Friday, August 28, 2020

World's shortest Roy Haynes waltz lesson

UPDATE: See the page of practice suggestions for more on this!

Someone on the internet asked me to explain what Roy Haynes is doing on the Chick Corea tune Windows, from the album Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, so I wrote up a little lesson on some of the basic elements, on getting started making the approximate vibe:

Listen to the recording, play through the page in all of the suggested ways, then improvise combinations of things to make a continuously developing waltz texture— that's the part that will take some practice; the ideas themselves are not difficult. Vary the dynamics and articulations with your left hand— use buzzes, rim shots, etc. Roy really exaggerates his accents, and tends to put them in odd places.

Obviously there are some other things happening— he plays some triplets between the snare and bass drum, and plays both hands on the snare drum occasionally— usually 3- or 4- stroke ruffs, open, as singles.

To continue developing this beyond the scope of this page, you should be able to play a regular jazz waltz, and have some basic coordination together with that. See Joel Rothman's 3,5, 7, 9, Jazz! or Joe Morello's New Directions in Rhythm for materials. Get my book Syncopation in 3/4 for more practice resources.

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Thursday, August 27, 2020

Syncopation in 5/4 - another format

A little throwaway item, as I continue working out the formatting for my upcoming book, Syncopation in 5/4, to be released God knows when. The problem is how to deal with phrasing the measures 2+3 or 3+2— both normal ways of phrasing 5/4, that affect the way you write the rhythms. Here I've borrowed the format used by Rick Kvistad in his accents book I reviewed recently— he just writes back to back measures of 2+3 and 3+2.

It's a pretty good option for one-line exercises. With the full page exercises I may have just do them half in one, half in the other. As always I welcome any feedback.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The case of Rufus 'Speedy' Jones

I'm kind of narrow in my listening habits— I never listened to a whole lot of big band, so I never knew about the drummer Rufus Jones until I saw this video on the internet. He was a big band drummer mainly active in the 60s, in the spectacular, chops-intensive mode of Sonny Payne, Louis Bellson, Buddy Rich, et al, though Jones is clearly a sideman, a road guy, rather than a marquis name.

I saw this and I needed to figure out what the hell is going on:

Now, to me it's extremely weird to play a full-on drum corps style drum feature in the middle of very intimate piano trio music. My entire playing life, what you do on the drums is play to fit the situation, and make some kind of musical statement. Treating the drums like it's a musical instrument in an ensemble.

In a similar vein, here's the drum feature tune from Jones's one record as leader:

For serious snare drum guys this has got to be really exciting stuff; it's hard for me to process it as a piece of music— the soloing at least. It reads like a sonic triathalon; it doesn't compute as a musical statement, to my ears. 

On Jones's actual supportive playing with a band, he generally plays with a lot of taste. He sounds great playing with Maynard Ferguson's band, on the Roulette recordings. Here he is playing an arrangement called The Fox Hunt— the owner has disabled embedding, so you'll have to click this link to listen on YouTube. He sounds great.

But it depends. This track, and this record generally, really wears out my ears. I frankly do not like the cymbal sound here:

I'm not unsympathetic; there are times when you're really playing for the band and the situation, where you end up playing in a way that might not record well. And there are other considerations besides making a pretty-sounding drumming performance. 

Interestingly, he doesn't seem to have insane chops for playing actual fast tempos in the usual bebop way: the way he handles Cherokee on that same record— playing quarter notes on the cymbal, accenting the 1 and 3, lots of bass drum on 1, lots of left hand and bass drum activity, and not much happening with the hihat— it's really a different kind of groove. 

I think possibly we're in more of a show musician rather than a purist jazz musician mentality here. He plays the arrangements impeccably, and lays on the spectacle when he's featured— maybe all that was required of a road guy. His 1983 interview in Modern Drummer*, much of which is about soloing, and getting a response from an audience, seems to support that. I'm curious to hear people's comments about him.

* - Thanks for the tip, Ed!

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Transcription: Elvin Jones - Survival Blues

Hey, we haven't done any Elvin Jones in a while. This is the beginning of Survival Blues, from McCoy Tyner's album Extensions. I started where McCoy begins the vamp, and did as much as I could do in about 90 minutes, and that happens to be where something is changing musically— we're easing into the tenor solo. The tune is a loosely structured modal thing, with a swing feel.

