Friday, April 16, 2021

Transcription: Roy Haynes - It's Time

Roy Haynes playing behind Herbie Hancock's solo, on the title track of Jackie McLean's record It's Time. There's a lot of what people call “broken” time here, and meter-within-meter playing. The tune is in 4, but Haynes is playing with a strong broken up 3 feel all the way through. If you check out my “world's shortest Roy Haynes lesson”, and play those 3/4 patterns over 4/4, you'll have some similar stuff.

Tempo is 266— generally the range where a swing feel evens out into straight 8ths. Haynes is playing a very legato swing feel here— almost straight 8ths, not quite. It would be a good analysis project to print this out and add phrase markings indicating his two, three, and four beat phrases.   

The transcription was a little tricky to make, and may be a little deceptive— there are lots of tied notes and ghosted notes— there's so much quiet stuff happening, it suggests a lot of physical activity where no notes are sounding, or barely sounding. The transcription could turn into a real nightmare of random looking stuff if I tried catching all of that, which is really not central to the main idea of what he's playing. 

There are a lot of unisons happening— both hands together, both feet together, and everything together with the cymbal. Not much linearity, or “independent” lines against an ostinato. The hihat is quite sparse, and often in unison with accents on the bass or snare. A few times he'll play it on 2 after a couple of measures of floating meter-within-meter playing. The bass drum is less sparse, and there seems to be more activity than I was able to notate. For the most part the bass drum is not loud— his playing here seems centered mostly on the hands.  

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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

A player's analysis of drumming

For a long time I've been thinking about developing a system of analysis for drumming, like the harmonic analysis you do in college theory courses, deciding the function of every note in a composition. Doing something like that for drumming would require a different approach. I don't care about the theory aspect— this would be for clarity in thinking about our instrument, in teaching, listening, and playing.

Probably some doctoral student has already thought of this, but I'm not optimistic about the value of that for players. I've tried reading scholarly pieces on subjects in which I would normally be interested, and I couldn't do it— the academic language and format just wipes out whatever value they might have had for me.

In the broadest sense, this is about understanding “what is the drummer doing? What was the purpose of playing that? What's the function?”

We could start by thinking about the broad categories of playing: 

Composed parts 
The drummer is playing fixed, pre-composed “parts.” Often worked out in the studio with a producer, or by drummers who are just oriented that way. For example Dave Grohl playing on Nevermind, or Neil Peart playing his worked-out parts, or Terry Bozzio playing Frank Zappa's The Black Page. 

Reading performances
Big band drumming, studio drumming, show and theater drumming— professional situations where there are complex written arrangements. The drumming is largely functional within the arrangement, but the drummer has some freedom to interpret. 

Ad lib performances
The drummer shows up and plays. Perhaps this suggests that the drummer's musical personality may be featured, to some extent. Much of jazz drumming falls in this category. In rock, perhaps Mitch Mitchell or Keith Moon. 

Genre performances
A kind of ad lib performance, but the player mostly just states the genre. For example, Rockabilly, some Blues, Gypsy Jazz, some Latin styles.  

Tracked performances
Drumming performance is assembled in the studio in multiple passes, possibly some sequenced parts, possibly by more than one drummer. See: a lot of heavily-produced music since the 80s. 

Sampled performances
The drumming performance is digitally assembled by a producer— re-inventing a track a drummer recorded specifically for that record, or sampling the drumming from someone else's previously released record. 

We can also talk about broad categories of time feels:

Simple pulse
Think Motown, some Country, possibly Phil Rudd with AC/DC, or Ndugu Leon Chancler playing Billie Jean. 

Genre pattern
A stock pattern communicating a style— a jazz cymbal rhythm, a shuffle, a surf beat, DC Go Go, most Latin patterns.  

Composed pattern
A unique pattern created by the drummer for a particular piece of music, a la 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover, Changuito with Los Van Van.  

Quasi ad lib pattern
A partly or mostly non-repeating genre feel. A lot of modern jazz might fall in this category— Elvin Jones on McCoy Tyner's Passion Dance, Tony Williams on Walkin', from Four & More. 

Free groove
A mostly non-repeating time feel, not in a particular genre, for example an ECM-type feel— see Jon Christiansen playing with Keith Jarrett, or Bob Moses on Pat Metheny's Bright Size Life.  

“Spacy stuff” as we use to say in high school— percussion colors. Think Tony Williams on Fall, recorded by Miles Davis. 

Playing free texture not stating a particular tempo. Rashied Ali on Coltrane's Interstellar Space. 

We can also decide what the drummer is doing right now, on this part of this tune: 

Playing time
Playing a groove, of whatever description— genre, ad lib, composed, whatever.

Playing ensemble figures
Hitting drums and cymbals in unison with something the band is playing. 

Playing between ensemble figures, filling open spaces in the arrangement. 


Stopping and resting as part of an arrangement, or as an ad lib arrangement element.  

Laying out
Drummer doesn't play on this tune, or this section of the tune. 

Or co-soloing. Or otherwise creating free texture. Maybe an intro, or solo break, or featured solo or duo. 

Of course many of these categories will overlap— not many will be strictly one thing or another. And I don't know if this really constitutes analysis yet. But it's a starting place for a conversation. I'll look at a particular recording on these terms soon, and see what that gives us. 

And maybe on another day we can get into this on a more granular level, looking at individual notes— which ones state the main idea, which are filling out a texture, which are embellishments or extemporaneous— and see if that kind of thinking has any value. 

Friday, April 09, 2021

Cliché control

A little writing experiment, like my old Funk Control pages, and my Philly Joe solo page. Here we have a lot of jazz soloing clichés, to practice in combination with each other. Similar to a page from John Riley's bebop drumming book— there are certainly some duplicate patterns, because I didn't make any effort for there not to be. You could easily use Riley's page together with this one. 

The idea is to play all of the patterns along with all of the other patterns, playing each measure once or twice, to make a two or four measure solo phrase. "Theoretically" you should play any two measure combination in both possible orders: A-B and B-A. That would be extremely time consuming, so it will be up to you to figure out a way to practice it that makes sense. Another possibility would be to play three measures of one thing, and one measure of the other. Use your judgement. 

Handle this loosely. It's not meant to be a technical workout, so feel free to simplify any part of it that's too difficult for you at whatever tempo you choose. To ease some transitions, you can put a quarter note on 4, or a quarter or 8th rest on 1. The patterns ending with a triplet or with 16th notes are going to want a release on 1, so you might add that the first time through transitioning to patterns starting with a rest. These are jazz patterns, but there's no need to religiously triplify all of the 8th notes. Think legato, not necessarily triplets. 

Move things around the drums, and vary the accents and stickings, however you see fit— Rs, Ls, both hands, flams, stick shots, whatever. Get fluent with the ideas, and connecting the ideas.

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Thursday, April 08, 2021


A small item for your consideration and experimentation.  

On a drumming forum, a user was complaining that practicing paradiddles didn't seem to improve his hand independence— he was working on some Chapin Advanced Techniques patterns, and was hoping the paradiddles would improve his facility with that. The answers given were all over the map, and largely based on misconceptions stemming from the use of the word independence. Aided, I think, by the notational convention of writing drum patterns as separate rhythms, as if they're played by multiple performers. 

