Friday, December 31, 2021

10 and 11 stroke rolls in Wilcoxon's Rolling In Rhythm

Let's ring in the new year drummer-style, by complaining about a Charley Wilcoxon book maybe two or three of you own, Rolling In Rhythm! Even without the book, there's something to be learned about archaic drum notation, and rudimental-form rolls, and drum notation generally. It's funny, remembering that much of George L. Stone's Technique of Percussion, written 70-90 years ago, is dedicated to this same problem of interpreting drumming notation. Apparently it's an eternal thing.   

See my 2018 post All About Rolls if there's any confusion about the terminology in this post.

Rolling In Rhythm should be the ultimate book on rudimental rolls, especially in that swing-era type of phrasing, best known to us now through Philly Joe Jones's playing, and a lot of other bop drummers. It's a 30s thing that was a dominant form of soloing and filling in jazz for another 30-40 years. Unfortunately, the book a mess. There is a lot of bad, archaic notation in it, which is not aided in the typo-riddled edition by Richard Sakal, which seems to be the only version available now

The pages covering 10-stroke rolls and 11-stroke rolls are especially egregious— pp.24-26. 

We commonly encounter both of those roll types in triplet form in the piece Three Camps, either as two beats of triplets* with an accent at the beginning, rolling on the remainder:  

* - Since the example is in 3/8 time— a compound meter— these are not actual triplets— they are played with a triplet feel, however. I say triplets here for convenience, because that's what the same rhythm is in 4/4, and 4/4 is a familiar point of reference, and triplet is the familiar term for notes played with that feel. When the time signature has an 8 in the bottom, if I say triplet, I mean 8th notes played in a triplet feel. Compound meter 8th notes. 

Or as two beats of triplets with accents on the beginning and end, rolling in the middle: 

Starting with an accented single, the 11-stroke roll above would be called a “tap 11.” Another form begins with the roll on the downbeat:

So far so good. Things begin going off the rails in the next line, with this oddly-displaced 11-stroke roll:  

First, the editor put the time signature as 6/8, but put the actual barlines in 3/8. I scratched out the extra barlines and added a beat of rest at the end to make it actually 6/8. No big deal. He also put the wrong sticking on beat 2 of the third measure. OK. 

Further on we get into a bit of archaic rudimental drummer notation hell. I believe the intention is that the first two measures, and the second two measures, are each intended to be played the same: 

In measure 2, we get some ruff-type notation that is intended to be played as a metered rhythm, at the same speed as the rest of the body of the roll, like in the first measure. That's weird for me; in my training, ruff notation always indicates an unmetered embellishment, usually played as a buzz. 

The fourth measure is cursed— that ending ruff. The main note visually lines up with the bass drum on beat 3, but is actually intended to be played as 3e&, like the third measure. This happens fairly often in rudimental notation, and it's a major violation of space-time laws. I can deal with putting the ruff in rhythm, I cannot deal with distorting the plain rhythm on the page to accommodate the embellishment. Forget it, that is wrong. 

Moving along, the weirdness begins to compound on us: 

Again, the first four measures, and the last two measures, are each intended to be played the same. The last two measures are fine; it's a tap roll at 16th note rate— although 96 bpm is rather fast for that. 

The first four measures all have the roll starting on the beat, with the release written on the last 8th note in the measure. With the untied rolls in the third/fourth measures, there is an implied release. That is illustrated in the roll studies in Stick Control (see the heading Ties, Releases, Taps, and Accents here). 

PROBLEM: Making the above roll at a 16th note rate displaces that last 8th note to fall on the last 16th note of the measure: 

I think that's what we're intended to play. It's what they did to us in the previous example with the written ruff on 4. But I don't know what we're expected to do with that bass drum note in the third measure. Probably play it at the same time as the release of the roll. I'm beginning to sense that these old rudimental guys are playing fast and loose with rhythm.

We could play the 8th note release in its notated timing by playing the roll at a quintuplet rate, which you might actually do at times, but not at this tempo. There is some of that kind of thing in Stone, there is nothing like it elsewhere in Wilcoxon. 

The purpose of that is to produce a quality roll at tempos where it's difficult to do that at more normal pulsation rates. It's a good thing to practice, but it's not what's intended with the book, so you'll be creating inconsistencies within the book materials. If you follow the screwed up archaic interpretation, at the book materials will be consistent within themselves. 

That's enough of this for one day, we'll chronicle the 10-stroke roll atrocities another time. Happy New Year!  

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Analysis: Ed Blackwell - Strength and Courage

Here's a boiled down version of the Christmas transcription, Strength and Courage, by Joe Lovano. It's a real crash course in Ed Blackwell— a lot of what he plays on many albums throughout his career is in here. 

I've simplified the patterns as much as possible— taken out the bass drum, in a lot of cases. Often the bass is just feathered on beats 1 and 3, or is not necessarily integral to the pattern. You can see what he does with it on the transcription. He has a lot of integrated stuff worked up between his hands— conceptually it's not unlike the thing I called “Max's rubadub”. Inherently two-handed jazz rudiments, of a kind.  

Once again, I'll leave this up for free for awhile, then sometime in the new year I'll ask for a donation to download the transcription and analysis together. Or you can just send a $3 donation when you download it now, if you want to.  

