Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Very occasional quote of the day: play sessions

“We used to have sessions right here in this house where I was raised. Lee Morgan, Reggie Workman, McCoy Tyner—all those guys used to come right here and my grandmother would be back there cooking. We would be in here all day.

Each guy would have a jam session on a different day at his house; Sunday was my day. So we played every day when we were young— Kenny Barron, Arthur Hopper, C Sharpe, Jimmy Vance—a bunch of Philadelphia musicians.”

— Mickey Roker, Modern Drummer interview by Jeff Potter, October, 1985

Monday, September 28, 2020

Daily best music in the world: Clifford Jarvis with Kenny Drew

Here's a nice record from 1977— Clifford Jarvis playing with Kenny Drew, along with Portland's own David Friesen. Straightforward power bebop, you could call it. There's so much uncontrived tradition in this, it makes you question if the young neo-bop classicists, who came along a few years later, were as needed as they claimed to be. That kind of music never went away. Blue Note could have just given those fat contracts to people like Drew. I guess they needed an advertising hook.

I haven't listened to a whole lot of Jarvis's playing. I associate him with Sun Ra, Freddie Hubbard, and Archie Shepp, but I never had many of the records he was on. His playing here is really strong, with a deep groove that reminds me of people like Al Foster and Art Taylor. Like them he's assertive, but economical. There's a little flavor of Roy Haynes in his soloing on the last tune.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Double-paradiddle / paradiddle-diddle inversions - linear, all on one page

I wrote this up for myself, maybe you'll use it, too. These are the 6/8 linear versions of the double paradiddle and paradiddle-diddle inversions page, written for snare drum and bass drum— that's easier for me to read for what I'm doing with them. Doing lots of triplets lately.

I've written the accents just to show where the inverted rudiment begins. You don't need to play the accent. I'm using these as independence patterns along with a jazz cymbal rhythm. Also playing them with the hands in unison— snare and cymbal, two drums, or flams on one drum. And playing with cymbal added on the bass drum notes. If you play these with the measures reversed, and play each measure of 6/8 individually, that adds up to a pretty complete unit of triplet patterns for jazz.

Get the pdf

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Practice loop: Milt Jackson medium blues

This is the main loop I've been using with late Three Camps for drumset materials. Most of them— to my taste yesterday's thing is better to practice without a loop. This is sampled from a portion of Milt Jackson's solo from SKJ, a bonus track on the CD release of his album Sunflower. The tune is a 12 bar blues, and the tempo is about 125 bpm.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Three Camps for drumset - RLL/RRL/six stroke - 03

UPDATE: I noticed a typo in the “syncopated / starting on 2” version, plus I changed the sticking on the A measures. Notes on the updates further down... 

Settle in, kids, we're going to be seeing several more of these, because a) I like it and I think it's an effective format, b) I can't think of much else to do right now. Times are weird.

This one uses all the basic things found in Alan Dawson's “Ruff Bossa” method— that's a triplet system using all the parts of the six stroke roll, with RLLs, RRLs, RLLRRLs, plus occasional alternating swing 8ths.

Memorize all four of these and practice them as a complete unit. Alert on the first syncopated version: on the “first camp” (AABA), play the B measure as a full measure of RRL. The swing 8th on the first beat only happens on CCBA parts.

Notes on the updated page: 

• The typo in the syncopated/starting on 2 variation was that beat 4 on the A measure should have been on beat 1.

• I changed the sticking on the A measures to include a six stroke roll sticking— RLLRRL. Or you can just play the main sticking for the whole measure— RLL on the first two versions, or RRL on the second two.

Get the pdf

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Daily best music in the world: harmolodic rock

From the 80s, when you could play this kind of music and get an apparently-decent recording contract, here is some James Blood Ulmer. It seems to fit the mood of the day.

Harmolodics, for the unitiated, is a homebrewed theory of improvisation practiced by Ornette Coleman. I suspect it's more “some things Ornette did or suggested, as elliptically described by him” than a true theory. See also Ornette Coleman's Prime Time and Ronald Shannon Jackson.

