Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Page o' coordination: pseudo-Latin in 7 - 01

A page of independence patterns for a quasi-Latin groove in 7/4. The cymbal part is based on a Mozambique rhythm, and there the similarity to any real Latin music ends. This is not a style, that I'm aware of, but things like this turn up in modern music. The idea is just to learn how to play in 7 better by doing something familiar. Hopefully you can already play the Mozambique rhythm before doing this. 

The bass drum and hihat parts are pretty minimal, and you can omit them at first if you want. You can also try them without the circled snare drum notes. Learn the page, then practice it using all of my stock left hand moves.   

Get the pdf

Friday, June 25, 2021

Transcription: Al Harewood comping

What the hell, I'm on a roll, waiting for this weekend's blanket of suffocating heat to descend on the entire Pacific Northwest. Let's look at some more of Al Harewood, on yesterday's same record by George Benson. It's a live album, and the band is cooking, and this is Harewood playing during the piano solo on the title track, Witchcraft. Choruses are 40 bars long, and I've written out the first three. Tempo is quarter note = 255, and he does swing the 8th notes. The transcription begins at 0:52. 


The transcription is slightly simplified, for ease of practicing— I've just given the audible cymbal, snare, and bass drum parts— and toms occasionally. No hihats (he doesn't play them in a real pronounced way anyhow), no miscellaneous cymbals, minimal dynamics except where they're more pronounced. I haven't made any special effort to pick out any ghosted notes.   

I suggest practicing this in four or eight measure phrases. The individual “ideas” are not particularly difficult or varied, this is all about the larger phrase— which is a good general approach to take with comping in jazz.  

Get the pdf

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Transcription: Al Harewood - All Blues

I've been looking into Al Harewood quite a bit lately. He's one of those drummers who's on a lot of stuff, but is still easy to overlook. He's on a lot of Blue Note records in the 60s. I wouldn't call him a modern player, exactly; more of a hard bop guy with a strong R&B edge. Here he is playing with George Benson— this is Benson's solo on All Blues, from his live album Witchcraft. The transcription begins at 1:51.   

All Blues is conventionally written in 6/8, but the drummer plays it as a jazz waltz, so that's how I've written it, in 3/4. Two bars of 3/4 here = one bar of the 6/8, to create a 24 bar blues form— if you're reconciling it with a lead sheet, for some reason. There's no reason for a drummer to ever look at a chart when playing All Blues, incidentally. 

Harewood's foundation here is very simple; there's not a lot of variety to his basic groove. What he does do is make a lot of featured, fill-like comping ideas outlining the form of the tune. He plays them loud, with a lot of variety, pretty regularly at every phrase ending. It's normally not a way we think to play— it would be easy to sound bad doing this.  

You could say his dynamics are dramatic and very local, too— he uses lots of crescendos, and a lot of subito ps. He gets louder from chorus to chorus, but within that there will be a lot of dynamic changes. He doesn't stay loud after a crescendo. I've marked his dynamic changes in moderate detail on the first page. 

In terms of the kind of physical coordination at work, there is a good amount of layering happening— harmonic coordination, if you will— multiple limbs playing at the same time, in rather complex combinations. See measures 5, 28, 32, and then in the last couple of pages especially. 

Some of the rhythms written as triplets get a little distorted— if you see a tenuto mark over one note of a triplet, that indicates that note is a little longer than its normal rhythmic value, and the note after it falls a little late. Almost a 1e-a 16th note rhythm. That happens in measure 136, for example.  

Get the pdf

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

A needlessly difficult book

This has been sitting in my drafts folder for a few weeks. I wasn't going to post it, but I'm having a hard time finishing anything lately. So here we are: 

A book I've never seen before, Drumming In All Directions, by David Dieni, a drummer/percussionist from the Bay Area, was mentioned on a drumming forum, and I want to give a few opinionated comments on what I see in the online preview. I'm not bringing it up to try to sell you on not buying somebody's book— I want to use it to talk about what I want in practice materials, and why— and maybe give some things to think about for others who write.    

What's in the book is real stuff— I, and others, do some similar things using Reed, Dahlgren & Fine, and other books— I just don't dig this presentation. 