Venmo: @todd-bishop-16
PayPal: toddbishop@[cruiseshipdrummer dot com]  

Get the pdf

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

EZ Reed method - Jack's way - 02

Continuing a very easy system I'm using with a younger student— I feel kind of cheated that I wasn't taught this myself, and that I haven't been teaching it all these years. This is as elementary to playing drumset as RLRL is to playing snare drum. Everybody should be teaching this. This should be just about the first thing anyone plays on the drum set.  

Last time we played a simple rhythm from Syncopation, alternating between RH/RF in unison, and LH on snare. This time we'll alternate between both hands in unison, and bass drum. 

Once again we'll be reading from Progressive Steps to Syncopation, pp. 10-11, top line part only. At first play RH on cym / LH on snare, start with the hands and alternate. This is how you would play line 2:  

Also do them pseudo-alternating, starting every measure with the hands: 

And starting every measure with the bass drum: 

Measures that naturally start the same way every measure should be played starting with either thing. For example, play line 5 both of these ways:  

When I think of all the frustrating first drum set lessons I've given... I've always tried hard to simplify that first rock beat, to what ever extent an individual student needs, and it's still very difficult for many of them. This is completely natural expression of a rhythm on the full drum set, using normal drum set language, and it takes no independence at all. See the “worst drummer ever” post where the kid does this in the wild with no apparent instruction from anyone, because it's a totally natural thing to do. 

We've been doing this a*-backwards, people. We start them with a lot of rock beats, which take a fair amount of independence for a beginner, and save this entire area of easy non-independent stuff— which people use all the time for ordinary things like playing ensemble accents and set ups— for more advanced jazz students. No wonder the drum set is a strange, intimidating instrument to so many students.  

Monday, December 27, 2021

Listening: Freddie Waits with Freddie Hubbard

Here's the album I mentioned in that Freddie Waits Latin post— Fastball - Live at the Left Bank. Part of a cache of live recordings made at a club in Baltimore in the 1960s, discovered and released in 2001. This was recorded in '67. It's got Bennie Maupin, Kenny Barron, Herbie Lewis, and Freddie Waits on drums. It's not a real pretty sounding record, it's kind of raggedy at times, and it's really what playing in a jazz group is, in a modern club setting. This is how you're supposed to play. 

Sidebar: Did you know used CDs are dirt cheap? You can go into the record store and get half a dozen records for $25. Basically what used records cost when I was a student. Then you can put them in your CD player and play listen to them over and over for days, the way you're supposed to when you're a serious musician, or serious music student, and then the thing is in your permanent library of music, mentally and literally. The internet is a con, it's false abundance.   

I suggest listening to it many times. Here are some key points of interest:

It's loose
People learning to play jazz out of a book could get the idea that you need to play seamlessly put together drum parts, with everything spelled out to the letter. You've got to have the hihat on 2 and 4, and you've got to feather the bass drum because of x, y, and z historical reasons, you've got to have the “microtiming” of your swing rhythm worked out across the board. Are your comping “ideas” good enough? Textbook correctness, historical accuracy, blah blah blah. 

On this recording, grooves and the obligatory timekeeping parts are not played repetitively— he may do those any time, or not do them. Mostly there are constant variations, propelling the groove and phrase forward.  

And it's loose broadly— there are moments of uncertainty between the musicians. Everyone will be reaching at once, and you can sense there's some question about how it will come out. 

He plays big dynamics 
Waits plays very strong at times, but he picks his spots, and doesn't relentlessly hang at one level— until it's time to do that. It took me a long time to learn this lesson— I was waiting for other people to feed me the dynamics— downwards, mostly, I had no problem getting louder. What you actually do is just play the dynamics where you think they should be, and that creates them, and others follow them. The more you play, the more you learn to make dynamic changes that make sense, that support the structure, and the progress of a solo, as is happening here. 

He plays the form
Everybody talks about comping, nobody talks about playing form. Most of what you hear the drums doing on this recording is not comping. He's playing things that conduct the band through the structure of the tune, hitting/implying whatever arrangement elements are unique to the tune.   

Pensativa especially is one of those tunes with a form that's kind of restricting— I feel kind of stuck playing the arrangement all the time. The Hubbard tune Crisis here is also like that. But they illustrate what I'm talking about playing form— most everything played on them has an arrangement function, during the solos and everything. 

Listen to Crisis: you hear him doing left hand stuff to make the Latin texture during the Latin sections; during the swing sections you'll hear some single notes on the snare drum, mostly you hear big accents on the bass drum and cymbal, propelling us in to the next section. Not stuff that ever gets filed under the heading of comping. You only learn how to do this kind of playing through the Reed-based methods, and/or from doing a lot of real life playing— it isn't discussed in the regular jazz books. 

This is how you play blues
In a jazz context. Blues is not just an easy form to play a lot of crap on, or to slam out an R&B beat. You have to dig a little deeper emotionally, and groovewise. On Echoes of Blue, everything played by all the instruments tells you something about how to play blues on the drums. 

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Transcription: Ed Blackwell - Strength and Courage

Merry Christmas, everyone. Ho ho hoooeeere's a LONG Ed Blackwell transcription for you, basically all of Strength And Courage, from Joe Lovano's trio album Sounds of Joy, along with Alex Cox on the bass. The drumming jumps around a lot, and, taken two measures at a time, this is a massive crash course in Ed Blackwell. 

