Thursday, September 30, 2021

Very occasional quote of the day: Shelly Manne on soloing

“I think you should approach every drum solo the way a good improviser approaches soloing; you shouldn't know what you're going to do until the time comes to do it. Miles Davis said that you should aim a little farther than you think you can reach.”

“The artist should never play and say, "Hey, this is going to knock them out!"”

- Shelly Manne, Modern Drummer interview with Dave Levine, 1981

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Page o' coodination: prep for subtractive method with Mozambique bell

I wrote this for my own use— I was attempting to do that recent subtractive Reed method with the more complex Mozambique bell rhythm, and it will go much faster to see the warm up patterns written out. As I pointed out, that BSSB-SBBS rhythm sketches out a tresillo rhythm in the bass drum, and suggests the 2 side of clave in the snare drum, which makes it an attractive idea to develop for a Latin context. 

There are a lot of patterns, so we're getting quite a bit done even if we never get around to applying this method on the fly reading out of Syncopation.  

Get the pdf

Monday, September 27, 2021

Top CD rebuys

After my pathetic little beater of a car bit the dust a few weeks ago I replaced it with a dynamite $5500 20 year old Mercedes-Benz E320— the last of the bombproof Benzes— with an actual CD player, with Bose speakers. The most I've ever paid for a car, and the first car I've ever owned that was manufactured in this century. This is my second Mercedes, and the key to owning a car like that is finding a mechanic who loves the cars and knows how to find parts, who can get you out of there without completely savaging you financially. You also have to find a solid car to begin with. Fortunately most Benz first owners take good care of them. The pre-purchase inspection on this one was a work of art. 

So I'll be buying CDs again after some years of mostly buying vinyl— and living in internet false-abundance/everything's free/here's more music than you could ever digest in a lifetime-land. I have a few choice items in the car right now: 

Keith Jarrett - Sleeper 
Hal Galper - Live At The Berlin Philharmonic 1977
Don Cherry / Ed Blackwell - El Corazon
Bill Frisell, Ron Carter, Paul Motian
Beta Band - Heroes To Zeroes

Here are a few things on my list to get, again— either I have them on vinyl already, or I was too cool to take care of my CDs in the past and they're all gakked up. These all befit the dignity of this machine. You want to feel like you're cruising La Grande Corniche even when you're inching along I-5 during other people's rush hour.   

Thelonious Monk - Live At The It Club
Bill Evans - Explorations 
Bill Frisell - Before We Were Born 
John Coltrane - Coltrane 
Gil Evans - Out Of The Cool
Azymuth - Before We Forget 
Bebel Gilberto (2004)
Old And New Dreams (ECM) 
Gateway - II 
Curtis Mayfield - Curtis
George Benson - Breezin' 
Cal Tjader - Soul Sauce
Milt Jackson - Sunflower 
George Duke - Brazilian Love Affair
Stereolab - Emperor Tomato Ketchup
Chick Corea - Trio Music
Glen Moore - Nude Bass Ascending
Ronald Shannon Jackson / Decoding Society - Decode Yourself
Charles Mingus - Presents Charles Mingus
McCoy Tyner - Song of the New World
Elvin Jones - Genesis

The car seems to want live double albums— that are well recorded, where everyone's in the zone and letting it all hang out:

Miles Davis - Live Evil
Bill Evans - Live in Paris 1972 
Lee Morgan - Live at the Lighthouse
George Benson - Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon
Louis Armstrong - Chicago Concert

What's your driving music, or favorite killer live albums with a vibe? Answer in the comments...  

Friday, September 24, 2021

A little technique video

Let's talk more about me. I just posted a little technique video in response to a forum conversation. Someone was confused about the meanings of the stroke types, and wanted evidence of my competency to speak on the subject. With that handy visual reference, let's talk a little bit about technique.

Also see my Three Bloggers post about technique, and my other long post about it. 

I do a quick demonstration of the level system stroke types, then flams, an open roll, and Swiss triplets, because that's what the cat wanted: 

I say all the time I'm not a technique guy, I'm not a snare drummer, I'm not a chops guy— it doesn't mean I'm not proficient. I can still do most of what most professionals can do on the drum, and more than many. What we're seeing here is my unconditioned baseline, when I haven't practiced snare drum in a couple of weeks. 

Something about those Remo pads makes me always revert to 80s power drummer mode. I don't play like that normally; it's a detriment to the playing I do on the drum set. My grip, with my index finger hanging off the stick, is roughly what Dom Famularo described (in a lesson with him ~1989) as a “power grip.”

