Friday, September 30, 2022

Listening to Blue Mitchell

Put on your headphones, here's a little listening this morning: this is Blues On My Mind from Blue Mitchell's album Out Of The Blue. A lot of blue there, and blues. Playing on it are Benny Golson, Wynton Kelly, Sam Jones, and Art Blakey on drums. Everybody sounds fantastic on it, I'm particularly in love with Sam Jones here.

The tune is a 12-bar blues, the feel is a nice relaxed shuffle. It's a hip tune, written by Benny Golson, not a stock hard bop item at all. There's no lead sheet for it in any of the usual books, you can purchase a transcription of the complete track (the head and solos anyway) via Qpress, a site that looks to be an excellent source for brass players. 

Drummers tend to overplay when somebody mentions Blakey, shuffles, and hard bop. And when you give them/us an arrangement to play. So it's good to pay close attention to what's happening here, and dispel some perhaps one-dimensional concepts of those things. I know how you guys are, because I'm that way. Away from the actual thing you form these simplistic ideas about them. Maybe it's just me. 

I would listen to this at least a half dozen times, including a couple times just paying attention to the quality of the groove, and the dynamics:

There are a number of stops and rhythm figures on the head, Blakey doesn't set them up except at the end of the form. He's very sensitive with the dynamics— the bar 1 is strong, bars 2-5 are soft, bars 6-12 are stronger. Each of those parts has dynamic movement within it. Check where he catches the cymbal and mutes it, or let's it ring out.  

Blakey takes it easy, mostly playing straight time throughout, but he hits some pretty strong accents— usually at the end of solos. Most of us would be shy about punching them that hard when playing this smoothly overall.  

As you would expect with a shuffle, he's keeping a straight rhythm on the cymbal, and there's some activity on the snare drum— a backbeat, and usually some part of the expected shuffle rhythm. At no point does he wail on the snare drum. He's playing the cymbal with a strong quarter note pulse, accenting on all four beats— he's not accenting just the 2 and 4, as if often stated about him. The hihat is on a solid regular 2 and 4 all the way. Blakey played the bass drum in his time feel, but I'm hearing none of it except for the accents. Maybe during the bass solo. 

An aside: I don't know, once again, I think the popular concept of “feathering” is just misguided— especially as I see people focused on it to the exclusion of the audible elements. And as if it's one thing and one technique. The feeling I'm getting here is of a little pressure on the bottom with the foot, like the beater isn't even coming off the head. 

The groove is seated very deep, and is definitely human created. As is often the case, you can feel the swing element being pulled some different directions. And the main pulse. There are some wild factors there. Religiously resolving everything to a perfect grid is a 21st century deformity— it's not what swing is. Blakey's cymbal beat is close to a dotted-8th/16th rhythm here; between the cymbal and the snare drum there's a suggestion of a double time feel at times. The soloists are generally swinging off more of a triplet foundation, when they're not double timing. The swing comes from the tension between the different concepts. In part. 

For a moment I was going to say that this track is a lesson in not playing based on genre stereotypes, but stepping back it really is just a straightforward shuffle. I think the fact that I'm listening to this straightforward shuffle, and all I can hear is the ways that it's a unique piece of music, and not a genre stereotype, is a clue about how you're supposed to listen. It does help that these players are all so great, it makes the fact that we're hearing living music pretty unavoidable.  

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Reed tweaks: 16ths doubled

This is a small change to a very basic Reed method, that makes it a lot more interesting, to me. I don't seek these things out, they just happen while I'm practicing. I play with it for a minute, and realize there's a usable system for it. If it's worth doing, I'll put it on the site. 

The basic method is to play the book rhythm on the cymbal, with bass drum in unison, and fill out the spaces with 16th notes, alternating sticking. It's like Wipeout, with all of the accents falling on the right hand. It's rather dumb and I never practice it.  