The tune is oddly structured— there's not much of a head to speak of. The first time through the form is 8-8-8-10-4-4-4 measures, and then 8-8-10-4-4-4 as the blowing gets going starting at 0:48. The 8 measure phrases are structured 6+2, and the 10 measure phrases is 6+4. So during that blowing form the changes could be outlined as:

||: 6-2 | 6-2 || 6-4 | 4-4-4 :|| 

It's noteworthy that the tempo is quarter note = 238— about the same tempo as Passion Dance, Chasin' The Trane, and some other big recordings. I've been thinking of it as Elvin's tempo, but it seems to be a sort of universal up heavy blowing tempo. Nobody should be asking about super fast tempos until you can really kill it in this range. 

There's way too much going on here to summarize now, and I've got Christmas presents to wrap. There are a lot of different cymbals/bells happening— ride, crash, ride bell, crash bell, swish, hihat, cowbell. Snares off. Blackwell plays straight 8ths all the way through. A lot of the bass drum is quite soft, and there's very little left foot activity at all. 

In the spirit of Christmas giving, I'll leave this up to download for free through New Years Day, and then, in the spirit of Christmas withholding, I'll change it to a $3 download, along with an analysis yet to be written.  

Get the pdf

Listen to the tune on Spotify.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

“Worst drummer ever”

Bookending Sunday's false prodigies rant, I suppose. Worst drummer ever is title of this video shared by Paul Mason (@tempusdrums) on Twitter. I watched the whole thing, which is more than I can say for most drumming content on YouTube:

Another 12 year old kid bashing on his drums badly, yeah, but here's what I like about it: 

•  The first instinct of any drummer is to wail and make some noise. I wish I could train that desire into some of my past students. That's got to be in your DNA somewhere. We work hard to become sensitive musicians and all of that crap, but there's got to be some edge of chaos lurking in there somewhere, a basic instinct for impact. For me to be interested, anyway. 

•  He has a band. Maybe they played five times total, I don't know, but it's step one: wanting to have a band and then figuring out what the hell to play together. Increasingly it seems not to be a thing kids do. 

•  He figured out a lot of things about how the drums are actually played on his own, apparently without any help from a teacher or anyone else. He plays a lot of bass drum and cymbal, I play a lot of bass drum and cymbal. The thing he does at 2:14 is a lot like “Jack's method” that I posted recently. 

Here's the non-independent groove he sort-of settles on at 0:50: 

He does quite a bit of stuff like that, that connects very directly with what I do every day as a grown-up played-the-drums-for-40+-years artiste. RH = cymbal/bass drum, LH = snare drum. It's a basic orientation. Of course the first thing a teacher will do is toss this thing he learned naturally, and make him learn a beginner rock beat, and drumming will become nothing but a big independence problem for him.   

•  He picked up a couple of beats that are apparently just in the DNA of every child on the planet, at 2:54 and at 3:03. After 3:10 he almost figures out how to do the Elvin/Bonham triplets lick— what he's doing is exactly how rock drummers learn to do it. After about 3:40 he's got an OK start on a kind of rock & roll jungle beat. He does some mixed stickings on the Rototoms, which is interesting, maybe somebody showed him a paradiddle once?    

•  There's kind of an episodic structure to his solo, where he does a thing for awhile, until he thinks of the next thing to do. I've seen lots of adult professionals who basically solo that way. There's a good deal of melodic content, and a kind of climax at the end where he's playing the tom toms. The only thing he repeats is the four note run down the tom toms— perhaps he's a little over-reliant on that piece of vocabulary, if we're going to be critical. He does that universal kid's thing of starting a beat kind of slow, and then speeding up until it falls apart.     

This stuff interests me. What do kids who have no idea how to play the drums, but play anyway, play? 

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Transcription: both versions of Flower Punk

I can't believe I never posted this. Back in 2017 I transcribed both versions of Frank Zappa's Flower Punk— the original, played by Jimmy Carl Black, on the Mothers of Invention album We're Only In It For The Money, and the version where Zappa had Chad Wackerman re-record the drums, released on The Lumpy Money Project/Object. I was going to do an e-book of Zappa drum transcriptions, but Zappa Corp has such an active legal department, I figured I'd probably get a cease and desist letter, and be forced to take it down. 

I like both versions. The Jimmy Carl Black version is kind of raggedy, but I like the energy with the broken up bass drum. Here are the first two (of four) pages of the transcription:

The Wackerman version is more solid, with some nice tom fills. His drum sound with Zappa is always kind of interesting. I can't recall hearing a sound like that anywhere else. The toms are somewhat reminiscent of Billy Cobham's sound— sort of an 80s version of that sound.

After 10 years I'm starting to feel kind of silly posting so much stuff absolutely free, so let's try something new: if you'd like to get these complete transcriptions, send $3.00 for both to: 

Venmo: @todd-bishop-16
PayPal: toddbishop@[cruiseshipdrummer dot com]  

Include your email, and the thing you want— Flower Punk transcriptions. 

In fact, if you'd like any of my e-books (see the sidebar), and don't feel like going through Amazon, send $5.00 via the above means. Print books you still have to order through Lulu, although I may start carrying them and shipping them myself soon.

Monday, December 20, 2021

CYMBALISTIC: New Holy Grails and more!