My answer was, sure paradiddles are independent, you're doing two totally different rhythms with each hand; the right hand plays 1 &a e and the left hand plays e 2 &a. You may say psha those are just backward versions of each other... and I arrogantly retort: that means you're playing the same rhythm forward and backward at the same time! Sounds pretty independent to me. 

Like, look, independence:

Does it seem more independent if I write it like this?

In fact, independence = you playing one thing. 

Whatever people's theories about how independence works, we're dealing with one controller— you— playing one rhythm— that of all the parts combined— using sequences of  Rs, Ls, and both hands in unison. That's 100% of what hand independence is. What else is it?  

If paradiddles aren't independent-seeming enough, add some unisons— play the following patterns with your right hand on the hihat, left hand on the snare. B = both hands at the same time. 



Those are all at least as hard as the patterns in Chapin, and they sound independent, but done this way, they're easy to execute. So what's the difference? Mainly, they're non-mysterious, and there is no misguiding notation or language tricking you into thinking about it, and doing, it the hardest way possible.

I'm interested in other things right now, but this may be a productive way of practicing for someone: Go through the first pages of stick control and play each note of the patterns as Bs. People who have their flam rudiments together may find it easier to think of the both-hands notes as flams.  

I suggest starting with: 


RLRR will be very helpful with those Chapin exercises— try replacing two and three Rs with Bs, and you'll have most of those patterns covered.  

At the very least, a little bit of this kind of practice should be good conditioning for other systems of independence coordination, and for completely resetting your approach to this topic. 

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

John and Nate's jazz drumming page

I wrote this for a couple of my younger students— it's a collection of simple jazz patterns that we went over verbally in a lesson. It's meant to be very loose introduction to a type of playing that is different from the rock/funk they've already done, in which I've included some things they can get quickly. 

In the lesson we run the patterns, and I tell them a few basic, important things, and I give them a listening assignment, including things like: 

Freddie the Freeloader - Miles Davis / Kind Of Blue
Blue Seven - Sonny Rollins / Saxophone Colossus 
Moanin' - Art Blakey / Moanin' 
Stolen Moments - Oliver Nelson / Blues And The Abstract Truth

The next steps might be my recent easy jazz solo page, or any number of my EZ methods, as is appropriate. The idea is not to try to form these kids into jazz drummers via drum lessons— I don't believe that's possible, or desirable— it's to acquaint them with the music and the way it's played, so when they (hopefully) get into jazz band in school, they'll have some idea of what to do. Give them a chance to get interested in it. Then they can begin becoming jazz (or jazz-capable) drummers, if they choose, by playing music.   

Get the pdf

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Youtubed: practicing Syncopation

I'm feeling a little irked at the existence of YouTube drumming videos today, so let's do a search of a subject near and dear to me, practicing the book Progressive Steps to Syncopation, and see what the YouTube folk have to say about it, and I'll write my thoughts about them. I've been wondering about this; the Reed-associated methods are the professional system for becoming a reading, improvising professional drummer, yet very few people on the web talk about them. And the few that do, don't seem to grasp their full implications. 

I'll talk about the first videos that come up, in order. I'll list but not imbed any I just can't take. For example, the first one: an Expert Village thing entitled Syncopation for Drums : Drum Techniques— but every Expert Village video absolutely sucks going in. So I'm skipping that one. Or number 2: 15 Famous Syncopated Rock Grooves (That Inspire Creativity), a drum cover video in the guise of a lesson. I'm sorry, I cannot look at a clean young guy rocking out for the camera— all of these guys look that same to me. God love him, best of luck, I know he's going to get a million views, I just can't. 

So, the actual videos: 

Bruce Becker “Syncopation” Lesson Series 01: Left Hand Separation
Four minute video, obviously a great teacher, great drummer. Here one pattern is covered, briefly, with a whole lot of side comments. Hopefully he gets more in depth in the other videos.  

I don't dig using the word “separation.” It's not separation, it's coordination— the limbs are both plainly attached to the same human torso. If not, something is drastically wrong. Coordination is simply hands/feet playing opposite each other, and in unison with each other, to make a new, combined rhythm. Words matter, and words like separation and independence communicate a false concept of drumming coordination— the reality of which is we have a single controlling entity, the drummer, coordinating different body parts to create a drumming performance. 

I think a difficulty with prestige teachers like Becker, is that you get the impression that he has all the answers, and that they are the correct answers for everyone. So your study stops becoming a search, and starts becoming about how well are you doing what he says. But if you're into Mickey Roker, and a guy isn't reflecting any of that in his presentation, you may need to look elsewhere for those qualities. For me the exploration is more important than having this level of correct answer Becker gives. The answers you come up with yourself through seriously studying and performing music, will be at least correct enough for you to play well. 

It would be dumb to ignore information, and Becker has plenty. But it's one man's answer, which is not even directed at you personally— it's a video made for a general audience to demonstrate and share his general expertise, it's not a lesson plan for your development as a performer and artist.    

How to use Ted Reed’s Syncopation - Episode #1 jazz basics
Not a jazz drummer, but the verbal explanations are pretty solid. Strange cymbal technique, like a lot of these guys— they copied a video really hard, and took it to the next, wrong level. You get the feeling he did some studying and made the video, and luckily he basically studied the right stuff. Ends with some BS playing the ride cymbal with the left hand. No, no, no. But basically solid otherwise. It is not your imagination, on the demo starting at 2:30, he plays straight 8th and swing rhythms exactly the same— he swings them both. 

I play Ted Reed's "Syncopation" for 3 hours straight
Rock drummer plays Reed for 3 hours. Starts with a not great explanation of a complicated four limb triplet system. Weird mix, loud snare drum, everything else too quiet. I actually don't mind his cymbal technique. I could never do this— just flatly drill patterns for hours and hours. I need to practice like I'm playing something. It's not a question of  “optimal practice techniques”, that's just how I live. 

Syncopated Funk Groove I Drum Lesson
A Mike Johnston video, and I just. Can't. Do it. This is everything that is wrong with videos. Teaching a single hip(?) groove— the essence of hack teaching— that bull sh*t Drumeo manuscript, with one measure stretched across the whole screen, like that makes it easier to read. I don't need to you wish me an amazing day, I don't want to see your dog.

I'm not linking to this— I'm sure he's a lovely man— I mean obviously, listen to him, his loveliness unavoidable, even as you thought you signed on to learn something about the drums. But I can't. Search the video if you want to see it. 

Mel Brown Beat Syncopation Exercise
Here we go, the GREAT Mel Brown— Motown drummer, Diana Ross's drummer for many years, winner of a national Playboy Jazz award, student of Philly Joe Jones. And he taught my older brother. Catching his quintet at The Hobbit in Portland was one of the performance highlights of my college years. A GREAT drummer, band leader, and teacher.

He goes over all of the major basic jazz systems used with Reed, and one funk thing I've never done(!!!). Take the structure of this lesson seriously, everything about this is 100% correct and informative, right down to the short pants, and the cymbal that is pingier than you or I would like. If there's anything “wrong” with it, it's only because that thing doesn't matter.  