Here we will play two 16ths on the cymbal/BD for each book note— where there was a note on a numbered count or an &, we'll play #e or &a. With a big exception for notes spaced an 8th apart, you do that only on the last one. We're only doubling the notes that have some space after them. Sticking is still alternating, RLRL throughout.  

Below is the rhythm as written in the book— that's Progressive Steps to Syncopation— then as it's played with the simple interpretation, and then how it's played with this interpretation: 

And here's how you would play the first line of the p. 38 exercise: 

I should point out, the idea here is not to pile on more practice obligations— it's to give us options, and make normal things more useful, and more interesting to practice, and more relevant to whatever we want to do as individuals. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Triplets to paradiddles

A brief set of exercises illustrating the similarity of alternating triplets and paradiddle inversions. We want connections between things that seem different, even when there's a seeming hard mathematical difference, like between a triplet and a 16th note. We're looking for fine expressive control of rhythm, within a groove-music context. 

Both measures of each exercise have the same sticking, with a different rhythm. 1-4 are the basic exercises, 5-8 are a little more involved, but are not essential to the basic concept. 

Play the exercises with and without the drags. You could take this a little further and try to find some in-between versions of each thing— as long as the accents are steady, you have some room to play with everything in between. For example, you can take the 16th note measures in Brazilian direction by squashing them into the space of a triplet, so the # and a counts line up with the first and last triplet partials. In fact this is an excellent way to learn to do those Brazilian “tripteenths”, in some very useful stickings.

Get the pdf

Monday, September 26, 2022

Josef Hofmann on piano artistry

Some quotes from the pianist Josef Hofmann from Piano Mastery by Harriette Brower. Published in the 1920s, it's the type of thing you'd have to go to the library and dig around in the stacks for. I got it off Scribd, which I guess is OK, it's certainly in the public domain by now.  

Hofmann was one of the great concert pianists of the 20th century—  his career lasted from the late 1800s to the late 30s, after which his abilities declined due to alcoholism. He's speaking to us from a pretty superhuman level of musicianship here, about a different instrument and a different way of making music— playing composed pieces— but plenty of it still connects with our ordinary musical realities.

Here's Hofmann, plus a couple of my comments:

 I do not consider that I yet possess perfect technic, for I still have limitations. The artist must allow the public to guess his limitations. There is as much art in choosing the right kind of compositions as in playing them. 


I do no technical work outside of the composition, for the reason that I find plenty of technic to work on in the piece itself. Every passage that presents the least difficulty is studied in minute detail, with well raised fingers, clear distinct touch, always taking care to put the finger down exactly in the middle of each key, not on the side of it. The piece is studied with every kind of touch, tempo and dynamics studied till the player has command of every possible variety of tone, touch and degree of power or delicacy. When all these things are under control, he is ready to interpret the composition.

If there's an equivalent to this in drumming, it's in playing styles and systems rather than “pieces.” For a long time I've done most of my technical work in the context of a style or system serving a style— that's a lot of what this site is about.    

As I see it, there are two kinds of pianists. The more numerous sort may master every note, finger mark and sign of expression with commendable exactness; everything is thought out in the privacy of the studio. When they come before an audience they merely transfer this conception to the larger space, playing just as they would at home. They always try to play the piece in precisely the same way.

I cannot believe this is the only way. I cannot do it myself and my master Rubinstein never did so. He never played a piece just as he had played it before; I cannot do this either.

The other kind of artist, and their number is small, I admit, never play the piece twice in just the same way. They strive for the control which gives absolute freedom of expression. They realize how many forces react on the artist upon the platform[.]

This freedom of interpretation presupposes the artist's mind and taste to be so well trained as to warrant him in relying on the inspiration of the moment. 

We read this now and put an emphasis on the freedom part, but he's talking about freedom through massive technical abilities— the music he's playing, and the setting in which he performs it, demands that. And there are definitely drummers active now who agree with it, e.g. Mike Mangini. Most of us can have the freedom just by claiming it, by having it as an attitude. It's required, in fact— you're supposed to be listening to your surroundings closely enough to influence your performance every time you play. The idea is that your abilities are enough to make that work in a positive way.   

