Friday, October 22, 2021

Organizing practice loops

My archive of sampled practice loops has gotten so big that it's become kind of unmanageable, so I've organized them into categories. Here are the first three new zips to download:  

Slow to medium tempo jazz in 4/4

Rock and funk

Latin - Caribbean and Brazilian

I'll be posting more in the coming few weeks. There are quite a few new things that are not included in the archive I joyfully posted back in January. A few of the jazz loops might be weird to play with— I made a lot of new ones, and haven't gotten around to playing with all of them yet.  

If you haven't used these yet, quit screwing around and set it up. It'll change your life and relationship with all the dull stuff I and others tell you to practice. Make a folder in your music directory labeled DRUM-PRACTICE or something, and unzip these there. I suggest adding the date to the folder name, because I'll likely be updating them. 

I really recommend using a player other than iTunes. I use MusicBee on my main desktop computer, and VLC Media Player on my pad. Even if you normally use iTunes, you can set up one of those freeware players to recognize only your practice folder, and use that app only for practicing. Or just buy one of those stone-age mp3 players and use that.   

I recommend using over-the-ear headphones, with earplugs underneath, so you don't blow out your ears competing with the drums. I usually have one can off my ear so I can hear the live drums, too. I don't recommend noise cancelling or isolating headphones— you want to hear the drums.  

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Ornamentation overdose

This has been going on a long time.
Another entry in the ongoing real-world musical saga I call “Music didn't suddenly get good when a lot of people learned how to play fast.”

Let's reminisce about another point in history when people would slather creative works— visual, architectural, or musical... clothes, hairstyles, digestive tract— with as much ornamental decoration as possible, rendering the object's structure into a formless mass of exquisitely elaborate froth.

During the Rococo period in 18th c. France, the superprivileged degenerates patronizing the arts were demanding infinitely increasing visual and aural luxury. Direct statement of a creative idea was thought to be howlingly gauche, and art self-vaporized into a swirling sweet-smelling cess-cloud of ornament pirhouetting endlessly around ornament off into the stratosphere, until some people had enough and everyone was executed.

This phenomenon was exemplified in the hideous harpsichord music of the period:

I'll save us some time, I've got actual footage of a 18th c. harpsichordist trying to play a quarter note:

We had a similar thing happening about 20 years ago with some R&B-derived singers, who would dance around for 20 minutes on one syllable before getting to the next actual note in the song. I'd like to present a good example of a drummer committing this type of offense, but that would require me looking around and finding it, which I'm not going to do. You've heard them, you know they're out there. Perhaps drummers don't embellish so much as atomize, turning functionally single notes into long tones, or long tone clusters. 

We all do it at times. It's a big part of Metal drumming. Certainly the whole point of rudimental snare drumming is to embellish a simple march beat. 

So maybe it's not something to totally avoid in our creative playing, so much as to understand what the real center of our musical content is. Which is rhythm and melody*, and some other things that happen strictly in performance, like groove expression. And to understand when we're getting into a jive area that is going to get us all guillotined. 

* - OK, more than that— it's a topic for another day.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Subtractive method: batucada

This developing subtractive method is becoming really interesting. It makes it much easier to write and communicate more complex orchestrations than in the past— which is not an end in itself, it just makes it easier to adapt the system for specific styles, with specific constraints. 

I've been doing a batucada-type samba of samba thing with it. Part of the thing with this method is that we're converting a Stone-type sticking pattern to do things other than Right hand and Left hand. For this method we'll use A = accent on the snare drum, and B = add bass drum



Use either of these as the loose foundation: 

Those accents are default for this style; you don't have to reconcile them with the accents/bass drum in the practice systems. And you don't have to rigorously work out the buzzes/drags. It sounds best if it's not too worked out— let it be a little rough. 

As it says, accent the snare drum on any As in the book rhythm, add bass drum to any Bs. And don't do either of them on notes that aren't sounding in the book rhythm. If that instruction doesn't make sense to you, read the system summary post again.  

Here's how the first line of the p. 38 exercise in Syncopation would be played using the AAAA-BBBB system: 

Play the system accents as rim shots, or accented buzzes, or whatever you like. It's not about doing the system 100% perfectly, it's about using it to go for a sound. 

At slower tempos you could play the 8th notes half-swung— which takes it into more of a New Orleans street-beat type of feel— at faster tempos try the tripteenth-style samba feel, where all four 8th notes get squashed in to the same space as the first-through-last notes of a triplet. 

