Sunday, February 27, 2022

Thelonious's ballad test

From Ben Riley's 1986 interview in Modern Drummer with Jeff Potter:

“In my first experience with [Thelonious Monk], in Amsterdam, we played 'Embraceable You' as a very slow ballad. Then he went into 'Don't Blame Me.' He stood up, looked over to me, and said, 'Drum solo!'

Fortunately for me, I had been working at the Upper East Side supper clubs playing a lot of brushes, and I like brushes. So when I played it, I didn't have to double the tempo, because I was used to playing slow brush tempos. I played it right at the tempo he gave me.

When we were going back to the dressing room, he just walked by me and said, 'How many people you know could have done that?' and he kept on going.”

It seems like Monk liked to spring that on drummers the first time he played with them— in the same situation, Riley apparently fared better than Frankie Dunlop, who shared this horrifying, hilarious story with Scott Fish

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Listening: Up Jumped Spring

I started transcribing this, but was too distracted by Ukraine developments to finish more than a page of it. It's Up Jumped Spring, by Freddie Hubbard, from his album Backlash— I'm listening to a lot of Freddie Hubbard lately. Otis Ray Appleton is on drums. This is one of the first tunes in 3/4 I ever learned, and like most tunes I know, I learned it on the job, playing a little gig.  

The form is AABA, with 16 bar A sections and 8 bar bridge, so here's most of one chorus [hahahaha, I suck- t] of the drumming on it, from the beginning of Hubbard's flugelhorn solo, starting at 2:09: 

The drumming is straightforward, grooving, driven by mostly a quarter note rhythm on the cymbal— not a lot of skip notes happening. He's playing the tune; not a lot of stock jazz waltz stylistic things happening. He plays the hihat on beat 2 sometimes. Comping on the snare drum is mostly simple offbeats (often the & of 3), with larger statements at phrase endings— often a roll on the snare or floor tom, singles or closed roll. He uses the bass drum and cymbal strongly to outline the form. He does a few basic combinations the bass drum and snare drum, which you can easily pick out. 

Overall it's a great example of how to play the form, and play great time, simply and functionally without just playing stock jazz waltz drum groove.

Nice cymbal sound, too— a rather dark, dry 20" cymbal, with good ride and accent sounds. 

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Friday, February 25, 2022

Sidebar: Learn to like things

“I thought it was the worst thing I'd ever heard. I said to myself, they're not even trying! It was just a sloppy cacophony. Then I listened to it a couple more times, because I couldn't believe Frank Zappa could do this to me – and because a double album cost a lot of money. About the third time, I realized they were doing it on purpose; they meant it to sound exactly this way. About the sixth or seventh time, it clicked in, and I thought it was the greatest album I'd ever heard.”

- Matt Groening on Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart

A little point of doctrine here— like, this is how I believe musicians are supposed to be. There are certain liberties average schmucks in the street are allowed, that people who are serious about music are not. 

We're not free to indulge our immediate taste. You don't get to only listen to what you like, or play what you like— you don't get to skip or ignore things you don't immediately like.  

When I was a student, there was no endless free music. You had to buy records, or a friend of yours had to play them for you. Or you could get them from the library. Music was fairly scarce, so when you spent the money to get something, you would listen to it a few times and make an effort at learning to like it. You would give some credit to the idea that if it got put on a record, and people say it's good, you give it a chance. 

Professional-aspiring musicians— either you're a professional, you want to be a professional, or you want to be like a professional, because that's what being a good musician is— have to play a lot of music that is not to their personal taste. Most of us can't only do gigs we like— and in order to not be miserable, you have to embrace those types of music a little bit. Enough to enjoy the gig, and play well on it. 

And no blanket dismissal of music based on “genre”— what genre is/is not is a subject for another post— no dismissal based on marketing labels or categories. You have to listen and make your assessments based on individual pieces of music. 

And you limit your critical assessments. You listen like a professional and you figure out what a recording can teach you related to your job. On hearing an unfamiliar piece of music, “do I dig this” is the last thing you should be thinking about, not the first.  

We are creative artists, not just employees, so you do have to have music that speaks to you personally and immediately— you may also find that a much wider variety of music does that, once you start listening this way. 

Thursday, February 24, 2022

 Shoutout to Eduard in Odessa, and all of our other readers in Ukraine— stay safe. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Very occasional quote of the day: learning

“I learn something every time I play.”

