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.

No comments: