Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Page o' coordination: feet in the gap

Another little item inspired by the ongoing Chasin' the Trane transcription— in which Elvin Jones does this a lot. Here we've got both feet in unison, played on the &s of 1 and 3, in the space in the cymbal rhythm. I've never practiced that exact move, so it's a little awkward. What's cool about dumb easy things you never practiced that are a little awkward is that you can work on them briefly and your body actually learns something new.   

The whole idea is to refine the timing of the feet unison on the & of 1/3— don't crowd the cymbal hits on 2/4. Don't play this page if you're not going to be really careful about that. It's probably a good idea to alternate one or two measures of exercise with one or two measures of regular ad lib jazz time. 

Do this together with the other recent page o' coordination with the repeating RLRR sticking, and add the left foot in unison with the L. 

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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Transcription: Elvin Jones - Chasin' the Trane - 03

Third minute of Elvin Jones playing Chasin' the Trane, from John Coltrane Live at The Village Vanguard. The 13th-18th 12-bar choruses. I just noticed that the tempo— around quarter note = 235— is about the same as another famous Elvin track, Passion Dance, from McCoy Tyner's The Real McCoy. So this is now officially Elvin's tempo around here— like 286 belongs to Roy Haynes

This time I'm noticing he plays the snare drum on all of the &s in a lot of measures.  

Also look at the triplet in measure 177— throughout the transcription there are a number of SD/BD unisons on &s that are almost that— they flam slightly, with the bass drum landing a little early. At this tempo there's only the slightest difference between a flammy unison on a swing &, vs. just playing a complete triplet.   

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Monday, December 28, 2020

Bass drum rhythms for feathering

I wrote this up after listening to Mel Lewis's history of jazz drumming tapes, where he was raving about the importance of playing time on the bass drum (he really gets into it after 43:30). He basically describes this exactly, for making a syncopated accent with the bass drum, and then going back to feathering. This, together with some other things I've suggested, should make you functional enough to work out your timekeeping voice with the bass drum through playing with people.  

Loren Schoenberg, who did the radio interviews with Lewis, has posted the tapes on YouTube— and a lot of other interesting stuff. He's a good person to follow.  

Play the rhythms on the bass drum along with the normal jazz rhythms on the cymbal and hihat. Play the unaccented notes softly, but get the timing and coordination before sweating any extreme dynamics. My whole objection to this type of thing is that I don't want to work out vestigial bass drum— I'm not going to work out perfect 1" bass drum strokes in the practice room. It has to be an organic process. 

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Saturday, December 26, 2020

From the zone: two-note coordination patterns

From Manuel in Augsburg, Germany. We've met a couple of times in my travels— in Berlin and in Augsburg, and I got to help him put together a really nice set of Cymbal & Gong cymbalsa 22" ride and some other things. He's sent in a little Chaffee-esque library of all possible combinations of two-note patterns for four limbs:

Manuel says “I practice it on the set as a warm-up to 'remove friction' (as some authors put it) and to work on balance between the different volume levels of Ride, Snare, Bass and Hi Hat.” 

I may try it— I always had a problem with things like this (see Chaffee's Time Functioning book, Dahlgren & Fine), because I wouldn't know when it was OK to stop. Now I'm more able to just play through something once. Get through it in however long is reasonable. 

Friday, December 25, 2020

Transcription: Elvin Jones - Chasin' the Trane - 02

Happy Saturnalia everyone— although it seems a shame to call it that, with everyone celebrating in isolation. Nevertheless, here is the second minute of Elvin Jones playing Chasin' the Trane— 1:13 to 2:13— from John Coltrane Live at the Village Vanguard. Only fourteen more of these to go if I'm going to complete it. 

The hihat is a little bit looser through this section— seemingly a fair amount of loose, semi-controlled activity. Also noting a repeating SBBS pattern reminiscent of a thing inspired last year by John Riley— “that, with interruptions.” Also take a look at measures 95-96 for a repeating 3/8 pattern, BSS, with some unexpected accents. 