Using Ted Reed's "Syncopation" for Drumming Independence

Demonstrations of some basic methods on an electric set. They're not technically flawless, but so what. He does something close to my(""?) cut time funk thing. This is actually a reasonable video, even if it's not exactly dripping with jazz cred— real or fraudulent— so you're not going to take it over-seriously— it's just a demonstration of playing the notes and for that it's good. I like that he just demonstrates and doesn't talk.  

12 Ways to Use Reed's Syncopation - Part 1
Good teacher, nice clear way of explaining the premise. On topic the whole time. I don't need to hear about somebody's day, or listen to them butter me up with a lot of bro crap. Not exactly a real sophisticated jazz touch, but it seems more designed to demonstrate a feeling to her students. I prefer this to the hyper navel gazing technocratic style of the big video accounts. She shows you the thing, and a few things to try with it, and a few little special touches. And then you get to figure out where to go with it yourself. Teachers aren't supposed to be the last word on everything, they're supposed to show you how to something, and inspire you a little bit to go and do something with it. 

Syncopation: Expert Mode - Drum Lesson

Here we go. Why do people have to be so FULL OF IT. I understand that people put themselves under a lot of pressure to be on and to be appealing. By the time he gets to explaining the musical part I'm bored, I'm done, spent. Demonstrates some weird systems for practicing Reed, I don't have any use for any of them. This project, this playing of the drums, is not just about thinking up hard stuff. If we're going to do hard stuff, there's got to be a reason.  

Helpful Jazz Exercises for Drummers!

Good video, that is actually worth its 18 minute duration, and some further analysis to get the more advanced things he's talking about. The exercises he calls right hand lead and right foot lead are really important. A little bit of that macho L.A. touch on the drums with the hickory 5A sticks, that reminds me of Tom Brechtlein— that doesn't really fly as a default volume unless you're playing with fusion musicians. That's a minor quibble, it's an excellent video, and he's obviously a knowledgeable teacher and an excellent drummer. 

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Non-mistake mistakes

“Honor Your Mistake as a Hidden Intention.”
- Brian Eno, Oblique Strategies

“It’s not the note you play that’s the wrong note – it’s the note you play afterwards that makes it right or wrong.”
- Miles Davis

“I deny the accident.” 
- Jackson Pollock, painter

“The way I work is totally accidental.”
- Francis Bacon, painter

This is a big thing in my teaching: you're playing along, working on a thing, and you play something you didn't mean to play— whatever pattern you're working on, that wasn't it. But what you did play sounded fine on its own. It was in time, you kept going, you didn't get lost, and anybody listening wouldn't know there was anything wrong. 

What actually happened was you got a free variation. You got some free drumming you didn't even have to practice. If you handle it the right way, and continue playing, and don't stop for the mistake. A lot of learning to play the drums is just learning to continue.  

Most students students will stop when that happens— they'll try to “go back” and get the prescribed pre-conceived pattern right. Obviously time doesn't work that way, and playing doesn't work that way— what you wanted to play, but didn't, is not a factor. What you did play is what is the music. 

A lot of making mistakes is just what is called improvising. Improvising, to an extent, comes from mistake-land, from the place of not knowing what you're doing. 

The hidden assumption is that there's something you're supposed to be doing— some “part” handed down by the Father God, who's going to know if you sinned against him by screwing it up. For being such an allegedly freedom-oriented society, there's an American authoritarianism that really beats people down from saying anything on their own. We're belligerently free, and at the same time, we are pure maggots unworthy to play anything of our own— unless we were “chosen” by being anointed with commercial success. Otherwise everything's got to be approved as either being a “part” to a song or something found in a book somewhere. It's a common mentality. 

For drummers, real mistakes are mostly not “wrong notes”, but process errors:

You stopped.
Always keep playing. You can't change what you did, you have to continue

The beat got turned around
and you kept it there for a long time. Maybe it was you, or maybe it was someone else, but the longer it stays turned around, the more everyone assumes it was your fault. You can try to hide it by playing more ambiguously— break up the cymbal rhythm, stop playing the hihat. Play 3/4 (not too forcefully) until you get reoriented. It's a good exercise to practice turning the beat around— while playing normal jazz time, forcefully count “1, 3” along with the hihat, until you hear the hihat on 1 and 3, and then correct it so the hihat is on the new, turned around 2 & 4.  Repeat until you can do it quickly. 

The time sped up— maybe you listened too closely to the guitarist. You can ease it back at the beginning of the next solo. If you memorized the sound of the count off, so you have some reference point for correcting it.  This is a pretty normal type of flexing you'll sometimes hear on records— different tempos for different soloists. 

If you played the arrangement wrong. OK, there's a “wrong note”— you were supposed to do something specific, and you did it wrong. Usually you can just play through. You can play time or background texture while other people are playing a figure, or play a fill where the rest of the group played a break. You have to engage it musically even as you're playing nothing but wrong stuff according to the arrangement. 

You got lost in the form on your own solo. Just take your best guess and keep going. Go back to playing time in the last 8 bars, wherever you put them, and give people an extra-clear cue for their entrance at the end of your solo. Most of the band is not listening, or can be fooled into thinking they were the ones who got lost.  

Hiccups in the time.
If you play without thinking, strictly off a physical or emotional flow, or strictly following your ears, at times there will be a hiccup in your flow, and the time evaporates. It just goes away, and you experience an odd unmetered break. You just have to jump back in as best you can. People want to play “without thinking”, but really what we want is effortless awareness. The better your awareness, the less things like this happen.  

There are other mistakes, along similar lines: playing sloppy in an unpleasing/ineffective way, playing inappropriate dynamics, errors of taste, playing grossly wrong for the style, dropping a stick. The point is, the answer is always continue. Keep playing.  

Friday, March 19, 2021

Reed tweak: filling the long gaps

Here's a tweak to an ordinary straight 8th note Syncopation practice method: right hand plays the melody rhythm, left hand fills in the remaining 8th notes. Usually with the RH on a cymbal, with the bass drum in unison, left hand on the snare drum, like so:  

We could call this the stick control interpretation, because the result is exactly what we'd get if you played the first pages of Stone with the Rs on the cym/bass drum, Ls on the snare drum, each played with the indicated hand. This is the major Reed method you use to get an ECM-type feel.

With that basic drill, the left hand fills in one, two, or three 8th notes in a row. With this tweak we're going to play a left handed paradiddle where the left would have played two notes, and a left handed double paradiddle where the left would have played three. Play the single lefts normally. Do this with pp. 30-32 and 34-45 of Reed (current edition). 

First play these warmups— they cover all the forms the paradiddle fills will occur when practicing the method out of Syncopation:

Here are the first six lines of the well known p. 38 (née 37) Syncopation Exercise 1, written out with this tweak. I don't feel like writing up a full-blown key, so you'll have to get out your book and compare the two. 

This is not unlike my recent uptempo method, in that we have to do some next-level reading— we have to do different things with spaces (or runs of 8ths) of different lengths. It seems daunting in the abstract, but it's reasonably easy when you just do it. 

Finally, try using your own four or six note stickings or patterns as well. Best if they start with the left hand, and release with the right, at first. I'll share some of mine soon.  