Friday, October 15, 2021

Lopsy Lu revisited

Someone left a rather odd comment on my old Lopsy Lu transcription, of Tony Williams playing with Stanley Clarke, and I saw that my own notes from that 2015 post are also rather obscure, so I thought I'd write a new guided listening tour of the track. It's a short tune that's deceptively difficult to follow, especially given what's happening on the recording. It should be a popular tune with the current breed of chops-centric young electric bass players, so you could find yourself playing it sometime. For me it's in in a category with Vashkar— another short, strange tune.   

Listen while you read: 

All time signatures I reference here are compound meters, with an 8 on the bottom of the time signature, with dotted quarter notes as the counted and felt beat— that happens to be the rhythm played on the bass drum at the start. Compound meters are triplet-feel meters counted in the top number divided by three: 

6/8 = counted in 2 (not 6)
12/8 = counted in 4 (not 12)

So where I mention beats or counting, I'm referring to dotted quarter notes, not the number at the top of the time signature. Hit the link above and read that post if this is in any way confusing.  

The tune has an A-B, two part form. We'll call the singable part the A section, and the riff-like part the B section. The recording starts with the B section, immediately when the bass comes in at 0:04. The first A section starts at 0:23 and ends at 0:34. Get those in your ear, and be able to tell when you're hearing an A or B section. There are lots of aural gray areas in this tune, so you may not know every second, but you'll know when you hear the riff or the melody   

I wrote the original transcription in 12/8— meaning counted in 4— which it could be, but I find it a difficult meter to count and keep track of the form. It seems more natural to count most of the tune in 8. Try counting through about the first minute of the recording that way. The B section will have five measures of 8, the A section will have three measures of 8. 

In counting you'll notice the B section sits a little funny. I think it's easier if you the Bs 10-8-8-8-6, so the repeating bass figure falls at the end of each measure, which is natural to my ear. Basically that figure happens four times in every B section, with a little padding before and after. Try counting that right when the bass comes in after 0:03. 

The time signatures implied by counting this way are kind of ridiculous— 24/8, 30/8, 18/8. I would never write something out that way. I rarely count in 8, it just happens to work here. 

That's the structure of the tune. I posted a practice loop of the entire form if you want to play along. If you want to see how one other person transcribed it, you can get the Stanley Clarke collection from Bassline Publishing. 

Here's a map for counting through the entire track— I suggest you do it a couple of times, because why not. If you insist on counting it in 8 all the way through, replace each 10 and 6 with an 8. 

0:00 - drums only - 8   

0:03 - B section - 10-8-8-8-6

0:23 - A section - 8-8-8

0:35 - B - 10-8-8-8-6

0:54 - A - 8-8-8

1:05 - short B - 10-8-8-6

1:21 - A - 8-8-8

1:32 - B - 10-8-8-8-6 (Stanley doesn't play first riff)

1:51 - A - 8-8-8

2:03 - B/A - 10-8-8-6-8 (A section played on 8-8-6 portion, 8 beats padding a end)

2:22 - extended A - 8-8-8-8

Repeat extended A under solos until drum solo at 5:19

5:19 DRUM SOLO - A - 8-8-8

5:30 - B - 10 - ||: 8-8 :|| (3x) - 8-6

6:02 - HEAD OUT - A - 8-8-8

6:14 - B - vamp on B section riff and fade

People could argue for counting and writing it differently, I imagine, but what somebody wrote is not necessarily what it is. Downbeats = strong beats* is a basic organizing principle of music, and counting the B sections the way I do makes the accented endings of all of the major figures anticipations of a 1. And nobody on the recording is playing anything to suggest that the barlines are somewhere else. I'd be curious to see the sketch Stanley handed out at the recording, if any. 

* - Regardless of what is happening syncopation-wise in the arrangement or performance, whether performers are accenting strongly or not. Harmonic motion defines the 1s, the downbeats. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Groove o' the day: Jack Dejohnette - Fiesta

A bright samba groove played by Jack Dejohnette on Fiesta, from Stan Getz' My Foolish Heart album— a live record from the mid-70s. Tempo is about half note = 130. 

Here's the very beginning of the tune:

He plays basically this for most of the body of the tune, with minor variations in the cymbal rhythm, plus fills and left hand activity:

Listen to the whole thing: 

Monday, October 11, 2021

Very occasional quote of the day: a lot of technique

“I could be playing for a month and never run into anything that requires a lot of technique. It might require that I play very simply. If you've got a lot of chops and you get bugged because the music doesn't require great chops, it's difficult to be open minded about the music. You have to get beyond that wall you set up for yourself.”