A little stylistic feature in this type of playing is that they like to put a stop or accent on 4— every measure or every two measures. A minor thing you'll hear a lot.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Paradiddle-diddle inversions

Remember that page of double paradiddle inversions I wrote back in April? April 2020. Or, ~198,000 United States COVID deaths ago, for those of you who have abandoned calendars and moved over to a death-count based time scale.   


Anyhoo, I like that double paradiddle page, and I always keep it close at hand in my pile of practice materials. Here I've done the same thing with alternating paradiddle-diddles— writing them as 8th notes in 6/8, as a two-voice linear pattern, and as a rhythm (based on the right hand part) in 3/4. Doing them alternating makes the inversions a little more interesting, and also has us doing three notes in a row on each hand or part.

The accent on linear version is just so you can see where the inverted pattern begins— usually I would accent the right hand, and vary the accents with the left hand. The linear version is written as RH/cymbal-LH/snare, but you can play it on any two limbs/sounds. See the practice suggestions on the second page of the pdf.

Get the pdf

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Three Camps for drum set - alternating triplets - 02

9/30 UPDATE: Lots of updates these days! I caught some problems with the second page. I'll detail the corrections below.

OK, I officially like this new system— adapting the format of the rudimental piece Three Camps for drumset. It does exactly what it's supposed to do: trick you into practicing some common things longer. The format is 32 bars long, and for every basic idea there is a regular version and an inverted version, so you're playing two standard choruses of each idea, with basic variations. That's a good amount of time to do one thing.

My biggest concern, that the altered form on the inverted versions would be too much of a pain for easy practicing, is not a problem. Actually my biggest concern was that the whole thing would be pointless, but it isn't. It makes sense, and I feel more together after having played through it.

In part 2 we'll use triplets alternating between the snare drum and bass drum. The first page is the version I use; the second page is a slightly simplified version that is a little closer to the original piece.

You can add the hihat on 2/4 when playing it with snare drum and bass drum, and then run it again substituting the hihat for the bass drum part. Find a practice loop at the tempo you want— or make one— and hit it. Here's a slow one, and a slow medium tempo, or a slightly brighter medium tempo.

Updates to the second page:
• Finale did something weird and the letters for each measure got screwed up.
• Made some changes so patterns would be consistent for each version.
• On the versions with the pattern starting on beat 2: on the AAAB and CCCB parts you have to make a small change on the last A or C. Read the note on the page and figure it out. It makes sense if you just play the piece. 

Get the pdf

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Transcription: Billy Cobham - Introspective

Ahhh good times here in the Pacific Northwest, with the forests burning, and the entire city blanketed in smoke so it looks like we're in Blade Runner, or the Mexico sequences from Breaking Bad, with lunatic heavily armed country folk creating their own ad hoc checkpoints to hinder evacuations and catch imaginary antifa arsonists who they believe have swarmed to the countryside to destroy the forests for reasons unknown.

It's good stuff. So I'm just going to post this transcription and leave it. I can't think of anything intelligent to say about it. This is Billy Cobham playing rhythm figures on the head of a swing tune, alternating with an Afro 6 feel. The tune is Introspective, from Stanley Turrentine's album Cherry. I've included a rhythm part outlining the kicks. Maybe it will help in analyzing Cobham's interpretation of them.

Making the transcription I did notice what Wilson Taylor mentioned in the comments on the recent Cobham piece— that Cobham plays very much on the front of the beat. It does sound like it would be challenging to play with him here.

The transcription begins at the start of the track. The meter change is no big deal; he just switches to an Afro 6 groove at the same tempo.

Get the pdf

Monday, September 07, 2020

Very occasional quote of the day: prove to yourself you are a drummer

“The first thing I'd say is forget about making it big. If you're that good and it's in the cards for you to make it big, you probably will and no one can stop it. 