CYMBALISTIC: New Holy Grails are in! My stock was getting pretty depleted after a wild couple of weeks of sales. I got some big thin jazz cymbals, if anybody needs a new main axe— though one (both?) of the 22s has already been claimed. 

That one reminds me of Max Roach's cymbal on this Charlie Parker track, which I shared awhile back. Max may be playing a 20, but it's a very similar sound: 

I also got video of the patinated Janovar crash-ride. The Janovar series are inspired by a 1960s European B8 line that was revived in recent years. We put a heavy patina on it, with green highlights, and it's kind of wild, a great contrasting sound to the Holy Grails: 

Hop over to my cymbal site, Cymbalistic, and check them out! 

Sunday, December 19, 2021

False prodigies

My apologies for the many wordy posts lately. I don't want to be a words/opinions guy. I'm working on a lot of outside stuff, so I have to post what I have, and that happens to be this. 

I suppose we should talk about the amazing kid drummer videos. Many of them are varying degrees of fraudulent, here's one that's pretty impressive— it's from several months ago, so it has already been forgotten by everyone. But the kid in it can actually do what he's doing. The video is captioned with the expected histrionic self-loathing and despair:

Actually, I've just decided to quit drumming after watching this... from r/drums

There are adults who do the exact thing we're seeing there, or who try to do it, and the kid sounds basically 98% as good as any of them. Same level of artistry, which is not a compliment to the kid. To me it demonstrates what a dead end this type of playing is. If a little kid can play badly this impressively, it drags down the whole endeavor. 

The cause of this is that in a number of areas of drumming, teachers have figured out how to get make essentially non-musical but goal-motivated people sound impressive. The kid got one of those teachers, and had a very good aptitude for learning that way.

Terror-stricken viewers always ask: 

Q: He sounds this good when he's 10, what's he going to sound like when he's 20? 

A: Not necessarily better.

He doesn't sound good now. I never want to listen to anyone do this, at any age. 

What job is this playing in service of, what gig is in danger of being stolen? Right now, it's a neo-vaudevillian child wonder show item for the purpose of getting views or partial views on YouTube. Maybe being a social media performer is a valid career. It's not the same as being a musician.

Musicians are not in competition with things that are not music. Not having musical concept does not inevitably lead to having a musical concept. Like not understanding existentialism doesn't inevitably lead to understanding existentialism. 

People who play a lot of music do usually figure it out to some extent. Emphasis on play, and music. People who just do drum stuff on social media do not figure it out. 

The reality is, there is no competition, there is just you and your life learning and playing, and making whatever music you have to make, in the situations available to you in the real world, off the internet.

You could ask yourself is could Billy Higgins do any of what that kid is playing? Zigaboo Modeliste? Elvin Jones, Philly Joe Jones? Mel Lewis? James Gadson? If not, what does this say about them? Does it say the kid is better than them? 

Answer: No. It says what kids do, however impressive, does not matter

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Page o' coordination: Freddie Waits Latin

Last week I picked up kind of a random live Freddie Hubbard CD from Music Millennium— I forget the title, it's in the car— with Freddie Waits on drums. I've been wanting to hear more of him. On a Latin tune Waits plays a bell rhythm from way back in my memory— I think I learned it in high school or early in college, and I don't know where I got it. I might have made it up, because it's not a real Latin rhythm, as far as I know. It's similar to the well known “Bossa clave” rhythm, so-called*, so maybe it's more quasi-Brazilian than quasi-Cuban. The bell part also is sort of a shuffle, in a cross rhythm.  

* - It's not clave. 

I phased it out of my playing after I borrowed/stole a Mozambique rhythm used by Portland drummer Ron Steen— that has been my go-to quasi Cuban rhythm ever since. But it's interesting enough to play around with a bit. It leans into an Elvin-style running dotted-quarter note feel, which the authentic clave based rhythms do not. 

Some patterns have a suggested voicing on the snare and toms, some do not. Play around with it, improvise your own moves, leave some LH notes out. Try the different bass drum rhythms along with the left hand rhythms.

Get the pdf

Thursday, December 16, 2021

What time signature it's “really” in

A little sidebar on the subject of time signatures, everyone's favorite topic to be confused about. We're resolving a lot of little outstanding issues here lately. 

Time signatures (I prefer the word meter) are a little bit of a slippery subject when you're talking about jazz music— which may be played in a different meter or time feel than is indicated on the original chart— or when discussing any music not played from a written arrangement. 

In those situations, the meter is, effectively, what is apparent from listening to it. We determine that by counting, and by determining whether there is a two-note (straight 8th) or three-note (triplet feel) subdivision. There are also stylistic conventions associated with certain meters, and broader conventions in all of music. And there are meters associated with certain rhythm section or drum grooves.   

A tune like All Blues may be written in 6/8 in The Real Book, or wherever, but it's typically played with a jazz waltz feel— 3/4 time— the performed drum rhythm is effectively in 3/4. Two measures of 3/4 waltz feel = one measure of 6/8 on the lead sheet. It has that famous little vamp figure, which can be counted in 6, or as two measures of 3. 

Making a drum transcription of it— where the drummer is playing a regular old jazz waltz— it would be stupid to try to write out a in 6/8 with an 8th note as the main pulse just to agree with the lead sheet. You could write it in 6/4, but to me 6/4 suggests a 2+2+2 or 4+2 phrasing. I would at least put a dashed imaginary barline in between measures.  

