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

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.

Get the pdf

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.

Get the pdf

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Three little-known books

For a long time Steve Weiss Music has been my go-to site for unusual and hard to find drum books. Their warehouse must be full of stuff that never quite caught on, that has been sitting around for a few decades waiting for someone to be interested. I just made a little order and got these three books:

Accent Studies for Percussion by Rick Kvistad
A nice focused little book of studies in accented 8th notes in all meters from 2/8 to 9/8, and 12/8. With robust sections in 5/8 and 7/8. Includes one-measure exercises, and full page etudes. I like that all of studies are in 8th notes, and that he generally doesn't get too cute with it. More and more I feel 8th notes really are the common language of drumming, and accents on an even rhythm a major area of our vocabulary, not just on snare drum— it has has been the major way my students get into my harmonic coordination method, for example. 

You could cover most of what is in this book with parts of several books, but it's nice to have it all in one place. And I like the etudes. It's a good thing to have in your practice room. We played several of Kvistad's compositions in percussion ensemble in college, and it's nice having his name represented in my practice library. 

39 pages. 

Theory Manual of Musical Snare Drumming - vol. 1 by D'Artagnan Liagre
First of three volumes of an interesting-looking series of snare drum method books by a French writer— published by the Professional Drum Shop in Los Angeles, curiously. This volume covers beginning to approximately intermediate level, and also introduces music theory terms— not only those normally associated with percussion. Each part of the book ends with a duet with snare drum and a melodic instrument.

It's sort of a curiosity. I don't know who the intended audience is. It has a sort of pre-college or remedial college vibe about it— I can imagine it being used with freshmen percussionists to bring them up to speed.

The engraving is beautiful; obviously they got a top-level LA copyist to write it out. Text is in English and French. I might buy the complete series just to learn my French percussion terms. 

42 pages. 

Fundamental Instruction for the Junior Drummer by Charley Wilcoxon
I'm always on the lookout for good beginning snare drum books— right now my favorite is Elementary Snare Drum Studies by Mitchell Peters. I've seen this one around for years, and finally decided to check it out. It's quite a simplified version of Wilcoxon's Drum Method. It has the same problem as that book, only more so— it is heavily marked up with visually distracting little instructions. He'll write an accent, plus LOUD (or HIGH), every time it happens. A decent page of 3/4 rhythms includes some ties, and on every tie he also writes TIE and THIS NOTE IS NOT STRUCK with an arrow. Together with the stickings, the counts, the names of any rudiments, and other notes indicating things like 8TH REST, and markings indicating that the quarter note does indeed include the 1 and the &— it's quite an eyeful. You can often sense a writer's fear that the audience won't get it; here that manifests in some very cluttered pages. 

As with Drum Method, it takes a few minutes to realize oh, this is meant to be a drum set book! As the drums were played in the 1930s. It's interesting from a historical perspective, but it's quite useless for modern students. There are a few good pages but no one will want to work through this as intended by the author.  

This is a Ludwig Masters edition, edited by Robert L Matson. 52 pages. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Chapin exercises in 5

This is what you do during quarantine when it's too hot to practice or doing anything else serious: capture jpegs of a well known drum book, open it up in, and cut it up to put it in a new time signature.

We talked about this a few days ago in the Easiest 5/4 post. This is the first part of Jim Chapin's Advanced Techniques for the Modern Drummer, with the first beat of each pattern pasted onto the end to turn the 4/4 patterns into 5/4. I could have just written this up in Finale, but this is more fun.

Hihat goes on 2 and 4, add a bass drum on 1. After doing this you should get the formula, and be able to work through the rest of ATFTMD in 5 without seeing it printed out. Easy variations you can do to get a little more vocabulary mileage out of this might be:

• On beat 5 just play a quarter note on the cymbal, or on the snare and cymbal with both hands in unison.
• Leave out any snare drum in unison with the bass drum on 1.

I'll write up a summary of some other possible variations soon. I find them to be an important part of the process of learning to play in 5. 

