Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Charlie Watts meets Stan Levey

Here's a video my brother mentioned to me— Charlie Watts hanging out with Stan Levey and Jim Keltner back in 2003. Levey was one of Watts's heroes. Lots of chit chat about Charlie Parker— we get to hear a recording of an interview with him— and about studio work, boxing, drugs and alcohol, weird encounters with Frank Sinatra and Elvis. You kind of which it had just been the principles though— just the drummers. 

Monday, August 30, 2021

Half time country rock with Reed

This swingy country, folky, gospel type of half time feel groove is all over the music of the late 60s/early 70s. You Can't Always Get What You Want, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, for example. It happens on a couple of tunes I was working on for a show with my wife, Casey Scott, on Friday, and I realized I wasn't very good at it. At least in the practice room, at the tempo of that song— in the show it worked out fine. 

But let's talk about a strategy for working on that— it requires some creativity and interpretation on your part. 

We're in a half time feel, so when reading out of Syncopation, the backbeat will fall on beat 3. The 8th notes will swing in a legato way, which will give it a feel not unlike a sixtuplet funk shuffle, though different. Don't overdo the swing feel.

For the grooves, use lines 1, 3, 4, 13-18, 42-43, 46-47 from pp. 34-36 of Syncopation. Play most of the book rhythm on the bass drum, except put beat 3 (not the &) on the snare drum. Play quarter notes on the cymbal.  Get out your four color pen and circle those lines in green or whatever. Note that all of those lines have notes sounding on beats 1 and 3. 

Basically do this, except play quarter notes on the cymbal instead of 8th notes:

To simplify the bass drum and add some interaction with the snare, play line 4, alternating notes between bass drum and snare drum:

That 8th-quarter-8th rhythm happens a lot— when it happens on beat 1, start with the bass drum; when it happens on beat 3, start with the snare, so lines 1 and 3 would be played:

You can then voice the other groove rhythms similarly— start and end on the bass drum on beats 1-2, start and end on the snare drum with beats 3-4:  

For the fills, you can use any of the book rhythms, played down the drums, with whatever sticking you like: 

You don't always have to go high to low— improvise the moves around the drums and see what else is effective. 

If the book rhythm has a rest on 1, play the cymbal or cymbal/bass drum there just to mark it: 

You could play quarter notes on the bass drum through the fill, to nail down the time. Especially on the sparser rhythms. If you watch the Dixie video linked to at the top of the post, you'll notice that Levon Helm played this type of groove with four on the floor bass drum all the way: 

This is the phrase I was practicing, from a particular song— but it's universal enough: 

Improvise the groove portion, and get the fill rhythms out of the book, and focus on the timing. For me the big problem was laying back enough. The vocabulary isn't necessarily new; this is more a template for refining it and nailing down the proper phrasing. 

Friday, August 27, 2021

Ba-dum tss

This is not a follow up to my death post. You'd have to have some kind of sick mind to post this and immediately die. It would be funny, but... no. Come on. 

Let's talk about the “ba-dum tss” style rim shot— that's how I know them: “rim shots”— for a comedian or entertainer, or the odd musical/dinner theater setting. It has become a full blown internet meme, so people are probably going to be working it into all kinds of lame acts, and you may have to actually do it in public sometime. I've had to a few times in the course of working cruise ships. Even if the performers or the material were hacky, there was always a level of professionalism— so I'm talking about doing it during an actual act, not just to screw around when the singer says something dumb. God help you if you get stuck doing it at the Firestone company picnic talent show or something— that's a  situation you cannot rescue. Anyway, let's talk about doing it and not sucking. 

First, you don't have to play “ba-dum tss.” You shouldn't play ba-dum tss. It's so obvious it will probably be interpreted as sarcastic, like you're inviting people to laugh at the comedian for sucking. That's not good. We don't need to do this at grandma or pre-school level. Usually all that is needed is a quick punctuation in one or two notes. You can be more interactive by listening to the joke and playing something appropriate for the rhythm or the subject. Not unlike what's happening here:

That's all worked out to correspond with the physical comedy, and normally you wouldn't go that long, but that's the basic idea. There should be some energy and variety. Though on one particularly awful show I played, there was a segment with several cast members telling rapid fire horrible hillbilly jokes, and after each punch line, one of them would hit a cowbell. It was actually effective, in a Pavlovian kind of way, and it became kind of funny. 

