Saturday, October 24, 2020

Best books: Jim Payne's Complete Funk Drumming Book

I've long felt there isn't a truly good basic funk drumming book. There are many bad ones, and a few decent/acceptable ones. I most often use A Funky Primer out of habit, or Joel Rothman's Mini Monster book. The Roy Burns/Joey Farris book is solid. But I don't really have a universal method book for backbeat-based music that is ideal for most of my students. 
So I was pleasantly surprised recently when I revisited Jim Payne's Complete Funk Drumming Book, which I used a bit in school in the 80s, and realized it's pretty good.  

It's 88 pages long. Like all of the above books, it's focused on playing funk time in 4/4— which today applies broadly to all areas of backbeat-oriented drumming. The progression in difficulty is well-paced, and it gives teachers a lot of options for using it with students of different levels of ability. Good for middle school to college level students.

It's nicely balanced— verbal explanations are straightforward and not over-long, and there aren't too many practice patterns— enough to teach a basic concept and its major variations, so the student can develop it further through his or her own playing.   

It's music-centered, with the focus on informing your playing for real music. The more advanced materials are of normal complexity for real world playing and improvising. There are many transcribed examples of (now-classic) grooves, with metronome markings and complete citations for the songs and records they're from. Very important for the student, and very helpful for the teacher, and, with the destruction of the recorded music industry via pirating, streaming, and YouTube, it's easier than ever to actually listen to them and play along with them.  

Most practice patterns and transcribed examples are one or two measures long. There are a few groups of single-beat technical studies. I use that type of thing with students quite often now— usually just to help get the coordination. Other teachers and students might be more into exploring their creative possibilities than I am. 

There is a chapter on the connection of funk grooves to clave, and to Brazilian rhythms— not unlike some things I've done on this site. He presents these as ideas, with authentic rhythms, without getting into pseudo-hip made-up grooves, preparing you to do your own things with them.   

The last half of the book, with the more advanced materials, is quite a bit looser in structure— I think it's probably more appropriate for mature students who are playing regularly, and have a good, creative relationship with a teacher. Students who can derive a lesson from something and run with it without having it spelled out or developed via many practice patterns.   

It isn't until the very last pages of the book that we get into things that I wouldn't have a lot of use for; some technical patterns with a lot of three-way unisons, and some composed “hip” grooves. There's just five pages of that; and just because I don't dig it doesn't mean somebody else can't use it.  

So, a very solid product. If my Syncopation-based funk methods provide the reading, textural, and improvisational training, this book provides the common real-world vocabulary and funk-theoretical background information I'll be using both with my students. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Three Camps for drumset - 16th notes / basic - 04

This is the basic form of Three Camps for drumset, converted into 16th notes. I continue to dig this format for practicing jazz coordination. For me the main attraction of this page is the Elvin-like thing we see at the end of measure C of the first version, and throughout the page. We really get to polish that sucker. 

Check the form carefully for each version— each version has the measures in a different order. It's not as difficult/weird as it seems.  

You can play these substituting the left foot for the bass drum— in that case ignore the written hihat part. Doing it that way, at faster tempos I might eliminate the second note of any double— on the a-1 or a-3 in measure D of the first version, for example. Play the hihat on the a, don't play it on the 1.  

You could also mix things up by playing the 1e-a rhythm (on whatever beats it occurs) as a triplet, as in the original triplet version of this page, and play the full beats of 16ths as 16ths. That's a thing Elvin Jones does a lot. 

 Get the pdf

Thursday, October 15, 2020

CYMBALISTIC: You never know

Thinking about this fabulous product I'm selling, Cymbal & Gong cymbals, in this precarious time, it struck me that they could just go away at any time. 

I think— as do many of the the pros I've shown and sold them to— that they're consistently the best traditional jazz cymbal available right now. And they only exist because one guy in Portland is nursing his little business along producing them, and there's a shop in Istanbul with one master cymbalsmith, and a handful of employees, who make them. 

Not to be morbid, but the whole thing hangs on the health and financial stability of a handful of middle-aged people. One substantial crisis, and it becomes, eh we can't really afford to do this any more, and bang, they're gone. It's a big deal to me, because I spent most of my career hating all the cymbals I played. If I haven't gotten everything I need if that fateful day ever happens, I'm back to poking around online, hoping to get lucky, and making due with a lot of stuff I don't like.  

So... if you're thinking about getting some of these, don't screw around— get them now. I picked out everything I sell myself, so you know they're good— at least they had to get past one discriminating pro's ear. I think they'll end up being your main axe for the rest of your career. Shoot me an email (see sidebar, or contact on Cymbalistic) and let's talk about it.  