Get the pdf

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Mainstream Records on Bandcamp

Just directing your attention to the Bandcamp site for Mainstream Records— an independent record label in the 60s-70s. Founded by Bob Shad in '64, folded in '78. There's a lot of 70s jazz in a funk/Latin fusion mode, some blues, and more. You used to have to get lucky to find these used on vinyl, now you can download their stuff instantly for $8.

Here are some highlights— I think I've seen two copies of this Roy Haynes record in the wild before, one of which I bought:

Roy Haynes Hip Ensemble - Equipoise

Hadley Caliman - Iapetus
With Sonship on drums! 

Billie Holliday - In Rehearsal
Rehearsal tapes from 1954— “a very casual rehearsal with start and stops and conversations with Billie.”

Shelley Manne - Mannekind
With John Gross, Mike Wofford, and Gary Barone.

Hal Galper - Inner Journey
With Dave Holland and Bill Goodwin.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Very occasional quote of the day: you figure it out

“I hired you because of who you are & what you do, so DO it. I’m having a hard enough time playing my instrument, so you figure out how to play your own.”

— Reggie Workman, quoting John Coltrane

Key line from jazz writer Richard Scheinin's interview with Workman.

Follow Scheinin on Twitter.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Groove o' the day: Art Blakey tom tom groove

This is a fast Latin groove played by Art Blakey during a solo on a concert video filmed in Japan, posted on Twitter by jazz writer Ted Gioia. I'm sure Blakey plays it on his records, too— first place I would look would be A Night In Tunisia.

For clarity I put the left hand, which plays rim clicks on the snare drum, on its own line—  the rest of it is played with the right hand. Play with the snares off. He's probably playing the bass drum, either quarter notes or half notes, but I can't hear it. Tempo is above half note = 150.

He plays this variation:

You can see the video here, as long as it stays on Gioia's Twitter feed. It happens at about 1:15.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Alternating flam rudiments tree

Just a little throwaway graphic illustrating the connectedness of flam rudiments. People think of them as “omg a bunch of different things”, but they use very similar motions.

The key rudiment here is the Flam Accent #1— you get the others after it by just doubling one note, and playing with the rhythm. The pattern named Unnamed Awesome Rudiment is now named Unnamed Awesome Rudiment, or UAR. I like it better than the other 16th note flam rudiments— Windmills are easy but dull, Flamadiddles are just loathsome. UARs are difficult but hip.

Sunday, August 09, 2020

Afro 6 warm up patterns

This is how I operate, after about ten years of writing the really hard stuff, I get around to giving people the easy way in. These are some preparatory exercises for playing an Afro 6 feel, that will help you get the major coordination, the timing of the cymbal rhythm, with everything in its right place. Or you could just learn the beat the way I did— learn one pattern, then screw around with it a lot, and play a lot of music, then 25 years later write a bunch of ways to work on it.

The foot pattern here is the same one used in the Freddie Waits groove we covered the other day, you could do that page after learning this one.

Count in 2. Use exercise 3 if you have any problem with the timing of exercise 2— those two should sound identical. Learn the patterns as a sticking, but put your focus on the right hand, and on how it relates to the rhythm played with the feet. Use the optional foot patterns if you want. Better to just give this thing a quick once over and then get into the real stuff on the Freddie Waits page.

Get the pdf

Thursday, August 06, 2020

Syncopation rhythms in 5/4

Hey, who wants some practice rhythms in 5/4? Here are several pages of them. I'm working on a new book, Syncopation in 5/4— companion to my other book Syncopation in 3/4There are some formatting decisions to be made, mainly to reflect a 2+3 phrasing or a 3+2 phrasing, which I'm working out here. I want the same exercises to be usable in either phrasing, and I think there may not be an ideal solution. Let me know in the comments if there's one version you like for that purpose.

Here's a fresh link to my practice methods for this type of thing. for See also John Ramsay's book The Complete Drummer's Vocabulary.