Here's the most important part of all of this:

If one is to play with freedom and inspiration, one must strike out boldly and not hold back in timidity or bashfulness; these are bad faults. We sometimes see people in society who fear to make a faux pas here or there; so they hold back stiffly and bore everybody, besides being very uncomfortable themselves. The player must cast fear to the winds and risk everything.

He should be an absolutely free and open avenue for the expression of the emotional and spiritual meaning of the music. When one can thus improvise the composition, it seems that the piano no longer sounds like a piano. It has been said that when Rubinstein played, the instrument did not sound like a piano.

[Y]ou remember how different his piano sounded from the ordinary kind; like another sort of medium, or like a whole orchestra in spite of the many wrong notes. When playing himself he often struck wrong notes, yet in teaching he was very exact; he could not endure wrong notes or slips of any kind, in his pupils or in himself. But in public he took the risk! 

Disproving the already suspect thesis of Peak— a book about high performance— which claims that concert pianists are much better than they used to be, because they hit fewer wrong notes now. Like their training was deficient, and it was just too hard to learn all the notes. No. It's a deliberate choice and attitude.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Stickings in Finale

A quick thing for you frustrated Finale users*: Here's how you write stickings. You probably tried adding them as text, and met with bitter failure, then you tried them as lyrics, met with bitter failure, and you felt deeply sad and ridiculous. 

* - Insert obvious joke.  

The answer is to enter them as articulations. Articulations. 

Yes, articulations, the same tool you use to do accents, rolls, dots, staccato marks, etc. To do that: 

1. Select the articulation tool. 

Well, first open your template file— a blank file with all your usual settings in it, so you don't have to do this every freakin' time you write something. Then: 

1. Select the articulation tool. 
2. Click on a note. 
3. When the articulation selection window opens, select CREATE. 
4. That will open the ARTICULATION DESIGNER window. Copy these settings:  

Don't think, just do it. 

5. You'll have to select a normal text font— so hit SET FONT. Assign whatever you're using for all the text in your template. 

Click OK to seal in your decision, and close that dialog.  

If you don't know what to use, use Arial. Don't screw around.

6. Back in the ARTICULATION DESIGNER dialog, click MAIN to select the character you want to use for your sticking. I suggest starting with good old R. Click OK to close that, and OK to close the ARTICULATION DESIGNER dialog.  

7. Back in the ARTICULATION SELECTION dialog, click on the sticking you just created, and then click DUPLICATE. Scroll down to the duplicate sticking you just duplicated, and select EDIT. EDIT. Then hit MAIN to assign the sticking you want. Logic and convention dictates that we make this one L

Repeat for whatever other stickings you want— duplicate, then edit. 

8. Save and close.

PROBLEM! When you use your new sticking articulations with more than a single line of drums, you get something like this:  

I haven't figured out how to get them to render in a normal straight line when the notes are on different lines/spaces. So when you're all done writing your page of stuff, you need to highlight all the notes on the same line (hold down shift and select with the mouse), and use the up/down arrow keys to move them where you want them. It helps if you hit VIEW>GRID/GUIDE>SHOW GRID

It's a pain in the butt, but that's Finale for you. Like everything else that's a PITB, you learn to get pretty fast with it. 

BONUS! You can also use this same procedure to put counts in your music. Do all the same stuff, but use these settings: 

I have symbols for the numerals 1-7, e, &, a. Unfortunately we have the same problem when doing this on more than one line of music, but you shouldn't be marking in the counts very often anyway. 

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Subtractive method: an alternative approach

I just saw this from brother writer Jon McCaslin, over at the excellent and much hipper-named Four On The Floor blog: a Syncopated Stick Control method, which he's using to bring some rhythm interest to practicing Stone. It's sort of a parallel thing to my “subtractive” method. 

