Monday, April 25, 2022

Transcription: Jake Hanna fours

Here's Jake Hanna trading fours with Duke Jordan, on Jordan's album Live Live Live— a Japanese import release from the late 90s. This is a pretty ordinary club date; Hanna was almost 70 and Duke was almost 80, so they're not tearing the place down. His execution is impeccable. 

I've never listened to a lot of Hanna— he just didn't happen to be on the records I listened to. His style is kind of unusual to my ear— he sounds a little older than he is, like most of his development happened before modern playing was fully formed.  The trading choruses start at 6:15. He starts with brushes and switches to sticks. 

Mark in your own stickings on the triplet passages— there will certainly be a lot of doubles. He uses some different articulations on the rolls, drags, and ruffs— it's worth listening carefully to that. 

Get the pdf

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Kenny Clarke and Max Roach

It's interesting that history doesn't really move in a linear way, even when you have adjacent history-making players living in the same city at the same time, playing with the same people: 

“Kenny's influence was that you should get more involved in harmonic playing. Kenny plays piano and is a total percussionist. It had little to do with the technique of playing. Kenny was in the Army when I came on the scene. I knew nothing about him until after recording with Coleman Hawkins
[1943, Roach was 19]. That style of playing was already established around New York.

The first person I heard on radio who played broken rhythms using the bass drum and hi-hat was Jo Jones. Actually, Chick Webb, Jo Jones, O'Neil Spencer and Sidney Catlett had the greatest influence on me.”

- Max Roach, Modern Drummer interview

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Transcription: Kenny Clarke - Swing to Bop

Kenny Clarke playing brushes on Swing To Bop, from the album The Immortal Charlie Christian. This was recorded live at Minton's Playhouse in 1941— epicenter of the formation of bebop. We're hearing a strong quarter note groove, with Clarke making some big angular jabs with the snare drum and bass drum.

The track begins during Christian's solo, in the last ten beats of the first A section. I've included double bars every 8 bars after that. I wrote out two pages of it and stopped when it was time to make breakfast. 

The only things audible from the drums are snare drum and bass drum. There is a cymbal present, and hihat, that we hear later in the recording— at times it sounds he may be playing the hihat with the foot, but mics barely register it. For all I know it wasn't even a standard thing to do yet. You can assume that he's feathering the bass drum throughout this— I've written it in any place it's actually audible. Assume the stickings of most running 8th notes follow a RLRR-RLRR pattern— a swing pattern with the left hand in the gap. 

Get the pdf

Friday, April 22, 2022

My objections to drumming videos

Posting this instead of the bilious, totally unproductive anti-YouTube drumming video rant I was working on, entitled Satan's Vomitorium. Don't worry, it wasn't any good, or even finished— you're not missing anything. See this post if you want to watch me flail around on this topic. 

I liked drumming videos better when there were virtually none of them— like, my first 20-25 years of playing the instrument. Now they're unavoidable, creating their own weird reality, largely dedicated to creating a dependent tribal audience of non-musician, non-student media consumers. 

Apart from that despicable aspect, there are just problems with the medium, reducing it to a general distraction and waste of time.

I want to control my time
Inherent to the video format— they all take a fixed amount of time to watch. Every single video I see, if it has any new information in it, I could have learned it in a few seconds of reading. I could have scanned the entire page visually and found the parts the interested me, and skimmed the rest. There's no way to skim videos, you just have to sit and wait for them to feed you the next bit of information, whenever they feel like it. 

Yes, you can run videos on 1.5 speed, but then you're filling your ears with twitchy, hyperactive chatter, and they still take a fixed amount of time out of your control. You're a musician, the sounds you listen to are important. 

It's not about information anyway
Most of being a musician is in doing it— that's how musical knowledge is acquired not by telling someone about it, not even in showing it to them. The real process of learning music is interactive, and 5% information, 95% doing. 

Time wasting
Big chunks of most videos I see, on any subject, are dedicated to the video makers d*cking around. They're all padded with a certain amount of nonsense, because most of their creators are not able to fill the time with actual substance. And they know that most viewers don't want substance. Maybe the guy is personable enough that you don't mind listening to him d*ck around, but in that case you might as well just watch some Gilligan's Island reruns. You're wasting time, on the pretext that you're learning something about music.