By the way, someone online was just commenting about the cymbal Elvin Jones uses on the Coltrane Village Vanguard recordings— specifically on the tune India: 

As always, I looked in my stock and instantly found something that could be its brother:  

Check out the blog on my Cymbalistic site— there are a couple of other cases. Like the cymbal Blakey used on some famous early 60s records, and a reasonable match for Tony Williams's famous cymbal— as recorded on the Plugged Nickel recordings, at least. That cymbal— a 22" Holy Grail called “Eloi”— is still available, by the way. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Very occasional quote of the day: Mickey Roker on practicing

More from Mickey Roker's Modern Drummer interview by Jeff Potter, October, 1985, on the subject of practicing the drums: 

It has always been hard for me to practice, because I get bored if I don't hear music—if I'm just hearing the drums.

I go from one thing to the next to keep me from being bored.

I learn all the rhythms basically. Then you learn how to create— how to improvise. If you can think, then all you've got to do is think. I learned the rhythms in their basic form— the calypso, bolero, reggae— but then you need music. You learn how to do things when you're on that bandstand or rehearsing with other musicians.

When I practice, I don't say, “I'm going to get this or that lick together.” 

I don't discourage my students from formal practice or using books. There are great things in drum method books—as long as you can make it sound natural. You want to sound natural, not mechanical. 

Monday, October 12, 2020

Extended shuffle stickings

This is just a little exploration of a special set of stickings for drum set. I wrote it to practice myself, and see if it's worth developing as a concept. A lot of what we do here is play around with different approaches to ordinary ideas, to see if it helps us use them creatively, or practice them productively. That's all. 

You could call these extended shuffle stickings, after the RH rhythm of the three note pattern. They're mostly-alternating, and starting and ending with a single right hand. Sometimes we have to add a double left near the end to make them come out right. 

Three notes: RLR
Four notes: RLLR
Five notes: RLRLR
Six notes: RLRLLR
Seven notes: RLRLRLR
Eight notes: RLRLRLLR
Nine notes: RLRLRLRLR

Clearly this is not about playing shuffles— these are all common, useful stickings in other contexts. On this page I've written them as 8th notes in their native meters, and in their closest opposite type of meter— simple (straight 8th) and/or compound (triplet feel). The tick marks on some of the examples show where the pattern begins. 

Play the right hand on the cymbal, left hand on the snare drum. Add bass drum on some or all of the cymbal notes. Add a simple rhythm with the left foot. Vary the dynamics with the left hand. 

You don't have to play these only in the written time signature. The 5/4 and 15/8 versions of the five note pattern, for example, are just to show you how that odd sticking lays in a straight 8th or triplet feel. I'll be playing most of them in 4/4, 3/4, or 12/8. 

Get the pdf

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Transcription: Shelly Manne - What Laurie Likes

Here's Shelly Manne playing a funk jam— What Laurie Likes, by Art Pepper, from Pepper's album Living Legend. This is really just to get you to listen to Charlie Haden— that's a bassist— who is AWESOME on this whole thing. The drumming is great too though. Longer transcription than usual, because Mr. Manne was kind, and this was an easy performance to write out.

I have a number of notes on this one: 

This isn't a mono-volume funk jam. At different times Manne plays a 2/2 funk groove, or a fast 4 groove, or running 8th notes, or he'll improvise on the cymbals, or on the hihats. Occasionally he'll play soloistic stuff on the snare drum. He always sounds like he's going somewhere— much of the time he's building or backing off. He's not waiting for the soloist to lead on that; he's making it happen on his own, acting as a conductor. 

The 16th note fills usually crescendo. I think a lot of us do that routinely, but it's not the only way to do it. A funk drummer might take more of a bam bam approach, with the fills at basically an even volume all the way through. That's stronger for maintaining the groove. You can hear that done greatly by Ndugu Leon Chancler, or crudely by Ginger Baker. Manne's fills usually crescendo, but they don't necessarily end with a big cymbal crash on 1. There are relatively few actual crashes here.

Manne often plays bass drum through 16th note fills. I've noticed several 70s LA guys do this— Jeff Porcaro and John Guerin, for example. I don't think this is just a carryover from jazz drumming. The music settles a little bit when you come off the cymbals, and playing the bass drum keeps the intensity of the groove through the fills. Something to think about when playing groove music. 