Both things are similar to the natural sticking idea, in which you stick mixed 16th note rhythms with the RH on all the #s and &s, and the LH on all the es and as. As if you were playing alternating 16th notes (an RLRL pattern), and dropping out notes to make the rhythm. We're just doing it with sticking patterns other than RLRL. 

It's hard to explain just in writing, much easier— and very worth it— to actually do it. 

Jon is basically eliminating the first note of any doubles, and the third note of any multiples, on either hand, or both hands— and some other things. Read his post, he illustrates it well. 

It's good to have slightly different angles on the same thing— it takes us to a total understanding of the basic materials and ideas we use in learning and teaching the drums, and the different ways might be better for doing some specific things. 

Thursday, September 22, 2022

This week's drill

Some things I've been playing through this week— promoting some previous posts, and rounding up some very useful practice systems. Basically I'll just play down p. 38 (formerly and famously p. 37) from Syncopation the following ways: 

1. Rhythm on BD/cym, fill in 8ths on SD, various stickings, as in my rock drill.
2. Rhythm on BD/fill in with LH, add &s on cymbal also as in my rock drill
3. Rhythm on SD/toms, fill in 8ths with BD - alternating sticking, LH flams on single notes, as in this linear Reed tweak.
4. Swing rhythm on BD/cym, fill in triplets on SD, alternating sticking, as in my jazz drill. Also roll the snare drum portion— same rhythm, all snare drum notes become double strokes.
5. As above, omit LH cymbal hits as in this triplet method
6. RLLR-LRRL paradiddle inversion
7. As above, omit LH cymbal hits as in that triplet method.
8. Rhythm on BD/cym with RH, fill in 16ths on snare with LH, with Dejohnette-like treatment of longer runs of SD 16ths.  

If you ever wonder how players learn to make a dense, Jack Dejohnette-like funk, rock, or solo texture on the drums, this is how it's done.

Here are each of those methods done to the first line of p. 38:

Get the pdf

I've been doing this mostly along with this loop. At this tempo it might take an hour to play the whole thing, with digressions. I also did it with a slower loop I made from this song by The Beta Band

Monday, September 19, 2022

Very occasional quote of the day: rich and famous

R. Crumb and son Jesse, in the movie Crumb:  

Jesse: You didn't go to art school and you're rich and famous.

R.: I'm not talking about rich and famous, I'm talking about learning how to draw. 

Actually the rest of that scene is good— a conversation on the problem of making something that's better than just technically excellent: 

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Playing Airegin

The title is Nigeria spelled backwards, usually pronounced AIRa-jin. I took a minute in the shower this morning figuring out how to pronounce it actually like Nigeria backwards: ah-ee-REE-jine. JINE rhyming with JIVE. A little stage banter item in case you ever have to get on the mic.  

Let's keep talking about tunes. That's a good subject. Airegin by Sonny Rollins is well known, but doesn't get played a whole lot. When it does come there can be a little confusion about how to play it— usually   

There are two famous recorded versions, first from Miles Davis's album Bags' Groove, which is pretty straightforward. Most often people will play it like this. Kenny Clarke mostly swings all the way through. Tempo is 240. 


And from Miles's album Cookin', which is is faster, more involved, with some hip flourishes to the arrangement. Philly Joe Jones does a lot more filling, and playing arrangement elements. That's the confusion I'm talking about— I'm trying to play it this way, everybody else is playing it like it is on the other record. Tempo is 288— half note = 144. 

Quick note on those tempos: 240 and 288— those are very common fast tempos in my listening experience. A whole lot of famous recordings are real close to them. For whatever reason people gravitate to them. Good numbers to have on your practice room radar.   

The form is an unusual ABAC, with phrases 8-12-8-8 bars long. 

Usually there's a Latin vamp intro— played in a rather disjointed way on Bag's Groove. On Cookin' the bass plays a quasi-Flamenco vamp, and Joe plays a hand to hand 8th note rhythm on the hihat. Also on Cookin' they they play the Latin vamp in place of the second A, so the actual form is A-B-VAMP-C— 8-12-8-8. That happens on the solos as well as the head. 