It's fine, wasting time is somewhat unavoidable, and may not even be a bad thing, sometimes. Just don't have any illusions about it, and don't mislabel it as productive time.  

All the wrong stuff, the wrong way
The vast majority of videos are about what everyone else is making videos about: technique, “techniques”, how to do X named lick/beat/rudiment, fussing with gear, explaining elementary points of musicianship badly. The “importance” of John Bonham. How to play whatever song— the classic topic of hack drum teachers. Whatever's easy that someone else has already done. “Open handed” technique.

These are described as “crucial” topics— this hive lore is the educational program YouTube offers you, and it has little to do with musical reality. 

Even when the topics are worthwhile, they're mostly going out to the wrong people, at the wrong time in their development. People who should be going out and getting playing experience bombard themselves with a lot of nuance that's really none of their business yet. They think they have to cover all that stuff before even daring to leave the house. 

Hello, you suck, pay me
Probably the most loathsome thing about this enterprise. A lot of youtubers really want you to feel insecure, under-prepared and over-scrutinized. Scroll through some videos and see how many are negatively focused— you probably suck at this, your bad habits, your bad technique, you're doing this wrong, etc etc. Basically 1000% more negative words than I ever use in a live drum lesson. It's a toxic mentality that seems to be very attractive and comfortable for a lot of people, even as it drives them insane.  

Some video lowlifes can't be bothered to be subtle about it— one even named his channel “you suck at drums.” People are so indoctrinated on this point, there are hundreds of videos titled “I suck at drums”, many of them by little kids. It's sick.  

Teachers do not do this, real teachers empower people, they don't try to manufacture self-loathing neurotic dependents.  

Media consumers, not students, not musicians
Videos are made to get you to watch the videos. Every commercial product is designed to be used and to make money for someone, but there's a difference between products people use because they serve an outside goal really well, versus products that just service the addictions they created.  

The real practice of music is something else altogether— it's not any of the things in these videos, the video format itself is foreign to it. It's a live act that you do by yourself, listening and practicing, and with other humans, playing music and working through the learning process interactively. 

Here are some videos I like, by the way, made by fellow blogger Ted Warren. They're short and without BS; they demonstrate the thing and then send you off to practice. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Todd's rock drill

Along the lines of that jazz drill from a few weeks back, here's a rock/funk drill I'm playing— or universal backbeat-music drill. My wife, Casey Scott, is a songwriter, and is getting ready to record a new album, and I feel like my rock drumming needs some polishing— mostly a matter of touch and timing. 

So here's what I'm doing to work on that. It has some moving parts, you can work out a way of doing it that suits your goals, and the tempos at which you want to do it. Use Syncopation pp. 34-37. 

1. Grooves with cymbal variations
The book rhythm = mostly bass drum, except snare drum is on 2 and 4. If there's no 2 or 4 sounding in the book rhythm, add snare drum there. I play them with 8th notes on the cymbal, quarter notes on the cymbal, offbeat 8ths on the cymbal, offbeat 8ths plus crash cymbal on 2/4:

At faster tempos, I might also practice going into a half time feel, as in my funk drill.

2. 8/8 with cymbal variations
The book rhythm = bass drum, fill in remaining 8th notes with snare drum. Add 8th notes, quarter notes, offbeat 8ths on cymbal. 

2. Accents on cymbal / fill with snare drum

Play the book rhythm on the cymbal, with bass drum in unison, fill in remaining 8th notes on the snare drum. 

Play with all right hand, all left hand, and all both hands in unison. On unison version play left handed flams (rL) on one drum, or play hands in unison on two different drums. 

Also play the cymbal with the RH, and alternate when there are two or more without any snare drum in between. Fill with LH flams or 16ths. 

3. Accents on cymbal / fill with 16ths/sixtuplets
Alternating sticking. 

Get the pdf

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Practice loop: Stolen Moments

Finished my taxes and I am exhausted, so here's something for you to practice with: Freddie Hubbard's solo on Stolen Moments, from Oliver Nelson's Blues And The Abstract Truth. At 111 bpm, it's a good introductory tempo for that jazz drill I posted a few weeks ago. 

