Sunday, November 27, 2022

Hey, you should get drum lessons with me

NOTE: I'm going to keep this pinned to the top of the blog for a little while. Scroll down for new stuff. 

You know what, I don't think I get as many students via this site as I should. Look me up, gang, I can help with what you're working on. Despite my occasionally prickly writing persona, I'm an easy, friendly, low pressure teacher, and am interested in students of all ages, levels, and ambitions. I like helping people with their drumming problems— especially big problems. 

I share so much stuff on this site you could think that's all you need— a lot of pages of stuff to practice. It's not. It's about how you do it. The notes on the page are just the beginning. In lessons you learn the processes for a) learning things quickly and b) in a form that is conducive to playing creatively, to a high musical standard.

Lessons are not information— when I was a student teachers could get away with just throwing some pages of stuff at you. Not-good teachers. Today things to practice are massively available, as are people broadcasting highly detailed advice on what to practice. 

What is not so available are instant answers about what you personally should be doing right now. What you need help with, what you are not getting, what's going to get you to your immediate goals the fastest. What parts of the online advice tsunami you can safely ignore right now, or forever. 

That's the point of all of it: what to do now, what's important now, and what isn't.

So don't be shy, look where it says EMAIL TODD in the sidebar, and shoot me a line, let's yak about it. Let me know what's hanging you up. 

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Marking up Reed for chart reading practice

Continuing the kicks/set-ups Reed tweak— in aid of that kind of practicing, let's mark up the full-page exercises in Syncopation some more. You may not want to look at these changes all the time, so print out those pages, or get a second copy.

Exercise 4  on p. 41 has the most of the kind of activity we're looking for, so I'll use that. 

In the last post I suggested penciling in housetop accents on any off-beat long notes after a long space— three 8th notes worth of space before them, or more:

You'll notice a couple of those are not actual long notes— they're 8th notes with a rest after them. In the second and sixth lines. For these purposes we can treat them the same. 

Syncopation has a shortage of long notes on the &s of beats 2 and 4. They happen a lot in real life, they're rare in Reed. So let's make some by adding ties/accents to 8th notes on the & of 2/4, after a long space: 

To make it easier to read, let's mark the spaces where the set ups go. I put a little line there, you could write FILL, or whatever:

Oops, I missed one in the third line.

You can do this with all eight of the regular syncopation exercises in Reed— some are better than others. Start with 1 and 4, exercise 2 is not great. There are also a couple of the syncopation exercises in Louis Bellson's Reading Text in 4/4 that are usable, as well— pp. 18, 21-22. And my book, Syncopation in 3/4

Also see my much simpler post from 2011, Kicks and set ups using Syncopation. And probably my Chart reading pyramid while we're at it. And my 2021 post with other suggestions for marking up Syncopation

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Reed tweaks: kicks and setups with RH lead triplets

An online student in Europe is working on his reading with me, in preparation for an audition, and we're talking about kicks and set ups. There's a minor tweak to a common Reed solo/fill method— right hand plays melody on drums/cymbals, left hand fills in triplets on snare— that will help with that. 

Part of that method is that any time RH notes are spaced greater than a quarter note, which would require multiple LH notes to fill the space, we break up those multiples by bringing the RH to the snare drum. I've written before about how we do that. Many of those spots are also places you would do a set up if you were reading an actual piece of music. 

Look at p. 38 in Syncopation, and pretend we're interpreting a big band chart, and find the syncopated hits that would require (or suggest) a set up from the drummer. We're looking for long notes on an &, with a long space before them. The second note, on the &, is the kick— you could pencil in housetop accents over each of those. Or print the page out and mark them.  

You can see most of them consist of a quarter note, an 8th rest, and then a quarter, dotted-quarter, or tied note. 

Here's how to play that, with 1) all the filler with the LH, 2) breaking up the filler with the RH, 3) playing that filler RH as an accent on the downbeat before the kick, 4) two note set up:

There are a couple of spots where there are two &s in a row— in the third and fifth lines. All through Syncopation they're just on the & of 1/3, in real life they'll often be on the & of 2/4. 

Again, how you would play that: 1) all filler with the LH, 2) filler broken up normally with the RH, 3) set up falling on the left hand, this time, 4) two note set up: 

Normally with this system the right hand is on the snare or toms, or cymbal + bass drum. To do this tweak, whatever you're hitting for the rest of the page, play the set ups on the drums, and the kicks on the cym + BD.  