Get the pdf

Friday, March 12, 2021

What I'm practicing

I'm at the point where I've published so much stuff on the site, I'm a little embarrassed. I don't want people thinking I'm just fascinated with writing patterns. I do practice this stuff, and otherwise use it. For example, I'm not real happy with the existing literature/methods for young/novice drummers, so I write a lot for my students. The transcriptions are listening projects. I write some library pages because they don't exist, and they could be useful, to someone, someday, maybe. I'll write my own versions of existing materials, to make it easier to practice them the way I want.

And so on. Basically I write for a lot of purposes, and when you develop a regular morning writing habit, you tend to produce a lot of stuff. 

So, for a reality check, here is what I'm actually practicing, usually on different days, right now:    

All of the Three Camps for Drumset pages
People adapt this piece for all kinds of rudimental applications, why not make extended jazz texture drills out of them? I'm enjoying these a lot, and I hit them all every time I practice right now. 

Linear double paradiddle / paradiddle-diddle inversions page

This turned out to be a really solid page to have around. The complete patterns are good, and if you break them down further, playing every two beats of them, or even single beats, you've got all the major jazz ways of playing triplets with two voices. Play them along with a jazz cymbal rhythm on the SD/BD, SD/HH, HH/BD. Or play the snare part with both hands in unison, bottom part with BD, HH, or BD/HH in unison. Or play the bottom part with the RH/BD in unison, play the snare part on the snare with the LH. There's a lot you can do with the page to open up your Afro 6 feel for jazz settings. 

Reed methods

Filling in 8ths with the BD during a time feel, new uptempo method, bass drum and snare drum triplet fill ins— those last two are common methods that I don't think I've written about on the site. Play a medium jazz time feel, play the book part on the snare drum, fill out the triplets with the bass drum, or vice versa— book part on bass drum, fill out triplets on the snare drum. 

Mitchell Peters Rudimental Primer

I just got this excellent book. Think of it as Haskell Harr modernized, for concert snare drummers— Peters washed off some of the stink of tradition. Each rudiment gets two full pages of exercises and short solos in different meters— including some in 5/8 and 7/8. Which is appropriate— practicing rudiments just using the list format doesn't make it. Mainly using this to get my traditional grip back in shape. 

Haskell Harr
I'll play through most of Harr's book 2 every time I practice snare drum. It just puts my hands in a nice place of feeling able. 

Several of my students are playing out of Rudimental Swing Solos right now, so I need to keep it together. I'll be honest, practicing Wilcoxon doesn't bring me a lot of joy, and I don't know why. It's essential literature, a direct connection to Philly Joe Jones and a lot of other people. I practiced it a lot, for several years, and it made very little difference in my playing. I just don't play rudimental stuff on the snare drum very much. 

All pretty normal stuff that I've been doing, in different forms, for years, or decades. Which is a little strange— why wouldn't I be doing something new? I think at this point in my life and career, I know what I want to play, and what will be required of me, and I want to continue improving my basic thing, and filling in gaps in my abilities with that. And improve my methods, since I'm not an “efficient” practicer.

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

CYMBALISTIC: Leon Collection sale happening now!

March 10 UPDATE: 
Scroll down for new posts— I'll bump this to the top of the page for the duration of the sale. The hihats have sold, but there is still most of a complete set: 22" light ride, 19" crash ride, 19" medium flat, 17" thin crash. You can add some discounted Holy Grail hihats to 2-3 of those, and get a complete set of great cymbals for an astonishing $800-1100.  

Act soon— when the sale ends— and who knows when that will be: 

  1. The bonus discount on Holy Grails goes away.
  2. I'll probably pull a couple of the remaining Leons from stock and keep them for myself.
  3. Remaining Leons will be discounted a yet-unknown %, but escalating discounts go away.

CASCADING discounts on Leon Collection cymbals!

Cymbal & Gong is blowing out their old stock of Leon Collection cymbals, so I picked out a few select items for you to purchase on my site,, at some pretty excellent discounts: 

First Leon: -20% off
the regular site price
Second Leon: -30% off
Third or more Leons: -40% off*

I'm giving a little -10% discount on all other cymbals when purchased with one or more Leons. And they're counted first so you get the lowest price on your Leons. 

This is all limited to stock on hand— and I never carry a whole lot of stock— so you'd better act fast if you want in on this. It's a great opportunity to get a complete set, or to round out your collection of gigging cymbals. 

Sale cymbals include: Two One 22" light rides, a 20" super light ride, 20" thin flat ride, 19" crash-ride, 19" custom medium flat ride, two one 17" thin crashes, one set 15" light hihats

The Leon Collection
is the personal line of Cymbal & Gong's master cymbal smith. They are jazz weight cymbals, and their sounds are generally light, bright, and airy, reminiscent of ECM in the 1970s. My friends in Berlin played them and concluded they were “like 602s, but better.” I've found that the Leons blend well with Cymbal & Gong's Holy Grail series, and other "K-type" cymbals. 

In case you aren't familiar: 

Cymbal & Gong is a one man company here in Portland, Oregon, with cymbals hand made in Turkey to traditional specifications, emulating the sounds of jazz in the 1950s and 60s. I believe they are consistently the best cymbals available for that sound, and that's why I sell them.   

Cymbalistic is my cymbal retail site. I sell only Cymbal & Gong cymbals, in limited quantities. I personally select all my stock for sound and playability— I only sell cymbals I would want to perform and record with myself. Each individual cymbal is demonstrated in a video, and I give a frank description of my impressions of it, as a jazz musician. 

Monday, March 08, 2021

The three bloggers listen to Milestones

Yer Three Bloggers— myself, Ted Warren @ Trap'd, and Jon McCaslin @ Four On The Floor— decided to listen to Milestones by Miles Davis, and make whatever comments occur to us. It's one of his most famous albums, and was considered by Tony Williams to be the definitive jazz album of the universe. I listened to it a lot in college— I think I really didn't get it then— up through the 90s. It's been awhile since I've listened to it all the way through. 

Mind you, I feel like a jerk writing about this record. I don't want to give my opinions on it, I want to hear what other people have to say about it. If I was talking to one of those people, all of the comments below would be phrased in the form of questions. 

So: Milestones by Miles Davis, a sextet album released on Columbia Records in 1958, featuring: John Coltrane - Cannonball Adderly - Red Garland - Paul Chambers - Philly Joe Jones

Dr. Jackle (née Jekyll)
Barn burning show number, tempo ~ half note = 168. Lots of trading happening. Working on a Carnival boat gig in 1990 I remember my friend (not a big jazz musician) laughing over the rapid fire trading between Coltrane and Cannonball. It is good for jazz musicians, or anyone playing very active music, to know how their music sounds to ordinary people. A little foreshadowing of the burning tempos on Four & More, and Miles plays the drum solo cue we hear a lot of on the live records with Tony Williams. Red Garland acts as tour guide. Great high energy solo and breaks from Philly Joe.

Miles's solo here is like classical music, almost as much as the So What solo. 