First, notice the stroke types: full, down, tap, up. I'm more picky about these than most people. I do the strokes fast, especially the lift after the full stroke and the up stroke. Fast hand movement. You'll notice I don't lift the stick before the stroke— most people habitually lift the stick when attacking a note, even when the stick was already at the height you wanted for the next note. It's totally unnecessary, and it can't be accomplishing anything but slowing you down and making it harder to play the dynamics you want. I attack the note by directly moving the stick downward. No “here we go” lift motion. I've talked about this before.

With that full stroke I am not doing a “free”stroke, where you fling the stick at the head and catch it when it bounces back in your face. It's all wrist, my hand never opens up. My grip is controlled but light. The up stroke is also important— you have to pick up the stick. You get no assistance from surface bounce, if you're attempting some kind of Moellery/Famularo-y bounce technique. When practicing technique I always do that motion as fast as possible, regardless of the timing of the notes. The more practice you get doing a very fast lift, the more prepared you'll be for playing flam rudiments fast, and anything else requiring a fast upstroke, like a shuffle. 

On the flams, notice that I don't lift the grace note— maybe very slightly, because my hands are not real conditioned at the moment— the stick is already in position after its downstroke in the previous flam, so any lift in the stroke only makes the grace note louder than I want it. Mastering this no-lift thing was the major thing that finally gave me real control over my dynamics. 

I play the open roll slow-fast-slow, which I never do when practicing. I want to be practicing everything in time, so I'm against that in principle. I may start doing it just to see what happens, though. At the slow end I'm playing each double as two full strokes, all with the wrist. As we get into actual roll speed, there's a rebound happening, but I'm not changing my grip. I'm not opening up my hand or using fingers or anything. Just the motion and the natural flex of your hand creates those powerful doubles. At the fastest speed the doubles are getting a little crushed because my hands aren't conditioned and I'm a little tense, and my left hand seems to be slicing somewhat. Generally my stick heights are all over the place. That isn't really acceptable if you're trying to polish your technique, or are playing in a drum line, or whatever serious purpose. For day to day life as a jazz musician... whatever.   

The Swiss triplets: I feel like I haven't practiced a Swiss triplet in five years, so I'm surprised they didn't fall apart at the faster end. I don't have a lot to say about them. They're possibly good conditioning for open rolls— they'll often turn into an open roll when you try to play them faster than you're able.  

I'll repeat what I've said elsewhere, this controlled grip needs to be done carefully, so you don't stiffen up. Light grip, well articulated wrists— it's hard for a lot of people to actually move their wrist joint. Emphasis is on a fast motion, all strokes, quiet or loud, moving at the same speed. Dynamics come from stick heights, not force. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Groove o' the day: Little Feat - Front Page News

Here's a very inventive modern-sounding groove by Richie Hayward with Little Feat, on Front Page News, from the group's album Down On The Farm. What he's doing on the hihat reminds me of the staticky thing some of the current guys are doing. The tune is built around this vamp, with some added arranged sections. It seems pretty worked out; these are the three main variations he plays: 

It seems clear that he has both hands on the hihat, and moves his right hand to the snare drum and tom toms— quickly, on beat 4, as you can see. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Page o' coordination: basic triplet texture in 4/4

Here's a straightforward page o' coordination for learning bass drum variations along with a basic triplet texture with the hands, in a jazz feel. The hands are doing a simple linear sticking pattern— a paradiddle-diddle (RLRRLL) starting on beats 2 and 4. The bass drum notes are either in unison with the cymbal, or they replace the left hand. There are no BD/LH unisons. 

This is sort of a warm up for the more hardcore way of doing this with Reed— playing the melody from the book on the bass drum, filling out the remainder of the triplets with the left hand, with jazz rhythms on the cymbal and hihat. 

If you want, you could do the left hand moves I encourage with most of the other POCs— this wasn't really intended for that kind of thing, but why not.  

Get the pdf

Monday, September 20, 2021

Notes on the first playing gig in some time

I had my first actual jazz club gig since COVID the other night, thought I'd share some playing notes about it. This is the type of thing we talk about here. 

The rhythm section was excellent, the pianist was Jasnam Daya Singh, who played on my last two records, and co-wrote the material on one. The bassist, who I had never met, was great. The leader, a guitarist, played too quietly, with a rather airy style, which makes my job extra hard— mainly, there's nothing to support, there's no lead voice to partner with. The contract falls apart and what you play becomes kind of meaningless. He also gave some funny guidance, which undermines your decisions taking the band from section to section. For example after the head I'll do a big set up for the piano or guitar solo, and he points to the bass for the first solo. There kept being bass solos in weird spots. Or he cuts off the last two bars of my solo before I can set up the head properly. Little weird moves that put everything off kilter. 