Get the pdf

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Daily best music in the world: Buck Hill

Here's a really nice 1978 recording of some 70s powerhouse bebop by Washington DC saxophonist Buck Hill. Wikipedia says about him:
Hill began playing professionally in 1943 but held a day job as a mailman in his birthplace of Washington, D.C. for over thirty years. He played with Charlie Byrd in 1958-59, but was only occasionally active during the 1960s. 

In the 70s, after age 50, he began recording as a leader. Here the rhythm section is Kenny Barron, Buster Williams, and Billy Hart— as a young man Hart actually knew Hill in Washington, and played with him. Hart says Hill gave him his first jazz records, a couple of Charlie Parker 78s.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

EZiest swing in 5/4

Teachers' item here. In working with various beginners, younger students, and hobbyists, you have to be flexible and creative in how you show them things. At those stages, differences in how people learn are really amplified— they're slow to get some things, and faster to get others, with no consistency from individual to individual. I don't want them getting hung up if a certain part of the process is not working for them yet, and I don't need them to learn things in a specific order, so I'll try a lot of different things to help them get their foot in the door. Then they can learn the hard thing over time, while still progressing with their actual playing.

This is an easy procedure for teaching a 5/4 swing groove without the student having to read it, or even learn a new pattern. It should be simple for anyone who can play a jazz beat in 4/4, and more natural and direct than just throwing a book at them.

First, play one measure of a jazz feel, with bass drum on the first note, and stop on 1 of the second measure. With new things, I often have them play it one time only, followed by a long, unmetered pause.

Play this one time, counting out loud: 1 2 3 4 1. Swing the 8th notes. 

Do it again, one time, except count 1 2 3 4 5

Despite the written time signature, we're effectively in 5/4 now. Play the above thing repeating. At first I may have them put a long pause in between measures— without counting or tapping their foot during the pause: 

They can shorten that pause until they're just playing the repeating pattern in time. Continue counting in 5.

Of course many students won't need to do all that, and some may need more help, which I improvise based on whatever seems to be hanging them up.  

More advanced students will want some independence patterns to go with that, for which you can just go to Jim Chapin's Advanced Techniques for the Modern Drummer. Just add an extra beat one to the end of the pattern. So this: 

Through the magic of Photoshop, becomes this:

And this pattern: 

Becomes this: 

Just repeat the first beat. Or don't. You can play the book pattern exactly as written, and simply add a quarter note on the cymbal at the end.

See my series Cracking 5/4 for more introductory materials/concepts for learning to play this time signature. 

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Page o' coordination: Freddie Waits Afro

UPDATE: A student brought it to my attention that according to Wikipedia, Idris Muhammad is the drummer on this track. Which surprises me, but there you go.

A combination groove o' the day and page o' coordination here. On MC by Andrew Hill, from his album Grass Roots, Freddie Waits plays a Afro feel with a simplified cymbal rhythm that is similar to the “Afro Blues” rhythm (my phrase) I wrote about a few years ago. It's a good introductory groove for this type of thing, and, with a stronger dotted-quarter note pulse, it's probably good if you're playing with a weak rhythm section. Or, what the hell, if you just want a cleaner groove with a stronger main pulse.

On the top line are the cymbal/feet ostinato, and the complete groove as Waits played it on the record, and the rest of it is the practice patterns:

Learn the page, then drill it while doing my left hand moves.

Get the pdf

Friday, July 31, 2020

Grooves o' the day: Art Blakey Latin

Two very similar Latin grooves recorded by Art Blakey in 1960 and '61. On both of them the bell pattern has that little syncopated move across the barline that we see a few years later in the Mozambique rhythm. There was a lot of Latin music happening in New York in the 40s-50s, but I'm nowhere near informed enough about it to try speculate on where Blakey and others got that motif; it does also happen in Cuban conga de comparsa, from which the Mozambique is derived. 

Johnny's Blue, from the Jazz Messengers album Like Someone In Love:

There's no audible bass drum on either thing. On both tracks when Blakey comes in he starts with an accent on the high tom on beat 1. Note that he swings the cymbal rhythm when he first comes in.