The 8 measure A sections have a repeating four-bar theme, with two measures of the main theme, two measures of response. This is timed differently on the different versions— the 'response' line happens in the fourth measure on Bags' Groove, and in the third measure on Cookin'. The rhythm is also squarer on Bags' Groove, more syncopated on Cookin'. It's worth mentioning a Stan Getz version where he plays the Bags' Groove rhythm on the A sections, with a break for a drum fill on the third and seventh measures— the measure before the response line. 

Usually the drums punctuate that part of the tune— at least hit the 2 in the second measure of each four bars. Philly Joe plays the line exactly, like a big band figure, and fills on the 4th and 8th measures of the section. On the solos on Cookin' Red Garland and Joe often punctuate the last measure of the A section with several &s in a row. 

The 12 measure B section has a two measure sequence that is extended the last two times it's played: 2-2-4-4. On Cookin' Garland and Joe hit a figure in the 8th bar of the B section— 1&2&— on the head only. Joe usually fills the last two measures of the section, heading into the Latin second A. 

The 8 measure C section is a coda figure with a break in bar 7— break at the end of the head, play through on the solos. At the very end of the tune that figure is extended a couple of beats— see the New Real Book chart for that, or just listen to the record. 

The two major lead sheets people are likely to use are from the original Real Book and from the New Real Book. The Real Book chart is based on the Cookin' version, except it omits the whole Latin thing— they don't write out the intro, and they don't put it in the form of the tune. It also doesn't include the figure at the very end of the tune. That book is known for containing a lot of suspect chords, I haven't checked for that. 

The New Real Book chart is based on Bags' Groove— except on the record the first measure of the vamp is different. I'm not sure what's happening there. 

There's a zipfile of fake book pdfs circulating, which includes some other charts for it— an OK version in Library of Musicians' Jazz, and a real suck version in Jazz Fakebook (written in that crummy, unreadable “World's Greatest Fake Book” style). 

There we go, that's about all I know about the tune— have fun with it.  

Friday, September 16, 2022

Grooving with a feathered bass drum

A couple of weeks ago I made some comments about hearing some younger drummers, and someone asked me to elaborate on this part of it: 

[I was hearing people] feathering the bass drum in a way that doesn't add anything. It seems like more of an obligation than a purposeful thing— they're playing it because they were told it's supposed to be there. It sounds affected if there's not a real deep groove happening otherwise. Do it on purpose, to take the groove where you want it. The goal is to sound like someone who has done a ton of R&B gigs, even if you haven't.

We used to learn to play with very little information, now we're given a ton of very specific information that, we are told, is very important to follow. People are having to process a lot of competing directives they got from the internet and from books. Play the bass drum, but don't play it too loud, I want it lurking in the background like original sin, which is what you'll be committing if you don't do it, also play a lot of hip stuff on the snare drum, and be thinking about your technique, don't play with suboptimal technique now, etc etc

Project groove
However you want to read that, “Project: Groove” or project groove.

That's your main job: create groove with the other musicians, and impress it upon the audience. Whatever else happens, it's the main unifying thing for the band, and for everyone in the room. Everything else is secondary.

There was a good line from Billy Hart, about the first time he played with Jimmy Smith, who told him to “play the dance.” When you think in those terms, the role of the bass drum becomes obvious, because you're following a natural musical imperative, rather than just following an instruction on correct jazz musical behavior. 

A total thing
It's not supposed to be an isolated, add-on thing. You have to have a total integrated foundation where you use the bass drum that way all the time. With the original guys, they didn't start out playing the bass drum inaudibly— they played it for effect, and then dropped it out as the style changed. But playing time on the bass drum along with their hands was still their primary orientation. 