- Steve Gadd, 1978 Modern Drummer interview with Aran Wald

Saturday, October 09, 2021

Subtractive patterns for jazz hihat

What this new subtractive method is good for: making it easy to create and communicate rather specific, specialized orchestration/voicing systems on the drum set. Like, for the hihat in jazz— I have never cared for the normal Dawson methods, and I never came up with anything else really satisfactory on my own.  

With this method you can pick the exact thing you want to work on with the hihat, and get plenty of practice doing it, and variations of it, with a pretty realistic jazz texture overall, with normal density on the snare drum. 

To summarize the method again: the patterns below represent one measure of 8th notes, with S = snare drum, H = hihat played with the foot. Reading the top line rhythm from pp. 10-11 and 30-45 in Syncopation, play only the notes of the patterns that correspond with the rhythms in the book. See the previous posts for a more thorough explanation. Add a regular jazz cymbal rhythm. 

Warm up with these:


Then these— note that the hihat will be on beats 2 or 4 in each of them:


Then try these more complex patterns: 


I usually don't want to mess with doubles with the left foot. I never do two triplet-rate notes in a row on the hihat at anything faster than ballad tempo. But you can practice that using: 


You'll find this works exceedingly well with the dreaded Exercise 2 (p. 39 in current edition of Reed)— it's very dense and is generally a pain in the neck, but these systems break it up nicely, and give you ample opportunity to practice the actual ideas behind the patterns. The sparser pages in Reed fragment the patterns so much that there would likely be a lot of redundancy. Play Reed Exercise 4 using SHSS-SHSS and then with SHHS-SHHS and you'll see what I mean. All this means is that, lucky us, we don't need to do endless systems this way. 

The systems above are mostly easy to interpret, and could be written as simple rules instead of a Stone-type pattern. You could describe SSSH-SSSH as play the hihat on any & of 2/& of 4 in the book rhythm, play everything else on the snare drum. But that's long winded when we're already used to memorizing these Stone-type patterns. You'll figure out the verbal rule as you practice them, which will make it easier to do them.  

Friday, October 08, 2021

Chip Stern plays Papa Jo's drums

Papa Jo Jones
Photo by Rick Mattingly
Item from writer Chip Stern, best known to me for conducting a lot of great interviews in Modern Drummer magazine, including one with Papa Jo Jones. He has a lot of memories to share about his time hanging with Jo:  

OLD MAN RIVER: Papa Jo once granted me diplomatic immunity to check out his old Ludwig drum kit in the adjacent room at his crib on East 64th Street. His toms and snare pretty much paralleled the high melodic tuning I was familiar with from Max's drums, but the 14 x 20 Ludwig bass drum? WTF? Was like a gong. A thin calfskin timpani head (a notion he got directly from his idol, Chick Webb) with no muffling of any kind.

I went back into the room where Papa was chilling, scratching my head. “Man, that was nothing like I was expecting,” and Jo just laughed his ass off. “HA... that's why I don't have no problems. Nobody knows what I'm doing.”

At one point, I copped one of those KLH all in one stereos with a built in AM/FM tuner and a Dual turntable as a gift, so Jo could stage concerts for me and relate the back story as to what was actually happening on these recordings, many of which, obviously featured Jonathan David Samuel Jones. 
When sitting in his rocking chair, I observed how Jo was always pedaling with both his feet, heel to toe/toe to heel, and I began to realize that this was both his root timekeeper and how he controlled the resonance of his bass drum: toeing the beater right into the head, and holding it there, while stomping down with his heel on the back of the bass drum pedal. The vibration of the heel stomping down would translate to the bass drum, creating a soft subliminal pulse, and if every now and then, the toe came loose, and the beater popped on to the unmuted head, detonating a bomb, well, all in a day's work.

Visit Chip's site, and follow him on Facebook, where he's quite active, sharing a lot of great stuff. 

Thursday, October 07, 2021

Tempo and practicing

Yes, it is.
This always hung me up— the seemingly infinite tempo possibilities for any one thing you practice. It was a constantly lurking thing that I'm not doing this fast enough, and you would never feel like you completed something. I think it stole my focus from learning something really well at the tempo at which I was doing it then.   

Some guidelines, then, for thinking about tempo when practicing, for settling down and having a clear purpose about what you're doing: 

Relax about baby tempos 
You need to be able to play the slow tempos great, too, so why the rush to just play faster? Everyone wants to play things at “flow” speed, where your hands are moving in a continuous motion, but many times you just have to carefully place every single note. So practice sounding great while doing that. And having worked it out thoroughly, you'll sound better at tempos where the rate of notes has a more natural flow. 