With a drum transcription, we're giving a representation of what the drummer played, with the time signature reflecting the phrasing of the drumming performance. If a tune is written in 4/4, but the drummer plays an persistent triplet feel* through out, why not write it in 12/8? 

* - Not simply swing 4/4 with a lot of triplets.

Time signatures and style indications also have certain implications for the performing musicians. 12/8 indicates a triplet feel. 8/8 means you're playing in 4/4, but they want strong 8th notes all the way through. 6/4 suggests 2+2+2, usually not 3+3. 6/8 may suggest an Afro-Cuban feel. Those may be the actual time signature of the written chart, or they may be given in the style description— like a tune written in 4/4, with “12/8 feel” indicated at the upper left of the page. 

If you decide a piece is counted in 4, with a straight 8th feel, how do you decide what kind of 4? Technically it could possibly be 4/4, 4/2, 4/8, 4/16, 4/32, and so on. The answer is: it's 4/4. 

I don't believe I've ever been handed a piece of music in 4/2. Usually, to me, #/2 meters suggest some fast activity in the equivalent #/4 meter. A piece with a moderato time feel, but with a lot of double time activity in the rest of the accompaniment, could be assigned a #/2 time signature. 

I've also never seen a 4/8 in the field, but it suggests an interpretation of 2/4 with persistent 8th notes. For example a lot of Brazilian arrangements are written in 2/4, with 8th notes as the beat, and a lot of 16th note activity. It wouldn't be unreasonable to call that 4/8, though I've never seen it done. Sambas also emphasis the 2 of the 2/4, so maybe that's not a great idea; bossa novas, which have a 4 feel, would be better candidates for that. 

4/16 and 4/32 would be used strictly for connecting complex changing meters. If you see them as the main ongoing time signature in a piece of music, it means that the composer hates you, and you should pack your drums and leave.  

I'll get deeper into that topic another time— what different time signatures suggest to me as a drummer. 

So there's more than one right answer, often, depending on what aspect you're considering— the paper chart, the general style of the performance, the drum groove. Sometimes there's just simple ambiguity about whether a tune is best counted in 4 or in 2. You may also have to consider rhythm activity in the accompaniment, and what other meters are used in the same piece. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Seattle meet wrap-up

Well, it was small but mighty. The cymbal meet in Seattle confirmed a lot of things I already felt about the Cymbal & Gong instruments, and gave me a lot of valuable information from some drummers whose experience and opinions I totally trust. Most of the conversation happened between me, my brother John Bishop, and Seattle drummers Don Berman and D'Vonne Lewis— all serious players with many decades of experience playing in a lot of different situations, and having played a lot of cymbals in our careers. 

Here's the upshot, with regard to people's feelings about the Cymbal & Gong cymbals: 

They are the K sound

We got to compare the Holy Grail series directly with several decent Turkish-made K. Zildjians— they were clearly the same family of sound, with a very similar harmonic profile. The Ks were all about 40-80 years older than the C&Gs— which dulls a cymbal, dries it out. It's not necessarily a bad quality, it's just what happens to cymbals over time. I'll sometimes order a heavier-than-normal patina on Holy Grails to replicate that quality. The Ks each had their funky idiosyncrasies, which were apparent when you hit them once, but not so noticeable once you were playing them— with the examples we played, at least. The Holy Grails were more lush, like pristine examples of the same type of cymbal.

There were some other modern jazz cymbals present, and none of them that we played were close. 

Jazz drummers love the Mersey Beat
The 20" Mersey Beat Crash/Ride has been a popular item on my Germany trips, but I hadn't gotten too much reaction about them at home. I have difficulty describing the Mersey Beat's strengths, except that a lot of  players love them. They're bright timbred, live, light-medium crash-rides with four rivets, and just an all-around outstanding all-purpose cymbal. You would not think that just a straight cymbal sound would be hard to come by... until you visit a Guitar Center, and play fifteen things in a row that you hate. I feel that they're moderate-duty cymbals; I was surprised that my brother thought they would work great in a big band setting as well. 

No dogs
We're so used to not liking cymbals, everyone was a little bit stunned to play fifteen different cymbals, and have them all be totally valid— the cymbal you were hunting for on your last ten visits to the drum shop. 

Few reservations
On my Cymbalistic site I give pretty detailed playing notes on each of the cymbals I sell. I was interested to see that some of my reservations about certain cymbals were not shared by the other drummers. Everyone had their favorites, but the there were no this is great buts about any cymbals. 

My sound, not the cymbal's sound
We got to talking about our dissatisfactions with other cymbals we've played. There are so many heavily characterful cymbals around now, a feeling has been brewing— they don't work that great as instruments. The feeling was that they box you in, by being that one too-distinctive thing that colors your performance in a way you may not want all the time. As Peter Erskine said about relentlessly amazing drumming, a relentlessly characterful cymbal can be like bad wallpaper. Cymbals are supposed to be vehicles for what you play on them. I cymbal can have a beautiful sound, but we need a certain amount of transparency.   

Some video of the meet is coming. 

Hop over to my cymbal site, Cymbalistic, and check out these wonderful cymbals, made by Cymbal & Gong. There have been a ton of orders the past two weeks, so my stock has been decimated, but I have a lot of new cymbals in, and will be posting video this Thursday and Friday. 