The feathering thing is a continuation of a ~125 year old tradition of “double drumming”, where you essentially play rudimental snare drum stuff, with an accompanying beat on the bass drum. That's the  foundation, and it was the major drumming orientation from the 1890s-1930s. So if this were something I were serious about, I would be doing all my snare drum practice that way— Wilcoxon and everything— so that kind of double drumming thing was my main orientation. 

I do something else   
I don't do that. As for most drummers alive today, the permanent four on the floor with the bass drum was never my primary orientation. Most of us have played a lot of rock and funk, and latin music, post bop, free jazz, and a whole lot of other stuff— which generally use the bass drum differently. For me the foot time keeper element was hihat, played Tony Williams style on all four beats, or on 8th notes. And if we're talking about being felt rather than heard, at times stomping a wood floor with the heel of your hihat foot generates some sound and feeling, too.     

If I'm using the bass drum on a swing beat, I'm doing it deliberately to take the groove where I want it. But I also may be playing more feathered bass drum than I'm aware of. Increasingly I've been practicing the bass drum in ways that sketch out a feathered part, rather than thumps it endlessly. 

Undire consequences
People like to present these drumming issues like they're going to make or break your career, but I've never had anyone take issue with this in a real life musical situation. My drum teacher at USC told me about playing with the actual Count Basie band and having the actual Freddie Green ask him why he wasn't playing the bass drum on a fast tune. There's a second hand case. Significantly, he was not fired from the job, and it didn't prevent him from getting hired in the first place. He had that gig for several years.  

This is a topic to take seriously, but ultimately you can't satisfy everyone broadcasting drumming advice. You make your own decisions about your drumming— hopefully through playing real music with people— and you live with them. There's room in this world for a lot of different ways of playing the drums. 

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Groove o' the day: Linha da Passe

Bright samba groove from one of my favorite Brazilian drummers, Milton Banana, who was most active in the 60s/70s. The tune is Linha da Passe, which you're most likely find on Banana's compilation album Sambas de Bossa. 

The format here is a little different— the first two measures of each line show how he begins the groove at the start of a section, and the last two measures with the repeat signs show the body of the groove. It's a tight arrangement with lots of stops, so how he begins the groove is important to work out. And the cymbal rhythm matches the melody rhythm on the piano, which hits the 1 at the beginning of the phrase, and the & of 4 for the rest of the phrase. 

Tempo is half note = 137.

First line is closed hihat and bass drum; second line is cymbal and bass drum, with hihat played with the foot on beats 2 and 4. He may be playing some rim clicks on the snare drum during the early parts of the tune, but they're not really audible— we can assume there are a few LH notes in unison with the cymbal. Or not. Third line is how he plays rim clicks later in the tune, fourth line has a rhythm he plays on the tom tom near the end— again, maybe he's moving his LH to the snare drum around beats 1-2

Get the pdf

Monday, September 12, 2022

The paradiddle inversion method, with triplets

Here's how to fit that late paradiddle inversion system into a triplet or 12/8 environment. For clarity, we'll base it off the accented triplets pages from Syncopation— pp. 53-58. Advanced students can then figure out how to do it while reading the regular syncopation rhythms.  

This is the key for practicing this system reading out of Syncopation. Or you can just practice this page and nothing else. 

The basic environment we're operating in is a right hand lead sticking— the accents are played with the right hand, the non-accents are played with the left. This is an extension of that. We're doubling the value of the filler notes, and using a LRRL sticking, and adding more RLs as necessary. It's still RH lead to the extent that all the cymbal hits will fall on the right hand.  

I'm doing these on drum set, with some or all of the accents on a cymbal, with the bass drum in unison. If you're going to play an accent on a drum, don't add bass drum. At the bottom of the page is a bonus item where you can substitute bass drum for the last left hand in a run of 16ths. 

Get the pdf

Saturday, September 10, 2022

The natural sticking / fill lesson

These are some steps I was running through with an adult beginner, to get oriented with some normal things you do on the drums, and to practice counting 16th notes. There are a number of directions you could go with it, depending on the student and goal.  