Friday, April 15, 2022

CYMBALISTIC: more cymbals!

CYMBALISTIC:  I just got a few more cymbals in stock, videos will be coming soon! [4/18 - videos are up!]

•  More of the very popular thin Turks! 18/20/22"

4/18: I discovered a small defect on the 20, so it will be dramatically discounted. It's a great cymbal, it just has a little irregularity on the edge. You'll use it your entire career, only $335. [4/29 - it's been sold.]

•  Two 20" Holy Grail Jazz Rides - Both are excellent, versatile main rides. 

•  20" Mersey Beat Crash-Ride - Jazz musicians love the Mersey Beat. I've sold several of these to some great players.

•  16" Holy Grail Chinese [4/21 - sold] - The last one available. These are super cool. I was hoping we would have more, but there was a little language barrier problem with the specifications for the last set. 

There's going to be a lot of cymbal activity in the next couple of months, as I get ready for some cymbal meets in Germany at the end of June, and another visit to Istanbul. Things are moving out fast these days— if you see anything you want to own, jump on it quickly. Much of the current stock will be going to Germany if nobody buys it first.  

Visit CYMBALISTIC to check them out. 

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Natural music

Some open ended musing here. Lately I'm getting a lot of accidental music from younger drum students. Like with that “worst drummer ever” video from a few months ago, they naturally do some things that we teach on purpose later on. They may be mistakes in the context of what I'm trying to do in a lesson, but I treat them as right things in another context. I try to correct the current-lesson mistake while letting them know they did something good in the larger scheme.  

One student, who has been playing a very short time, did something interesting with this pattern— I had him play it with right hand only, and with both hands in unison: 

With both hands he played this rhythm: 

With his right hand alone he played: 

I don't know where he ever would have heard that beat, in that rhythm— it occurred to him naturally. That has been a very regular thing with young students— getting the exact notes of a pattern right, but feeling out a different rhythm for it. We work a lot on counting rhythms accurately, but some students move sideways into another rhythm with some patterns. With adult students it's often the reverse— they're struggling to get the right notes, I make them count the rhythm (of all the parts combined), and they nail it.   

Another student was playing this rhythm from Funky Primer, on the snare drum, with the 16th notes played as doubles: 

He played it accurately for a few measures, then modulated into a swing version of the same rhythm— we hadn't covered triplets or anything like this in lessons: 

This led to a little discussion of what he did, and the difference between a “normal” 4/4 feel as we've learned it so far, and a triplet feel. A direct non-theoretical lesson on the difference between a Mary Had A Little Lamb groove and a Pop Goes The Weasel groove, that came up on his timetable, after he improvised it.  

And there's this beat, which seemingly every kid in the world, regardless of education, can play some version of: 

I've had kids automatically swing that, like Levon Helm or Charlie Watts. At certain tempos it just wants to fall that way. Swing as a high art form is something that came to us through African-American music, swing as a plain rhythm comes from the way the human body works— if we don't train it out of people.  

Not all students are natural improvisors— meaning, they don't automatically sit down at the drums and play around with it— but when we find one that is, we don't want to correct them out of it. We don't want to teach them to fear their own creativity just because it's “wrong” for what we were trying to do at the moment. It takes some careful communication. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Jazz fills with Stone

Another item from a drum lesson. A student and I were playing around with Stick Control, using it as a launch pad for jazz fills. The starting place was my post on rubadub using Stick Control— we went someplace else with it. We can use some rubadub type moves, but it's not the main thing. 

First, play one measure of any line from Stick Control, pp. 5-7, on the snare drum, swing interpretation. Let's start with line 4: 

No problem. The nature of a fill is that it happens in the context of a time feel, so we need to get away from the cymbal, and back to it. Put the last note of the pattern on a cymbal, on the & of 4— as always with a cymbal accent, add bass drum: 

Playing a fill in jazz time, it's most natural to end the time feel on 1, and then start the fill— whatever is written in the book, the 1 of the fill measure will be a RH on the cymbal: 

That's the basic framework. You can then try moving the right hand around the drums: 

To get a non-hokey swing interpretation, usually you'll emphasize the right hand, and don't habitually accent the down beats with either hand. 