Here's how you would play the second and third lines of p. 38, with the right hand playing the small tom for everything but the kicks: 

Or playing the two-note setups: 

There are other possibilities for what to do with the set ups, which we'll talk about later. The idea here is not just to play the thing, it's to read differently, to be able to identify the figures that need support from the drummer— syncopated hits after a long space. 

Next I'll have some suggestions for marking up Syncopation for this kind of practicing. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Stickings a la Funky Primer

This is part of why I write so much stuff— you never know what a particular student is going to need, and in what form. For whatever weird reason, somebody will do really well with one thing, so I want to take it further than the original material. 

Like one younger student responded really well to this obnoxious looking page of sticking patterns from A Funky Primer: 

Hence this, taking it a little further: 

In the lesson we did this with his lead hand on the cymbal, other hand on the snare drum, with bass drum added on some or all of the cymbal notes, and the 32nd notes played on the snare or toms. He plays left handed, and we did just the patterns starting with the left hand. 

I'll be playing through it in a right handed orientation all the way— RH on the cymbal on all patterns. You could also do it in a reversed "open-handed" orientation by playing the starting hand on the cymbal.

Get the pdf

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Syncopation exercise: downbeats and &s

A full page syncopation exercise with the notes spaced a quarter note a greater. Some practice systems only work well, or work well at faster tempos, when there are certain limitations in the reading material, which are not covered in Reed.  

This is similar to an exercise in Chuck Kerrigan's Syncopated Rhythms book— which is excellent, and out of print, and worth seeking out if you're practicing out of Ted Reed a lot. I'm contacting the publisher to see if they're willing to reprint it. We'll see how much pull I have in this business. 

Get the pdf [NOTE: I can't upload the pdf right now, you'll have to print this from the image above]

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Transcription: Al Harewood - Lil' Darlin'

Transcription of a slow tune, Lil' Darlin', as played by Al Harewood, with George Benson. This is a really great group of Benson's, with Mickey Tucker and George Duvivier, recorded on a Jazz Hour album called Witchcraft.  

Anyway, the tune was written by Neil Hefti, in the 50s, for Count Basie's band. On this recording there's a four bar intro, and then the tune is 32 bars long— a 16 bar AABA played twice. I've written out just the intro and head. We're just looking at how Harewood plays the tune. It's not that easy to play those syncopated kicks and maintain groove at this tempo, about 65 bpm. 

The 8th notes are swung, basically in a triplet feel, which is the basic groove of the tune— that very broad Basie groove. But he plays a wider dotted 8th/16th rhythm on the bass drum at times. In fact there's much more going on with rhythm than just a stereotyped Basie groove. If you listen through the whole recording you'll hear that the players are not always playing the same feel— rhythm might be playing a triplet feel while the soloist is double timing, or there may be different feels happening within the rhythm section. It's very open.   

The tied quarter notes in the first four lines are just brush texture, maybe with a light quarter note pulse. Untied quarter notes with the brushes are articulated, maybe with the left hand playing texture. The staccato open hihat accents in the third line are fast chokes with the foot, I simplified the notation there. 

Get the pdf

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Sticking patterns for drum set - basic

An item for one of my students— an adult student who is new to reading music: a page of sticking patterns, based on this 2018 post reorganizing the first pages of Stick Control. I could just circle the appropriate patterns in Stone, but I'm trying to be a nice guy and not make people flip around and go cross eyed looking at a page jammed with 500 sticking patterns when they're just starting to read.

These mostly start with the right hand, and are relatable to normal drum set stuff when played with one hand on a cymbal. See also my page of sticking patterns for jazz from a few days ago. 

Play with right hand on a cymbal, plus bass drum in unison / left hand on snare drum. Repeat many times.  Do it with music to stave off boredom. 

Get the pdf

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Practice loop: slow blues

Bringing this back to planet Earth, here's a nice 65 bpm blues to practice along with. Sampled from the tune After Hours on Roy Haynes's album We Three. 

Saturday, November 12, 2022

View from the outside of a swing feel

Another item from the outer limits of usefulness, for most people. Sorry. The main interesting thing about that misguided jazz quintuplets page is that it gets us pulling around a jazz rhythm a little bit, hopefully leading to some organic flexibility. It's like an actor trying different ways of saying a line. 

...which— there's a wrong way to do both things. My wife, a trained actress, likes pointing out bad line readings in movies— places where the actor clearly didn't know what he or she was saying, and sounds wrong for the context. And with the drums— there's a tradition. Good players expect you to sound connected to it somehow. There's a lot of freedom in jazz, but it's got to serve an expressive end.  

Having thus established pure intent, here are a few different patterns for exploring that. 