Sid's Ahead
Strange energy here, like a bomb's about to go off, maybe, but we don't know when, or who set it. Tune is an odd little paraphrasis of Walkin'. Massive forward energy to this medium slow blues (~110bpm)— playing wise, groove wise, history of jazz wise. Coltrane sounds like he beamed in from another world. Note Philly Joe double timing the hihat sometimes, and playing a dotted-8th/16th rhythm on the cymbal, but he's not playing particularly 16th note-y on the snare drum. Rhythm section cruising, especially during Miles's solo where there's no piano, little comping. Joe is relentless. I imagine myself playing this and getting really antsy to make it “go somewhere.” 

Groove with this band is always a little mysterious to me— there's big air between Joe and Chambers. It's like a groove cloud at times. The rhythm section are all playing groove, but they're not all attacking the beat in the same place. Compare the feel to something else we heard recently, where everyone is chonk chonk chonk right on it.  

Great solos. So much intelligence on this record. We're used to hearing intelligence now, but this is something else. Makes a lot of other stuff just sound glib. 

Two Bass Hit
Another show arrangement, featuring the drums on the head. Joe generates massive energy through the head just with one hand on the snare drum. This record seems to be retiring the whole bebop era. It's a feeling. Somehow reminds of Mingus's band for pure cohesion— Red Garland and Joe together are tight as hell. After listening to a lot of him for my recent Philly Joe post... his playing on this record is a whole different level above— massive intensity, pure focus and confidence. 

Do you get the feeling that people need to arrange more? With the idea of hooking the audience's attention. It's easy to just play in jam session mode, but people want to hear things that are particular and hip. I'm not even sure how important the blowing is when the arrangement is this killing. 

Normally I don't want to hear a lot of snare drum, but Joe takes this out in a great way with it. The whole record is like that.  

Modal jazz was created with this tune of course. More classical music from Cannonball on his solo— could the solos ever not lead off that way? The rhythm section just grooves on this— I'd be interested to find out if and how that choice was related to the new kind of harmonic structure. Certainly the 60s group took a lot more freedom from that.       

Billy Boy 
Ahmad Jamal style trio show number. Extremely hip, and absolutely the literal holy text of the brushes, even though he just plays them on the head in and out. Very polished change from brushes to sticks going into Red's solo, and back to brushes on the head out. Joe plays both feet in unison(***) while changing from sticks back to brushes in the third and fourth measures of the head out. It's funny, you can still hear this in the music of much later, very different people like Michel Camilo in this. 

More great trading with Joe on this. What do you say about that? It's over there, on the record.  

Straight, No Chaser
I listened to this track a lot in college, and I don't think I ever realized how futuristic this record is. This was just bebop to me, and I missed some important fundamentals for that reason. The lessons here are not obvious to a kid. I probably should have listened to more ordinary records, and given them more credit for being good, too.  

Cannonball's hip harmony part on the head is what I'm saying about arranging. If jazz has hooks the way pop music does, it's in things like that— in not doing things— composing, playing and arranging— generically. There's a modern mentality that's very fixated on the concept of genre, but nothing good is generic. There's no other tune “like” Straight, No Chaser; if you search Netflix you'll find there's no other movie “like” Mean Streets, no matter what their search engine claims. Try to find another song like Happy Together. Great things are particular.  

And with that, I can now go learn a lot of things reading what Jon and Ted wrote. Stay tuned for the next Three Bloggers post, whatever that will be. If you have any requested topics about which you'd like to hear from all three of us, by all means leave them in the comments, or email us. 

Sunday, March 07, 2021

Backsticking drill for switching grips

I use matched grip virtually all the time in playing, but about every 5-7 years since ~1986, I make a serious effort at getting my traditional grip happening. When I have it conditioned, I can do just about everything I can do with matched grip— but for whatever reason, I don't use it much when actually playing. There's some subtle psychological block there.  

Lately I thought getting really good at switching grips might help with that. Traditional grip has your wrist in a vertical position, matched grip has it horizontal (“German” grip, anyway), and all you have to do is rotate your forearm a quarter turn, and the stick naturally flips into position. In one grip you'll be playing with the tip of the stick, in the other, the butt. I usually play with the stick reversed in my left hand anyway. If there's any confusion about the basic motion, this videos demonstrates it pretty well. 

So, a little drill for developing that transition:

R = right hand | T = left hand, traditional grip | M = left hand, matched grip








You do have to adjust the stick in your hand a little bit to be fully in one grip or the other, which is difficult to do with the last two stickings— they  might not be real useful for that reason. Try to do them slow enough to get the left hand fully into the correct grip. We're not just practicing drum corps-style backstickings here.  

Friday, March 05, 2021

Daily best music in the world: Al Harewood fast

Digging around for some Al Harewood— I mostly know him from the 60s Blue Note records he's on, but he was active into the 90s— I found this killing live track from George Benson, in 1973. This is one of those records you find in the $2 jazz clearance bin, that nobody thinks to buy. Everyone is great on this, Mickey Tucker, wow. 

The tempo is generally around 330— half note = 165. You can hear Harewood is mostly playing quarter notes on the cymbal. His solo is pretty raggedy, and who cares. He kills on this whole thing. 

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Reed interpretations: new uptempo method

All right, I found the way to use Reed at faster jazz tempos. My the way”, anyhow. I've mostly been winging my uptempo jazz comping until now— I never had materials I really liked for working on that.   

We're doing the first practice method everyone learns— playing the book part on the snare drum, along with jazz cymbal and hihat rhythms. To make a complete snare drum/bass drum texture, and to make it easier to execute at fast tempos, we'll use the bass drum to break up any runs of more than two 8th note-rate notes.  

I've written out the possible orchestrations of those multiple-8th runs, along with the first four lines of Syncopation Exercise 2. It looks like a lot of stuff, but with a little practice it's not difficult to do this on the fly. 

This gives us a realistic comping texture, with a nice flow of chatter on the snare drum— much of which can be ghosted— and the bass drum is realistically sparse. Those bass drum doubles give us a nice Tony Williams-like thing. It's good to use the alternative orchestrations liberally, to vary the texture.

This will sound good at all tempos— for students good initial goals would be quarter note = 238 (“Elvin's tempo”, so-called by me because of Passion Dance and Chasin' the Trane) and quarter note = 286 / half note = 143 (“Roy Haynes's tempo”, because of Matrix, Have You Met Miss Jones, and half the stuff on Pat Metheny's Question & Answer).  

Exercise 2 is by far the hardest full page exercise for this type of thing, so practice it last. The other seven usual pages are all manageably easy— e.g., Exercise 1 will have less than ten bass drum notes total. 

Get the pdf

Monday, March 01, 2021

Very occasional quote of the day: style

“My style is copying the style of the people I love and the way I combine it and that’s nothing more.”

- Ralph Peterson, interview with George Colligan

Friday, February 26, 2021

Transcription: Art Blakey - This Is Life

From maybe the first jazz record I ever checked out on my own, Golden Boy by Art Blakey. Kind of an obscure record on the Colpix label, that I dug out of my dad's record collection. Along with that Charlie Parker recording I mentioned the other day, and a Jazz At The Philharmonic album, and Kind of Blue. Anyway, Blakey does an extended solo at the beginning of This Is Life, and it was the first idea of jazz drumming I ever got from a record. I think all I knew about Blakey was the rough looking picture of him in the Zildjian cymbal guide, and my brother mentioning that he played really loud. 