Know the destined tempo

Tempo suggestions in drumming books may not always be totally realistic. See the absurd "half note = 120" in the hardest parts of Dahlgren & Fine. That's just an invitation by the book's author for you to feel inadequate forever. Go to your record collection and find some playing in the style of what you're practicing, and make that your goal. You mostly don't need  to do very complicated dense stuff extremely fast; sparse things that are dull at slow tempos may be designed to be played fast.    

Technical issues

Beware when you're playing a thing so fast you need to devise a special technique to do it. You may be doing the thing faster than intended. Or possibly your normal technique is needlessly complex and it's slowing you down. Check both things carefully.

Two tempos

Play the page at a moderately slow tempo, then a moderately fast tempo, and move on. A comfortable medium tempo where you can achieve some relaxation, and a faster tempo where you're pushing yourself a little bit. I like the tempos suggested in A Funky Primer: quarter note = 86, and qn = 120. I like qn = 64 if you need to add a level below that.   


It's easy to just start playing without thinking about a tempo beforehand, but don't just play your default tempo all the time. Know what tempo you're playing, and choose your tempos on purpose. 

Out of time

Some very demanding things— eg, heavy independence practice— don't need to be in time, at first. Play them slow to begin with, then take all the extra time you need to get the next note in the pattern. Just try to keep the rhythm roughly proportional to what's on the page.   

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Accents in Reed

TOTAL nerd stuff here. I use the accent pages in Progressive Steps to Syncopation (pp. 47-49) with my students for convenience, but I find them be a pain. They're thorough, but poorly balanced— so if students (e.g. me) just start on line 1 and try to plow through it, they (e.g. me) are going to burn out about halfway through the first page, and never get to the interesting ones. To do this stuff year after year you have to manage your interest, and that of your students. You can't reasonably expect people to motivate themselves by brute force forever.  

I think I need to start marking this book up with a four-color pen. Bracket off each section in black, circle the good exercises in green, the critical ones in red, whatever. Get out my 50mm acrylic marker and black out everything I hate. Something. 

Here are how those pages are organized, with my suggestions on which ones to include in general practicing. Whether you like my line choices or not, when covering this topic students should be playing at least a few lines from each category:

Lead hand accents - 
Lines 1-10
Most of the first page of exercises, and quite dull. I may have students play four or five of these, for different reasons. Shave it down to lines 1, 2, 6, and 9.   

Two accents together - Lines 11-14 
Only four lines, no problem. Always do lines 11 and 14. 

Off hand accents - Lines 15-22
Inverse of the lead hand accents. Lines 16, 18, 21, 22. 

Mixed accents - Lines 23-28
These are the interesting ones, and the most useful for learning to play accents well. There aren't many of them, but we're just using this as preparation for playing accented 8ths as an interpretation, using the regular exercises earlier in the book.  

Single accent displaced - Lines 1-2, 15-16
That's an important set of exercises, too bad they're on two different pages. 

Here: I've pared down those pages by about 30%, and dragged things around into the order I would have wanted them, with the four single accent patterns grouped together at the end. Print these out and put them in your copy of Syncopation: 


By the way, I don't just use these pages for their intended purpose— playing alternating accented singles on the snare drum. I'll use them for getting into applications like my rock drill, or harmonic coordination method

I rarely use the other non-8th note accent pages. Never the dotted-8th/16th pages. The triplet pages are most useful, they're also an organizational mess. Perhaps I'll pick them apart on another occasion. 

If you like reading my complaining about this book, also check out my itemized critique of it from another occasion. 

Monday, October 04, 2021

Subtractive method overview

Here's a broad overview of this subtractive thing I've been working with. It's a new approach, but not unprecedented, and I think it's worth exploring. The idea starts with a Stone-type 8th note sticking pattern, and applying it to rhythms from Syncopation, leaving out any notes of the pattern that are not in the rhythm. 

It's simply the natural sticking concept applied to more complex patterns. Natural sticking, remember, means sticking a rhythm based on which hand would have played that note if you had been playing alternating singles.

The running 16ths represent the underlying pattern, the bottom part represents that sticking applied to a rhythm: 

We're just applying it to some other stickings, or voicing patterns. For example, if you did the above same rhythm with a paradiddle sticking, you'd get the following:  

The only other critical difference is that we're doing this on drum set, with a snare drum / bass drum pattern instead of a right hand / left hand pattern. I believe it's easier to do this on the drum set, using two different sounds, fulfilling a role in a particular style. Simply doing it on a practice pad with Rs and Ls is too abstract. We'll also be doing the entire system with 8th note patterns and 8th note-based rhythms, counted in 4/4 or 2/2.  