On some of the phrases where there is no bass drum written, it almost sounds as if he is feathering time on it, but I wasn't sure. I can't recall ever seeing or hearing him do that, although he seems to play a lot of semi-audible stuff on it. Let us know in the comments if you've ever seen Elvin feather quarter notes on the bass drum at bright tempos.

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Thursday, December 24, 2020

Three Camps for drum set - inverted quarter note triplet fill - 07

 I'm telling you this is a good system. It gives you the thing, some basic variations on it, starting on 1 or 2, straight and syncopated, and it makes you do it for as long as you should do it. Basically that's what you should do with every single identifiable idea you play on the drum set. 

This is the inverse of what I posted last week— we're playing a jazz time feel, with the bass drum playing the major TC accents, filling in the remaining notes of an inverted quarter note triplet on the snare drum. And there is an accompanying Reed-type method to develop all of this further.  

It's fun doing the standard left hand moves with these pages, playing a rim click on the snare drum— gives a nice Elvin-like texture.  

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Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Page o' coordination: jazz / RLRR

Working on this Elvin project the last couple of days, I noticed that, similar to Max Roach on another recording, he plays the snare drum in the gap in the cymbal rhythm a lot, for a sticking of: RLRR RLRR. It's almost like a foundation pattern, a home base. This a page using that pattern, adding some basic things to it.  

I already wrote this page, more or less, last year, but this version is easier. I'll use this with a few of my novice jazz students. I really like teaching the same basic thing several different ways. Like if we just teach jazz comping rhythms with Chapin, people start thinking jazz = one-measure left hand independence patterns vs. a static cymbal rhythm. If we only do Syncopation, maybe they won't have all finer points of the coordination worked out. You never know what idea is going to click for what person, so they really understand what they're doing, and are able to use it creatively. 

Swing the 8th notes. Treat the complete exercise patterns as extensions of the base RLRR pattern— they're places to go from the base pattern. Add the hihat on beats 2 and 4, or— and this is another thing I notice Elvin doing a lot— on the & of 1 / & of 3, in unison with the snare drum. Actually Elvin does it most often in unison with the bass drum, but that'll have to wait for another page of stuff.

Also see my other pages of sticking patterns for jazz. Also check out a post from a long time ago, The Kenny Note, in which I noticed the Kenny Clarke sure does play that comping rhythm a lot.  

Monday, December 21, 2020

Transcription: Elvin Jones - Chasin' the Trane - 01

Ending a truly bleak, shameful year— and four years— in United States history, with an ambitious transcribing project. A little act of penance, devotion, purging, re-centering. I'm hoping to clean myself a little with this.  

Elvin Jones was one of the supreme artists on our instrument, and one of a handful of creators I basically regard as religious figures. The project is to transcribe his complete >16 minute performance on Chasin' the Trane, the modern epic from John Coltrane's album Live at the Village Vanguard. In the end it should be over 30 pages long. I don't know if anyone will do anything with that, it doesn't matter. Hopefully the only thing that will stop me from completing it is if I hit a lot of untrancribable things as I get deeper in.  

I have a lot of history with this record. When I was living in Los Angeles, working for a messenger service, for about four months I had four cassettes in the car. Two of them Coltrane Live at the Village Vanguard, and Coltrane Live at Birdland, and I would just cycle them for 6-8 hours a day. This tune especially I would rewind and play over and over.   

There was originally some critical controversy with this album— stunningly. Some critics famously called what Coltrane was doing at this time “anti-jazz.” This track was considered to be particularly offensive in that respect. Here's a sample of that from a Downbeat column from 1962, in which Coltrane and Eric Dolphy were interrogated on their creative direction. Hoping to learn something, I dug this out of the stacks at the University of Oregon library, now you can just read it online:

“At Hollywood’s Renaissance Club recently, I listened to a horrifying demonstration of what appears to be a growing anti-jazz trend exemplified by these foremost proponents [John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy] of what is termed avant-garde music.