I hate complaining about the instrument, but— it was a younger drummer's set that was miked up for a live recording immediately after us. The bass drum was too close, his pedal was cranked way back, and the snare drum was tuned ridiculously high. Usually playing a different drum set is fun, because it changes all your parameters— you do some different things with this different set of sounds. I'm a little bit a slave of the sound of the instrument. I can't just wail in the same way on any old thing. I don't mind suck drums within certain parameters, but I can't do much with a dry super cranked snare drum. It's one-dimensional, and gives an offensive piercing crack when you play a rim shot, which I normally do a lot of. It's like trying to play a jazz gig on a Ping Ride. It doesn't work. Or you make it work, but it's not fun. I never could do anything with that bass drum. Couldn't make a double on it.  

The whole thing was virtually non-technical; none of the denser textural stuff I might normally play was falling right, so I was mainly focused on the cymbal, and doing what I could with single notes on the drums. My soloing was all about rhythm, melody, and sounds, very little technique on display. It's a good kind of playing to be good at— to be able to be exciting while doing that— because then you can play great no matter if you're comfortable or your chops are feeling good or not, or whatever. Your time and rhythm concept have to be good, you have to know the tunes, or at least the standard forms, and have some kind of creative approach to playing the drums melodically and dynamically. And a concept of how to conduct a tune from the drum chair.

So, kind of weird. Not terrible, not fully gelled, either. I like to feel comfortable and in a creative mindset when I'm playing, and the that wasn't really happening. This carping and worrying about the gig is not a fully pro mindset, either, by the way, but that's me. Real old whores play the thing and forget it and never talk about it. 

Oh, yeah, and I played the ride cymbal with the butt of the stick part of the time— using very controlled technique so it wasn't louder than playing it normally. Even at a moderate volume it activates more of the cymbal, generates some intensity. I think I was desperate for something to fill out the sound. I'm pretty sure Elvin is playing the butt on the cymbal on Afro Blue. Even if he isn't, that's the kind of sound you get from it.  

Friday, September 17, 2021

CYMBALISTIC: 26" Holy Grails, small swish cymbals

CYMBALISTIC: I payed a brief visit to Cymbal & Gong HQ (aka Tim's house) the other day, and he had a few interesting things around:

They're making 26" Holy Grail rides now. I got an inquiry about them earlier this year, and the answer was that the shop's equipment wasn't big enough to handle that, but apparently they're getting blanks from another shop. 

There are several on hand available for purchase right now, but I imagine they'll only be getting them on a special order basis going forward. Price is in the range of $600. Expect to pay extra shipping, and about a 12 week wait time once these initial few are sold. 

Here's Tim demonstrating one— taken on an iPhone. Actual measurement is 25.5", as it says. I believe this one is going to the drummer in the Sun Ra Arkestra. 

They're also making some more swish cymbals. I have one of the initial batch of prototypes, which is a very thin 20", our friend Michael Griener in Berlin has another, which was cut up and riveted to copy the famous Dizzy Gillespie cymbal. Tim showed me a 14" and a 16" that are going to a Dixieland drummer somewhere. They're very thin— they open up and give you a real Chinese accent sound just touching them:

So many modern Chinese-type cymbals just give you an offensive GAAA sound when you crash them— that's not what we want. 

He had some other items similar to an Agop trash hit, and smaller cup chime like cymbals— basically a bell with an upturned edge, with a slightly exotic sound, and a partially unlathed finish, sizes around 5-10".   

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Reed interpretations: special voicing - 01

This came out of the groove part of my recent Country Rock thing. It's a kind of subtractive method for voicing the snare drum and bass drum. Not unlike my John Riley-inspired “that with interruptions” pages, not unlike the natural sticking concept, where you stick mixed 8th/16th rhythms according to which hand would have been playing that note if you were just doing alternating 16ths.With the Riley thing we started with a simple snare/bass pattern— SSBB— and eliminated some notes, keeping the remaining structure. 

We'll take that a couple of steps farther, using a more complicated foundation pattern, BSSB-SBBS, and learning to use that voicing while reading rhythms from Syncopation. Relax, it's doable, and I think it's worth the effort. 