El Toro, from the Jazz Messengers album The Freedom Rider:

A little brighter tempo, using two tom toms, with a broken rhythm on the cymbal in the first measure.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Very occasional quote(s) of the day: consecrated and desynchronized

A couple of quotes from the pianist Ethan Iverson.

From blog post Rhythmic Folklore:

“Consecrated jazz drummers have less accurate time than rock and fusion drummers for a reason. The beat is connected to the cycle of life and playing with an ensemble. It has warp and woof and slip and slide.”

Article from The Threepenny Review, Hands & Feet:

“Magic happens at the drum kit when the four limbs are slightly desynchronized. Any truly swinging or funky drummer does not always place the articulations of the two hands and two feet at exactly the same time (even though it may look simultaneous to a lay person). These complex techniques are not covered by the European tradition of music notation; the groovy result is often simply called 'feel.' The tradition of 'feel' is at its most exalted in various hand-drumming languages of Mother Africa, the continent where most of the rhythmic motifs in American music come from. A drummer with 'good hands' may not have exceptional 'feel.' Naturally, the very greatest drummers have both.”

Monday, July 27, 2020

Transcription: more Max Roach comping

Posting lots of 50s stuff these days. Here is Max Roach playing on Infinity Promenade, from the Miles Davis Lighthouse All-Stars record, At Last! In 1953 Miles was living with his father in East St. Louis, trying to get a handle on his heroin addiction, and Max Roach and Charles Mingus picked him up and took him to Los Angeles for a few months. Max was working in LA at the Lighthouse, and Miles sat in, and the record got made. There are some good stories about this period in Miles's autobiography, about fighting with Mingus and whatnot.

I've transcribed Max's playing during the tenor solo, starting at 1:06 in the track. Infinity Promenade is a cool West Coast-y tune by Shorty Rogers. I don't know what tune it's based on, but the soloing changes have a bright Duke-like feel. There's a nice groove happening, which is what attracted me to this track.

Max uses a few basic comping ideas here, and plays very crisp four-bar phrases without being too obvious about it. You can get a sense of what he's thinking phrasing-wise by checking out the bass drum— he plays it sparsely, mostly on downbeats, and doesn't put it in the same place in the phrase all the time. He often plays the busier things at phrase endings a little louder, acting like a conductor. 

Monday, July 20, 2020

Reed tweak: adding 16ths to a basic method

Another tweak to the same basic method we used with the tweak I posted last week: right hand plays rhythm on cymbal + bass drum / left hand fills in. That basic method is a super-standard piece of modern drumming language, useful any time you're improvising, soloing, or doing more dense, textural playing. So we want to be able to go some different places with it. The thing we're going to do today will be good for adding some texture when playing at moderate tempos.

To summarize the basic thing, we're interpreting a top-line “melody” rhythm from Ted Reed's Syncopation thusly:

• RH plays book rhythm on cymbal, plus BD in unison
• LH fills in remaining 8th notes on SD

So when reading this rhythm:

You would play this:

Here we will make some of the 8th notes in the melody rhythm into two 16ths, played on the snare drum, with a RL sticking. We'll do that on any 8th note right before a quarter note or tied note. In the above example, that would be all of the written 8th notes in the 2nd-4th measures:

Written without the LH filler for clarity, that would be:

It's not a real easy to just make that complete interpretation while reading on the fly, so you might want to approach it in steps.

Here are four rhythms from the book:

The normal RH/BD part would be:

Plus the normal LH filler:

For this tweak, voicing the plain rhythm with cymbal/bass drum, and the 16ths:

This complete tweak with the LH filler added:

You can work out for yourself (or hey, write me for a Skype lesson) how to approach learning to sight read this. The two major goals for any Reed method are to be able to apply it to the full page syncopation exercises, and to be be able to improvise a texture based on the method. It's up to you how far you want to take that for your own playing needs. 