Here are some examples of things to play— those can go on any drum with any sticking you want, where applicable: 

Or whatever. I thought about it for five minutes. Think 1-5 notes, played fast. 

There becomes a little bit of a free jazz element to it, where you're winging translating a comic punchline into drumming language. On one show there was a joke about giving a mule a pill by blowing it through a tube— the punchline was “not if the mule blows first”, and I did a buzz stroke on the floor tom with a mallet. Reminiscent of a mule surprising you by blowing the pill back in your mouth. That was about the level I achieved on the whole sketch. You can use any unusual sounds you have on hand for variety— splash cymbal, cowbell, ratchet, bird whistle, whatever. It would have to be a pretty cornball show to get into too much of that.   

Some rules: 
  • You can't bootleg it. The performer needs to ask you to do it, before the show— doing it on your own is heckling, and is not cool. Offering to do rimshots is in poor taste, like offering them a clown wig to wear in their act. They need to request it.  
  • Don't interfere with the performer's timing. This takes some sensitivity. 
  • Your timing is important— listen closely and follow the rhythm of the joke. You may hit something in the same groove as the joke, or you may go for a contrast— fast if the delivery was slow, slow if the delivery was fast. I've seen people deliberately blow the timing of the rimshot to highlight a real clunker of a joke, and that becomes the joke. Follow the performer's lead on that. 
  • Unless the performer wants to feature you in some way, don't try to compete with him or one-up the joke.  
  • You are not a comedian, actor, or entertainer. Have a good time, but don't mug for the audience, don't try to participate or get attention visually. 

Schticky hack comedy doesn't need to suck completely. Embrace it a little bit for what it is, when forced to do it. See it as a link to our vaudevillian past. 

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Very occasional quote of the day: Bozzio auditions for Zappa

I had to fly myself down to LA just to audition like the rank and file rest of the people that auditioned for Frank. It was scary, you know, it was ridiculous. I walked in, and I'm this little kid from San Francisco. I walk into Frank's huge warehouse with this big stage, and all this equipment and road cases and stuff. And these ridiculous charts spread all over the stage. 

And I thought I could pretty much read anything, you know. But I mean this was like the hardest stuff you'd ever want to see. You know, just the odd groupings and odd times, and he had melodic things written out around the toms and the drums, so you didn't have to read just rhythmically—you had to read melodic things as well. I thought, "Man, I can never do this. I've lost." But then I thought, "Well, I've spent the airfare to go down here. I'll give it a try." 

I watched a couple other drummers audition, and they were sort of trying to flaunt their chops rather than really listen to what was going on. So I said, "Well, at least I'll listen." I went up there, and I fumbled through some charts the best I could. There's not too many drummers who could sight read that stuff, so when a real hard part would come, I would just stop and say, "Oh, this is this," and I'd play it for him. And he said, "Right, now stick it in with the rest of it." And I would. 

We jammed a bit and he said, "Okay, you sound real good. I want to hear you when I'm finished with the rest of the guys." And everybody there split, so he said, "Well I guess you've got the gig if you want it."

- Terry Bozzio, from his 1981 Modern Drummer interview with Robin Tolleson

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

More reality

Well, you can't say this hasn't been an eventful couple of years. I've always been a basically healthy guy, and, having no health insurance for most of my life, I'm not in the habit of going to the doctor often. I did go yesterday, and found out I have extremely high blood pressure— well into the “hypertensive crisis” range. Fortunately, after an examination, urinalysis, and EKG, they're not finding any signs of imminent organ failure so far. The doctor and staff were definitely jumpy about it, but they didn't send me straight to the emergency room— which is currently clogged with unvaccinated COVID cases from rural Oregon. They put me on some meds, and we're following up every couple of days. Still, that phrase hypertensive crisis - seek emergency care makes you feel like you could drop dead any time— but the doctor has assessed that I'm merely hypertensive urgent, meaning “you probably won't die in the next week, but deal with this now.”  

What the hell do you do with that? I always assumed I would just drop dead from something heart related— my father died of a heart attack when he was 41, and I was just turning 4, way back in 1971. Other family members have been very long lived, so I figured there were one of two ways it would go. 

Anyway: I don't want to be maudlin about it, or over-dramatic, but if something happens, I'd hate to check out without leaving a note.