Monday, December 13, 2021

UPDATE: Seattle cymbal meet TODAY - Monday Dec. 13

UPDATE THRICE: The Seattle meet is TODAY, 5-9pm. If you're in Seattle and want to come hang out with some great drummers, text me at 503.380.9259, and I'll give you the details. 

UPDATE AGAIN: The meet is on, and I'll actually have some cymbals to show and sell. I picked up five great cymbals today— 2x22" and 21" Holy Grails, 20" Mersey Beat, 20" Leon. 

UPDATE: Well, that was the craziest week of my life in this business. Suddenly everyone wants Cymbal & Gong cymbals, and I'm running out of stuff to show and sell! We're going to have to postpone the meet until Monday, Dec. 13th (5-9 pm), so I can restock.  

CYMBALISTIC: Small meet happening in Seattle on the evening on [the former date], for the purposes of hanging out, playing and selling some of the wonderful Cymbal & Gong cymbals I keep raving about. I'll be offering a little promotional discount for those who want to buy. 

If you're interested, email me via the “Email Todd” link in the sidebar, or attach a note to the Cymbalistic email list form. Or text me at (503)380-9259.  

Check out the currently available cymbals at, and let me know if there's anything you'd like me to bring, so you can play it! If you want a type of cymbal not currently on the site, let me know and I can get it from C&G HQ, no obligation.    

Very occasional quote of the day: the hands are like monsters

From the late Barry Harris: 

“Are the hands doing something they're used to doing, or is the mind leading the hands? Because the hands are like monsters— and they have a separate entity— and they like certain grooves. And if you aren't careful with the hands, they'll just play those grooves that they like.

If I just think of rhythmic things— don't think of notes to go with the rhythm, just think of the rhythm— then I think I come closest to being original, if I think of the rhythm first.”

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Drum solo transcription: Tony Williams - Moment's Notice - 01

In honor of what would have been Tony Williams's 76th birthday, here's the first part of a solo I've been listening to since college— Troyland apartments at USC, 1988, to be exact. I put this on and it just went BOOSH. Tune is Moment's Notice, from McCoy Tyner's album Supertrios. Tony and McCoy are both playing in freight train from hell mode on this. Massive power from both of them. 

Begins at 3:42 after the solo piano chorus, ends when the piano comes back in. I'll try to transcribe the rest of it over the coming weeks. 

Tempo is 290. Nothing too technical, but lots of overlapping snare drum and bass drum. I haven't really analyzed what's happening with that stuff. Maybe he's doing something of normal difficulty voiced different than normal, or maybe he just has a lot of hard overlapping SD/BD coordination worked up. 

Cymbals are very washy throughout; he doesn't wail on them the way he does the snare drum. He's playing them with big ol' sticks so the full cymbal is responding. The sound is interesting, I don't know how to describe it— there was a similar tonality from a 60s A. Zildjian Medium-Heavy I owned, with a dense layer of harmonics in the higher end. Part of that is due to the sticks. What the cymbals lack in definition is made up on the snare drum and bass drum. If you want a unique cymbal sound today, copy that. 

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Thursday, December 09, 2021

Transcription: Billy Cobham - More

Billy Cobham playing a swing tune in kind of a show band setting here, on Stanley Turrentine's album The Sugar Man. A lot of it hardly merits a full transcription, except it's good to see how he conducts the band through the sections of the tune, and how and where he goes beyond a straightforward execution of the arrangement. People seem to feel like they have to play this kind of thing very conservatively— which much of this is, but he also plays some stuff.  

The tune, More, is a strange item in the universal lounge band repertoire— a lame little annoyance, it's the theme song from the Italian exploitation film Mondo Cane, which is not exactly mainstream fare. It's like if people started playing the theme from Deep Throat in Ramada Inn lounges across the country.

The first page looks pretty dull, there is quite a bit of action later on... 

Cobham's cymbal rhythm here is very dotted-8th/16th-y. The skip note is pretty tight against the following beat. He's playing a funny sounding cymbal— maybe a 602 flat ride. Along with his big ol' bass drum his instrument is not the type of sound you hear much any more. He feathers the bass drum and plays soft rim clicks on beats 2 and 4 through much of the early part— I left that out of the transcription.  

Listen closely, sometimes he's playing hits with the horns, sometimes he's essentially filling at the end of a phrase, sometimes he plays stuff at the beginning of the phrase, a few times he fills across the barline into the beginning of the next phrase. Often he'll lay down the groove a little heavier at the start of a phrase. 

The quintuplet lick in bar 97: what I wrote is close to accurate. I don't know if he's thinking quintuplets or if he's just throwing it in there, but it leads easily with the right hand on each move to the next drum.  

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This tune starts at 17:58 in the video below; the transcription starts at 19:07 in the video, and at 1:14 in the standalone mp3, if you have it: 

Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Everything you know about drumming is wrong

Sometimes I get really cranky about drumming conversations on the internet. My paranoid tone here is half in jest. Tune in to the Firesign Theater recording on the left for more laffs


Technique is not what you think it is
Technique is not your grip, it is not how fast you can play, it is not super chops, it is not harnessing the physics of bouncing things off surfaces, anything. It is simply the means you use to get a musical tone from an instrument and handle standard professional repertoire. 