The tempo starts around 192, picks up a bit to about 210 by the end of the solo, and is about 178 after the band comes in.

I wrote the bass drum part as accurately as possible in measures 19-22, but if you're going to play this solo, do not mess with trying to do what I've written— listen to the vibe of what he's doing and copy that. Basically he's flailing it in there, and his foot wants to do quarter note triplets or straight 8th notes. 

He “feathers” the bass drum through the first part of this, but that seems the wrong word— some old guys say “pats”, and that's really what he's doing here. It's a dry leathery sound, barely a tonal sound. 

By the way, the cymbal he's using here is squarely in the middle of Cymbal & Gong-land. The first 20" Holy Grail video I pulled up is damn close to it— except that HG is a little heavier. I quickly found a couple more that were close. Of what I have in stock right now, “Amos” is the closest match to this cymbal.

...have I mentioned there is a sale on cymbals going right now! 10% off Holy Grails purchased with a 30% off Leon— and I never give discounts on Holy Grails. 

On the Cymbalistic blog I mentioned a different Blakey cymbal, the one used on The Big Beat and Indestructible, and also found a good match in my past stock of Holy Grails. I've only sold about thirteen 20" Holy Grail Jazz Rides since I've been doing this, and at least 4-5 of them are reasonably exact matches for something Art Blakey played. The rest of them are right there in the same family. What I'm trying to communicate to you is that these cymbals are it— there's a reason I'm so excited about them.   

Get the pdf

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Cymbal sounds: Tony-like

I was rooting around in my music listening to ride cymbal sounds, and was surprised to find, in pretty short order, a number of things similar to Tony Williams's famous cymbal— similar to it, or flanking it somehow. Let's check them out. 

To me the definitive recordings of Tony's cymbal are Nefertiti or Four & More, with the Plugged Nickel recordings revealing a wilder edge than the other records. The prettiest, most intimate recording of it is on Charles Lloyd's Of Course, Of Course: 

I was just listening to older records where the drummers would be using original Istanbul K. Zildjian cymbals. Or possibly old A.s— my ears aren't perfect. At least it should be instructive to listen closely to some records and make the comparison. 

Dexterity - Charlie Parker / Dial Masters - Max Roach

One of the first jazz records I ever heard— dug it out of my dad's record collection. Recorded in 1947, this big cymbal sound was surprising to me— I expect everything happening in the 40s to have one foot in the swing era, with everyone riding on little cymbals or on their hihats.   

This is like the proto-Tony cymbal, with a rougher, deeper sound, close to a Cymbal & Gong cymbal (22" Holy Grail “Richard”) I sold to a guitarist friend, Ryan Meagher. Max moves to the ride cymbal at 0:30:

MC - Andrew Hill / Grass Roots - Idris Muhammad

Probably a 20" cymbal here, you could call this a baby version of the Tony cymbal. Higher pitched, without the big body; there's a brighter edge to the attack (possibly due to a crude digital remastering job?). Something about catches my ear as being Tony-like— the big spread up in the same pitch range as the attack? He hits a big accent with it after 3:00 which should tell you a lot about the cymbal; I find that aspect pretty un-Tony cymbal-like, for what it's worth. 

I've heard a lot of Joe Chambers, and I don't know why this distinctly Tony-like cymbal never caught my ear. His touch is quite different. I'm pretty sure the same 22" K. Zildjian is used on all of these records. Now I'll go comb his interviews to see if he's ever made mention of it. Or maybe somebody out there knows him...

Total Eclipse - Bobby Hutcherson / Total Eclipse - Joe Chambers
This cymbal is lovely. He's got some really nice hihats too, while we're at it. Listen after about 3:00 especially. Recorded at Plaza Sound by Duke Pearson and Francis Wolff in 1968. 

Subtle Neptune - Bobby Hutcherson / Oblique - Joe Chambers
I'm pretty sure this is the same cymbal as on Total Eclipse. Recorded at Van Gelder by Alfred Lion exactly one year earlier— and again, who knows what they did to it in remastering. You can hear a more piercing attack here.

Black Heroes - Bobby Hutcherson / Now! - Joe Chambers
Almost certain to be the same cymbal recorded live at the Hollywood Bowl in 1969. Does anyone out there know Joe? 

Spiral - Bobby Hutcherson / Medina - Joe Chambers
Recorded at Van Gelder in '69. Again there are some rather piercing highs that I believe are the result of the digital remaster.  

Lester Leaps In - Lee Konitz / Peacemeal - Jack Dejohnette
Jack Dejohnette early in his career playing another baby Tony cymbal, probably a 20" K.? Pretty dry, but with all the handling properties of Tony's thing— great accents with the shoulder of the stick— on a smaller the scale. 

Finally let's check out what Tony himself was playing a little later. 

Lawra - Herbie Hancock / Third Plane - Tony Williams
Kind of an awful-sounding 70s recording, this was recorded before the new American K. Zildjians, so this is a Turkish cymbal. Sounds like a jazz cymbal getting a little overwhelmed by some big sticks. Still an interesting sound, wilder than his old cymbal, slightly exotic.

I think a main feature of the old cymbal is a big, sustained, controlled wash— here the wash is splashier; you can hear it building quickly and falling off with every stroke. A few thinner C&Gs have this sound— I never felt I could use it, but it is intriguing. I've seen a number of Agop Signatures with this quality in an extreme way. 

I encourage you to comment with your impressions— perceptions can be very slippery, and I know some readers will just have better ears and more experience listening to cymbals than me. 

Saturday, February 20, 2021

From the zone: Zappa transcription project

 Daniel Bédard in Montréal did a really cool project: 

“I challenged myself in trying to transcribe one FZ song a week for a year. That year came to an end last September and due to covid, I've been slowed down big time but still managed to reach my goal of 52 songs in a year.” 

I love his copying style. Here's the whole pile:

Thursday, February 18, 2021

The three bloggers: the left foot, the hihat

New series: Fellow drumming bloggers Jon McCaslin (Four On The Floor), Ted Warren (Trap'd), and I are colluding on a series of posts, in which each of us independently write about the same topic. Whatever drumming-related subjects we can think of, where we have common experience, and where it's worth hearing from three guys about the same thing. Hopefully it will be a regular monthly thing. Obviously I'll have to get used to the deadline aspect, as I'm already late with my first post. 

The first group post is broadly about the hihat, and that odd member that plays it, the left foot. It can be a problematic element. I don't consider myself to be any kind of hihat visionary, so I'll talk about it broadly, hopefully inspiring some ideas for developing it beyond ordinary uses, while respecting its limitations. 

Here are Jon's post and Ted's post— I didn't read them before writing this, because I would probably feel bad about how much better they are, and not be able to finish. Anyway, here we go: 

The Hihat
 What is it, why is it? Why? What? Is it?

Ordinary uses

[UPDATE] All right, I read the other guys' posts and got embarrassed for including this. You know what a hihat is. 

What's the problem? 

It's a sluggish instrument; the normal foot stroke is a dead stroke, and it's not easy to develop a lot of dexterity with that. The rebound is entirely mechanical— it comes from a mediocre spring lifting up the 2-3 pound bronze plate, with zero assistance from gravity or physics. 

