Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Reed method: bass drum with quarter note triplet filler - key

See, this is what I'm talking about— writing/organizing materials a certain way, you get practice ideas you wouldn't have gotten just practicing the books. I could have used this 30 years ago, but it came up yesterday when I was practicing my syncopation exercise with two notes per measure. It's totally impractical and pointless to do this with the regular exercises in Syncopation, and a pretty obvious thing to do with my two-note pages.   

We're playing jazz time, with the exercise melody rhythm on the bass drum, and filling in the remainder of the quarter note triplet, or inverted quarter note triplet, on the snare drum. Creating an Elvin Jones-like texture.  

Play through the examples on this page, then run the method with my two-note, one line exercises, and then yesterday's full page exercise. I left out the hihat for visual clarity— play the hihat on beats 2 and 4, or whatever you want to do with it. 

Get the pdf

Monday, November 16, 2020

Syncopation exercise: two notes per measure - 01

Another syncopation exercise written with a special set of parameters— this one just has two notes per measure, with quarter note or greater spacing. Last year I did a page of one-line exercises that way. This is good for basic jazz comping at faster tempos. I always include a stems-down part in quarter notes just for tradition, out of respect for Ted Reed. I never incorporate them with any of my practice methods. 

And a basic solo method this is good for: Hit the melody notes on a cymbal + bass drum, fill the rest of the grid on the snare drum with 8th notes or triplets, alternating sticking, playing the fill notes as taps or double strokes, or multiple bounce strokes.  

Get the pdf

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Very occasional quote of the day: the point of doing things

“When I was 15, I spent a month working on an archeological dig.  I was talking to one of the archeologists one day during our lunch break and he asked those kinds of “getting to know you” questions you ask young people: Do you play sports?  What’s your favorite subject? And I told him, no I don’t play any sports. I do theater, I’m in choir, I play the violin and piano, I used to take art classes.

And he went WOW. That’s amazing! And I said, “Oh no, but I’m not any good at ANY of them.”

And he said something then that I will never forget and which absolutely blew my mind because no one had ever said anything like it to me before: 

“I don’t think being good at things is the point of doing them.  I think you've got all these wonderful experiences with different skills, and that all teaches you things and makes you an interesting person, no matter how well you do them.”

And that honestly changed my life. Because I went from a failure, someone who hadn’t been talented enough at anything to excel, to someone who did things because I enjoyed them. I had been raised in such an achievement-oriented environment, so inundated with the myth of Talent, that I thought it was only worth doing things if you could “Win” at them.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

Thanks to my former student Karen for sharing this. 

Friday, November 13, 2020

Another set of patterns for improvisation

File this in the same category as the recent “extended shuffle” stickings page— it's a unified set of patterns based on a simple idea, organized to make them easy to improvise with. They're not new patterns, but we haven't seen them collected as a single idea before. 

These are right hand-accented, alternating stickings ending with a RRLL— or a RRL with the odd-numbered patterns. Get a feel for the premise by playing the first pattern on the first five lines— they all lean heavily on the strong beats. The last three patterns are really just inversions of the extended shuffle patterns, but I've included them so you can play them as an extension of this basic idea. 

Practice tips:

  • Play them as 8th notes, 16th notes, or triplets in any time signature. 
  • They are for soloing, for playing texturally, or for playing an ECM-type feel. 
  • It's easy to play them fast, but they're meant for all tempos. 
  • Play the hands on different instruments/sounds, and improvise moving them around the drums.
  • Play with the RH on a cymbal, with the bass drum in unison.
  • Add/vary accents with the left hand.   
  • Try other stickings with the same accents, as in my harmonic coordination method. Best to start with straight alternating, and single-handed. 

Get the pdf

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Listening and loops for jazz students

For my jazz students, here is a list of much loved, mainstream, historically important recordings to listen to in your first few years of learning. 

I'm also in the process of updating the practice loop labels, to group them by genre or interest. So here is a link for all my loops, and a link for just the jazz loops.  

Miles Davis
Round About Midnight - Philly Joe Jones
The New Miles Davis Quintet - Philly Joe Jones
Workin' / Steamin' /Cookin' / Relaxin' - Philly Joe Jones
Milestones - Philly Joe Jones
Kind of Blue - Jimmy Cobb
Bags' Groove - Kenny Clarke
Walkin' - Kenny Clarke

Thelonious Monk
Trio - Max Roach, Art Blakey
Monk's Dream - Frankie Dunlop
It's Monk's Time - Ben Riley
Criss Cross - Frankie Dunlop
Misterioso - Roy Haynes

Sonny Rollins
Saxophone Colossus - Max Roach
Freedom Suite - Max Roach
Newk's Time - Philly Joe Jones

More after the break!