I don't feel incomplete. A lot of people feel like frauds their entire life, and I don't— I can play the drums, I am a musician, I am a player... even if my playing career has never been massive. If I needed adulation or attention I would have sought it out harder— all I ever needed was to make some of my own music, and prove I am a player to myself... plus a little confirmation from people I trust that I'm doing the right thing. I do need to record more. And I've got a studio with 50+ unfinished paintings in it— I need to wrap some of those up. 

I'm very happy with the way the site has developed— I know I've made a contribution with it. I've written things I was always looking for, and never found, because they didn't exist. Or made workarounds for problems/impediments in the existing literature. I think the site makes a decent case for this 60s-70s modernism which is underrepresented in media and literature and especially on the internet as a way to play. What I've posted here would have been massively helpful to me when I was younger, I'm confident it will be massively helpful to some other people like me— I recognize you guys. 

I always tell the story of the weekend cruise ship singer, who I believe worked in a bank, and was bragging about his quite excellent retirement plan (“Two words: compound interest.”). Then one day shortly after retirement, he woke up not feeling well, discovered he had cancer, and was dead a few months later, and he may as well have just been a jazz drummer, a poet, an actor, WHATEVER HE REALLY WANTED TO DO. The end. 

So if I happen to die suddenly, I see it as a huge joke on society and all of its tsk tsk he should have gotten a real job. They'll have to shove that one more time. 

8/27 UPDATE: No organ damage, thank God. They're reducing my blood pressure with medication, and sometime in the next week it should be into long term survivable range. At that point I could just stay on medication forever, or make some lifestyle changes to reduce it. It was so high that the doctor believes there is something hereditary at work, so I imagine I'll be on the medication long term to some extent. 

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Three practice rhythms inverted

This is a page I wanted when I was practicing yesterday— whatever I was doing was hard enough that I wanted to see these written out, all together. They're simple, so they're good starting independence rhythms together with more complex ostinatos. Most of the time I don't actually want the denser practice rhythms found in Syncopation. 

Also see my pages of tresillo/cinquillo inversions. Together that all makes a pretty robust, functional independence/comping vocabulary. 

Get the pdf

Friday, August 20, 2021

Cymbalistic: 16" Holy Grail thin/med. thin crashes

CYMBALISTIC: Someone was looking for a 16" crash, so I went over to Cymbal & Gong HQ in southeast Portland and played some nice 16" Holy Grail crashes. Check them out: 

The 949 gram cymbal I purchased for my own stock— if this other customer doesn't buy it, it will be available on my Cymbalistic site soon. The others will be at C&G until someone buys them. All are excellent cymbals— responsive in crashing, and handle light, jazz style riding well; some have more character, some are more straightforward. 

I also bought a 1725 gram 20" Janovar crash/ride to play, and sell on Cymbalistic. The Janovar series is a kind of copy of Paiste's Giant Beat cymbals, in B20 bronze. It's a moderately clean, moderately bright sound, with a very lush body. Good companion for Leon, American Artist, or Merseybeat cymbal— or Holy Grail, for that matter. Not every cymbal in your set up has to have the exact same timbre or character.

More cymbal videos coming soon— I have about six 20-22" rides sitting here waiting to for someone to build a musical career around them. 

In the comments, anonymous noted that the last cymbal sounds like Art Taylor's cymbal on Played Twice, on Thelonious Monk's record 5 by 5. See what you think: 

Delecluse patterns on the drum set

A rare-ish book outside of conservatory percussion circles, that is worth having in your permanent library, is Methode de Caisse-Claire by Jacques Delecluse. It's an odd-sized book, so to print pages for my students I snagged one of the pdfs of it kicking around “free” online, but you should buy it. I'm on my second copy myself— a bass player borrowed my school copy and never returned it.  

It contains a lot of very modern etudes, and 10-15 pages of technical studies, which are a nice alternative to the usual technique books by Stone, Morello, et al. Lately I'm working on pp. 3-4 with some students: 

Playing these rhythms with an alternating sticking is a kind of stick control system in itself— practice them like you would Stone, 30 second to one minute on each line. It's also easy to adapt them for drum set— try any of the following, moving your hands around the drums. 