Just in terms of understanding what we're supposed to do, the book doesn't go easy on us explaining its methods. This example illustrates the book's system, and wow:

I already know what he's doing, and it's hard for me to figure it out from reading that. The concept is to play some composed two-voice practice phrases, using a few different coordination systems— actually unison stickings: 

Hands vs. Feet - RH/LH vs. RF/LF
Right Side vs. Left Side - RH/RF vs. LH/LF
Opposite side unisons - RH/LF vs. LH/RF 

It's quite similar to the harmonic coordination section of Dahlgren & Fine. He also uses some worked out tom moves, as I do, and many others. So far, so good— you could do the same thing with those stickings with Reed (filling in the gaps in the written rhythm) or Stone (substituting those stickings for the Rs and Ls).   

My major problem is that the practice phrases (called groove melodies in the book— really they're solo phrases) are just very remote from musical reality as I know it. For example, I never want to look at anything like this when I'm practicing the drums:

I don't understand the purpose of writing these exercises as 32nd notes— I don't consider this level of fluency with reading them to be an essential skill for a drummer. I don't believe I've ever read a 32nd note in the course of playing music professionally, and I read them pretty rarely when practicing drum set. If I were ever to play anything similar to that in real life, I would be thinking in terms of 16th notes double timed. Maybe even 8th notes quadruple timed.

Materials written for two voices, or written as a sticking, do have a purpose, but most of the time I want to practice, play, read, and think in terms of a single melody rhythm, and inferring the second voice— Reed style. These phrases have rests, which are hard to duplicate with standard Reed methods or Stone-type sticking patterns. But if that were considered very important, we could devise some methods to include rests, and then improvise some similar things. Which in the end is the entire point— learning to improvise.   

I'm also not fond of the drum-theoretical content. For example, there is a lengthy description of drumming coordination as a progression from “control of individual limbs” to “independence” to “interdependence”:

I don't recognize this from my own experience at all. Independence is not a step along the way to interdependence, it's simply a defunct theory of how drumming coordination works. At every step of development, there is only deliberate coordination of parts, or there is guessing at it. 

How you write these things is important, because so much of drumming involves people figuring things out for themselves— no matter how good of instruction and information they get, they still have to figure it out in the practice room. So when a major topic like coordination is badly framed, it misguides readers' thinking and gets them pursuing phantom abilities, and it's a massive time waster.    

In the end, it's not difficult to write a lot of hard stuff to play on the drums; it's more difficult to present it clearly, and communicate clearly, and to make it relevant to the real world of playing music. And to be economical with the demands you make on people's time practicing it. It's not that this is a terrible book (from what I see in the preview)— I think it's needlessly difficult for what it aims to achieve for users. 

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Dejohnette-like method

The cosmos gave me a couple of instances of Jack Dejohnette yesterday— I got to work on that Jack Dejohnette transcription, and also happened to also catch him on the radio (KMHD.org, The Afternoon Bridge, hosted by my friend Ben Turner), playing with Michael Brecker. I thought about it for a few minutes and wrote this. I wish I had thought about it 30 years ago, I could have used this.  

It's another way of practicing Ted Reed's Syncopation— or any other rhythm book in the world— to develop some Dejohnette-like free flowing busy stuff. Good for soloing, or for that dense accompanying textural playing that nobody ever talks about as a thing.  

Its major elements: 
•  Play the melody part on the cymbal and bass drum with the right hand.
•  Fill in 16th notes on the snare drum with the left hand, ending with bass drum, where it fits. 
•  Break up the longer runs of filler by bringing the right hand to the snare drum. 

It's relatively difficult method to read—you need to be really quick at identifying how much space there is between notes. Here's the key— I've included syncopated versions of a couple of them, and a couple of longer values not found or not common in Reed: 

Note that I accent the singles at the end of the snare drum part. That just happened naturally when I was practicing it. Practice the patterns, then practice them substituting the appropriate pattern for the rhythms in the book. 

I'm practicing this along with my John Zorn / Beeroth practice loop, or with Betty Davis / If I'm In Luck...— in cut time, so the 16ths of the exercises are 32nd notes in the meter of the loop. I think you'll find it goes easier if you practice Reed pp. 35, 37, 34, 36 in that order, before getting into the full page exercises.