“I heard a good rhythm section… go to waste behind the nihilistic exercises of the two horns.… Coltrane and Dolphy seem intent on deliberately destroying [swing].… They seem bent on pursuing an anarchistic course in their music that can but be termed anti-jazz.”

It turns out that what critics say about music is not very enlightening for people trying to learn how to play it. Or for anyone. 

With that, here are the first six choruses of Elvin Jones's playing on Chasin' the Trane— about one minute, 14 seconds. The tune is a 12-bar blues, and the tempo is about quarter note = 235. 

There are a lot of ghosted notes here that are really hard to pick out listening at normal speed— I think I was able to get a pretty complete picture of what he was doing on the snare drum. Not so much with the bass drum— I think he's probably doing more than what I've written, but I could only get shadows of it. All the parts resolve pretty well as intentionally played notes. A lot of times there will be accidental/automatic notes sounding that don't really make sense as anything you would play on purpose.  

Generally the timing is pretty accurate. There are quite a few bass drum accents on a downbeat, with a ghosted note on the & before it— that note is usually played very tight to the main note, closer than an ordinary swing 8th note. The only place where I had to compromise a little bit was in the very last measure; Elvin is flailing it in there, you probably should too.  

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Friday, December 18, 2020

Another Reed tweak

Another minor tweak on a normal Reed method, in a jazz feel. It's good to have some easy options to relieve the tedium, and to bring more of the texture of real playing into it. 

Do this with the ordinary Reed snare drum comping method— jazz rhythm on the cymbal, melody rhythm on snare, 2 and 4 on the hihat. But now let's hit the last note of the melody as an accent on the cymbal and bass drum— usually on 4, the & of 4, or the & of 3. 

Here are a couple of lines of Reed played this way: 

Catch the accent with the shoulder of the stick in the riding area— that's a technique you never hear discussed, that I do all the time. It's a normal part of playing the ride cymbal. 

While practicing you can hit that accent every measure, or every two measures. In real life you'll do it more sparsely of course. 

Making that accent disrupts the cymbal rhythm, so come back in with it on beat 1 of the next measure, except with an accent on the &of 4; then play the cymbal accent as a tied note, and come in on 2. But play the complete melody rhythm on the snare drum regardless. You might not ordinarily do that in real playing, but doing it in the practice room it will help you perfect the timing— it's easy to rush from the & of 4 to the 2. 

I didn't include a hihat part in the examples. You could keep it going on beats 2 and 4 throughout this, except maybe when the accent is on the & of 3, you could drop it out on the 4. Do what you want. 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Three Camps for drum set - quarter note triplet fill - 06

I started doing these because I wanted a composed drill, like Alan Dawson's Rudimental Ritual, that I would actually play. It has worked out really well. This entry is the same as the first one, except the snare drum fills the remainder of the the quarter note triplet— whatever isn't covered by the bass drum. It's similar to the new Reed method I outlined last month. 

Learn them, paying attention to the different form for each version, memorize them, find a practice loop you like, and drill them.  

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Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Practice loop: Night & Day - Bill Evans

Here's a brighter-medium tempo jazz practice loop, sampled from Night & Day, played by Bill Evans on his album Everybody Digs Bill Evans— one of my favorite records, period. The loop is one chorus of Evans's solo— 48 bars, or ABABCB, with each section 8 bars long. Tempo is 169 bpm. 

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Very occasional quote of the day: kindness

“When I was a young drummer, I never got that many compliments and I never got that much criticism. The men I played with liked me enough not to repudiate my shortcomings. They wouldn’t do anything deliberately to hurt me.

You give kindness to human beings, you allow them to grow.”