Here's how you would voice some basic rhythms, following that pattern: 

Warm up with the above patterns along with the cymbal rhythm of your choice, then practice the system using Reed pp. 4-5, 10-11, 30-32, 34-45, revoicing the top line part from the book accordingly. If doing the complete pattern is too difficult at first, try doing just BSSB-BSSB, or SBBS-SBBS. Warm up with beats 1-2 or 3-4 in the examples above, repeating. 

I started doing this as a 2/2 funk/rock system, but there are a lot of other possibilities. It would work fine as a jazz thing. The bass drum part sketches an embellished tresillo rhythm, which makes it useful for some broken New Orleans funk type rhythms, or Baiao, or especially Songo— or whatever other Cuban-type styles/settings where creative funk-like playing is appropriate. The snare drum part makes a cut time funk rhythm, but also suggests the 2 side of a clave rhythm. There is the tantalizing possibility that if you made a two measure system out of it, reversing the pattern in the second measure, SBBS-BSSB, you'd have a complete clave rhythm. BSSB-SBBS-SBBS-BSSB. Play that, check it out.

Just within a regular funk setting, some of the more fragmentary rhythms in Reed create some interesting displaced groove patterns. Many of the rhythms lack that cut time back beat on 3— those patterns are useful for working on open hihat punches with the bass drum. Practice patterns that have a note sounding on beat 3 will sound most like a funk groove.

I'll be interested to try this with the other paradiddle inversions: BSBB-SBSS, BBSB-SSBS, BSBS-SBSB. At some point I imagine we'd get diminishing returns with this kind of thing, or possibly it just gets much easier and we can choose one way or another based on what it's good for stylistically. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

A few rare items

I found some interesting things on one of those shady pdf download sites— a couple of rare books, and very old versions of a couple of unusual books. Worth getting if you're into that sort of thing:

An old hand copied version of Alan Dawson's Rudimental Ritual.

A 1963 version of Marvin Dahlgren's Drum Set Control with the layout done on a typewriter. For awhile this book (and a lot of other of Dahlgren's books) was available on Ron Keezer's Really Good Music Publishing site, but Ron passed away last year and the site has been down. I need to write to his son Geoff Keezer and find out what's the status of that company, and if the books can still be gotten. 

An old version of Vernel Fournier's Drum Techniques— or Drum Technique's, as it is written on the hand drawn cover. Doesn't include the Poinciana transcription that is in the current published version.

Handwritten, hand-stapled version of John Lombardo's Rockin' Bass Drum. It's a good old rock book, probably better than Funky Primer, except for the archaic style of notation. It's still usable. And this version looks cool. 

Fred Albright's Rhythmic Analysis for the Snare Drum. I believe this is completely out of print. Maybe it's an early version of his Polyrhythmic Studies for Snare Drum, I don't know— I don't own that book. Includes a good, very extensive explanation of polyrhythms, and a lot of very challenging snare drum solos, some including a bass drum part, a la Reed.  

I don't know why these pdfs are only on this site. Someone must have scanned his dad's/grampaw's drum book collection and uploaded it. Grab them fast, who knows how long this site will remain in existence. Let everyone know in the comments if you find anything else interesting.  

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Page o' coordination: yet another Elvin 5/4

Here's a page o' coordination based on Elvin Jones's playing on Lazy Afternoon, from Grant Green's album Street of Dreams. It's a medium slow 5/4— the tempo is about 109. He plays the ostinato below fairly regularly, with many small variations. I've given the approximate default thing he plays on the snare drum, and then my usual kind of independence exercises with the ostinato:

Try my dopey old Jesus Christ Superstar loop with this one. Once you learn the patterns, move your left hand around the drums— improvise the moves, or use this set of stock moves I do with all of these. Add the circled bass drum note in the ostinato if you feel like it. 

See my other Elvin-like POCs, based on his playing on Your Lady (adapted into 5/4), a variation on that, and on That 5/4 Bag

Get the pdf

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Best books: Rudimental Primer by Mitchell Peters

Mitchell Peters is becoming the guy for snare drum literature, for me— his books form a thorough and complete vocabulary for the snare drum as it is played in the real world. They're adequately challenging for most players, but they never get into the technical/reading absurdity we get from some other authors. All together they're cleanest presentation of the core craft of snare drumming I've found. 

Peters is well known in conservatory percussion, but his books are somewhat low profile in the broader drumming world— they're published by the Professional Drum Shop in Los Angeles, which is not super aggressive about promoting them. 