- Philly Joe Jones, 1982 Modern Drummer interview with Rick Mattingly

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Stick control in 12/8 - “Afro logic”

Here's what that page of 6/8 sticking patterns was setting up— and that funny joke photoshopped page from Stone: sticking combinations in 12/8, oriented like the Afro “short bell” rhythm, with one pattern on beats 1 and 4, and another pattern on beats 2 and 3. This is for people like me, who do a lot with that Afro groove— it's one of my major personal things.   

I'll be playing through this on the drums, with RH on the cymbal, possibly with the bass drum in unison,  and with the left hand on the snare, playing around with some of the usual moves around the drums. Probably with dotted quarters played with the left foot. 

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Monday, February 21, 2022

Reed interpretations: 16th notes in a triplet feel

A simple system here, that nevertheless has a number of possibilities, that I was playing using with my own book, Syncopation in 3/4, along with the Bill Frisell / Where In The World loop in 9/8. It's fast filler for slower triplet-feel tempos. I was also sloppy in writing this, creating an opening to make your own decisions on how to do it.  

Here are the basic things you do with any single beat of rhythm in Syncopation. As always, we're interpreting the top line rhythm from the book, ignoring the bottom line part. 

So if you see this rhythm in the book, you'd play:

There's nothing sounding on beat 4 there, so you fill out the entire beat with the triplet 16ths*. Also note the sticking on beat 3— the basic interpretation has all of the cymbal notes played with the right hand, but you can alternate when there are two cymbal note in a row with triplet spacing. You can then make the quick move to fill the middle of the triplet with either hand, or leave it open, as in the next example. 

You don't need to play wall-to-wall notes— you can introduce some space to mostly do only five stroke singles as filler, like so: 

Let's review the options for this rhythm:

The basic thing, alternating all the 16ths:  

With some space added:

If you have any problem with the timing of the 16th notes, play the fill as left handed flams, triplet rhythm— a good thing to practice in its own right:

After that's very solid, you can adjust the timing of the left hand to make the 16th notes. 

* - Sidebar: about 16th notes in a triplet-feel environment
The 16th notes here are played at the same rate as ordinary sixtuplets, but we're playing them off of a three-note, 8th note triplet subdivision, like 16th notes in compound meters— 6/8 or 12/8:

Regular sixtuplets and 16th note triplets in 4/4 have an implicit 8th note subdivision:

The rhythm is exactly the same, but with this system we're basing them off of 8th note triplets rather than 8th notes. 

Here's the loop I was using— and again, I was practicing out of my book, Syncopation in 3/4... which you can purchase instantly in an abbreviated form in e-book format.

Saturday, February 19, 2022

What kind of sticks do you use?

Addressing the classic drum clinic question once again. In 2019, under the sway of our friend in Berlin, Michael Griener, after about 10 years of using the Vic Firth SD-11 Slammer (a maple 5B) or the VF SD-4 Combo (the universal standard jazz stick), I began looking into some very light hickory sticks. 

I had been put off of hickory by the brutal sound of the heavier Vic Firth models I used in the 80s. The lighter models get a stronger attack while not moving too much mass— I can get the dynamic sound I want without playing too loud. And the maple sticks, I felt, were producing too much body and not enough attack. 

I tried a number of other things, and was surprised that other sticks with similar specifications don't work very well for me. Vater's 500 Bebop model is almost the same size as the Swing Classic below, and I just couldn't hang with them. 

Here's what I'm using now— these all handle very well. I like to have a little stick and a regular stick in my stick bag:  

Regal Tip 7A Nylon Tip - 15" x .520"
Several years ago I saw that the pianist George Colligan (also a drummer) had some in his stick bag, so I bought a set, and finally started using them. They're an order of magnitude smaller than anything I ever used before. The nylon tips sound disgusting, but they do project.  

Naturally, I can't get them any more, because the Regal company is having some kind of inter-family squabble, which has resulted in them not producing any drum sticks. Apparently someone with a controlling interest in the company would rather let it burn than have another family member be involved in it.  

They also make/de 16" Jazz and Combo models (.475" diameter!) I'd be interested in trying if and when that becomes possible. 

Bopworks Birdland Model - 15 5/16" x .5"
Bopworks is a one-person company reproducing mainly signature models from the past— several models are very good, a couple of them seem more specialized. The Birdlands are by far the smallest sticks I've ever used, similar dimensions to the Regals, but even lighter. Long taper, slender at the playing end. It's easy to blend with unamped acoustic bass and piano with these, and after an adjustment period, they feel and sound like normal sticks. 