Shared by Michael Shrieve— I encourage you to follow him/friend him on Facebook.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Transcription: Bill Stewart solo

Something released in a year starting with a 2, for once. Here Bill Stewart solos during James, from Pat Metheny's Trio - Live record. Stewart is a few months older than me, and is sort of the archetypal drummer artist of my generation. I first heard him on John Scofield's Meant To Be in 1991, and it was instantly obvious that he was doing something fresh and extra-musical. It's routine now for drummers to sound like him, with that pretty tom tom sound.    

The solo begins at 3:50, the tempo is quarter note = 166— on the real scale of tempos, that's pretty bright to be double timing, playing 16th notes. I'll talk about what I mean by that another time. 

It's mostly 8th notes, and he mostly stays on the cymbal and snare drum. There are some open drags with the left hand— that's the occasional 16th notes you see— and a big 16th note lick near the end of the first page. He plays his one note on the third tom tom on that. There's a passage of 16th notes in the second page, too— notice he repeats the same idea in measures 30, 31, and 33. Plus a BSSB pattern with a cymbal on the first note. 

He uses that pattern repeatedly. As I do— it's extremely useful and sounds cool— it's good to get very friendly with it. Let's credit Elvin Jones for originating that one. 

The open hihat lick in the middle of the first page is questionable. I've written it as if he plays the open notes with his left hand, but he could be splashing it with his foot. If that's the case it's a pretty developed technique, which you'll need to spend some time with. 

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Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Two minor Reed items

Two jazz comping practice suggestions, which aren't big enough to merit a full-fledged treatment, for the full-page exercises in Progressive Steps to Syncopation. Play these on the snare drum (with bass drum added in the second one), along with the regular jazz cymbal rhythm, and hihat on 2 and 4. The examples below are the first and fifth lines from Exercise Three, p. 40 (in the current edition of Reed). 

Accenting for hard bop

For about 35 years I've practiced these with the idea of phrasing the melody part like a horn, putting a musical phrasing on it, varying the accents, but mostly accenting any hanging &s— a note on an & with nothing sounding on the following downbeat: 

Recently I felt I don't have a great touch for that stronger Art Taylor style of comping, when I want to do it, so I've started accenting on the last note of every 8th note-spaced run of notes:  

That helps to develop that more forceful sound hard bop sound. Using it in real life does require some taste— if you play like this routinely and relentlessly, someone will take your drum outside and throw it in a fountain. 

Half-feathering the bass drum
An obvious thing I never thought to do: playing the melody on the snare drum while filling in 8th notes with the bass drum. We already play the melody on the bass drum while filling in with the snare, but reversing that gives a different thing that is really useful. 

Two things happen with this:
• We get some nice Billy Higgins-like, New Orleans-esque interactive lines with the snare drum and bass drum.
• We end up playing a lot of down beats on the bass drum, which we can treat as feathered notes. Play the interactive stuff stronger, and play the downbeats quieter. 

I've talked before about my problems with feathering the bass drum as a general thing. Mainly I object to practicing vestigial bass drum. Let's practice something that takes a lot of refinement to not sound stupid, that you have to coordinate with the rest of the instrument, and work around to play other things with the bass drum, that is also mostly inaudible. It just seems like a losing proposition.

But I would like to use more bass drum in a time-supporting role, and this helps with that. It should also help people who do feather all the time, but have trouble getting away from it to do other stuff. Those people should play this exactly— don't play any bass drum other than the filler in the snare drum part. 

Exercise 3 from Reed is a good one for this application.  

Monday, December 07, 2020

Listening: Idris Muhammad grooves

Hey, I've concluded that Idris Muhammad is awesome. There's a lot going on with him, that doesn't necessarily give itself up to the casual drumming listener— it's a very deep fusion of jazz, R&B, funk, and New Orleans drumming. To the extent that those things are even distinct from one another. 

I was listening to Charles Earland's The Mighty Burner, from the album Black Talk! It's just a three minute bright swing groove item. 

