Monday, November 30, 2020

Three Camps for drumset: Funk shuffle - 01

Another page of Three Camps interpretations for drumset, based on a 4/4 funk shuffle groove, with a normal jazz rhythm on the cymbal. These focus on pretty normal vocabulary for that type of thing. I wrote it to go with a practice loop of Ummh by Bobby Hutcherson, with Mickey Roker playing a nice deep shuffle groove. 

The foundation groove is the B portion of each drill— practice that by itself, if you need to, before playing the drills. Unlike the other TCFDS pages, these all use the normal form of the piece— there are no starting-on-2 or syncopated versions.  

Get the pdf

Here's that track— I'll post my loop soon: 

Friday, November 27, 2020

We get mentioned on YouTube sort of

Hey, it looks like one of my posts was a catalyst for a video by a semi well-known opaquely-named YouTuber. He has been the victim of some kind of smear campaign to make his videos seem negative, competition-oriented, and status-obsessed. Which they are, but he wants them not to be thought of that way. 

At least the few I've seen. I tried to “research” this further by watching a couple more videos, but I couldn't hang with it. Clearly I am not the intended audience. Looking at the list of his videos en masse I'm getting a very similar vibe as some YouTube nitwits I've written about previously. Not good. I know he he's had an education, but I'm not seeing any evidence of any depth at all. If it's there I wish he would put it in his videos. But he doesn't. I'm starting to feel cheated for the 15 minutes it costs to watch them.  

Sidebar: If you want to know what substantive, positively-focused content looks like, take a snoop through the archives of fellow bloggers Jon McCaslin and Ted Warren.  

So, this new video is partly a reaction to my post Authenticity, which he quotes and screencaps, but doesn't mention this site by name, or link to the post. Normal etiquette would be to at least identify the subject of your quote, but YouTubing is not really about that. 

My post was partly about my own experiences with the concept of authenticity, as a young white jazz student and musician from the Pacific Northwest; and it was partly about my reaction to his video “DOES AUTHENTICITY MATTER?”, in which goes at great length about authenticity in jazz as being about achieving supreme status, and surviving punishing combat, and people being mean to you— a lot of sturm und drang.   

Anyway, here, because I link to things I talk about, is the new video: 

Noted that it wraps up with a pitch for his method of learning jazz by learning hiphop instead, which I also reviewed in a previous post

So, I feel I'm seeing a strange act of deflection; he argues against himself being perceived as a kind of mean, gatekeeping “music school jazz nerd” drummer, while putting that same criticism onto others, who presumably are guilty of it. 

The opening is pure fear and adversary— the frame is that people are trying embarrass you for being interested in what they're interested in... jazz drumming... to which the natural response is to be scared and aggrieved and run away and give up. 

Marketing adolescent fear is very popular on the internet. People love the idea that there are disapproving, purely ego-motivated jazz snobs who will correct your errors unapologetically, and to punish them by quitting and not listening to them is awesome. Hop over there and look at the comments. It's one big celebration of quitting jazz for the hatred of mythical jazz snobs.      

He claims to be encouraging to newcomers, but saying I am encouraging is not the same thing as being encouraging. Especially when, in the very next sentence, he helplessly reverts to the old crucible of high performance competition business. 

Arguing with that framing is like turning on Fox News and saying “well, at least they put their bias up front.” But it's influencing you in ways you don't even understand. You think “well, I know this is bullshit, so the truth must be the opposite of that.” But you're still living on their terms, while the real truth is in another country and time zone, speaking a language you've never heard of. Like, I'm talking about making wine and you're talking about clawing your way to the top writing an android app. Bringing the mentality of the latter into the former is a recipe for some fucked-up wine. 

I'll close by saying I don't care about the superficial conflict aspect of this— beyond being a little bit irked at not being credited for my quote— none of this is personal, it is about the content of a line of video product, which happens to reflect some very common negative attitudes promoted on the internet. I only comment on it because we can learn something about being musicians, teachers, and media consumers from it. Today the lesson is beware of living in other people's narratives, doing so may mess you up in ways you don't expect or understand. And maybe don't sell fear and ego

[h/t to Anthony Amodeo, an excellent drummer and teacher living in New York, for alerting me to this video]

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

From the zone: ECM feel

Here's something sent in by Ed Stalling of Missoula, Montana. He mentioned being inspired by my ECM feel post from 2012— which definitely needs to be revisited and some links updated— but he's got his own thing happening here. 

I like the idea of notating flam rudiments for two voices this way. Normally on drumset I would write them with two complete rhythms on one set of stems. Here you can ignore some of the notes, and just play the basic sticking pattern, and add the flams to make the more challenging overlapping independent rhythms. It really suggests some interesting possibilities for ways of practicing Stick Control. You could do that with the flam pages from Stone, but I don't find it real inspiring with the flams/unisons in the same place every time.  

Get the pdf

I encourage you to send in your own writings for inclusion in a “FROM THE ZONE” post— seriously, anything scraped off the floor of your practice room, where you wrote something out to figure it out. I don't care how bad it looks. I want it to look bad. Take a picture with your phone and send it to my email link you see in the sidebar. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Transcription: Art Blakey fours - Well, You Needn't

Just a couple of solo 4s from Art Blakey, from the 1953 Miles Davis 10-inch release, Vol. 3. You'll most likely find it on a later Blue Note compilation. The tune is Well, You Needn't. Miles and Blakey trade on the first two A sections of the head out, Miles plays the melody on the bridge. The first drum break happens at 4:18. 

He's mostly playing stick shots on the snare drum, as you can see. The normal snare hits are played with the left hand, the shots with the right. He feathers the bass drum throughout. 

Get the pdf

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. 

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. 

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....

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. 

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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.