Start by accenting any 8th notes in the patterns: 

With some different stickings, you can make a pretty complete bebop snare drum vocabulary. You can do doubles on the 16th notes, “side” triplet stickings on the 16th note triplets: RLL, RRL, LLR, LRR. 

The remainder of these ideas seem more suitable for a rock/funk/fusion interpretation. Wherever there are two 16ths notes followed by an 8th note, you can put a bass drum in the middle, and start or end with a flam or double stop (both hands in unison on two different drums): 

On any 16th note triplets, you can play a RLB sticking. I like to always end that with the right hand, which makes it RLBR. Work out the rest of the sticking so that falls naturally: 

You can also end that RLB pattern with a double stop or left handed flam. I prefer left handed flams on the drum set— since the right hand falls first, it's easy to convert them into RH-lead singles. 

Where there are four 16th notes, play bass drum on the first and last 16ths— again, I like to play the following note with the right hand, BRLB-R: 

Where there are six 16th notes, or two sixteenth note triplets, play the bass drum on the first and last of those: 

There are some other rhythms on those Delecluse pages, using a 16th rest or a 16th triplet rest— I don't have any great ideas for how to handle those yet.  

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Billy Elgart

Here's a nice, short profile on avant-garde drummer Billy Elgart, I only ever knew from a couple of 60s Paul Bley records— it turns out he's been thriving living and teaching in Germany all this time: 

Here's a favorite he plays on— Paul Bley / Blood, from Mr. Joy. I thought I posted a transcription I made of the tune, but I can't find it. Searching this site kind of sucks. One big project I'll do if I can get some regular supporters kicking in $$$, is move the entire site over to a new platform where all the materials are more accessible. Anyway: 

Elgart playing Everybody's Song But My Own with Kenny Wheeler— I've been playing this tune a lot lately:

By the way, looking up that song, I found a site that looks like it will be a very valuable resource: secondhandsongs.com. It lists all the recorded versions and adaptations of any song, and gives you the basic information on it, along with YouTube and Spotify links. A big help if you want to find out how people are playing Stablemates or whatever....

[h/t to Seb77 at drumforum for posting the Elgart video]

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

A 60s band: Love - Four Sail

Hey, let's talk about a group John Colpitts (aka Kid Millions) told me about: Love, an LA psychedelic band from the 60s, with some prog-y elements— he suggested I check out their album Four Sail. There's some very active drumming on it, and I thought it was interesting enough to make some comments. The drummer here is George Suranovitch, who I had never heard of.

John and I were talking about busy rock drumming, I mentioned how easy it is to do that pretty well, and still have it sound kind of bad— I think you have to be pro-active about supporting the groove with the busier stuff, or it sounds weak. If you listen to, say, Harvey Mason playing busy in a funk setting, he's stating groove the whole time. With an average drummer, or even some well known drummers, not so much— it may not be bad, but not totally effective either. 

Strangely, the drummer here reminds me a little bit of Billy Cobham. Even though they're separated by a couple of orders of magnitudes of talent. He plays a lot of singles and open rolls/drags, centered around the snare drum moving, to the tom toms—listen to the song Robert Montgomery for many examples of that. This is kind of a Louis Bellson way of playing fills, as well— Bellson was very active doing clinics, and I think he may have had a much bigger impact on the rock drumming of that time than we generally realize. I need to look into that some more. 

Suranovitch does a thing a lot of rock drummers used to do, that annoys me, soloing/filling with the hands over a steady rhythm on the bass drum. That can be effective— I've posted a couple of transcriptions where John Guerin and Jeff Porcaro do it, and it really nails down groove during the fill. Done unsubtly, all the time, I hate it. It's kind of a primitive way for rock drummers of that era to glue together a not-very-tight performance. 

Some of what Suranovitch does is really effective, but there's so much activity you want him to pick his spots a little more. I think the vibe of the period was that people wanted to see drummers going wild. 

I like the other drummer on this record more— Drachen Theaker, an English drummer who I had also never heard of. He sounds good on this quasi-“jazzy” song: 

I want to be clear about something: I'm not into rating drummers or performances— I'm only commenting on what I hear. You could get the idea there's some kind of linear thing where something different should have happened— “He should have played it like this” or “I would have done this.” or “....therefore he's not a good drummer, and/or this record sucks.” That's not it at all— I just want to find out what happened, and learn something about playing the drums from it. Overall the record is real interesting to me.  