We get a pretty clean look at his playing here, including a useful 16th note thing he does a lot. He plays the hihat pretty sparsely, often one note per measure, which seems significant, somehow. The hihat and bass drum are generally not active at the same time here. I'd pay attention to the big accents lower on the page. Playing “like Elvin” seems to call for a lot of listening to McCoy's left hand....

The transcription is generally playable, but there are sketchy fills in measures 12, 32, and 40— if anyone is serious enough to try to figure them out. I gave some possible/likely stickings where I could. Bar 12 is the flakiest, both the fill, and my notation of it. Beat 1 is accurate, the rest of the measure you have to slur like crazy. Bar 32 should clearly start with a RLLR, then play fast singles where a roll is indicated— the two slash marks on the quarter notes indicate 16th notes, but play them whatever speed you need to. That bass drum note on the & of 4 should be in swing 8th timing. Bar 40 sounds like it's in an even rhythm all the way through— he doesn't speed up for the quintuplet in beat 4, so you have to slur the whole measure and fit it in. Or you could treat the last three notes as a 16th note triplet, and the rest of the measure as 16th notes.

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Thursday, August 20, 2020

Three little-known books

For a long time Steve Weiss Music has been my go-to site for unusual and hard to find drum books. Their warehouse must be full of stuff that never quite caught on, that has been sitting around for a few decades waiting for someone to be interested. I just made a little order and got these three books:

Accent Studies for Percussion by Rick Kvistad
A nice focused little book of studies in accented 8th notes in all meters from 2/8 to 9/8, and 12/8. With robust sections in 5/8 and 7/8. Includes one-measure exercises, and full page etudes. I like that all of studies are in 8th notes, and that he generally doesn't get too cute with it. More and more I feel 8th notes really are the common language of drumming, and accents on an even rhythm a major area of our vocabulary, not just on snare drum— it has has been the major way my students get into my harmonic coordination method, for example. 

You could cover most of what is in this book with parts of several books, but it's nice to have it all in one place. And I like the etudes. It's a good thing to have in your practice room. We played several of Kvistad's compositions in percussion ensemble in college, and it's nice having his name represented in my practice library. 

39 pages. 

Theory Manual of Musical Snare Drumming - vol. 1 by D'Artagnan Liagre
First of three volumes of an interesting-looking series of snare drum method books by a French writer— published by the Professional Drum Shop in Los Angeles, curiously. This volume covers beginning to approximately intermediate level, and also introduces music theory terms— not only those normally associated with percussion. Each part of the book ends with a duet with snare drum and a melodic instrument.

It's sort of a curiosity. I don't know who the intended audience is. It has a sort of pre-college or remedial college vibe about it— I can imagine it being used with freshmen percussionists to bring them up to speed.

The engraving is beautiful; obviously they got a top-level LA copyist to write it out. Text is in English and French. I might buy the complete series just to learn my French percussion terms. 

42 pages. 

Fundamental Instruction for the Junior Drummer by Charley Wilcoxon
I'm always on the lookout for good beginning snare drum books— right now my favorite is Elementary Snare Drum Studies by Mitchell Peters. I've seen this one around for years, and finally decided to check it out. It's quite a simplified version of Wilcoxon's Drum Method. It has the same problem as that book, only more so— it is heavily marked up with visually distracting little instructions. He'll write an accent, plus LOUD (or HIGH), every time it happens. A decent page of 3/4 rhythms includes some ties, and on every tie he also writes TIE and THIS NOTE IS NOT STRUCK with an arrow. Together with the stickings, the counts, the names of any rudiments, and other notes indicating things like 8TH REST, and markings indicating that the quarter note does indeed include the 1 and the &— it's quite an eyeful. You can often sense a writer's fear that the audience won't get it; here that manifests in some very cluttered pages. 

As with Drum Method, it takes a few minutes to realize oh, this is meant to be a drum set book! As the drums were played in the 1930s. It's interesting from a historical perspective, but it's quite useless for modern students. There are a few good pages but no one will want to work through this as intended by the author.  