We've essentially done this already with my cut time funk drill— where the 3 is played on the snare drum, and everything else on the bass drum, implying an underlying pattern of:


There's another funk interpretation (see step 2. in the link) where we play the first half of the measure on the bass drum, second half on the snare drum, which implies this pattern: 


My rock method, with snare drum on 2 and 4, and everything else on the bass drum, basically implies this:


To those we would add a cymbal rhythm played with the right hand. In fact those actual practice methods were a little different— if the snare notes were missing from the book rhythm, we would add them, or displace them to match the book rhythm exactly. But the basic principle is similar. 

And it's the same as John Riley's idea we called “that with interruptions”— his phrase— where he would play a SSBB 8th note pattern with a jazz cymbal rhythm, dropping out some notes of the pattern. It's the exact same thing, except now we're arriving at it by reading rhythms from a book, and voicing them according to whatever SB pattern we choose. 

This is a learnable system— personally I've been drilling the original pattern BSSB-SBBS in a funk style, and have had no problem applying it to all the pages listed below. I'm also working on it with the Mozambique bell pattern, which is much more difficult. I can do all the one line exercises, but the long exercises— even with just quarter note rhythms— are progressing much slower. I'll run some of the simpler jazz systems and report back.  

You could do this using all of the stickings from the beginning of Stone, or with my page of funk stickings, playing the Rs on the bass drum and Ls on the snare drum, in any number of styles. But the system is difficult enough that you should be selective about it. 

First patterns for jazz:


Funk patterns:

The BBBB-SSSS pattern above is probably the best place to start with the funk patterns; that gives the broad outline of all of the funk patterns, which are generally oriented around bass drum in the first part, and around snare drum in the second part.

Add any additional parts you want; jazz cymbal rhythm and hihat for the jazz patterns, quarter notes, 8th notes, or another rhythm for funk. If you want to tackle the Mozambique rhythm, I suggest starting with the rhythm for the first measure only, repeating, and then do the complete rhythm. 

Use those patterns to voice the top line rhythms for the following pages in Syncopation: 
4-5, 10-11, 30-32, 34-45. 

Warm up with the complete pattern, the complete bass drum part by itself, the complete snare drum part by itself, and then the pattern applied to some simple rhythms, as illustrated in the first post on this topic

We'll see where this goes. I'm very encouraged by what I've done so far with the BSSB-SBBS pattern, which has the practical effect of developing a lot of fluency with a tresillo bass drum rhythm— you end up playing a lot of the rhythm itself, and parts of it, and variations on it, with simple added parts on the snare drum. Some applied rhythms create some “hip” inverted/displaced beats; it's nice to arrive at that stuff not by sitting down and contriving something hip, but just by playing normal syncopated rhythms following a normal drumming pattern. More to come on this topic. 

Sunday, October 03, 2021

Practice loop: Port of Entry

Here's a fun practice loop sampled from Port of Entry, by Weather Report. A great track from Night Passage, one of my favorite records. Tempo is 77 or 154 bpm, depending on how you want to count it. 

If you're having any problem getting oriented, here's the basic rhythm of the bass vamp:

By the way, I'll be posting new additions to my practice loop archive soon. Stay tuned...

Friday, October 01, 2021

Paradiddle inversion with bass drum substitutions

Something I was playing around with yesterday, substituting bass drum for some notes of the extremely useful RLLR-LRRL paradiddle inversion. These are good for playing fast. 

The last three patterns don't follow the exact sticking pattern, but they fit in easily with it. Learn all the patterns, then drill them by alternating Ex. 1 with each of the remaining exercises— two beats of each exercise, or four beats. See my other page of velocity patterns in 3/4, too. 

Get the pdf

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Very occasional quote of the day: Shelly Manne on soloing

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

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

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

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

Get the pdf

Monday, September 27, 2021

Top CD rebuys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 24, 2021

A little technique video

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

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

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

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

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

Get the pdf

Monday, September 20, 2021

Notes on the first playing gig in some time

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 17, 2021

CYMBALISTIC: 26" Holy Grails, small swish cymbals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Reed interpretations: special voicing - 01

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

A few rare items

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Page o' coordination: yet another Elvin 5/4

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

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

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

Get the pdf

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Best books: Rudimental Primer by Mitchell Peters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I also recommend: 

Elementary Snare Drum Studies

Intermediate Snare Drum Studies

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

Odd Meter Calisthenics (thanks Ed!)

Odd Meter Rudimental Etudes

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

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Transcription: Roy Haynes feature

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

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

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

Get the pdf

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

Friday, September 03, 2021

CYMBALISTIC: A lot of new cymbals!

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

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

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

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

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

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