We're not hearing a ton of funk vocabulary; there are a few basic moves he uses again and again. The three-8th note RRL pattern, or even plain old RLRL played between the hihat and snare drum; a cinquillo rhythm on the cymbal when he's grooving. Much of this is not unlike things on my EZ Tresillo Orchestrations page, or what we get from my cut time funk drill.  

There's a lot of open hihat here, usually with a half-open sound, indicated with a tenuto mark. 

As a personal taste thing— to me many of the 16th notes are kind of gratuitous. The groove is strongest when he's just doing 8th notes and quarter notes. Drummers generally always want to go to double time, to the hand-to-hand stuff, to prove this is a jazz performance, and the result is... not that great. Here, even with a lot of improvising and playing around, the 8ths and quarters still sound better. And Charlie Haden doesn't need to play a lot of 16th notes to sound F— KILLER. We'll talk more about this another time.

Thursday, October 08, 2020

Jazz fundamentals: more stick control for jazz

Another jazz fundamentals item, that pairs nicely with Monday's thing. These are some stick control patterns designed to be played on the drumset, for a specific jazz vocabulary lesson. That's a lot of what we do here. I wrote something like this back in March, with a slightly different purpose— a nice thing about having software like Finale is that it's easy to focus our materials.

This page is meant to help with adding the left hand to some basic cymbal rhythms, and also to help get the timing of some common figures— “additive rhythm” style. We'll be seeing that term again in coming days.

Swing the 8th notes. Play the right hand on the cymbal, left hand on the snare drum. Add bass drum to some or all of the RH notes. Add hihat on beats 2 and 4.

Some of the patterns have the option of playing the left hand on beat 1— those are to get the timing of a cymbal accent on the & of 4. 

Get the pdf

Monday, October 05, 2020

CYMBALISTIC: Leon Collection!

CYMBALISTIC: Heads up, if you're thinking about getting some new cymbals. I'm holding a few new odd-size Leon Collection cymbals right now— 21", 19" and 17"—on approval from Cymbal & Gong.

The Leons are really lovely— “like 602s, but better”, said my friends in Berlin last year. They generally have a bright sound that is airy, complex, and very musical. They handle similarly to other jazz cymbals, and they blend well with them. I have an 18" crash that works beautifully with my other Cymbal & Gongs. I may well buy one of this group for myself.

Video of the new cymbals will be coming in a couple of days.

This very light 20" ride captures the spirit of them— our man in Berlin, Michael Griener, owns its companion:

Oh, also, thanks to my skype student Robert in San Luis Obispo for buying this wonderful Holy Grail, “Desmond.” These are the kind of cymbals you use your entire career.

Jazz fundamentals: playing basic rhythms on a cymbal

Usually people start with jazz coordination by playing snare drum independence patterns along with a static cymbal rhythm— see Jim Chapin's Advanced Techniques, for example. It's a thing to do, and it should be done. But it's not the only thing to do, and I don't think it's the directest way to becoming a functional jazz drummer. Jazz does not necessarily require a rigidly unvarying cymbal rhythm, and  complicated left hand activity. 

What it does require is a cymbal rhythm played with a strong quarter note pulse. If you can do that, and play some simple things with a little creativity, you're in OK shape as a novice jazz drummer— at least as far as pure timekeeping vocabulary is concerned. 

This is a summary of a lesson item I've done with a number of students— adding easy things to a varying basic rhythm played on the cymbal. Use the rhythms in pp. 10-11 in Syncopation, or pp. 14-15 in my book Syncopation in 3/4. Or pp. 6-7 in Joe Morello's New Directions in Rhythm. You could spend some extra time on the rhythms that are most like the normal ones; lines 2, 4, and 15 in Reed pp. 10-11, for example.

These are quite easy, so you can just memorize the concepts, and practice them in a free form way— after playing through them, with all of the cymbal rhythms from the books, working out the coordination with the standard hihat/bass drum rhythms.  

Play the rhythm on the cymbal
The top line rhythms in the book, on a cymbal, with your right hand. Swing the 8th notes, and play them with a strong quarter note pulse, and a steady rhythm.

I'll use those same two rhythms for all of the other examples.

Add standard rhythms with the feet 
In 4/4 play 2 & 4 on the hihat. In 3/4 play 1 on the bass drum and 2 on the hihat:

I won't write these parts into the remaining examples, but you can continue playing them while you do the other things. Or not. If the rhythms conflict with the later things, or if the groove starts suffering because there's too much going on coordination-wise, stop doing one of the things. There's time for punishing rigor later. Do what you can do reasonably quickly, while making the cymbal rhythm sound good.   

Hey, there are a lot of examples— let's put a page break....