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. 

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: 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 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.  

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Saturday, July 31, 2021

Quintuplets from normal rhythms

The question of odd tuplets came up in conversation with a student recently, and again when I was working on a Jack Dejohnette transcription, where he was playing some 8th note quintuplets in cut time. In college I spent a lot of time working on this topic, via Frank Zappa's music, and Gary Chaffee's Patterns series of books— mainly volumes I and II. The whole area proved to be mostly* useless in real life— if you're not playing them fast, they just sound wrong. I'm talking about playing drumset, where you're usually interpreting a chart or improvising.  

* - Topic for another time. 

An area that is worth exploring is to make an odd tuplet by manipulating a more normal rhythm— usually by evening it out. I believe this is where a lot of naturally occurring tuplets come from— often just from sloppy or deliberately loose execution. See the Mark Beecher video here for one example of that. 

So here are some exercises for exploring that on the drum set— turning a normal rhythm into quintuplets: 

Play one line at a time, maybe either A B C, or A C B C. Set your metronome for half notes at your desired tempo. It's up to you how precise you want to get with the execution of your 5s. Unless you're playing a composed part, no one's going to come checking that your 5s for precise accuracy. We're just learning to push rhythm around a little bit while maintaining the overall groove. 

Try a few different stickings: 

  1. Alternating
  2. RH on cym / LH on snare
  3. Alternating, except with a double on the triplet— either RRL or RLL
  4. Alternating, except beats 1 and 2 will always be the RH— that's beats 1 and 3 if you count the measures in 4/4. 

Use all of the stickings you used on the A/B measures with the C measure.

At first play the regular 8th notes straight, but you could also swing them, for a fuller exploration of the interpretive possibilities. A logical progression would be to start out playing them swung, then straight, then as quintuplets.   

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