With sticking patterns ending with a left hand, you have some options for how to end the fill. You could end with an accent on a drum on the & of 4, and come in with time on the cymbal on 1, normal volume— no accent:

You can add cymbal to that & of 4 accent: 

Or you can just end on the & of 4 with a cymbal and bass drum accent, played with hand indicated in the sticking, or just with the right hand, regardless of the written sticking: 

It's a starting point for trying some things. Play around with it for a few days, and you'll find some useful patterns, and some patterns that don't want to sound goo— so you play them a little longer trying to figure it out. A lot of things in drumming you don't need to work comprehensively— relentlessly drilling all 72 patterns at all tempos— to get something useful from them. Better to find a few easy things you'll do all the time, and improve at some ideas that are hard for you to make sound good. 

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Reed interpretations: Matt's double bass method

Here's a Reed system for double bass drums, made up by a student of mine, with a few tweaks by me. Apply it to the rhythms in Syncopation, pp. 34-37.  

The first examples will be based on this measure from Syncopation— p. 34, line 1: 

Starting with a simple linear interpretation with snare drum and bass drum:  

Simply double the rate of all the parts— alternate the snare drum parts, starting with the right hand: 

You could add cymbals to the bass drum parts— it's a logical thing to do with the pattern, but it makes it a little confusing to read, because you're in effect putting big accents on the spaces in the written rhythm. 

It might make more reading sense if you inverted the above interpretation— here I've added cymbal just at the beginning of each run on the bass drums: 

Or you could add cymbals to match the book rhythm exactly: 

In which case, you might want to catch some of those cymbal hits with the left hand: 

Try these out and see what works for you. There are 48 lines of rhythms in Syncopation pp. 34-37, all of them may not work equally well for everything. Often it's best to just drill a few lines really thoroughly.  

Saturday, April 09, 2022

Get it while you can: Different Drummers

4/23 update: It's gone. You can try reaching Mr. Mintz through his website, to purchase a copy of the book, if he's selling it, and/or send him some money for the illegal download.

Now available to download from Scribd*: Different Drummers by Billy Mintz. I was aware of the book being available by mail for a little while in the 80s, and never saw it again. I could have used it— it would have occupied a similar place to the Dejohnette/Perry book in my library.  

It includes some short drum set studies and exercises on some finer points of rhythm and interpretation, mainly in jazz, and then multiple short profiles of well known players, with playing examples in their “styles”, referring to specific recordings. 

For awhile it was posted on Scribd, but it wasn't possible to download it; now you can download it, but don't count on that being the case forever. They do have a lot of good stuff under the documents tab— some bootlegged currently available books, and some out of print or non-commercial publications. You should buy the actual print books whenever possible.  

* - One of those wonderful new internet businesses that gives away everything in the world for next to nothing, while at least making sure they get paid, even if nobody else does. 

Motto: “That's our money!”

Thursday, April 07, 2022

Practice loop in 7/4: Freddie Hubbard / Heidi-B

While I finish up my taxes, here's the practice loop I was playing with when I was doing that Reed in 7 thing: Heidi-B, from Freddie Hubbard's album Sweet Return. Tempo is quarter note = 189. Scroll through this if you're hurting for things in 7 to practice.

Have a blast: 

Tuesday, April 05, 2022

Page of polyrhythms - updated

Updating my old badly formatted page of polyrhythms from 2013, adding some things, and hopefully making it easier for more people to read and use. I've written them in the easiest possible form, expressed as 8th notes, 16th notes, or triplets (or compound 8ths) in common meters. I had to do one of them in quintuplets. And I included a check rhythm, with all the notes of the polyrhythm highlighted, and I wrote in how to count the combined rhythm of both parts together, and any rests that would be helpful to count. 

The names of the polyrhythms are expressed as a ratio, e.g. 4:3, which would be spoken as “4 against 3.” The second number is the rhythm native to the time signature, and the first number is the cross rhythm. For example, with the 2:3 example in 3/4 time, there are three beats per measure, and the 2 is the cross rhythm. 