However, I say first prove to yourself that you are a drummer.”

— Rufus 'Speedy' Jones, Modern Drummer interview by Robert Barnelle, 1983

[h/t to Ed Pierce for directing me to the interview]

Sunday, September 06, 2020

Three Camps for drum set - 01

I like the traditional rudimental snare drum piece Three Camps as a practice format because it's simple and finite— you can play the piece a few times and be done. You've done your work on the one thing. It's a good format for developing speed and endurance. 

I improvised this while I was practicing, and we'll see if it becomes a major part of my “routine.” To the extent that I have a routine. A very disciplined, structured practicer should be able to get a lot of value out of it. I've written some ways of playing the piece on drum set, with a triplet texture in a jazz feel. This is one of the major systems we do when reading from Syncopation, except we've simplified the bass drum and removed the reading element, so we can focus on pure fluency.  

There four different forms: 
• Basic, with the bass drum playing the same accents as the original piece.
• Basic form with the accents displaced one beat, starting on beat 2.
• Syncopated, with the original accents moved to the &.
• Syncopated, accents on the & starting on beat 2. 

You'll notice that the order of the measures changes for each version to accommodate the displacements. I've also written it with Frank Arsenault's form, which repeats the 3rd camp. Usually it's played:
 3rd | 2nd | 2nd-coda
Arsenault does it: 
3rd | 2nd | 3rd | 2nd-coda
That gives us a little more of that brief 3rd Camp variation. See previous posts for explanation of the “camps” terminology.

Add the hihat on 2 and 4 if you want. Memorize all four versions, and play them continuously— one to the next without stopping. Usually the last measure of the piece is a coda— either a fp roll, or a little drag pattern with a stop. Elvin Jones improvised(?) a two measure break at the end. I saw him do that in a clinic. So that's your spot to get creative and insert a hot lick of your choice. Or just play it as written.   

Get the pdf

Thursday, September 03, 2020

Roy Haynes waltz lesson - practice suggestions

So, I wrote that Roy Haynes waltz lesson in about ten minutes— I just listened to the tune and picked out the most obvious possible ways to cop the basic thing he's doing there. And since I titled it WORLD'S SHORTEST ROY HAYNES WALTZ LESSON, one could get the impression that it's something you can learn to do quickly. Not so! Just playing through the things on the page takes some time, then you have to learn to improvise a texture from those ideas. When I sit down with something like that I inevitably do a lot more with each thing.

On this page we'll look at the first pattern for that lesson, and run through some of the things I play when I practice it. I do as many of these as I can on the fly, but a few of them I would need to see written down. Not all of these are suited for the tempo on the Chick Corea recording— not right away, anyway.

I would also play the bass drum one note per measure, on every single note of the cymbal rhythm, especially if trying to cop the Roy thing. There's only so much you can put on one page. You can add the hihat on beat 2 and/or the bass drum on beat 1 wherever you like. Swing the 8th notes.

Continue thusly with the other sticking patterns on the lesson page. I hope everybody knows you have to find your own groove with these things— you speed through some things, and work longer on the ones that are harder for you, or that have a lot of creative and musical possibilities for you. That goes for everything else on the site and everything else in drumming. No written materials anywhere are a linear map for getting good. 

Get the pdf

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Let's talk about Billy Cobham

I was working on this post about Billy Cobham some weeks ago, and felt I couldn't finish it—  it's not that easy to write a complete portrait of the playing of a great drummer. Try it sometime. But this should be interesting to read in light of my recent thing on Rufus Jones. Take it as a starting place for thinking about what you're hearing when listening to him.

Billy Cobham is one of the most recorded and talked about drummers of the first part of the fusion era— from roughly 1970 to 1980. He was on a lot of records, and made a huge splash playing a large drum set in a really exciting way. He took drumming chops to a new level— maybe not exceeding Buddy Rich, but using more modern drumming language than Buddy. He was involved with a number of technical innovations expanding the concept of the drum set as an instrument. He was the first major player to play the drums “open handed”, that I know of.