Bopworks 40s Swing Classic Model - 16" x .515"
Longer than the Birdlands, slightly beefier, with an acorn bead, long taper. Good balance, good normal stick. When a stick is too weighted towards the bead end— like those Vaters— it feels like I'm playing with boxing gloves on. 

You can get Bopworks sticks here

Friday, February 18, 2022

Stick control patterns in 6/8

This is part of a larger writing project I'm doing— some things you have to write out to decide if they're going to be of any use. You can see that the logical sequence here is unusual. File this in your library with the myriad of other items in 6/8 on the site. 

I rarely play any kind of stick control-type pattern just on the practice pad— except with students. I'll usually play them on the drum set, with one hand on a cymbal, with the bass drum in unison, or some variation of that. Or with one hand accented and the other hand ghosted.  

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Thursday, February 17, 2022

Solo transcription: Elvin Jones - Crisis

Here's Elvin Jones's drum solo on that tune Crisis, from Freddie Hubbard's Ready For Freddie, which we looked at a couple of weeks ago. It contains some classically Elvin stuff, and is good for some close study. 

The form is 56 bars long (AABA, 12+4 bar A sections, 8 bar B section), and he plays one full chorus, with a few odd measures— measure 18 is short by about an 8th note, and he adds three 16th notes to measure 25 (you can easily eliminate that when you practice the lick). And he drops two beats during the long roll in the last four bars— I've written a 6/4 bar instead of two measures of 4/4. 

I've given some possible stickings, which may be what he played— at least they'll get you in the correct spirit and sound. In measure 19 is the thing that inspired this other recent post. Starting at measure 50 there's a classic thing he does, RLB triplets nested in a quarter note triplet rhythm. The odd looking beat 1 of measure 52 is just a continuation of that— the last note of that beat falls on the last note of a regular 8th note triplet.  

This is kind of a special item— I'll go ahead and post the pdf, but if you're not a regular contributor on Patreon or PayPal, I request that you help me out by sending $3 to: 

Venmo: @Todd-Bishop-16
PayPal: toddbishop [at] cruiseshipdrummer [dot] com

Thank you! 

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Monday, February 14, 2022

CYMBALISTIC: Get 'em while they're hot

CYMBALISTIC: Service announcement— cymbal business has really been cooking this winter, so if you have your eye on any of the wonderful Cymbal & Gong cymbals on my Cymbalistic site, it's best to act fairly quickly. Right now the average lifespan of a cymbal in stock before getting sold has been about 2-6 weeks. this lovely 22" Holy Grail Medium Jazz Ride, “Antony”, the sole survivor of a batch of outstanding 22s I got back in December. At 2692 grams we rarely get them in this weight range. It's very versatile, about the same weight as the average Constantinople ride.

...or “Hotaru”, a 1651 gram 20" Midnight Lamp jazz ride— that's what C&G calls their Turks. I special order them a few at a time, and they're slightly different than C&G's usual thing. These light Turks are very controllable, fun to play, and are great for recording, and have been very popular with my customers lately.

If you're on the fence about something, let me know, and I can hold it for you for a few days so nobody else grabs it— at least giving you the option of first refusal. Hit the EMAIL TODD link in the sidebar on this site, or use the mailing list form on the Cymbalistic site

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Max wants you to turn off YouTube

“We used to listen to records and take off the record what the person was doing. You didn't see the person. You'd just hear it. We'd figure out what was happening with our ears. Then we'd duplicate the sound.” 

Another snippet from Scott K. Fish's interview with Max Roach. This is how it's done, using your ears. 

It's also interesting that Max, who moved to New York when he was very young, and was around to see all of the biggest developments in drumming happening in person— the ones he didn't make happen on his own is talking about learning about drumming from records. Most of the story of the next generation of drumming is of other people listening to Max Roach records and doing what he's talking about. 

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Stick Control with short bell logic

Another one of my little photoshop gags— I edited a jpeg of the first page of exercises in Stick Control to follow the logic of the Afro “short bell” pattern*, which has beats 1 and 4 the same, and beats 2 and 3 the almost the same. The page is written in cut time, so each beat is four 8th notes long. Look closely and you'll see what's happening: 

* - That page is due for an update— maybe I'll do that soon. 