We'll do it by mutating this: 

None of what follows requires any kind of swing interpretation— play the notes exactly as written as best you can. So long as the quarter note pulse is steady, drum corps precision isn't necessary.  

Same notes, in some different 16th note rhythms: 

And in quintuplets— see the other page for a some supporting patterns to get the timing: 

“Tripteenths”— a way of playing 16th notes in Brazilian music, fitting four notes in the space of a triplet. The 1 and the a of the 16ths land on the first and last notes of the triplet. The timing is literally this: 

Here's a snare drum exercise for developing the timing of that— the accents should sound the same all the way through: 

Mid-beat subdivision change— at slow tempos, Elvin Jones will sometimes push the last note of a beat into a different subdivision than the beginning of the beat. The first two notes in a triplet timing, and the last note with a 16th note timing. Or the first two notes in a 16th timing, and the last note in a triplet timing. I've noticed him doing this in a single beat, at phrase endings, but he may do it more often— it's where part of the organic quality of his rhythm comes from.  

I'll illustrate the concept with this phrase:

We'll change the timing of the last note of each measure to match the rhythm of the measure after it: 

It's highly weird to write that in 4/4, it's not so bad in 2/2: 

It reflects something that I think is essential to swing— the last note of a beat treated not as the end of the beat, but as a pickup to the following beat. So rhythm is perceived not as: 

1& 2& 3& 4&
1&a 2&a 3&a 4&a
1e&a 2e&a 3e&a 4e&a

But as: 

&1 &2  &3  &4  &1
a1e& a2e& a3e& a4e& a1

So, a little view from the outside that will hopefully strengthen your fundamentals. Enjoy it, but not too much. In the field your job is still to swing. 

Get the pdf

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

Quintuplet jazz?

I wrote the following when I was still loopy from shooting and editing cymbal videos all day, I take no responsibility for anything I do.

There was another forum question, about using quintuplets in jazz comping. I basically think it's a bad idea, a recipe for sounding disconnected from reality. But I'm in favor of playing around with things, and seeing what happens, so here: 

Play it if you must, just don't over practice it. You've got bigger fish to fry. Use judiciously in real life if at all. 

However if you're getting your 5/8 stuff together, you might run it along with those pages I wrote back in June

Get the pdf

BONUS: Here's me playing down this page: 

Tuesday, November 08, 2022

CYMBALISTIC: making videos today....

CYMBALISTIC: Making videos of the new cymbals— I think you guys are going to flip for them. There are the three new Extra Special Janavars, one with a heavy patina; 18/20/22" Special Janavars with a heavy patina, two 20" A-type Holy Grail rides, more! 

UPDATE: Videos are up! Go check them out and let me know if you want me to hold anything for you.  

Here's the 22" Special Janavar “Belinda”:

And the 20" EXTRA Special Janavar “Spock”:

Listening: Delfeayo's Dilemma

Responding to a forum question, referencing Delfeayo's Dilemma, a Wynton Marsalis tune, as recorded by Kenny Garrett on his record Triology, with Blade on drums.

How does one even beginning practicing playing time the way someone like Brian Blade does? There are some modern jazz drummers such as Brian Blade who almost never sound like they’re playing a groove or pattern. They’re constantly reacting to what’s happening around them.

So let's listen to that a bunch of times, and talk about it. 

First, what Brian Blade is doing is not primarily reacting, he's proactively playing the form. The main thing is the form. You and Brian Blade both have the same job playing this tune: keep up and play the form. That's what all the drum stuff is in aid of. 

In fact that's all let's talk about— the question is not how do I play that drum stuff, it's how do I have the same job as him. Once you know what your job is, you can play whatever you want— know the vibe you're after, and try to make it with whatever playing resources you have available.  

Here's a chart, which I found on some sleazebag pdf site. The first few listens through make sure you can follow the chart, and hear harmonic movement in the bass— look at the chords on the page, and listen to the changes in color from the bass. Count out loud if you have to.  

It goes down exactly like the chart— they play from the top of the page, take the first ending, play from the top of the page again, take the second ending, play the solo form however many times they play it, go back to the top of the chart, play to the coda sign, take the coda, and you're done. 

The form is 6 + 6  |  4 + 4  |  3 + 1 bar 3/4 + 4 (or 2 the second time, head only)We could call that ABC—  12 bars + 8 bars + 8* bars. 

* - Don't screw up the 3/4 bar!

And no, there is no good bloody reason to have the 3/4 bar— it has zero effect, it's just there to trap and punish people. Typical Marsalis BS. 

