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.  

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