The examples will use these rhythms from Syncopation by Ted Reed, pp. 22-27. We counted each rhythm before playing them.  

First, we played the rhythms with the right hand on the hihat, left hand on the snare. We're using natural sticking, so the right is playing 1&2&3&4&, and the left hand plays any es and as: 

Then we played all the 16th notes on the snare drum— the right hand has to move to the snare a little bit. There was some confusion, that the right was already “playing 8th notes” on the hihat, we fixed that by looking at the rhythm in the book— the notes with two beams go on the snare, the notes with one beam go on the hihat: 

Then we added bass drum after the snare drum— the first cymbal note after any 16th notes: 

One possible next step is to add bass drum on 1, if it doesn't conflict with anything else we're doing: 

Then add the snare drum with the left hand on beat 2 and/or 4, if it doesn't conflict with what we're already doing:


At some point in the process we could play that cymbal note after the 16ths on a crash cymbal: 

Now we're at a pretty complete ordinary drumming texture. From here, someone could add some more bass drum— with some or all of the remaining cymbal-only notes; we could add a crash on 1, if it doesn't conflict; we could alternate a measure of groove with these patterns. You decide case by case how far to go pursuing this formula— what you're trying to accomplish for your playing, or your student's, and the limits of tolerance for thoroughness and boredom for all involved.  

Thursday, September 08, 2022

Groove o' the day: Airto Afro 6

An Afro 6* groove played by Airto, on the intro of Casa Forte, on Flora Purim's 1974 record Stories To Tell. It has some big shot LA musicians on it, including saxophonist Hadley Caliman, who was a Seattle fixture for years, and trombonist George Bohannon, who was a grad student at USC when I went there.  

It's a rather simplified groove, with the hands largely in unison. The percussion, also played by Airto, multitracked, fills out more of the rhythm. 

* - Right, I notated it in 12/8, but Afro 6 is the generic name I've chosen to use for this kind of groove. 

We like thinking in terms of stickings, and filling in spaces, and playing linear, but unisons are powerful. It's worth thinking about.

There are some open sounds with the hihat played with the foot, that I didn't indicate. 

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Reed interpretation: paradiddle inversion - key and warm-ups

Preparatory page for a Reed system using the highly useful RLLR-LRRL paradiddle inversion— we're doing a lot with it for a reason. It's easy to play fast, works great on the drums, and fits a number of styles well. 

This is very similar to a triplet method we did last year, with an alternating sticking, accents on the cymbals, but omitting any left hand cymbal notes. The concept is straightforward when you do it, but it's not real easy to describe in a blog post. 

It falls under your hands exactly the same as that triplet method, except we're doubling the middle note, and spreading it out into a 16th note rhythm. Reading out of Syncopation, the 8th note rhythms become dotted 8th-16ths. 

I'll save the full breakdown of the system later, just play this page... which will probably be enough for most people. Left hand column is the Syncopation-type rhythm we're interpreting, middle column is the applied sticking, right hand column is the sticking with the LH cymbal hits omitted: 

You can and should freely accent any of the single notes on the snare drum. And try leaving the right on the cymbal the whole time, see what that does. Try it in a samba feel with this Airto loop, or try with this faster John Zorn loop.

Monday, September 05, 2022

Transcription: Ndugu Leon Chancler - Man in the Green Shirt

Quick little transcription that includes one of the great opening drum fills ever— Ndugu Leon Chancler playing Man in the Green Shirt, from Weather Report's album Tale Spinnin'. I've just written out the opening, some of the main drum groove, and an ensemble section at about 1:30, and some of the half time groove he plays after it. 

The tempo is fast, about 154 bpm. To me that's about the natural tempo limit for 16th note funk/fusion vocabulary— above that it starts sounding silly. For another fusion burner in a similar tempo range see my transcription of Egberto Gismonti's Baiao Malandro, with Roberto Silva on drums.  