This is the kind of situation where it's impossible to play bad time— there's guitar, percussion, and organ all playing strong time, and you couldn't derail it if you tried. You might think this calls for some very simple drumming, hitting backbeats, regular cymbal rhythm, etc, but Muhammad moves around a lot. No backbeats (hihat is on 2 and 4, though), he varies the cymbal rhythm, and is pretty busy playing some aggressive syncopated comping and accents. This is all about propulsion— it's a different way of playing groove from just slamming backbeats.   

He's repetitive in the way he varies the cymbal rhythm, which is a very important clue about his playing. There's a piece of his rhythmic DNA hiding there, a personal clave. Which, I promise, developed naturally over a lifetime of playing— it's not something he worked out. The main thing is that he plays minor variations on these rhythms, suggesting a 2+3+3 beat phrasing over two measures: 

In places he suggests a 3+3+2 phrasing— which is more common in music generally: 

You'll hear drummers do that at the beginning of a solo, or section. Any time you hear someone hitting the 1 and 4 at the top of a chorus (try Philly Joe Jones), see what he does after that— if he goes into straight time, or does something on 3 in the second measure. Elvin Jones or Roy Haynes, or any number of other modern players might continue playing groupings of three beats longer than that. 

...aaand since I sell cymbals now, I'm always listen a little closer to people's cymbal sounds. We're hearing another totally classic sound here— very much in the same bag as the Cymbal & Gong Holy Grails. I think it's a 20" K. Actually it's a lot like my own 20" C&G

Friday, December 04, 2020

New Joel Rothman book - Ambidexterity

So new I have to use this
crappy scan I did myself.
I just received a new book in the mail:

The Holy Grail for Total Independence At The Drum Set 
by Joel Rothman
41 pages. 

Joel Rothman has got to be the most prolific drum author in the world. He must have written at least 100 books in approximately the last 60 years. Many of them are micro-focused on one issue, others are extremely expansive— to the extent that they sometimes duplicate each other's material. Surprisingly(?) a lot of his stuff is quite modern, and he has a lot of good materials for developing an Elvin Jones type of thing, an ECM feel, and Jack Dejohnette's playing-fast-at-slow-tempos thing. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with his catalog, and don't hesitate to order any titles related to you your current interests. 

Rothman and I share a practical focus, and we agree on a number of basic principles— one of which is that writing practice ideas different ways, in a different context, helps you practice more productively. So the idea for this book is not necessarily new, but it's written in a way that should be useful for people getting deep into a certain thing— putting it in a single volume is a major help in developing this one idea. 

This book has the look of a technical library, with a lot of patterns written as two drumming voices, on opposite stems— as you see on the cover of the book. The rhythms generally overlap, and swap each other in the second measure or beat. There are some linear patterns with no unisons, which are more ordinary; I imagine they're included as warmups. Patterns are mostly written as 8th/16th note combinations in 4/4 or 2/4. There are also patterns with 16th note triplets; and with 8ths in 6/8, 9/8, and 12/8. And with 8ths and 16ths in 5/8 and 7/8.    

The idea is that you practice the patterns with every combination of individual hands/feet, and with unisons of both hands and both feet vs. the remaining single limbs. I would suggest also doing them with right hand/right foot unisons, and left hand/left foot unisons.

This would be a good book for anyone developing an independence-heavy way of playing. There's plenty of that going around the drumming world. Jazz drummers working on an Ed Blackwell kind of thing will like it— you could play the hands on the tom toms with a simple rhythm in the feet for a crash course in that type of playing. It could also just function as a Stick Control like “conditioning” manual.

It seems like a rather dense, abstract book, but I think it's pretty accessible for ambitious students, and it stays within the realm of musical reality. The right student or teacher to do a lot of useful practice with it. As with any purely technical study, students should have an idea of where to go with it musically— played with a funk interpretation, or Latin interpretation, or ECM-like interpretation, mainly. 

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UPDATE A COUPLE OF DAYS LATER: I've been practicing this book a bit, and it's quite enjoyable. It's an alternative kind of independence study, that's a little different from everything else I do. There are some interesting things happening with resolving these patterns and playing them— it exercises your brain in a special way.