He's probably the most effective player of a large drum set ever. Neil Peart, a totally different type of player, would be another example of that. With so many tom toms, he can do some pianistic lines not really possible on normal sets, that I haven't really heard from other large-set players. The modern, fusion era usage of the Chinese cymbal, with the cymbal mounted upside down, is his thing. The way he used it was extremely effective, and was widely copied for a long time. Not so much any more, except among Metal drummers.

There is a specific overall vibe on his records that you don't really hear any more— fusion music shifted to a different kind of product, and the type of music on Cobham's records has never really been revived among younger players— unlike Miles Davis's 70s thing, for example. In terms of drumming, by the 80s Steve Gadd's concept and sound became the prevalent thing in the fusion and studio drumming. When I was a student in that period, Cobham wasn't one of the first people talked about. Drummers today largely talk about him in terms of chops and technique, and he's often mentioned by open-handed drumming enthusiasts. If his playing is talked about at all, it's generally in terms of spectacular drumming feats.

You do have to talk about excitement when you talk about Billy Cobham. He plays with a lot of bravado, and is often wildly dramatic. He can be very flashy and very dense, and it's easy to see how people just take him as pure drumming confection. In a way he's the prototype for the current high-performance drumming thing.

And some of his recordings are like that: parts of them are there to blow away an audience. This is to me a festival-style performance, designed to blow a festival audience's mind:

On most of his records there are extended open drum features, which you can take a number of ways. You could just hear them as early versions of the modern drum chops display events, opportunities to marvel at his technical awesomeness. Or you can take them as examples of 70s bloat and “pretentiousness”— a meme from the 70s rock press— like on Crosswinds there's a solo with a lot of flanger on the tom toms, which sounds corny to us now. I listen to them as music, as creative percussion features:

So it can be difficult to distinguish legit musical energy from just excitement over a spectacular performance, but it's something you have to figure out. Cobham is a great musician and people should understand his playing as normal drumming, doing all the things normal drumming is supposed to accomplish. It may be easier to do that listening to him on records where he's not a leader.

His general approach to playing the drum set could be taken as “snare drummy”— hands-oriented, but modern, not particularly rudimentally based. On fills and solos he seems to play a lot of singles, and a lot of open rolls with accented singles. The bass drum tends to be used in normal funk ways, and for accents, and ostinatos, often tied to the cymbals. We don't often hear a fully integrated linear thing, a la Steve Gadd, or Elvin Jones. In that way maybe he's more similar to Tony Williams than either of those drummers. I think he actually uses his bass drums pretty economically, when he's not doing his showy double bass stuff. In interviews he mentions using his left foot to play time, but I don't feel that I often hear that with him. These are all just my impressions from listening— it's not meant to be the complete last word on his playing.

We don't hear drum sounds like his much any more— it doesn't seem to have been widely copied. It's an energy sound, not a deep “power” sound, which is where things were moving in the 80s.  Particularly the tom toms, which are live and tonal, with a sound that is throaty rather than deep/punchy— maybe a combination of Black Dot heads, and moderate tension on the bottom head— as opposed to the loose top/tight bottom for the Gadd-like sound. His snare drum has a very tight, dry sound; it's tuned rather high, with the snares highly tensioned. Clearly his bass drums are large, and somewhat live, but it's a controlled sound, not a huge sound.

This is all set up for listening to him a lot, so please do that. If you're into vinyl, many of these you can find cheaply in used record stores:

As leader:
A Funky Side Of Things
Total Eclipse

Mahavishnu Orchestra:
Inner Mounting Flame
Birds of Fire

Miroslav Vitous - Purple
George Benson - White Rabbit
Milt Jackson - Sunflower
Miles Davis - Jack Johnson
Stanley Turrentine - Cherry
Deodato - Prelude

See his selected discography on Wikipedia for more.