My only real criticism of it is the solo section of that first song, August— that was BS. The bass and guitar don't know what they're doing with their rhythm parts, so they're just kinda playing them at the same time as the drums and other guitar are soloing, and they're rushing badly. That's the kind of thing you leave on a record when your attitude is what the hell, it's just a lot of noise anyway. A la the butchery of Elvin Jones's solo on Zachariah. Not a fan. 

Monday, August 16, 2021

Transcription: Philly Joe Jones - Stablemates - intro

A little drum solo intro played by Philly Joe Jones on Stablesmates, from Milt Jackson's record Bags Meets Wes!. It's 16 bars long, even though there are no 16 bar phrases in the tune— the form is ABA, with the sections 14, 8, and 14 bars long. The tempo is bright, in the high 240s. 

I volunteered possible stickings for the triplet passages. It's tempting to put another 6-stroke roll sticking in bar 11, but what I've written sounds like what he's playing. Listening closely, you can hear which notes are taps and which are double strokes. 

Read more about playing this odd tune— on which someone will try to test you, at some point. 

Read more about Philly Joe in a “key players” post I wrote early this year, which already seems like a lifetime ago.

Get the pdf

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Louis Bellson reading text in 4/4

 Here are CRUISE SHIP DRUMMER! we spend a lot of time with the book Syncopation, and not so much with its more expansive, more serious-seeming companion, Louis Bellson's Modern Reading Text in 4/4. I use Reed a lot, I never use Bellson— both in my practicing and my teaching. I've owned Bellson for many years, and have tried using it, but it never stays on my stand very long. Let's take a look at what's in it and figure out why.  

The book is comprised of full-page and half-page composed exercises covering all the variations on a single rhythm idea, or summarizing several rhythm ideas. In Reed, by contrast, the individual rhythm variations are written out on one full four-measure line of music; the longer exercises are the rhythm summaries or composed exercises. 

You can play Bellson the same way you do Reed, playing each measure of the exercise several times, and then playing the exercise straight through, but I prefer the one line format in Reed, especially for teaching students of different ages and abilities. The graphical representation of the four measure phrase is helpful, and it encourages better reading habits— the student can move his eye along the line of music and then repeat back to the beginning of the line, or look ahead to the next line and continue to the next exercise. That's normal reading; looking at one measure in a line of music and repeating it over and over is not so normal. 

Looking at the individual parts of Bellson: 

Whither quarter notes
There is no dedicated section dealing with quarter notes and longer rhythms. I think that's a mistake. Fluency with quarter notes is kind of an overlooked area, and I would have liked some studies including whole notes, half notes, and dotted half notes for use at fast tempos.  

Pages 4-8 - Quarter notes, 8th notes, 8th rests

These are good pages, and a little more in depth than the equivalent pages in Reed— includes many rhythms only written with syncopated-style notation in Reed, which I don't really need.

Pp. 9-11 - Introducing the tie

Ties are important, but to me these pages aren't well balanced for drumming practice. The Reed p. 33 summary of 8th rest/tie/syncopated summary illustrates the concept more quickly and clearly. 

Pp. 12-13

Introduce some 16th note and triplet rhythms, that are rather disruptive to doing systematic drumming practice. We get that stuff from snare drum books— Delecluse, Peters Podemski. I don't really need it for developing drum set reading, and drum set practice systems. 

Pp. 14-25 - Syncopation

The first two pages are summaries of how syncopated notation works, but again I think p. 33 of Syncopation is a better summary of this. The ten syncopation exercises on pp. 25 are fine, I just never use them. They include some non-standard notation, like writing three 8th rests in a row, or putting a syncopated quarter rest between two 8th notes, or tying two 8th notes where the first one falls on the beat, or violating the “imaginary barline” between beats 2 and 3. Yes, reading those probably helps my reading, but learning to read bad notation is not at all my primary purpose in using these books. 

Pp. 26-39 - 16th notes and rests, tied 16ths

These pages cover a large gap in Reed, and should be very useful, but I find them quite tedious. Full pages dealing with a single type of 16th note rhythm, written as many different ways as possible. This is

where the book becomes increasingly focused on creating reading problems. It sacrifices its usefulness as an everyday practice book for the sake of forcing you to deal with exceptional reading situations. Like there's one measure with nine 16th rests. It's exhausting to look at.  