Maybe we could play complex things more easily using a splash sound, but I think most of us don't attempt that. The technique for that is problematic, too— the impact part of a splash stroke is soft. It's like playing in the air. 

The hihat's normal placement on the left side of the drum set creates a problem for some people; they don't like crossing over to play the it with the right hand. To the point that they'll spend many hours relearning everything backwards just to avoid doing it. Even for those of us who accept that crossover as one of life's little tragedies, it's an inescapable fact that you can't hit nearly as much crap with the left hand while crossing over it with your right. It's true.    

Finally, I have a little difficulty determining a musical role for very advanced uses of it, beyond what I described above. I don't hear much beyond that. 

Concepts/methods for developing it as a musical voice 

Simple awareness. There is a tendency to regard the drumset as a piece of scenery, and our job is to play stuff on it— I sympathize with that. But every part of it is also a musical voice on its own, and each part's presence or non-presence in a piece of music has an effect. As my playing matures, I want to be better at orchestrating effective percussion, as well as just playing the instrument.

So it's good to ask What is this sound? What is this thing? What am I doing? There's no way to work this through except through a lot of playing and listening. Start by with your own ordinary uses of it, and be able to not always do them. Be able to add them or take them away in the course of playing. 

Tone control for the cymbals played with the hands is possibly an underrated use of it— it is a purely personal musical thing, and somewhat difficult to talk about, and to “train” for. The cymbals are very sensitive to foot pressure on the pedal, and varying it can be very expressive— the difference between a mechanical, drum-machine sounding performance, and one that sounds human, and very engaged with the music in the moment.    

Both feet in unison. Either a dry sound or a splash sound. As coordination and as orchestration it's very fundamental, and I like being very fluent with fundamentals. Don't be afraid of things that are this dumb, and work them in occasionally when you don't have other grand designs for the hihat. You might try playing this page with a jazz cymbal rhythm, playing the melody part with both feet together. One other notable recent thing was in the ongoing Chasin' the Trane transcription, where we see a lot of HH/BD or HH/SD unisons from Elvin Jones, on the & of beat 1, or & of 3.  

In unison with the left hand. I don't have a particular musical concept for this, it's more a practice technique using the left hand to discipline the left foot. Some forms of my harmonic coordination system are good for developing this; or you can simply play Stick Control patterns as R=RH/cym+RF, L=LH/SD+LF. 

Choke effects are very useful and effective, but a little mysterious to a lot of students. You can improve them by focusing on the timing of the close, rather than the open. The close is coordinated, the open is typically finessed, and out of time. Practicing both feet in unison improves closes with the bass drum, praticing LH/LF in unison improves closing with the left hand. See my “Funk Control” series for practice methods for each of those— any exercises involving an open hihat.  

With linear solo patterns it can replace the bass drum, for a different texture. Try it with RLF, RLLF, FRRL, or Gary Chaffee's linear patterns. Practicing it in unison with the bass drum on this kind of thing should open up some other possibilities. Given that it is a more technically challenging instrument to play, I think it's a good idea to practice a lot of easy, obvious single-note things with it. 

A big area for exploitation in a funk idiom is to play mixed rhythms with both hands, most famously done by Zigaboo Modeliste with his groove on Cissy Strut. Also done by D.C. Gogo drummers, and Omar Hakim on a John Scofield record. Using natural sticking is the best way to do this, as it easily converts to alternating accented singles, with short roll/drag passages, like what Omar Hakim did this groove with Weather Report.

There we are, now I get to go read what Jon and Ted wrote! 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Service announcement

 Sorry for the lack of posts-- I have a ton of stuff lined up, including a big sale on cymbals, but there's a massive internet service outage in Portland thanks to an ice storm. And blogging from a pad via wireless hotspot SUCKS, if I may be blunt. 

Back soon...

Saturday, February 13, 2021

New rudiment: Swisscues

New rudiment time: a flam rudiment combining a Swiss Triplet and a Flamacue. It's so basic I can't imagine it doesn't already exist somewhere, but I'm not digging through the lists of 50,000 hybrid rudiments to check it out. They just started happening when I was hitting the practice pad, and I stopped to figure out what they were. We'll call them Swisscues, or Swiss Cues if you prefer— though calling it “Swiss [thing]” is misleading, because it's not a legit Swiss rudiment as far as I am aware.  

...I wanted to call them “swissamacues”, just to make it extra-embarrassing to say. Decided against it. 

Anyway here it is, with some exercises to develop it, plus a solo, adapted from Haskell Harr (Drum Method Book 2, p. 80, “Harold Pitcock”):

You can see from ex. 4 that we've simply doubled the right hand, and changed the rhythm to a sixtuplet. You can substitute these for regular flamacues found in Harr, or Wilcoxon, or the NARD collection. Have fun. 

Oh, there's a little typo in measure 15 of the solo—the release of the roll on beat two should be a right hand, as it is throughout the rest of the solo. All of those rolls are 7-stroke rolls starting on the left hand, ending on the right, with a 16th note triplet pulsation. 

Get the pdf

Thursday, February 11, 2021

CYMBALISTIC: Leon Collection specials coming soon!

NEWS: Cymbal & Gong is blowing out a little bit of old stock from their master smith's personal line of cymbals, the Leon Collection, and so, my humble dealership CYMBALISTIC will soon be offering some big specials on them.  

The general character of the Leon Collection is bright, light, airy, musical, lush— for an ECM-type sound in jazz weights. At a cymbal meet in Berlin, the consensus among drummers was that they were “like 602s, but better.” 

New cymbals, all jazz weight, and personally selected by me, include: 

Two 22" light rides - These are both quite light, bordering on crash weight, but they handle well as rides played with light sticks. 
One 19" crash ride - Excellent solid left side cymbal. 
Two 17" thin crashes - 17 is the new 18. These are quick, for getting a nice accent at moderate volumes, while still handling light riding well. Mount them on the left, Tony Williams-style, or on the far right. 
One set 15" light hihats - light cymbals with a solid foot sound. 

I'll be posting videos of those next week. If you're looking for other sizes, for the moment there are a few other Leons still at C&G HQ— crashes from 16-21", and lighter 15" hihats. Let me know right away if you have any interest in those, they'll be gone soon!   

And I have two other Leons currently in stock: a beautiful, delicate 20" flat ride, and this remarkable ultra light 20" ride:  

What I will probably do is offer rapidly escalating discounts when buying more than one Leon— or a Leon together with another line. And probably a smaller discount on other lines of cymbals purchased with one or more Leons. 

In short, this will be a great opportunity to save hundreds filling out your collection of cymbals.   

I'll announce the discount schedule when I post the videos of the individual cymbals next week. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Transcription: Elvin Jones - Chasin' the Trane - 07

I'm finally half done with this. This project is definitely streamlining my transcription methods. I use the program Transcribe, and loop two measures at a time, usually starting with the playback speed at 75%. Everything is basically audible on this track, and I haven't had to mess with the EQ. 