When you can keep up with the form, listen to the solo choruses. Here's the solo form helpfully color coded to make it easy to correspond what you hear Blade playing with where it falls in the phrase. Listen many times while following this, and notice where the activity is happening. Where do the big cymbal accents happen? Where do the big fills or big comping statements happen? Where do the big dynamic/density changes happen? How contained is he within the phrases?

This video has a transcription of Garrett's playing— you can follow along to hear how Blade's playing interacts with it, but don't hang too much on the interaction aspect. The form is what's important. 

So yeah, I suggest listening about 20 times. The solo begins at 0:47.

Sunday, November 06, 2022

Counting system overhaul - 01

This guy gets it.
Severely long two-part nerd item alert— the following post is an embarrassing mess that will be perhaps useful/entertaining for music teachers and others who think about this stuff all day every day. All others proceed with caution. 

Last year I was taken to task online by another drum teacher, for my late innovations in counting rhythm— I was told my ways are convoluted, inconsistent, confusing. “We have a working system in place, if it ain't broke don't fix it and we don't need to count things we can't already count anyway, and by what authority...”, etc etc. 

So let's look at the current excellent extremely consistent and non-confusing ain't-broke methods for counting rhythm, with some kind of official acceptance somewhere, and I'll say everything I think is wrong with them. Next post I'll round up the way I'm doing it, which I've already written about piecemeal.

8th notes:

Problems: fine

8th note triplets: 1 trip let 2 trip let1&a 2&a, 1 la li 2 la li

Problems: I prefer 1&a. Yes, the syllables duplicate a common 8th and two 16ths rhythm. We remedy that by teaching people the difference between the two. 

1 trip let
is ungainly to speak— too many consonant clusters from syllable to syllable. And, frankly, I'm not a child, I don't need to say the name of the rhythm I'm counting. And by baking the word triplet into it, we've made it useless for counting a common equivalent rhythm: compound 8th notes. 

1 la li—
part of the Eastman system— is just goofy, and had to have been cooked up by a vocalist. La is a syllable we make drummers/percussionists use to get them to play with a prettier tone, we don't use it to articulate rhythm. 

Compound 8th notes:
1 2 3 4 5 6 (maybe emphasizing the 1 and 4); 1&a 2&a, 1 la li 2 la li

Problems: With 1 2 3 etc we're counting a subdivision, not the main beat. We don't count 8th notes in 4/4, why do it in 12/8? I would rather use the trip let syllables, but that's a non-starter because compound 8ths are not triplets, though they are functionally the same rhythm

Sidebar: This is where pedantic individuals will make us have a long fight about the nature of a triplet, and of compound 8th notes. A three note subdivision of a beat is an ordinary kind of rhythm. It is native to 6/8 time, but foreign to 2/4 time, where it requires special notation— a numeral 3 printed above that beat. And it gets a special name: triplet. It's the same thing in either case: a single beat divided into thirds. There's no good reason to count it differently in different time signatures. 

16th notes:
1e&a 2e&a, 1 ti te ta 2 ti te ta

Problems: none, 1e&a is universally accepted, and easy to say, and is extremely useful for counting and understanding complex 16th note rhythms, let's do more with it. Exploit its familiarity.

I've never met anyone who uses the Eastman 1 ti te ta syllables, not even people who otherwise defend that system like it was handed down by Socrates from Mt. Vesuvius*.

* - ???  

Quintuplets: hippopotamus or other funny five syllable word, 1 quin tu pl et 2 quin tu pl et

Problems: Funny words are OK for getting the rate of rhythm in isolation, you don't use them in counting an actual piece. How are you going to refer to partials of a quintuplet, the mus of 1, the pot of 3? Not an everyday need, but if we're going to do this, let's do it right. 

1 quin tu pl et invents a pul syllable that isn't spoken in the word. And again, I don't need to pronounce or mispronounce the name of the rhythm to play it. And by saying QUIN TA PA LET we're sabotaging it for use with five note groups that are not quintuplets. Like, what are you going to say when you encounter a measure (or partial measure) phrased 5/16? 

Sixtuplets/16th note triplets:
nothing, 1 trip let & trip let, 1 ti ta & ti ta, 1 ta la ta li ta

Problems: None are easy to say fast. The consonant clusters in the trip let way really bog you down here.

The Eastman la li etc syllables are phrased wrong, like a subdivided 8th note triplet. Correctly, 16th triplets are a triplet subdivision of an 8th note. The distinction is important. To make those syllables work you could vocally accent the syllables WUNtala TAlita. Saying 1tala &tala— if we must use those syllables— would be better. 