And for all that, it totally ignores some common ways these rhythms are written—the e& page, for example, always writes that rhythm with all 16th notes or 16th rests, or tied 16ths. Never as is it is commonly seen in drumming literature, 16th rest-16th note-8th note.

This section is also not as useful as it might be because on drumset, in real life, I don't have to read many 16th notes. When I need to practice a four note subdivision on the drum set, I practice Reed in 2/2. I teach reading 16th notes with a combination of snare drum and funk books. 

Pp. 40-46 - Ten syncopated exercises with 16th notes
These are not terrible, I just have little use for them. Each exercise is so varied they're mainly only good for comping/independence practice— to do the other interesting and useful things involving filling in the gaps in the written rhythm, we would have to devise some new methods. Maybe that would be worthwhile, I just haven't felt the need.   

P. 47-60 - Eighth note triplets
All about triplets and triplet partials using rests and ties. This seemingly fills a large gap in Syncopation. But we do play a lot of triplets through the usual Reed methods, they're just implied, and not written out. I don't find it to be a problem, from a reading perspective, because, again, I don't often have to read them in music for drum set. 

And once again, this section quickly devolves into graduate-level reading puzzles. At a certain point, this focus on fragmentation begins to detract from the fundamental concept. It's not that ambitious students shouldn't be able to read it; that focus just detracts from the book's day to day usefulness.  

Pp. 61-64 - Introducing the quarter note triplet

Another valuable subject missing from Reed... that instantly descends into flyshit-reading hell. Same goes for the half note triplet section after it. 

Pp. 66-67 - Syncopation with triplets

Not terrible, but random. Put a permanent book mark on these pages, or tear out all the intervening pages. Not worth the effort to me. 

Pp. 68-81 - Fourteen exercises

Regular syncopation exercises with 16th notes and triplets included. These are reasonable, decent reading exercises, but again, the variety of rhythms makes them difficult to use for daily drumming practice— beyond just using them as complicated independence rhythms. 

Pp. 82-85 - 16th note triplets and 32nd notes

Not terrible, but you would have to devise a use for them on the drum set. Or just play them on the snare drum. Delecluse and Cirone are full of stuff like this. I've never seen anything like this when reading for drum set. 

Pp. 86-87 - Introducing double time

This is useful; we get some common syncopated rhythms, together with their double-time equivalent. But once again, the authors can't resist messing with us by writing the rhythms in a bad, difficult to read style. How about if we learn THE CONCEPT, then you can teach us all the wrong ways it might be written?

So this is only partly a rhythm book— it's at least 50% a reading-bad-notation book. I don't know who needs to master performing this level of reading in their day to day professional life— LA studio musicians? Classical musicians? Math-genre people? I think a lot of this is better covered with regular literature written or transcribed for the user's actual instrument. 

At some point with this crap, you're just teaching people bad notation style. OK, we want to be prepared to read “anything”, but here bad notation is way over-represented, and the actual good notation is just part of the undifferentiated notation-bomb debris field. So some composition student works through this thing and thinks “hell yes, I can write a quarter note on the & of 2 any time I want, why not.”

Reed has it's limitations, but as a day to day practice volume for drummers of all levels, it's vastly superior to this— that just isn't what Bellson's Reading Text is. And you can fill in all the major gaps in Reed by just finding a copy of Chuck Kerrigan's out of print Syncopated Rhythms for the Contemporary Drummer. Those two books form a drummer's complete core rhythm vocabulary, to which, having mastered it, you can add whatever other oddball things you want. 

By the way

Bellson's other reading book, Odd Time Reading Text, is even worse. Maybe 15-20 of its 130 pages are useful— which may be good enough reason to buy it. 

UPDATE A FEW DAYS LATER: Compelled to force myself into an embarrassed retraction of this whole piece, by finding a real invaluable drumming purpose for the book— so I'm practicing out of it more than I normally would. So far I'm a little more annoyed than I already was. 

For example, if I know ahead of time that all the 16th notes on p. 30 are on the e&, it kind of defeats the purpose of writing it all kinds of crazy ways to trip me up. You're not teaching me to read crazy notation, you're teaching me to ignore the notation based on prior information. Is that the intended lesson? I don't think so. 

And the formula of repeating a measure with the rhythm notated differently, or repeating the same rhythm except with 8th notes substituted for quarter notes— it gets tiresome. Mix it up, let me pretend I'm playing a piece. 