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Three Camps for drum set - inverted - 05

Another page working on normal jazz drumset vocabulary using Three Camps— we're sort of inverting the basic version, except I've taken a few liberties with it to make a normal Elvin-like texture out of it. That's what you hired me for, to know what you're supposed to be learning, and not waste your time with things that are hard and abnormal. 

I really like this whole method, and I think it is really worth your while to learn it, figuring out all the correct form for each version. It's easy when you do it. It's really good for people who like clearly-defined lesson assignments, or for undisciplined people like me who tend to drift into creative practice rather than practice things thoroughly.

Get the pdf

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

A great jazz ride cymbal


This question was asked on a drumming forum: “What makes a great ride cymbal?” I answered it for  jazz cymbals specifically, because that's what interests me, and that's the music where the ride cymbal is most important:

20, 21, 22" are normal, full-voiced ride cymbals. 18, 19, 24" are semi-normal, but a little more limited— 18/19 are simpler, 24 is grandiose. Not every situation calls for the Gustav Mahler of ride cymbals. 

<18" ride cymbals are specialty items; >24"... seek help. 

A jazz cymbal should be multi purpose. It needs to handle well and sound great when riding, crashing, playing accents with the shoulder of the stick, and playing the bell.

It should be well suited to your touch, so you can play in a way that is comfortable to you, and have it be the right volume— not louder or softer than you intend. It should be controllable and sound good played soft or loud, through the usual range of styles/settings you play. It should sound good with a variety of normal sticks for the music— it shouldn't demand special sticks. 

It should have a fairly complex sound— sought-after sounds are either warm/dark (a la K Zildjian) or bright/airy/musical (a la Paiste 602), or moderately bright/complex (a la pre-1960s A. Zildjian). The ride cymbal is your main voice, so it shouldn't be overly ear-catching or unusual by itself— just like any other normal instrument, an acoustic bass, piano, tenor sax. For their main voice, musicians typically seek sounds that are classically excellent. It's an instrument, not the main show by itself.

It should make you want to play it. It shouldn't be annoying, or cause you to flinch because it did something you didn't expect. It should sound like a record that defined a great cymbal sound for you. You could sacrifice playability a bit if it leads you to play more thoughtfully, without being a distraction.        

“Left side” ride cymbal
The second ride cymbal is usually about forming an ensemble, complementing the main cymbal. You can make moderate compromises on the above criteria. Most often the second ride will be in the area of a crash/ride— a little lighter and airier than you might use for your main cymbal. It should contrast the main ride, and have a nice melodic interval with it. Usually smaller and lighter, sometimes heavier, it could also be a brighter or darker sound, too. Possibly with rivets, if the main cymbal doesn't have them. 

Head over to my cymbal site, Cymbalistic, to check out some examples of cymbals that embody these qualities— including the blog, which has some posts looking at classic cymbal sounds for jazz. 

Monday, November 09, 2020

Beginning of the end

 Well, that was the longest week of my life. I'm still recovering, and after I've recovered I probably won't want to write about this. I hope everyone is celebrating the electoral defeat of the most destructive, abusive, fascistic, anti-American president the United States has seen in modern times, possibly ever. And I hope everyone has been radicalized by this experience to vote in every election, and vote effectively to deny power to the party that foisted him upon us, and enabled and exploited his abuses. 

By effectively I mean voting for opponents who can win, which usually means Democratic Party candidates. I understand the attraction of voting for third party candidates who may be closer to your views, but if it is 100% impossible that they will be elected, what are you accomplishing? Unfortunately voting in the USA often means voting to mitigate harm. As more states adopt ranked-choice voting, it will be more realistic to promote very progressive candidates without sacrificing the one piece of political power you truly have. 

Electoral wins have been happening on some very tight margins in recent years. The 2016 election was decided by less than 100,000 voters in three states— a population of 29 million people. If a few more people had turned out and/or voted effectively, we would have been spared this four year nightmare, and there would not be a hard core right wing lock on the Supreme Court— who are shameless and aggressive enough to not only block all future progressive legislation, but also dismantle what we have. And we would not have ~300,000 dead people, and hundreds of thousands more who are guaranteed to die because COVID-19 was allowed to get out of control. Go through the list of egregious acts by the current administration. Child abuse as official United States policy, separating refugee families. 