This is a Ludwig Masters edition, edited by Robert L Matson. 52 pages. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Chapin exercises in 5

This is what you do during quarantine when it's too hot to practice or doing anything else serious: capture jpegs of a well known drum book, open it up in, and cut it up to put it in a new time signature.

We talked about this a few days ago in the Easiest 5/4 post. This is the first part of Jim Chapin's Advanced Techniques for the Modern Drummer, with the first beat of each pattern pasted onto the end to turn the 4/4 patterns into 5/4. I could have just written this up in Finale, but this is more fun.

Hihat goes on 2 and 4, add a bass drum on 1. After doing this you should get the formula, and be able to work through the rest of ATFTMD in 5 without seeing it printed out. Easy variations you can do to get a little more vocabulary mileage out of this might be:

• On beat 5 just play a quarter note on the cymbal, or on the snare and cymbal with both hands in unison.
• Leave out any snare drum in unison with the bass drum on 1.

I'll write up a summary of some other possible variations soon. I find them to be an important part of the process of learning to play in 5. 

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Sunday, August 16, 2020

Mainstream Records on Bandcamp

Just directing your attention to the Bandcamp site for Mainstream Records— an independent record label in the 60s-70s. Founded by Bob Shad in '64, folded in '78. There's a lot of 70s jazz in a funk/Latin fusion mode, some blues, and more. You used to have to get lucky to find these used on vinyl, now you can download their stuff instantly for $8.

Here are some highlights— I think I've seen two copies of this Roy Haynes record in the wild before, one of which I bought:

Roy Haynes Hip Ensemble - Equipoise

Hadley Caliman - Iapetus
With Sonship on drums! 

Billie Holliday - In Rehearsal
Rehearsal tapes from 1954— “a very casual rehearsal with start and stops and conversations with Billie.”

Shelley Manne - Mannekind
With John Gross, Mike Wofford, and Gary Barone.

Hal Galper - Inner Journey
With Dave Holland and Bill Goodwin.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Very occasional quote of the day: you figure it out

“I hired you because of who you are & what you do, so DO it. I’m having a hard enough time playing my instrument, so you figure out how to play your own.”

— Reggie Workman, quoting John Coltrane

Key line from jazz writer Richard Scheinin's interview with Workman.

Follow Scheinin on Twitter.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Groove o' the day: Art Blakey tom tom groove

This is a fast Latin groove played by Art Blakey during a solo on a concert video filmed in Japan, posted on Twitter by jazz writer Ted Gioia. I'm sure Blakey plays it on his records, too— first place I would look would be A Night In Tunisia.

For clarity I put the left hand, which plays rim clicks on the snare drum, on its own line—  the rest of it is played with the right hand. Play with the snares off. He's probably playing the bass drum, either quarter notes or half notes, but I can't hear it. Tempo is above half note = 150.

He plays this variation:

You can see the video here, as long as it stays on Gioia's Twitter feed. It happens at about 1:15.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Alternating flam rudiments tree

Just a little throwaway graphic illustrating the connectedness of flam rudiments. People think of them as “omg a bunch of different things”, but they use very similar motions.

The key rudiment here is the Flam Accent #1— you get the others after it by just doubling one note, and playing with the rhythm. The pattern named Unnamed Awesome Rudiment is now named Unnamed Awesome Rudiment, or UAR. I like it better than the other 16th note flam rudiments— Windmills are easy but dull, Flamadiddles are just loathsome. UARs are difficult but hip.

Sunday, August 09, 2020

Afro 6 warm up patterns

This is how I operate, after about ten years of writing the really hard stuff, I get around to giving people the easy way in. These are some preparatory exercises for playing an Afro 6 feel, that will help you get the major coordination, the timing of the cymbal rhythm, with everything in its right place. Or you could just learn the beat the way I did— learn one pattern, then screw around with it a lot, and play a lot of music, then 25 years later write a bunch of ways to work on it.

The foot pattern here is the same one used in the Freddie Waits groove we covered the other day, you could do that page after learning this one.