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Fundraiser time

UPDATE: Bumping this to the top of the blog, scroll down for new posts. You may have noticed I've added a Patreon account, for those who prefer to support the site that way.

Well, we've had a few relatively-minor*-but-noticeable financial setbacks lately, so if you want to help out the site with your hard-earned money, now's a good time to do it. 

You may have noticed that the site is totally unmonetized**. Any money I make from it is from people getting lessons, buying cymbals, or buying books, or making donations.

* - Most immediately, my car bit the big one, must be junked. 
** - OK, there are a few Amazon ads lurking in some of the posts, from a failed foray into getting some money from them. When I have time I'll be removing them all. 

So here are some things you can do to pitch in and help me out:

Make a recurring donation
10-20 of you signing up for a recurring monthly $5-15 donation would make a big difference in the site's financial outlook. Yes, that's the financial scale we're on, here. Larger donations from individuals of greater means will not be refused. Pop a Krugerrand in the mail. 

Hit the PayPal link in the sidebar for that. Once the thing is set up you don't even notice it, but it ends up being a big help to the site. 

Get lessons
I know everyone reading this isn't 100% up to speed on everything I talk about on the site, so stop being uncertain about it and treat yourself to 1-3-? months of lessons.

Everything I write is about making expert drumming as easy as possible, but it requires a little bit of indoctrination into the broad methods. Lessons are not about new information, they're about instant feedback and instant answers to all of your questions— not just answers to the question, but answers to how important is the question itself. Not knowing the actual (un-)importance of each thing in the information tsunami is the main thing hindering many students now.  

I'm happy to teach all levels of students— I especially encourage anyone feeling major frustrations with drumming to get in touch. 

Hit the Email Todd link in the sidebar. Rates are $60/hour, $35/half hour. 

Get Cymbal & Gong cymbals

I'm not kidding around, and I'm not hustling you to buy these things just because I have them to sell. Cymbal & Gong really are some of the best things being made right now for a traditional Turkish sound— the 50s-60s sound. And all of the cymbals I sell I personally select, both for sound and for playability— they all need to ride and crash well, with a good stick sound. I give notes on each cymbal, and try to give an accurate description of each cymbal's individual sound and playing experience. 

These are cymbals you buy once, and then use for the rest of your career.

I need to post videos for at least half a dozen outstanding new Holy Grail series cymbals— in the mean time you can see what I have in stock at Cymbalistic.com. You can see videos of all current and past stock on my YouTube channel. 

Reach me by the Email Todd link in the sidebar on this site, or via the contact info on Cymbalistic. 

Buy my books

Save yourself the hassle and printer ink from printing out my stuff, and buy my Books of the Blog*. I confess I have not posted the 2020 book yet— it was one of those years. Anyone regularly following the site will want my Syncopation in 3/4. There's also my Samba/Bossa Nova style guide, and my book of grooves. Hit the appropriate book covers in the sidebar, or hit the link above and just get the whole catalog. 

* - Note that on the book retail site there are a couple of non-drumming books by someone else named Todd Bishop— I didn't write those. 

Thanks everyone, it's a pleasure serving you. 

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Backbeat variations

Raising awareness about rhythm here, with some variations on the typical backbeat rhythm— the 2 and 4 and 4/4 time— written in 4/4, 2/2, and 3/4. Does a waltz have a backbeat, technically? I don't know, don't care. It does have the typical high part on beats 2 and 3, and that's what we're basing the 3/4 rhythms on. 

So you might hear these on any given pop/rock/soul tune, played on the snare drum, and/or tom toms, or other sounds fulfilling that role. Or you may hear them played or suggested by the rhythm guitar or bass, even if the drummer is playing a straight 2 and 4 on the snare drum. They're rhythms that fall under that backbeat role, with the low drum centered around beats 1 and 3, and the high drum centered around beats 2 and 4. 

Normally you learn these from hearing them in action, from listening to a lot of records— I watched a lot of MTV in high school. The same stuff is all over classic rock or oldies radio today— there are countless examples of these rhythms being used effectively. 

Some of them aren't backbeats in the normal sense of playing a stock 4, 2, or 3 feel; they may function more as specific hooky drum parts. There's a pop craft motivation for using them. 