Top line is the right hand, bottom line is the left hand, on two different instruments. Or use any two limbs you want. Count the combined rhythm of both parts, then play it. You could run a metronome at the grid speed below the staff if any of them give you problems. 

Get the pdf

Monday, April 04, 2022

Best books: The Art of Modern Jazz Drumming - Dejohnette / Perry

“As our mental image becomes more precise, we are better able to select muscle movements which will achieve our goals quickly, efficiently, and accurately.”

I'm surprised I haven't written much about this book already— The Art of Modern Jazz Drumming, by Jack Dejohnette and Charlie Perry. It's my favorite jazz drumming book, after Syncopation. Together with Bob Moses's Drum Wisdom, it makes up a pretty expansive 60s-70s era doctrine of creative jazz drumming, that I very much agree with.  

It includes a lot of practice materials, but also a lot of informational text, which may be the most important parts of it. There are sections on listening, the general elements of contemporary jazz drumming, a historical overview of modern drumming, improvisation, drums-band interaction and improvisation, the cymbal line, cymbal interpretation, interaction of parts of the drum set, meter-within-meter playing, song form, the rhythm section, clave rhythm, phrasing, muscular tension, and body motion. Each thing is well illustrated, with recorded examples cited. Now that all music is instantly available on the internet, I need to reread it and actually listen to the recordings I was never able to find as a student.  

It is purely a book about creative playing, for the drum set as a four limbed instrument. There's nothing in here purely about the hands. Not much about the job of playing structurally, except broadly. 

Book I deals with meter-within-meter playing— mostly, playing 3/4 ideas in a 4/4 setting. Some of the patterns are similar Mel Lewis's rubadub idea. There are a lot of practice patterns written in a very loose format. It's a very valuable chapter that nevertheless could have used some editing/polishing— that doesn't matter, you figure out what to do with it. 

Book II deals with triplet patterns with the hands and feet, played as solo patterns, and played along with a cymbal rhythm. 

Book III deals with modern feet and left hand independence with a cymbal rhythm, in triplet partials. I certainly practiced this a lot; today I feel like there may be better ways of developing the same thing. Then again, we're not supposed to be living in book exercises, you're supposed to use them as a starting place. The entire book requires you to take a creative approach— you practice the pattern a little bit, then improvise with the broad idea of it. 

My complaints/caveats are: 

Too focused on triplets. Triplets are a fairly narrow range of what happens in jazz drumming. I think it's better to have 8th notes— swung or not— and quarter notes as your primary orientation. 

The book may even over-emphasize the creative, improvisatory, interactive aspects of playing. As a feral young jazz student, it took me awhile to figure out that my job was also to provide a foundation. My education was imperfect, that's not the book's fault. 

The meter-within-meter section could have been more developed, and polished. Many of the patterns seem redundant as written. It takes some creativity to get full value from it.  

The notation style is somewhat archaic, though that doesn't wreck the book, as it does many others. 

That's all fine— I don't think it's good to be looking for complete answers from any book. 

There's a big contrast in attitude between it and the most popular jazz drumming book ever— Art of Bop Drumming. AOBD is largely a style guide— a creative framework within a pretty particular set of boundaries. AOMJD is more of an open ended map of the creative terrain. They do serve different purposes. In retrospect I could have use some of the boundaries AOBD provides; I think many more people are missing the perspective AOMJD provides.  

120 pages. 

Saturday, April 02, 2022

Reed in 7/4

Another one of my little photoshop* pranks of an existing drum book— here putting some rhythms from Progressive Steps to Syncopation into 7/4 time. It's fun. 

* - Actually I do it using Paint.NET

I was doing this on the fly this when I was practicing along with a loop in 7/4 yesterday— playing four variations for each line in the book. Looking at two measures of Reed:

First variation: drop the last beat of the second measure

Second variation: drop the last beat of the first measure

Third variation: drop the first beat of the first measure

Fourth variation: drop the first beat of the second measure. 


Some of those will be duplicates, which is why there are only three examples for some things on my photoshopped page.