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Alternating triplets displaced

Developing an independence idea that has been happening spontaneously in my practicing— triplets alternating between the snare drum and bass drum, with odd breaks.

Play the foot part with the bass drum or hihat. These are not necessarily intended to be played in the written time signature— that just indicates the length of the complete idea. You can play them in 4/4 or 3/4, running over the barline. You can also start them on any beat of the pattern. Add hihat and vary the cymbal rhythm however you like. 

Get the pdf

Friday, July 17, 2020

CYMBALISTIC: Five 24" rides!

Does anybody need a sweet 24" ride cymbal? I'm checking out four OUTSTANDING Cymbal & Gong jazz cymbals, plus a monster medium ride. I will have these around for a couple of days, then they'll go back to C&G, so ACT NOW if you want one. The Holy Grails (patina finish) are $520 and the American Artist (bright finish) is $495. 

These are all great. The three lighter Holy Grails really show off Cymbal & Gong's consistency, and are classically awesome; they're true jazz cymbals, with an airy complex sound, they crash well, but they're also controllable, with good stick definition and a good bell sound. I would be hard pressed to choose one for myself. The American Artist, with the squared 50s “A-type” bell handles very similarly— those tend to be a little more intense, but this one is beautifully mellow. It's also a great jazz cymbal, the equal of any of the HGs. The medium ride is quite a beast. It has a lovely overall sound and accents well, but never fully opens up when crashing. It would be a great big band cymbal, but I believe it would handle softer playing really well, too.  

I have some other new Holy Grails in stock, too— visit Cymbalistic to check those out. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Stick control exercises, mixed rhythm in 2/4

A page I'm using with some of my students, to learn to fill, and develop basic facility on the drum set. We've been doing a lot with parts of my harmonic coordination method— which is proving to be a lot more of a universal thing than a mere advanced coordination system. You could do these on snare drum as in Stone, but I think that would be a little dull. They're written to be played on drum set, en masse.

Play the exercises a few times on the snare drum, then move the accent(s) to a cymbal, with the bass drum in unison, then improvise moving the non-accented notes around the drums. Speed is not important; timing, sound, and movement around the drums is.

Get the pdf

Monday, July 13, 2020

Daily best music in the world: Tony Williams solo

I'm still having a hard time writing anything, so here's a really great open drum solo played by Tony Williams, in a concert video with Jean Luc Ponty and Stanley Clarke. This is in 1972, and he's doing his power thing, but he's not using the 24" bass drum and three floor toms yet. Later on his playing seems very “set”, here you feel like there's still some exploration going on. Tony's solo starts after 7:00.

[h/t to notvinnie @ drummerworld for this]

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Drum heads!

This. Just get this. 
Did you know that it's rather hard to write about drum stuff while your country is being dismantled and driven into the ground by a narcissistic criminal psychopath, who is certainly compromised by a hostile foreign power, and is apparently hell bent spreading disease and sacrificing the lives of hundreds of thousands of your fellow countrymen and women, nominally in a futile bid to revive the economy, and his electoral prospects along with it, but actually just a mass-suicidal gesture of fealty to his boundless, pathological vanity? It is. Hard to write under those circumstances. Or to do much productive work at all.

So let's talk about DRUM HEADS today. This is by no means a complete overview of what's available, it's just my personal impressionistic idiosyncratic list of what I've played and recommend, and for what purpose. Or what I recommend against.

Remo Ambassador
Remo's medium weight general purpose head, and the Coca-Cola of drumheads. The one correct answer that is always correct for any music, tuned high or low. These are just what drums sound like. Use them top (coated) and bottom (uncoated or coated), for all drums, including bass drum (no muffling, if you dare), and be done with it. Easy to get a sound, pleasing character.

Remo Renaissance Ambassador
A hazy medium weight head, with a slightly textured, matte finish. They handle well in a range of tunings. Sort of a “natural” look and sound. Possibly slightly lighter than regular Ambassadors? They “play” a little lighter, more responsive, slightly less body. Since about 2000, these have been the tom heads on my Gretsch set, and have been excellent tuned high or low. I used them more recently on my Sonor set and they didn't work so well.