Get the pdf

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Syncopation exercise: p. 38 with ties added

One minor gap in the rhythms covered in Syncopation— that's a drumming book, hahaha omg— is that there aren't so many syncopated long notes on the “weak” beats, 2 and 4. There are relatively few ties from the & of 2, and none on the & of 4, crossing the barline— and few of the functional equivalent: an 8th note on the & of 4, followed by a rest on 1— and no quarter rests on 1 at all in the full page exercises. 

Sounds arcane, is actually important— in jazz we do a lot of accenting on the & of 4, coming back in with the time on 2 of the following measure. 

So: let's add a tie on the last note of the measure, through the first note in the following measure... where there are no intervening rests. Here I've added them to the well known Syncopation Ex. 1 in Reed— notice where the ties aren't: 

I think the full page Ex. 2 is the only one where you can add the ties every measure— there are no rests at the beginning or end of any measure. 

The idea is not just to have some slighly-different rhythms to practice, so let's also accent that tied note— make a long sound, let the cymbal ring out. 

Here's how you might play the first two lines of the above exercise played with a common jazz interpretation— exercise rhythm played on the snare drum, jazz rhythm played on the cymbal, accenting the added ties on both instruments. For clarity I haven't written a hihat part:  

Depending on the style, and which pages you're practicing, you may not want to do it every single measure, so maybe do it every two measures. Usually at the end of the second measure, but also try it in the first measure, and see how it affects the sound of the phrase— especially when doing a funk interpretation. 

Get the pdf

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Three Camps for drumset - jazz / uptempo - 01

I wrote this to isolate some things used in my main uptempo Reed method— which I continue to find an excellent method. This is good if you need to polish a few of those bass drum patterns in a more focused way.   

I've simplified the structure somewhat— the third camp just repeats the last two measures of the second camp, backwards. The piece really needed that tiny bit of variety, and I find this a little dull to practice. I'll probably skip the whole last section altogether. Still, it's better than just practicing a one measure pattern over and over again, right? 

Get the pdf

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Daily best music in the world: So What

I'm going to transcribe some part of this— you can give it a listen while I figure that out. It seems worthy of a pretty full treatment, and breaks down cleanly into funk, medium swing, and fast swing sections, so maybe it will be a multi-part project. 

It's Jack Dejohnette playing So What on George Benson's album Beyond The Blue Horizon. This is really the kind of drumming everything on this blog is in aid of: 

Sunday, June 06, 2021

EZ ECM feel - 01 - unisons

This is the first part of a little method I used in a lesson recently, for introducing what has become known as an ECM-type feel— a modern, non-repetitive, quasi-linear, straight 8th jazz feel. See Jon Christensen's playing on Keith Jarrett's Rejoicing or Jan Garbarek's Dansere for a quick introduction to it. This method should help in learning to create an ad lib texture, interpret a melody line or bass line in a chart.  

As always, using Syncopation by Ted Reed...

...increasingly I feel this is like saying “Today we're using letters from the alphabet to write this poem.” “We're going to use colored to paint to make a painting.” Syncopation is a book of rhythms and, as drummers, rhythms are our raw materials. 

So, we'll read the rhythms from the book, pp. 34-38, and interpret them a certain way on the drumset, to simulate a simple improvised drumming texture, and prepare you for improvising your own similar texture, and to simulate a real life reading situation.

For the examples we'll use the first line of the full page exercise on p. 38 of Reed:

1. Play the top line book rhythm on the cymbal: 

As a general rule, you'll want to accent the long notes slightly. Make it sound nice, this is your lead voice.

2. Play with left hand added in unison: 

Play the snare drum and bass drum quieter than the cymbal. Improvise bigger accents wherever you like. 

3. Play with left hand added on short notes only— untied 8th notes: 

4. Play with bass drum added on long notes only— anything longer than an untied 8th note:

Play the snare drum and bass drum together for a denser texture:

You could practice alternating measures of 3. and 4. to create a realistically sparse, varied texture: 

A next step would be to repeat the previous items while playing 8th notes on the cymbal, and then improvise textures similar to all of the things you've done here:


See also my other ECM-related posts, and my other EZ methods, many of which will be similar to what we've done here. 