It's about a single rhythm
Drumming is about playing a single rhythm, what you think when you play is a single rhythm, what you actually play is a single rhythm.

There is no independence
That's a word, it's not real. You're actually one guy or lady deliberately controlling one set of limbs to make one rhythm (see above). 

Everything is about expressing time

Every note you play is a marker in the air telling the world about the musical time you are creating for them. There is no “what you're playing” apart from how it expresses time. If you're expressing time badly and pushing the other players around with it, you're playing badly. There may be times when there is some freedom to express it loosely, or out of meter. But it's always time. 

Everything is melody
I'm not talking about ASCAP's definition for determining who gets royalties, or the theory definition. Every series of two or more musical sounds, tempered or not, is melody. It is also rhythm. Everything you do is inherently a melodic statement. Two quarter notes on a cowbell. 

Groove is not what you think it is
It's not about sounding “funky”, or really “feeling it”, or playing with soulful-looking body motion or facial expression, or anything like that that is the musical equivalent of putting on a tie-dye shirt. It's a consistent and precise agreement among the musicians about where is the time and the rhythm.  

Everything on the internet is wrong

It just is. Writing a web site is part of my learning process, I don't expect reading it religiously to be yours. People make videos for the purpose of getting people to watch videos. Video topics are whatever they are able to make a video about, which is usually what they saw someone else make a video about. It's an insular self-referential advertisement for itself; and the target audience is hobbyists avoiding practicing. Internet drumming enthusiast conversations are totally off the map. None of it has anything to do with your real life job of learning how to be a drumming musician.

It's not that complicated
Internet drumming enthusiasts and their drum media enablers want to make the above real life job seem as complicated as possible. It strings people along with little technical snippets and diversions, steers them away from learning real musicianship, excuses their lack of success, while building up the people who excel at that kind of crap as some kind of supermen.

The actual thing is not that complicated. Most professional drummers became competent enough to gig in a few years, in high school, maybe college. They did it by being into music, taking some lessons, doing band and orchestra in school, playing in bands outside of school, playing some gigs.  

Everybody good knows the same stuff

Everybody listens to the same records, everybody knows the same stuff is good, everybody likes them for the same reasons, everybody catches all the same stuff. There are probably 15-20 professional players in Portland who know as much as I know, probably more, and we all know the same stuff. This is what gives me confidence in writing this site— I know that many others like me thought of the same things. The only reason I'm saying it and they might not be, is that most drummers do not verbalize every little thing. I just happened to find an outlet for developing these ideas through writing.     

Even within all knowing basically the same stuff, there is enough room for different experiences and tastes to make it seem like they don't all know the same stuff. People get into different levels of detail on certain topics. But they all know the same stuff, either explicitly or instinctively.  

Learning is when one of those people expresses something you knew but didn't know that you knew. 

Gear is irrelevant for different reasons than you believe

It is about what you play, not what you play it on. But you can't be playing a goofy instrument. You cannot show up to a modern jazz gig with a 24" bass drum— that only advertises your cluelessness to the other musicians. I don't care what Tony Williams or Chick Webb did. The people who can get away with something like that know who they are, and they're probably not you. 

You do have to be able to play on any random garbage instrument, but it's more fun to play good instruments that are suited to the immediate purpose. We get good instruments because they're more fun, and make our job easier, and they reflect our respect for the music and for ourselves as performers. Some of us are very particular about sound. 

Playing is not what you think it is
Playing is what happens in the moment. Playing is playing unknown music. That's the entire skill we're looking to develop, the ability to play unknown music professionally and artistically. It is not about executing a memorized or practiced or rehearsed part, or playing practiced licks.

It's not about expression
Whatever message you want to send to the world, don't try to say it through music. Nobody wants to know what you're feeling. They've got their own problems. Music and drumming in particular are abstract arts. Playing is a construction job, building a well-composed performance with the other players. The higher purpose is to build emotional energy, to motivate people to listen, listen again, buy a record, dance, sing, or enjoy whatever else they are doing at the moment. To turn this part of their lives into cinema. 

There are no deeper explanations 
You will not find anything in writing explaining why people are great, what the meaning of their playing is. Music is music. The total meaning of anyone's playing is an abstract feeling in the mind of listeners, and in the player playing it, and the other players playing with them. That's it. There is no verbal explanation of Paul Motian. 

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Daily best music in the world: Freddie Hubbard - Jodo

Absolutely killing tune here— Jodo by Freddie Hubbard, from his album Blue Spirits. Pete La Roca is on drums. Soloists are Hubbard, Hank Mobley, McCoy Tyner, and La Roca. I sometimes forget La Roca is my third favorite 50s-into-the-60s guy after Elvin Jones and Roy Haynes— he's on relatively fewer records. Fantastic energy here. Tempo is right in the same mid-240s ballpark with Chasin' The Trane and Passion Dance. The tempo for crushing 60s s*t, apparently. It ends faster than it started. 

I started transcribing, and it just became futile. I'm a little disillusioned about analyzing things in this moment, but you can hear it's a very modern, energetic texture he's making on the drums. There's a lot of interaction between the snare drum and bass drum, and the cymbal rhythm is often broken up, a la rhythms you might find in Ted Reed's Syncopation. Not a lot of defined activity on the hihat— it's largely a three limb performance, with the right hand on the cymbal, left hand on the snare drum the whole time. The native posture for a jazz drummer. It would be easy to devise a simple method for practicing this kind of thing, and tame it and perfect it, thus draining it of its emotional power. 