Rudimental Primer seems like a rudimental book for the non-rudimental world— concert percussion and drumset musicians. It covers all 40 of the Percussive Arts Society's list of international drum rudiments. Each rudiment gets two dedicated, very dense pages, with some preparatory studies for learning the the basic movements, and a number of short exercises in different rhythms and meters, plus a few short solo etudes. This is the real format for learning rudiments— not simply playing the through the PAS list

The solos are quasi-traditional, not unlike those in Haskell Harr. But these don't have that general stink of tradition. Everything in them is there for a reason. It's a modern book, and he includes solos in non-traditional meters, like 3/4 and 5/8. Peters generally doesn't try to do the teacher's job in the text— this book, like his others, is virtually 100% music. There are no hand movements (upstrokes and downstrokes) or dynamics marked in, apart from the stickings and accents. It's a book for the practice room— you could practice for half an hour without turning a page. Nothing needs to be filtered. 

Haskell Harr's and Charley Wilcoxon's books are my other most frequently used rudimental books, but they each have their drawbacks. The Buddy Rich rudiment book, which I never use, is not terrible, but it's overloaded with extraneous stuff, short on studies preparing for and developing many rudiments. Corps people will want to use a book with drumline-type hand motions written in, like Matt Savage's Rudimental Workshop. 

Rudimental Primer is a serious practice book for mature players and teachers, who know how the fundamentals of do this stuff, and how to teach teach it; and for pretty serious students— teenagers and up— who need to learn the rudiments.  

71 pages. Distributed by Professional Drum Shop, Inc, published by Try Publishing. 

I also recommend: 

Elementary Snare Drum Studies

Intermediate Snare Drum Studies

Advanced Snare Drum Studies (though I don't use it much)

Odd Meter Calisthenics (thanks Ed!)

Odd Meter Rudimental Etudes

All are available from Steve Weiss Music, and from the Pro Drum Shop

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Transcription: Roy Haynes feature

UPDATE: I have extreme quality readers. Jim in the comments pointed out a bunch of errors in this, and figured out the insane Mystery Lick on the second page. The corrected pdf is up now. 

New Arrival is a tune by Nat Adderley, from the record Introducing Nat Adderley, that heavily features Roy Haynes on the drums. He's got a long intro, a solo, some fours, and then a solo break on the head out. It's a nice tight little nightclub arrangement. Haynes is in full blown “snap crackle” mode, and everything is very hip, very slick, very tidy. Except one thing in the middle of the solo where I needed some help from the community (see above) to figure it out.  

Most of the running 8th notes are played straight, non-swinging; the syncopated rhythms swing. There are a few spots where both hands are played in unison on the snare and tom, which may not be happening in actuality— there's a lot of sympathetic vibration from the snares, and it can be difficult to tell. None of that is difficult to play, so no harm if the way I wrote it is wrong. He uses a splash cymbal, and there are a few special articulations— at the beginning he muffles the snare drum with his hand, later on there are some cymbal chokes, and pitch bends on the tom toms. He does feather the bass drum sometimes, but it's not really in time.  

Get the pdf

Blogger is being a pain about letting me embed video, so listen here if this record isn't already in your collection. 

Friday, September 03, 2021

CYMBALISTIC: A lot of new cymbals!

CYMBALISTIC: I've just posted a bunch of new cymbals on the site— six Holy Grail Jazz Rides, 20-22", a HG 16" crash, a 20" Janovar— inspired by Giant Beat, in B20 bronze— and a couple of 18" custom Turk Light Rides. 

The Turks are really cool. They're modeled after a one-off cymbal “Toshiro” from a couple of years ago. Slightly different than their usual style making Turks— these are a little darker. The current two 18s are already spoken for, but I'll probably be ordering more in the next batch, in about 3 months. 

There are a good selection of 20" Holy Grail Jazz Rides now—any one of which would be the best cymbal somebody ever owned. Some of them are a little stronger as primary cymbals, some may be better in a “left side” role— send me a note about that if you're considering one of them. They each have slightly different strengths. 

The 20" Janovar is interesting— it's a brighter cymbal that fits somewhere between the Leon Collection— airy, musical, lush— and the Mersey Beat or American Artist series— which have (relatively) a stronger “A-type” sound. The Janovar is very lush, and with a little aggressive edge. I may experiment with adding a patina to it, possibly rivets. 

Aggressive is the wrong word. I mean a little more cutting, a little wilder tessitura— meaning there are some more random harmonics in the overall sound. With too many prominent wild overtones you have a really noisy, ugly sounding cymbal; when they're more restrained, they just give it a little edge. The Janovar would make a good left side cymbal, contrasting a larger, darker main cymbal.