Ndugu has a couple of extra drums here— a concert tom and a second floor tom. Or a middle tom tuned very low. He's also using a China cymbal, and plays the bell of the ride quite a bit. That opening fill moves from drum to drum in a funny way, assuming the drums are arranged normally, and he's leading with his right hand. I'm not going to worry about how he did it, just note that with that kind of movement it doesn't sound quite like a normal bonehead Hawaii 5-0 fill. 

I was expecting him to vary the cymbal rhythm to accommodate the 16th notes he's playing on the snare and bass, but he plays straight 8th notes. Listen beyond the transcription, to how he uses the bell of the cymbal, he'll use it for accents, or go to it for a few bars to build intensity, or play it sort of randomly.  

Be sure to go read that GREAT recent Joe Zawinul interview for more about Ndugu playing with Weather Report.  

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Sunday, September 04, 2022


Thinking about the tune Thelonious, by Thelonious Monk. It's fun and unusual, based on a single note riff. I don't believe the form comes from another tune, it's just a little self-contained bebop invention.

It's a famous tune, but not played a whole lot. I guess because there's no chart for it in any of the major fake books. You can get it from Charley Gerard's book Thelonious Monk - Originals & Standards, or the Music Notes site appears to have a good chart for it. Maybe you'll meet somebody who's putting together a recital, or who is serious about learning their Monk repertoire. 

Form is AABA, 8-10-8-10. The 10 bar A sections aren't the same. Going into the bridge is a little gray area— the beginning of the B sounds like a tag on the A section, which is already tagged, so there are about 4 bars in there that feel kind of mysterious. Learning unusual tunes you have to figure out the mystery zones— how do you make sense of them for yourself, what do you play there to make it orderly, definitely how do you not lose your place in the form.  

The A sections have a little clave rhythm to them, that the rhythm section plays off of— with varying degrees of subtlety, if you listen to the different recordings:

There's a rhythm figure at the end of the form that often gets stated pretty strongly, including during the solos. Here's how it's written in Charley Gerard's book: 

It starts differently on the various recordings. On Genius of Modern Music there's an intro with the main riff played twice, with a drum break. On Underground Monk plays the first A solo, and the rhythm section comes in on the second A. On other records everyone starts together, or there's a full chorus of stride piano before the whole group plays the head normally; one version has piano and bass playing the last A up front, with drums and horns coming in on the punches at the end of that, and then the whole band plays the complete head. A lot of versions have unique composed intros.  

On the Genius of Modern Music compilation, Monk solos all the way through the form; on the record Underground, he solos over the AAB, and plays the melody on the last A, for several choruses. 

On the Bud Powell record A Portrait of Thelonious they're apparently playing it from memory, as a straight 32 bar AABA, with a different bridge. The A sections are just the normal first A. Pretty flaky, Bud.  

Tempos on Monk's recordings are 210 on Genius of Modern Music, and 185 on Underground. On the various other recordings tempos range from very slow rubato (Ran Blake), to 170 with a half time funk feel (Gary Versace), to 243 (Gary Bartz), to 295 (Erid Reed).  

Here's a practice loop I made from the first chorus of Monk's solo on Underground. It speeds up a little bit over the course of his solo, so it doesn't loop cleanly if I use more choruses: 

Thursday, September 01, 2022

First page of Bossa Nova

Working on this with a couple of students, I couldn't find a simple straightforward page of Bossa Nova rhythms, with all the parts written out. Seems like a basic thing that should exist somewhere. I had to print out a page from Joel Rothman and crudely circle the parts I wanted him to work on: 

Most serious musicians have pretty good handwriting, mine looks like a Cy Twombly painting: 

Anyhow, here we go— some bossa warmup patterns, and a few performance patterns: 

Play rim clicks on the snare drum with the left hand, play the right hand on any cymbal, or on the snare drum with a brush. Whenever you feel like it, add hihat played with your foot on beats 2 and 4. Tempo range for this is about quarter note = 120-180. 

Get my short book Playing Samba and Bossa Nova for a fuller treatment of playing this style in a combo setting.  

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