Play them with the cymbal rhythm of your choice, start by playing the bass drum on 1 and 3 in 4/4, on 1 in 2/2 and 3/4, and vary that as you see fit. Mainly do a lot of listening, listen for suggestions of these rhythms in the drum track, or elsewhere in the rhythm tracks. 

Get the pdf

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Heavy Metal triplet groove

This is a 70s type of rock triplet feel groove that doesn't seem to be used much any more— I don't know why, it's easy and fun to play, and must have an easy guitar equivalent. Mostly the hands just alternate, with the bass drum played in unison with the right hand:

The patterns are mostly normal things you might do with this type of feel, except 12 and 13, which... they're exercises, and your results with them may vary. 

I worked it out from this dumb song by the band Anvil— Kerrang! magazine included it as a floppy 45 in one of their issues in about 1983— my Metal phase lasted from about summer 1982 through summer 1983. The drummer on the record plays it weirdly, with two bass drums.

I also heard it on Phantom of the Opera from Iron Maiden's first LP: 

More recently, from a band I never heard of, Ocean Colour Scene, that had a good song on the Lock, Stock, And Two Smoking Barrels soundtrack. They borrowed the figure from the Maiden song, which is pattern 11 on the page. 

The basic feel turns up on some Deep Purple records (Burn and Machine Head), although Ian Paice doesn't do the alternating hands thing on it. What he does is more like pattern 9— which happens to be the groove on the rock section of Bohemian Rhapsody. It's probably on a lot of other British rock records from the 70s— Thin Lizzy, Rainbow, Judas Priest, or whoever. Butthole Surfers do a sort of a punkified Gary Glitter type tom tom groove with two drummers on the song Dum Dum

Get the pdf

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Dejohnette patterns

UPDATE: Oops, there's a duplicate pattern in there— I think pattern 9 happens three times. And I got sloppy with my beaming standard. Oh well, it happens when you're rushing to post stuff.   

Some patterns extracted from these recent two Jack Dejohnette transcriptions. You could do essentially this with every transcription on the site— get your pencil, draw a bracket over any part of a transcription that looks interesting, practice that, develop it into something you can do in a musical texture. Sharpie a big rectangle around it. 

These are not particularly unique patterns— you can make something similar to them using a variety of sources, especially Stick Control and Syncopation. We'll take advantage of them all being written on one page (two pages) to practice combining them. Many of them are four note patterns played twice. At the end of page 2 there are some patterns that are essentially grooves. Patterns 7 and 19 are polyrhythmic/polymetric patterns that can be played over two or more bars of 4/4 or 2/2. 

Practicing these, I essentially play around with them as musical ideas, moving them around the drums and cymbals, varying the accents, playing obvious variations on them, and finding ways to end them other than by stopping on beat 1. I might practice them the same way as my “Funk/Figure/Cliché Control” pages, combining measures without stopping, one time each: 1-2, 1-3, 1-4, etc, 2-3, 2-4, 2-5, etc, 3-4, 3-5, etc, and so on.  

Get the pdf

Sunday, August 01, 2021

Transcription: Jack Dejohnette - Directions

Here's that Jack Dejohnette transcription I mentioned yesterday— on the intro of Directions, from Miles Davis Live at the Fillmore East - It's About Time.

The 8th note quintuplets I mentioned happen right up front, when he's playing half-free, not quite settled on the main groove. It's possible he worked out the 5s, or maybe he's thinking something else and is just pushing the rhythm around, a la yesterday's post.

The transcription begins at 0:38 in the recording.

All of the squirrelly stuff happens in the first four bars; after that he's in the main groove for the tune. It's mostly straightforward “non-independent” drumming, not unlike what we saw on another recent Dejohnette transcription. The simplest formula for doing that kind of thing is to play a Stone-type sticking pattern, with the RH on the cymbal (with bass drum in unison), LH on the snare. Here the snare drum is a little more active, and sometimes overlaps with the RH/cymbal part. And he doesn't play the cymbal on all of the bass drum hits. It would be easy to make some kind of formula to do that— and I probably will— or you can just do the Stick Control type thing a lot and play around with it, which is probably what Dejohnette did. 

I just made a label non-independent drumming, which is so far only attached to this post. If you dig around in the posts under the ECM label, you'll find most of what will eventually get that new label.  

Get the pdf