Remo Pinstripe
Drumhead of the 80s, for that full-on post-Gadd fusion sound. They have a particular timbre that sounds quite dated. But they also have a promising full sound tuned high, and I do know one or two jazz drummers who still use them. I used them on my Sonor set recently, on a lark. In the 80s they were the standard tenor drum heads in drum corps, and sounded great tuned extremely high.

Remo Emperor
A two ply head in case you need more durability, but you don't want to go full Pinstripe. Similar sound, with less of that Pinstripe character, and less character overall. It's a blunted sound. Bass drum head is acceptable, if you want a semi-live sound, without going for the full unmuffled Ambassador experience.

Remo CS Black Dot 
For an edgy 70s sound. Like the Pinstripes they have a distinctive sound that is dated— see mid-period Tony Williams— but it's been quite awhile since they were popular. Standard head for concert toms, if anyone is still using those. It's not a pretty sound, but it has an energetic edge to it. Right now I'm using one on my bass drum with a felt strip, and I like it a lot. I probably would not use them on regular toms, definitely not on the snare drum.

Evans coated medium single ply
The RC Cola of drum heads. They're fine, they sound pretty good, but characterless. Characterless as the name they gave the line, which I can never remember, and am not going to look up. Acceptable, but to me not a great sound in any tuning.

Evans coated single play bass drum head with the changeable muffle rings
Again, give your heads a name I can remember, please. Excellent head, with a nice tonal sound; they sound too pretty to me. It's a mannered sound. Younger jazz drummers will love them. I need more edge. I'm sure it's an easy head to record. Comes with three sizes of muffling rings, I never used any of them. The ring holder alone muffles the drum enough.

Evans ST Dry
You know these muffled heads don't sound to the audience the way they sound to you, right? Specialty snare drum head, with an extra ring around the edge on the inside, pinholes around the edge. I normally don't muffle my drums at all, but I have this on one of my drums, and I liked it for low volume playing. Good for maintaining definition if you play a lot of dense stuff on the snare drum. Probably great for recording, once again.

Not recommended

Remo Fiberskyn
These came installed on my first drum set back in 1982, and I've tried them a few times since then, and they just don't make it. They have a stiff feel, and I could never get a deep sound with them, or a good high sound— any good sound at all. It's a very surface sound, with a funny slap, and a strange kind of papery roar.

Remo Diplomat
The thinnest general purpose head by Remo. They don't quite handle the way you expect them to. Strange trebly, papery sound, they choke easily. It's a choked sound generally— lighter weight does not equal more resonance. Some potential as a snare drum top head if you're doing a lot of brush playing, and use light sticks— they have a very bright, edgy sound. If there's any funk in your touch you'll kill it. I've had one on my hammered bronze Ludwig drum for about ten years. I don't like the Diplomat snare side head— again, a thin, papery sound.

Powerstroke bass drum heads
And their copycats— that is most “modern” bass drum heads. Anything multi ply, anything with built in rings. I hate 'em. It's a “thick”, long sound that people interpret as “full.” A lot of lows, I guess, and mediocre attack. People hear them as having a full, “funky” sound, but they're mediocre. Poor response, difficult to produce much volume.

All other heads
I've gotten to use Aquarian heads in various settings since before they were even commercially available, and I've never been particularly impressed. I used one of their vintage-style heads a few years ago, and did not dig it. Multi-ply Evans heads never made much of an impression on me— basically they're flavorless Pinstripes, even-more-flavorless Emperors. The no-name heads that came with your mid-line drum set suck, replace them with Ambassadors. There are some new calf/goat/???-skin heads being made I would like to try, but the manufacturers never respond to my requests for free stuff.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Very occasional quote of the day: Roy on time

“Mingus use to say the damndest thing about me years ago. He'd say, 'Well, Roy Haynes. You don't always play the beat, you  suggest the beat!'