We just dodged a very dire situation— people like Donald Trump destroy nations— but all the people who enabled him and supported him are still around, still trying to do all the same things. I hope everyone is radicalized to never forget, and show up and vote in all future elections.   

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Stick Control patterns for a certain type of funk

 A thing we do here is to rewrite/re-organize existing materials to make them better for practicing certain things. I hate hunting around the page while I practice, flipping pages, dodging things that are no good for what I'm practicing. 

Playing with a loop from a Meters song, I played some Stick Control combinations on the drumset to make a funk texture— I combined all the four-note patterns starting with an R with all of the four note patterns starting with an L. So beat 1 was an R, beat 3 was an L.  

You could just memorize the first thirteen patterns from Stone and figure out the combinations in your head while you play, as I did— or I can write them out so I have something to post on the blog, and maybe a few people will actually do it. Some of these combinations are already in the book, others are not. There are two pages, the first is most useful. 

Play this in 2/2, with the Rs as cymbal + bass drum, Ls as snare drum— with the appropriate hand. I put an accent on the cut time beat 2; or beat 3 if you're counting in 4/4... look, do this: 

I played quarter notes on the hihat with my foot, and played the unaccented snare drum notes pretty strongly— I wasn't ghosting them. It's an ordinary orchestration we do with Syncopation all the time, but it's hard to do this exact thing without using Stick Control-type patterns. 

It's similar to what Zigaboo Modeliste does at times, de-emphasizing the cymbal rhythm. And it's a lesson in a certain un-intricate concept of funk. I like unintricacy in funk. We're playing an 8th note grid, but it's a grid of interlocking parts, which creates a strong groove. To me, groove-wise, plain 8th notes played on a single sound is a weak structure; interlocking parts is a strong structure. You may not play this way all the time, but it sets you up to move some different directions— especially if you're used to playing funk with a repeating cymbal rhythm, or a linear cymbal rhythm. 

Get the pdf

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Miscellaneous: cymbal and book

UPDATE: Feedback from the buyer of the cymbal: “I think perhaps I've never owned a nice sounding cymbal before b/c all my current cymbals sound like garbage compared to the Hassan.”

Please forgive the light posting— I think we're all a little frazzled waiting on this election to finally be over, and some balance of sanity restored. So, just a couple of items here: 

Congratulations to Casey in Illinois, who just bought an excellent 22" Cymbal & Gong Holy Grail Jazz Ride, “Hassan”— a particularly clean and pretty sounding K-type cymbal. Another cymbal you could play your whole life

I've been reading a book recommended by Casey, which every teacher and serious student should read: Peak, by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool. Apparently they are the researchers that Malcolm Gladwell relied on to make up his 10,000 hour nonsense. This book is about high performance, and how to achieve it. The message is that you can achieve remarkable feats of performance with the right kind of focused practice. Talent is practiced and acquired, basically. 

The first example they use is a study they did on memorizing numbers. Previous studies showed that people generally can hold a series of eight or nine numbers, and no more, in their short term memory. Ericsson and Pool's study participants were able to recall strings of 80-100 numbers with a certain kind of focused practice. They give similar examples in sports and music, and obviously the methods the book describes are very powerful.    

You probably know by now that I'm not enamored with feats of amazingness in music— but we should know what are effective practice methods, regardless of our performance goals. 

The thing to remember is that high performance does not equal high artistry. Without something to say, high performance chops are totally meaningless. What you have to say still comes from loving music, listening to it, and playing it— from being a committed, enthusiastic music centered human being. Anyone can be that, but it can't be acquired like learning faster paradiddles.    

The other thing to remember is that you need to know what to practice. Novice drummers often have strange ideas about what they need to practice to learn to play. Applying these methods people like that are destined to become like the guy who became a champion Donkey Kong player— freakish masters of something utterly useless. See the “World's Fastest Drummer” competition, if that's still going.  

So, it would be easy to read this book and be evangelized into just thinking in its terms, where improvement = statistical performance gains, but the inherently messy process of becoming a player really can't be avoided by just practicing more and better. You still have to go and play in situations where you don't know what you're going to do, you still have to have favorite records that you wear out from repeated listening, you still have to learn human interaction with other performers via the live playing of music. You have to have a visceral emotional idea of what you want to say. Hopefully this book encourages us to do more uncomfortable practicing, to help us get over the technical considerations faster, so we can get directly to making music.  

Election day

 Make sure you vote.