Monday, December 06, 2021

Feel and style

Just a brief discussion of the musical terms feel and style. In normal professional musician usage they are often interchangeable, referring to the type of accompaniment to be played by the rhythm section. What kind of a feel do you want on this? What's the style? Swing, Bossa, Funk, Ballad, Calypso, etc. 

Possibly feel is more immediate to actually playing music, style may be more common in general conversation. Or not. That's my impression, different people/communities talk differently. Often terms are never explicitly defined, you just learn them in the field, in the course of lessons, playing, hanging, and rehearsing. 

We also say feel to mean playing in a way suggestive of a meter different from what is written. We may play a half time feel on a tune that is a fast 4/4. Or a double time feel on a slow 4/4. Or a 12/8 feel on a 4/4 ballad.  

In internet drumming conversation feel usually refers to the idea of having some kind of personal groove, a personal “feel.” “I need to work on my feel.” “My playing lacks feel.” I almost never hear professionals use the word that way— maybe in casual conversation, very broadly. 

That amateur usage is nice and non-specific— it's mysterious, so there's no way to be wrong, and you can talk about it forever. And it excuses lack of success, like, I just ain't got it. Usually what will improve a player's so-called feel is to fix their dynamics, time, and accuracy. And listen better, and play better stuff— all the things professionals spend their time thinking about. 

There's a common amateur usage of style is closely related to that— they'll talk about “my style”, meaning “the few things I know how to play, and like to play.”

That's similar to style in terms of being a stylist— not usually a desirable thing for players. It means you do your one thing and that's it. The focus is on creating a style and that's the product. Listen to any rock singer— Sting always does his Sting thing, no matter what he's singing. Watch the old We Are The World video from the 80s— all of those rock guys put their whole personal thing into the four words they get to sing. Billie Holliday is a pretty quintessential stylist as well. 

I don't know how a supporting player even does that, it's more a thing of front line performers— vocalists and some horn players. A telling exchange in an Elvin Jones clinic in Portland— he's normally thought of as being a very high-style player, right?— was when he was asked about developing “his style”, and he was skeptical that he had a style. I had to think for a long time about what's he doing then? 

Elvin has a particular voice, but it's a by-product of doing the real job, which is to build a piece of music with other musicians. It's not something you contrive. 

Among musicians, style is also used more broadly, relating to genre— a set of stylistic features and ways of writing, playing, and arranging that define a genre.

It's good to try to lose those amateur definitions— they just lead to fuzzy thinking about all the wrong things. 

Thursday, December 02, 2021

Transcription: Ralph Penland ensemble figures

From Freddie Hubbard's Keep Your Soul Together album, here's Ralph Penland playing an ensemble section from a very nice tune, Brigitte. I saw Penland play a couple of times in Los Angeles when I was at the U. of Southern California. With Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Cedar Walton, and I think Cecil McBee, and at the John Coltrane Celebration at the Wiltern Theater, with Joe Henderson and I think Reggie Workman. Great LA drummer, not a famous name, played with Hubbard for many years. 

This section of the tune happens twice, at the end of the head. The tune is a ballad, that goes into double time for this portion, and stays in that feel through the solos. The sections happens at 2:22 and 8:23. The figure is four bars long, played three times— the last measure has a triplet figure at the end the first three times, but the major accents are accurate. 

Swing the 8th notes. There are quite a few rolls here, some closed, some open with a triplet pulsation. I like what he plays on this whole record, I'll probably transcribe some more of it just because I like listening to it. This is just what drumming is, this is what we do. The rules haven't changed. You're never going to go in and play more stuff than this, or more complicated stuff than this. Unless they decide to continue the vamp and make it a drum solo.  

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Wednesday, December 01, 2021

EZ Reed method: Jack's way

This is a very basic method improvised by a student of mine— for younger students, or as a remedial thing for others. It's good for orienting students in the Reed thing, playing full drum set parts non-independently, based on a single rhythm. Nobody reading this is going to do it themselves, so I'll address this post to teachers. 

Use Lesson 4, on pp. 10-11 of Syncopation. Play the top line book rhythm with an alternating sticking, with one hand on a cymbal, one hand on the snare, with the bass drum doubling the cymbal part. So line 2 from the book would be played: 

Sidebar: with that particular rhythm, they'll be playing Son Clave in 3/2 position with the right hand, and 2/3 position with the left hand. Interesting, I don't know what, if anything, that tells us about the origins of clave.

Played strictly alternating, many of the patterns will start on the opposite hand in the second measure. They should also be played “pseudo-alternating”, beginning every measure with the right hand, or the left hand: 

For rhythms that naturally start with the same hand every measure, have them also start with the opposite hand: 

Normally I have students play the right hand on the cymbal, but if they play it with the left instead, this could be an easy entry into developing left hand coordination with the bass drum, for intermediate students, or others who have neglected that.  

The idea is not necessarily to develop a particular type of vocabulary, although the results do resemble how you might play ensemble accents with set ups. Mainly this is just a foundational way of playing a rhythm directly on the drum set, so the student is thinking of a musical idea— the rhythm— and not about the independence required to do it. As is the case even with easy normal materials.