I didn't know what the heck I was doing. But I know that the beat is supposed to be there. If I leave out a beat, it's still there. If I'm playing 8 or 12 bar fills and I play four and a half bars then leave out a bar and a half, that doesn't mean I don't want it to sound like that! But if I'm playing with a horn player sometimes they may get confused. They get hung up because I didn't fill in that bar and a half.

You've got to use a little imagination in there. That bar and a half still counts. I'll come out in the right place, where it should be to make the fill even, and the other players are somewhere else at that point. I didn't always play the beat, which I thought was very good. You don't always have to say ding ding-da ding ding-da ding, you know. It's there! So, if one of those saxophone players has to depend on that, then you know he's not right.

You've got to have that ding-ding-da-ding within yourself. Coltrane had it! Pres had it. Miles has it. So, it's beautiful to play with them, but there are so many other people who don't have that thing and you've got to carry them. How you gonna be inventive and create when you're trying to lift them up?”

— Roy Haynes

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Reed tweak: adding flams to a basic method

This is a small tweak on a common funk practice method for Ted Reed's Syncopation, adding flams to the method in which the right hand plays the book rhythm on a cymbal, and the left hand fills in. To me it's a 70s funk flavored thing, and brings this method a little closer to my Heavy Funk Drill, and my harmonic coordination-type methods.

For the examples we'll use line 7 of the well-known full page exercise on p. 38 in the new editions. As always with Reed, we're interpreting the top line rhythm, ignoring the bottom line rhythm.

The basic funk method we're using is: play the melody rhythm on the cymbal with your right hand, with bass drum in unison, fill in the 8th notes on the snare drum with the left hand. Which gives us this:

So, today's tweak: where there is more than one left hand note in a row, add a flam on the last one:

In the p. 38 exercise there is that situation where there is a quarter note followed by a quarter rest— that happens in the first, sixth, seventh, and eighth lines. When that happens you could alternatively put the flam on the middle left hand note— that will be on the 4 or on the 2. Another musical possibility.

I do the flams left-handed— that means the right hand plays the grace note, and falls first. Usually the grace note is only a little softer than the main note; I don't try to make them correct concert snare drum flams. The left handed flams convert easily to RH-lead 16th notes, with a small adjustment to the timing.

Exercise 4 on p. 41 of Reed is a good one for this method. Also use these linked reading exercises of mine. And my book Syncopation in 3/4, for that matter.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Todd's methods: accents to funk

This is an item for teachers, I suppose. It's good to have more than one way of teaching things. There's no reason for a student to have to struggle with something just because your preferred way of teaching is difficult for him or her right now. Find a way to teach it that they can do in the lesson, so they can take it home and practice the content.

I don't like teaching rock and funk beats in the standard Funky Primer-type format of one measure, fully written out grooves. I prefer using an interpreted method, using the regular parts of Syncopation. Some students have a hard time picking that up, so I have another way of doing it, using the accented 8th notes in Syncopation— pp. 47-49.

It's quite simple: play 8th notes on a cymbal with your right hand, add bass drum on the written accents:

I don't accent the cymbal on the written accents. And we are of course ignoring the quarter note bass drum part written in the book.

Then: add snare drum on 2 and 4 for rock:

 Then add snare on 3 for a funk feel in 2/2:

Tempo for rock should be quarter note = 60-150; for funk, half note = 50-96.

Often when teaching rock and funk, I'll avoid unisons between the snare drum and bass drum. With this method, you can go ahead and do them. It seems well-suited to working on that. But you could eliminate the bass drum whenever the snare drum is being playing if you want.

When teaching this, I'll work the students through the most normal-sounding patterns, and let them work out the rest of them on their own. For rock, that might be lines 1, 10, 11, 14, 24, 28. For funk, lines 1, 3, 8, 24, 25, 27, 28.

Students should be able to play exercises 1-28 straight through without stopping, plus the 28 bar exercise on p. 49.