Friday, August 28, 2020

World's shortest Roy Haynes waltz lesson

UPDATE: See the page of practice suggestions for more on this!

Someone on the internet asked me to explain what Roy Haynes is doing on the Chick Corea tune Windows, from the album Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, so I wrote up a little lesson on some of the basic elements, on getting started making the approximate vibe:

Listen to the recording, play through the page in all of the suggested ways, then improvise combinations of things to make a continuously developing waltz texture— that's the part that will take some practice; the ideas themselves are not difficult. Vary the dynamics and articulations with your left hand— use buzzes, rim shots, etc. Roy really exaggerates his accents, and tends to put them in odd places.

Obviously there are some other things happening— he plays some triplets between the snare and bass drum, and plays both hands on the snare drum occasionally— usually 3- or 4- stroke ruffs, open, as singles.

To continue developing this beyond the scope of this page, you should be able to play a regular jazz waltz, and have some basic coordination together with that. See Joel Rothman's 3,5, 7, 9, Jazz! or Joe Morello's New Directions in Rhythm for materials. Get my book Syncopation in 3/4 for more practice resources.

Get the pdf

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Syncopation in 5/4 - another format

A little throwaway item, as I continue working out the formatting for my upcoming book, Syncopation in 5/4, to be released God knows when. The problem is how to deal with phrasing the measures 2+3 or 3+2— both normal ways of phrasing 5/4, that affect the way you write the rhythms. Here I've borrowed the format used by Rick Kvistad in his accents book I reviewed recently— he just writes back to back measures of 2+3 and 3+2.

It's a pretty good option for one-line exercises. With the full page exercises I may have just do them half in one, half in the other. As always I welcome any feedback.

Get the pdf

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The case of Rufus 'Speedy' Jones

I'm kind of narrow in my listening habits— I never listened to a whole lot of big band, so I never knew about the drummer Rufus Jones until I saw this video on the internet. He was a big band drummer mainly active in the 60s, in the spectacular, chops-intensive mode of Sonny Payne, Louis Bellson, Buddy Rich, et al, though Jones is clearly a sideman, a road guy, rather than a marquis name.

I saw this and I needed to figure out what the hell is going on— clearly I'm missing something here:

Now, to me it's extremely weird to play a full-on drum corps style drum feature in the middle of very intimate piano trio music. My entire playing life, what you do on the drums is play to fit the situation, and make some kind of musical statement. Treating the drums like it's a musical instrument in an ensemble.

In a similar vein, here's the drum feature tune from Jones's one record as leader:

There are probably a few snare drum guys somewhere for whom this is really exciting stuff; I can barely process it as a piece of music— the soloing at least. It's like one player gets a feature and busts into a parallel universe and runs a triathalon— sonically. It doesn't compute. I have known some jock-type corps guys who were definitely not in it for the music; their creative playing had a similar effect.

On Jones's actual supportive playing with a band, he generally plays with a lot of taste. He sounds great playing with Maynard Ferguson's band, on the Roulette recordings, so long as opportunities to get both hands on the snare drum were limited. Here he is playing an arrangement called The Fox Hunt— the owner has disabled embedding, so you'll have to click this link to listen on YouTube. He sounds great.

But it depends. This track, and this record generally, really wears out my ears. I want to throw this cymbal in the street:

I'm not unsympathetic; there are times when you're really playing for the band and the situation, where you end up playing in a way that might not record well. There are other considerations besides making a pretty-sounding drumming performance. But I also can't remember feeling that way about any recording I've heard by players I really like.

Interestingly, he doesn't seem to have a lot of chops for playing actual fast tempos in the usual bebop way: the way he handles Cherokee on that same record— playing quarter notes on the cymbal, accenting the 1 and 3, lots of bass drum on 1, lots of left hand and bass drum activity, and not much happening with the hihat— it's really a different kind of groove.

I think possibly we're in more of a show musician rather than a purist jazz musician mentality here. He plays the arrangements impeccably, and lays on the spectacle when he's featured— maybe all that was required of a road guy— and he simply didn't have a lot of musical vision or ambitions beyond that. His 1983 interview in Modern Drummer*, much of which is about soloing, and getting a response from an audience, seems to support that I'm curious to hear people's comments about him.

* - Thanks for the tip, Ed!

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Transcription: Elvin Jones - Survival Blues

Hey, we haven't done any Elvin Jones in a while. This is the beginning of Survival Blues, from McCoy Tyner's album Extensions. I started where McCoy begins the vamp, and did as much as I could do in about 90 minutes, and that happens to be where something is changing musically— we're easing into the tenor solo. The tune is a loosely structured modal thing, with a swing feel.

We get a pretty clean look at his playing here, including a useful 16th note thing he does a lot. He plays the hihat pretty sparsely, often one note per measure, which seems significant, somehow. The hihat and bass drum are generally not active at the same time here. I'd pay attention to the big accents lower on the page. Playing “like Elvin” seems to call for a lot of listening to McCoy's left hand....

The transcription is generally playable, but there are sketchy fills in measures 12, 32, and 40— if anyone is serious enough to try to figure them out. I gave some possible/likely stickings where I could. Bar 12 is the flakiest, both the fill, and my notation of it. Beat 1 is accurate, the rest of the measure you have to slur like crazy. Bar 32 should clearly start with a RLLR, then play fast singles where a roll is indicated— the two slash marks on the quarter notes indicate 16th notes, but play them whatever speed you need to. That bass drum note on the & of 4 should be in swing 8th timing. Bar 40 sounds like it's in an even rhythm all the way through— he doesn't speed up for the quintuplet in beat 4, so you have to slur the whole measure and fit it in. Or you could treat the last three notes as a 16th note triplet, and the rest of the measure as 16th notes.

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