Because I'm using Finale, I first sketch in the combined rhythm for the full drum set— I'll put in the first sound I hear on every note of the combined rhythm. Cymbal, snare, whatever. Then I'll use the speedy entry tool to fill in everything else that's happening in the measure, using the keyboard. It's a pain poking around adding a lot of notes with the mouse. Then I add all of the articulations— accents, ghost notes, open hihat and whatnot. Finally, once I've completed a twelve measure chorus, I'll go back and loop the entire chorus and listen for mistakes in all four parts— cymbal, snare, bass, hihat. It's easy to miss things at the beginning/end of each two measure portion you looped.  

 So here is part 7, minutes 7:00-8:10, the 37th-42nd choruses of Elvin Jones playing Chasin' the Trane, from John Coltrane Live at the Village Vanguard: 

Things are getting slightly wilder; there are a couple of big fills, and a couple big accent passages. We're seeing more tied notes on the cymbals, more activity with unisons between the snare and bass, more multiple triplet rate notes played with the left hand. That thing with the bass drum in the middle of the triplet was no fluke, because we see it several times here. Lots of hihat on the & of 1/3, as well. Often the execution of those is slightly fluffy, with the hihat slightly late, so it's landing between the & and the following downbeat. I hope it's obvious what to do with the big 16th note fill in the second page— you don't play exactly what I wrote, you play the idea. Obviously he's playing in a kinetic kind of way, and every single note of the idea didn't connect with the drums. 

Through all of this the tempo is holding steady— maybe it picked up a few BPM, or maybe it's just a sampling error. I'm just letting the software tell me the tempo, based on my markers.    

Get the pdf

Monday, February 08, 2021

Page o' coordination: grocery store hemiola - 01

So-called because I found myself unconsciously tapping this out in the grocery store parking lot while waiting for them to bring out my groceries. 

...incidentally, for the sake of limiting your exposure to COVID-19, I highly recommend the curb side service when getting your groceries, if your store offers it. Right now the Fred Meyer where I get my groceries— a Kroger market— offers the service free of charge. 

So I was tapping pattern 1 with my RH/LF while waiting for the guy to bring out my stuff, and for fun I wrote up a PAGE O' COORDINATION for it. 

There are independent parts for snare drum and bass drum, but you can/should play them all on either drum. Use the stock tom moves when playing these with your left hand. 

Get the pdf

Sunday, February 07, 2021

Griener on stick selection

Here's a forum comment by our friend Michael Griener in Berlin, which I wanted to preserve on this site. Michael is an excellent, very active drummer in Germany and throughout Central Europe, in jazz and avante-garde music, and also an active teacher in Berlin and Dresden. He's also been a big supporter of Cymbal & Gong cymbals, and very helpful in getting the cymbals to Germany. Michael has several Cymbal & Gong Mersey Beat and Leon Collection cymbals

UPDATE: I posted some video of Michael playing on Cymbalistic.

Here he gives his personal journey with stick selection, and how it reflects performance concerns and cymbal selection for jazz drummers. I recognize a lot of my own experiences here, except I never settled on an acceptable solution on my own. The comment is in context of a conversation about looking for a jazz stick other than the very common choice, the Vic Firth SD-4 Combo. 

Here's Michael: 

I used to play Maple sticks for years, although I went for SD2 (Bolero style) instead of SD4 Combo. I ended up with the now discontinued Gregg Field [coincidentally, my old teacher at USC- tb] endorser model, which was a maple stick in between a SD2 and a SD4. But as nice as Maple sticks feel, those sticks tend to make a darker sound which is pleasant for you as a drummer listening to yourself, but the cymbals tend to get buried in the mix.

The Bopworks Birdland model [one of Michael's favored models] was built after an old Roy Haynes model, and all the older sticks I came across had a long taper which was the reason why sticks started to break after drummers had to match their volume with amplified instruments.

So stick design changed in the early seventies. I think Pro Mark was the first company to make their sticks thicker around the taper, but that threw off the balance of the sticks. Drummers had to work harder to play a fast ride pattern and played louder as a consequence.

I found that drummers with bigger sticks (more mass, not necessarily more weight) tend to play louder and overpower thin jazz ride cymbals. That's probably one reason for those unlathed cymbals came into fashion a couple of years ago since you can't overpower them. They have an in-built limiter and my students used to like them when they weren't able to control a cymbal.

When I met with Pete La Roca, he used small Regal Tip 7A's with nylon tips, because he wanted his cymbals to get heard without overplaying.

I had Frank Kincel of LA Backbeat make me a special stick model which is .505 thick with a very long taper and I haven't broken one of them yet. Great sticks, especially for piano trios.

When I need a bit more beef, I use LA Backbeat's JBX 535 (J=Jazz= lighter wood, B=Bounce= longer taper, X=extra length=16"), but then I usually play with acoustic instruments only. But with those sticks I can control lighter cymbals and don't need to hold back.

I want a clear sound to make my time be heard in the band. I never could understand why people liked nylon tips at all, but now that I don't break sticks anymore the wooden tips wear off after some months. I now use clear finger nail hardener to convert my worn tips into nylon tips temporarily, but that needs to be redone every couple of weeks. The only problem is that my sticks now last so long that I'm afraid my favorite stick companies will go out of business since I'm not buying enough.

So, people, please seek out people like Frank Kincel of LA Backbeat and Chris Bennett of Bopworks and buy their sticks! Keep them going!

Todd again: See also my jazz stick roundup and Bopworks stick reviews. To get a further idea of why the Bopworks sticks are special, also see this interview with Chris Bennett, shared with me by Michael. 

Friday, February 05, 2021

Velocity stickings for Syncopation, Lesson 10

For a couple of my students I've written a set of velocity stickings to use with Lesson 10 (pp. 22-23) in Syncopation. They're designed to be played fast, hey? These will be a godsend for everyone trying to do that hyperactive contemporary thing with the super fast embellishments— like if you have your eye on some hihats with giant holes in them, and are really digging super high, dry, white noise-like percussion sounds... what every single drummer in the world under ~ age 30 is into right now.     

This should really be expanded into a new e-book, so I won't overdo it writing a maximal number of patterns. I've given my suggested release note(s), but any sticking ending with a single R or L can release on either hand; stickings ending with a double should release on the opposite hand. Some stickings will start with the same hand every measure, others will switch lead hands every measure.  

Play the 8th note portion of each measure however you like. I suggest starting with all R hand, all L hand, alternating starting with R, and alternating starting with L.

To simplify the first measure of each drill, on exercises with 16ths crossing the barline (lines 8, 12, 13), I play 8th notes until I hit the first full two or three beat run of 16ths, starting on beats 3 or 4. Or just use my example rhythms below. Interpret these in cut time, so the 16th notes function as 32nd notes— the eight-note subdivision.

1. One beat of 16ths - lines 1-4, 14-15


2. Two beats of 16ths - lines 5-8 




3. Three beats of 16ths - lines 9-10, 12-13




4. Four beats of 16ths - line 11

I'm skipping this for now. Try repeating any of the two-beat stickings that release on the same hand they start with. 

Perhaps we'll see a new e-book on this topic in the coming weeks/months! In the meantime see my e-book 13 Essential Stickings, which is designed around this basic premise of stickings that are easy to play fast, as well as my page of velocity stickings in 3/4 and 12/8