learn from Tony's playing on this tune, but who has time to write out a full transcription these days. The form is AABA, 32 bars long, and most of these happen in the last two bars of a section; at least one of them happens in bars 3-4 at the top of the form.

The tempo is bright, and Tony plays the 8th notes pretty straight. Where the phrase ends with an accent on the & of 4, usually that note is held through the 1 of the following measure, and the cymbal rhythm comes in on 2. He plays the hihat on 2 and 4, or running quarter notes most of the time.

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Monday, March 02, 2020

Billy Hart interview

Photo by Anthony Porcar Cano
More Billy Hart. Michael Griener sent me this 1994 Modern Drummer interview by Ken Micallef, and it's excellent. It gives a much fuller picture of his musical intellect than I got to see in the clinic. This is high level player's philosophy.

Micallef says at the beginning, “Categorizing Hart's contribution is no easy task. Among the four hundred or so albums Hart has recorded— including his solo records— one hears a musician not so much in love with the drums as with the possibilities they hold for expression within the music.” I think that may be part of why I have been slow to get into his playing seriously— he doesn't project an overt drumming personality the same way as some other players. No one would ever dismiss him as being a stylist.

I'm going to excerpt the interview pretty heavily, because that's what this site is about: collecting important information about drumming. So thank you Ken and thank you Modern Drummer, without you this important contribution to the literature of drumming would not exist. Subscribe to MD and call up Ken and tell him thank you.

Anybody can be a great instrumentalist. It's simply a matter of technique. The difference is in musicianship. You can be a great instrumentalist, but there are very few musicians.

Coltrane once told me about Elvin, “No matter how tense the situation gets, Elvin never tightens up.” I learned what that means. You don't mind taking chances in certain situations because you have confidence that it will come out. Or you enjoy reaching for it even if it doesn't come out.

[Milford Graves and Sunny Murray] were like magic; they conjured up spirits and ghosts and rainbow. You could actually believe that these guys could make it rain and give you visions. It was psychedelic. Now the high comes from precision and technique

The point is that what makes a rhythm you play groove is not that you're approximating a record, but that the groove is correct from what was played centuries ago in Africa. It's a rhythmic significance that's built on this heavy intelligence. Over centuries of playing they've come up with something that is so correct that when you play it accurately, based on the history, people are going to respond euphorically. 

...the rhythmic reason for this is to make people feel good. On the highest level you actually heal people, both physically and psychologically. It makes people happy and it makes them move. That's the purpose of drumming in the first place. The dance. That's the point of anyone playing the drums.

Q: Where do those soaring buzz rolls that you play come from?   
A: Art Blakey, but he would always conclude it with a cymbal crash. Tony would do it with single strokes, but not conclude it, he'd leave it empty. 

Girls are always slightly behind the beat, but in the pocket. Watch them snap their fingers to the beat. They're sitting on it. It's what Gadd and Chambers are masters at. How come that shit never slows down? 

Joao Gilberto used to tell me: “Play like the wind, play like rain.” Miles said the same thing. “Start everything on 4 and don't finish nothin'.”

How you resolve something is the key. You resolve it, but don't conclude it in a logical way. Find something else hip to play. You're concluding it, but in a more abstract way. That's what all the geniuses did. 

Also see Ethan Iverson's interview with Hart.