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

End of '20 UPDATE: Get the new updated 3 gb archive, with tempos! 

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.  

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.