This does rely on you having an idea of the kind of kind of music in question, so you have to listen to some records and try to copy that sound and basic vibe. 

Listen to: 

Pat Metheny / Bright Size Life - Bob Moses on drums
Jan Garbarek / Dansere - Jon Christensen on drums
Keith Jarrett / Rejoicing - Jon Christensen on drums
Gary Peacock / Tales of Another - Jack Dejohnette on drums
Gary Burton / Ring - Bob Moses on drums

Friday, June 04, 2021

Linear 8ths in 9/8 - 02

We're doing a lot with triplets and compound-meter 8th notes these days— here with a linear pattern in 9/8, with inversions. See this last similar page, and my page of linear double paradiddles/paradiddle-diddles— still one of the more useful single pages I've posted on this site. 

The first half of the page has the pattern starting on the snare drum, the second half has it starting with the bass drum. Practice these on the snare drum and bass drum, along with any cymbal rhythm of your choice. Right now I just play them in a jazz waltz feel. 

Get the pdf

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

CYMBALISTIC: a few new Holy Grails

I picked up a few more cymbals from Cymbal & Gong HQ last week, for sale on my Cymbalistic site. I'll be posting those and adding video... shortly. Four Holy Grail series, two 20" rides, a 21" ride, and a 22" ride, all jazz weight. I didn't bother making video of the selection process, because I've gotten very fast at it. It helps that the cymbals are nearly all excellent, and it's very hard to choose wrong.  

I also visited with Tim Ennis, C&G's proprietor, for a few minutes, and had a few thoughts about our conversation: 

Easy and challenging cymbals

Sometimes when I'm selecting cymbals to sell— I select them individually, only choosing things I would want to use myself— everything seems equally good, and it's rather hard to choose. They would all be the best thing in any store at any other time in history— and today— but it can be hard to choose between them. 

Several of this batch just immediately popped as very special cymbals. Within the range of excellent cymbals, there are easy ones and relatively challenging ones— hand hammered cymbals will often have a slight trashy element, some random harmonics, that make you take a moment of listening to decide if it's an acceptable sound. Or, some cymbals may require slightly more care when playing them— my 22" Holy Grail is rather a beast, for example. I don't just lay into it like I do my dry 20", which is a very easy to handle cymbal. 

The sound

I keep referring to these as “the true 50s sound” or whatever— which is really not the true point of all of this. The purpose is not to get a “period” or “vintage” sound, and I don't want to suggest that these cymbals are just for playing 50s jazz. 

They do capture that sound, but what I really mean is that this is the sound of the instrument. Like a piano, acoustic bass, or clarinet— they are what they are, the sound doesn't change from decade to decade. Basically, if you're playing acoustic music, or amplified music with acoustic instruments, Cymbal & Gong cymbals, like those original K. Zildjians, are the sound to blend in that setting, whatever the style of music. 

Hell of brands

I also talked to Tim about how fundamentally different Cymbal & Gong are from the many other Turkish brands available now. I've been raving about this since my visit to Istanbul in 2019. Most of the cymbals I played there were either in the fascinating-but-not-musically-useful category; or in that fast, trebly, splashy category that happens to be popular right now.

Many had strange qualities that made them no good as musical instruments, for me— they didn't sound like cymbals as I know them. We do have to play these things, ride on them, crash them, play the bell. Apart from having a fascinating, lovely sound, cymbals need to respond to the stick in certain ways to be playable, and create a musical impression played in an ensemble.

Tim said the reason for the difference was mainly due to him finding a true master smith, who is highly skilled, and who actually listens and cares about what his cymbals sound like. Cymbal smithing is metal work— a dirty physical job which typically isn't approached with a high art mindset. Did you ever take a metal shop class in school? Apparently in a lot of shops, the primary orientation is about making what everyone else is making and shipping a lot of product. 

And of course it also required Tim knowing the sound we're all after, and going to Turkey and asking them to make these cymbals this way— they weren't doing this on their own. There are now some shops in Turkey attempting to do traditional K-type cymbals, perhaps copying Cymbal & Gong— the ones I played over there didn't quite make it. 

Anyway, check back soon, videos of the new cymbals are coming!