Count in 2. Use exercise 3 if you have any problem with the timing of exercise 2— those two should sound identical. Learn the patterns as a sticking, but put your focus on the right hand, and on how it relates to the rhythm played with the feet. Use the optional foot patterns if you want. Better to just give this thing a quick once over and then get into the real stuff on the Freddie Waits page.

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Thursday, August 06, 2020

Syncopation rhythms in 5/4

Hey, who wants some practice rhythms in 5/4? Here are several pages of them. I'm working on a new book, Syncopation in 5/4— companion to my other book Syncopation in 3/4There are some formatting decisions to be made, mainly to reflect a 2+3 phrasing or a 3+2 phrasing, which I'm working out here. I want the same exercises to be usable in either phrasing, and I think there may not be an ideal solution. Let me know in the comments if there's one version you like for that purpose.

Here's a fresh link to my practice methods for this type of thing. for See also John Ramsay's book The Complete Drummer's Vocabulary.

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Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Daily best music in the world: Buck Hill

Here's a really nice 1978 recording of some 70s powerhouse bebop by Washington DC saxophonist Buck Hill. Wikipedia says about him:
Hill began playing professionally in 1943 but held a day job as a mailman in his birthplace of Washington, D.C. for over thirty years. He played with Charlie Byrd in 1958-59, but was only occasionally active during the 1960s. 

In the 70s, after age 50, he began recording as a leader. Here the rhythm section is Kenny Barron, Buster Williams, and Billy Hart— as a young man Hart actually knew Hill in Washington, and played with him. Hart says Hill gave him his first jazz records, a couple of Charlie Parker 78s.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

EZiest swing in 5/4

Teachers' item here. In working with various beginners, younger students, and hobbyists, you have to be flexible and creative in how you show them things. At those stages, differences in how people learn are really amplified— they're slow to get some things, and faster to get others, with no consistency from individual to individual. I don't want them getting hung up if a certain part of the process is not working for them yet, and I don't need them to learn things in a specific order, so I'll try a lot of different things to help them get their foot in the door. Then they can learn the hard thing over time, while still progressing with their actual playing.

This is an easy procedure for teaching a 5/4 swing groove without the student having to read it, or even learn a new pattern. It should be simple for anyone who can play a jazz beat in 4/4, and more natural and direct than just throwing a book at them.

First, play one measure of a jazz feel, with bass drum on the first note, and stop on 1 of the second measure. With new things, I often have them play it one time only, followed by a long, unmetered pause.

Play this one time, counting out loud: 1 2 3 4 1. Swing the 8th notes. 

Do it again, one time, except count 1 2 3 4 5

Despite the written time signature, we're effectively in 5/4 now. Play the above thing repeating. At first I may have them put a long pause in between measures— without counting or tapping their foot during the pause: 

They can shorten that pause until they're just playing the repeating pattern in time. Continue counting in 5.

Of course many students won't need to do all that, and some may need more help, which I improvise based on whatever seems to be hanging them up.  

More advanced students will want some independence patterns to go with that, for which you can just go to Jim Chapin's Advanced Techniques for the Modern Drummer. Just add an extra beat one to the end of the pattern. So this: 

Through the magic of Photoshop, becomes this:

And this pattern: 

Becomes this: 

Just repeat the first beat. Or don't. You can play the book pattern exactly as written, and simply add a quarter note on the cymbal at the end.

See my series Cracking 5/4 for more introductory materials/concepts for learning to play this time signature. 

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Page o' coordination: Freddie Waits Afro

UPDATE: A student brought it to my attention that according to Wikipedia, Idris Muhammad is the drummer on this track. Which surprises me, but there you go.

A combination groove o' the day and page o' coordination here. On MC by Andrew Hill, from his album Grass Roots, Freddie Waits plays a Afro feel with a simplified cymbal rhythm that is similar to the “Afro Blues” rhythm (my phrase) I wrote about a few years ago. It's a good introductory groove for this type of thing, and, with a stronger dotted-quarter note pulse, it's probably good if you're playing with a weak rhythm section. Or, what the hell, if you just want a cleaner groove with a stronger main pulse.

On the top line are the cymbal/feet ostinato, and the complete groove as Waits played it on the record, and the rest of it is the practice patterns:

Learn the page, then drill it while doing my left hand moves.

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