I got the idea when I was teaching a student that linked Afro 6 page above, and was curious to see how it would play out when written out. I haven't decided if this is actually worth practicing, but this logical orientation is a real world thing— notice that if you play pattern 1 with your right hand on a cymbal, you'll get something very close to a partido alto rhythm— and I won't be surprised if it develops into something creatively useful, with some different stickings.  

Wednesday, February 09, 2022

Very occasional quote of the day: you have to be there to play every night

“You have to work with the people for a while. I was talking to Jo Jones one day. He commented something like, 'It's very important how a person develops his own musical personality.' He says, 'First, you have to be in a situation for a few years, the same musical setting, so that you can develop your character. Much the same as an actor in a play. If somebody gives you a script and you take a character and develop it, that character becomes you with the way you deal with that character.' 

Well, Jo Jones was explaining why today there might not be as much individuality among players as there was when he was coming up. You could always tell, 'Oh, that's Sidney Catlett' or 'That's Krupa' or 'That's Jo Jones' or 'This is O'Neil Spencer.' You could hear it right away and know that's this person. 

Well, Jo said these people had an opportunity to work in one situation for a time so they could develop their own musical character within that situation. When they left there, then they had established their musical character so when they played the first few notes, you knew who it was.

Some of the people today can do that because of developing that way. I notice most of the people who have an easily identifiable musical character are those who are with steady groups and they travel around.

You have to be there to play every night and deal with your instrument, and with yourself in a situation that allows you a chance to experiment and add and discard, and add and discard, until finally you come up with something.”

- Max Roach, 1982 Modern Drummer interview by Scott K. Fish

Monday, February 07, 2022

An Elvin-inspired lick

A page inspired by something that came up on Elvin Jones's solo on the tune Crisis, which I partially transcribed last week. It's not even a lick, it's something funny that happened with his timing, that's worth exploring.   

Pattern 1 is the key part— the triplet portion is really just a distortion of the alternating 16th notes. The sticking for both parts is RLRL, we've just pushed the rhythm around and put in an odd accent. Apart from this thing as a solo idea, it would be worth playing pattern 1 for awhile as a stick control pattern— teaching your hands a triplet expression of that ordinary RLRL sticking. 

The rest of the page are some possibilities for moving it to the drum set. Play around with it, move it around the drums, have some fun. 

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Thursday, February 03, 2022

Reed tweak: paradiddle fill in

Some of these Reed systems are so sprawling that you can spend months working your way through them. This one is nice and limited. There's exactly one thing to do, and relatively few lines from Syncopation to do it with. It's similar to a more involved Jack Dejohnette-like method we did last year. 

Start with a simple right hand lead method: play the top line rhythm from the boookon the cymbal with your right hand, with bass drum in unison, fill in the remaining 8th notes with the left hand. So this rhythm: 

Would be played like this: 

On rhythms that have a dotted-quarter note spacing between notes— where there are two 8ths in a row with the left hand above— fill in with a left handed paradiddle, 16th note rhythm: 

Easy. To work this up in a focused way, use this page of rhythms from the other day, or this full page exercise, or this exercise in 3/4, or this one. Or you can flip around in Syncopation: 

On pp. 30-31, use lines 1-2, 6, 9-14, 21-24.
On pp. 34-37, use lines 6-7, 9, 11-12, 21, 23, 26, 29-30, 32-33, 36, 39, 41-48. 

Get out your Bic 4-color pen and mark those lines with a green star or whatever— those are good lines for speed with any of these basic 8th note fill in systems. 

Wednesday, February 02, 2022

Practice loop: McCoy swing

Here's a crushing new practice loop I've been playing with a lot lately, sampled from the tune Little Brother, from McCoy Tyner's album Song of the New World. People get so precious about their approach to jazz, you need to also get this kind of power groove in your ears. Tempo is 167 bpm.  

Also try these two other great McCoy loops from 2019.  

Tuesday, February 01, 2022

Syncopation rhythms - dotted quarter note spacing

A page of practice rhythms, with dotted quarter note spaced notes, and no more than two notes in a row with an 8th note spacing. Most of these are already scattered all over the book Syncopation, but I like working on a specific thing without having to turn a lot of pages. Later on I'll show you the thing I was practicing, for which I wanted this.   

These will be good for speed—when practicing systems with the 8th notes are filled in, there will be no more than two 8th note spaced notes in a row on either part. 

See also my pages of tresillo/cinquillo inversions— there are some similarly useful rhythms there. Scroll through the reading label to find more pages like this, focused around a certain type of rhythm. 

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