Compound meter 16ths:
1&2&3& 4&5&6&, 1 ta la ta li ta 2 ta la ta li ta

Problems: Same problems as with compound 8ths, but worse. Try using those Eastman syllables to count a complex passage of 8th and 16th notes and rests.  

none, but take your pick of funny seven syllable words: aboriginality, absolute immunity, algorithmic randomness, cryptozoological, grammaticalization, hematochromatosis, impermeability, Kierkegaardianism, kleptoparasitism, monomorphological, ultramodularity, Zoroastrianism

Problems: are you kidding

32nd notes:

Problems: There aren't many cases where I would want to count 32nd notes, but it would be nice to have an option. 

CONCLUSION: The beauty of this well-lubricated* system is that no syllables conflict, except when syllables conflict. It may not be “broke”, but these methods are totally inadequate for anything other than 8ths and 16ths in */4 meters, and 8th notes in compound meters. People handle these limitations by basically never counting anything other than that... not very well. So big areas of rhythm are permanently not understood very well by a lot of people.

* - By which I mean how drunk would a man have to be to think this amalgamation of practices amounts to a system? 

Speaking rhythm = knowing rhythm. The implications of that go beyond just knowing how to read a rhythm correctly. Even if we don't use all of these applications often, it's still worth having a system for it. Next post I'll round up my solutions to this musical crapperware. Mostly restating things I've written before, in the screed format I've embraced here.

Thursday, November 03, 2022

Stick control patterns for jazz

I posted something like this before, but here it is in a new form, for a different student— we're using some sticking patterns to simplify learning some basic jazz coordination. 

Swing the 8th notes. Play the sticking pattern on the snare drum, and then play the corresponding drum set rhythm by moving the right hand to the cymbal, and adding hihat played with the foot on beats 2 and 4. Practice along with your favorite record or an appropriate loop

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

CYMBALISTIC: Cymbal day!

UPDATE: Creating my order right now— I'll be picking up cymbals probably on Monday the 7th, with new listings with videos coming Monday or Tuesday. I'll be getting the Extra Special Janavars, some Special Janavars (with heavy patina, some with rivets), A-type Holy Grail rides, crashes, and hihats. 

CYMBALISTIC: I got a look at the new shipment of Cymbal & Gong cymbals yesterday— I played a whole lot of great cymbals, until my ears gave out. I'll be taking some into my own stock, and many will be going out to other dealers, so if you hear something you like, let me know the time it appears and its placement in the frame (right or left side), and I may be able to get it for you. Contact me through the email Todd link in the sidebar, or through the contact form at my Cymbalistic site

The new Extra Special Janavars sound great— a slightly darker take on that series. Like all Janavars, they're full crash-rides, with a great crash sound. One of them will be getting the full heavy patina, the other two have the regular Holy Grail patina.

Update: I've gotten to play the regular-patina Extra Special Janavars a bit, and compared them to other C&G cymbals of the same weight. They're similar to a K-type Holy Grail, but fuller— the K-types have a more compact sound in comparison. And the XS Janavars have a bigger bell sound. Regular Janavars have a brighter, less complex sound. Again impressed that despite how well they crash, and how full they sound, I never feel there's a danger of them washing out.    

There is also a new design of Chinese cymbal that are going to be part of the Second Line series— they have a small hard-cornered bell, with an aggressive, funky, rather fast decaying Chinese sound. The 20" especially I think will make a great swish knocker type cymbal. Chinese cymbals can sometimes be unruly, gong-like, and annoying— these new cymbals are aggressive, but never cross that line. And they have a kind of deep funk, with the 20 especially, that I don't hear in other Chinese-type cymbals. Sort of a 1920s sound. 

More comments at the bottom.... 

Here's what's played when— watch on YouTube to click around to the various cymbals
0:00 - Extra Special Janavars 20" - approx 1850 grams [one on hold]
0:57 - another Extra Special Janavar
1:33 - 19" and 20" Second Line Chinese [20" on hold]
2:50 - 16" Second Line Chinese
3:39 - 20" Holy Grail A-type ride
4:19 - 20" Holy Grail A-type
4:54 - 20" Holy Grail A-type
5:30 - 18" Holy Grail A-type
6:05 - 18" Janavar crash-ride
6:39 - 18" Janavar
7:15 - 18" Janavar
8:04 - 20" Janavar crash-ride - light, approx. 1650g
8:28 - 20" Janavar crash-ride - standard, approx. 1750g [one on left sold]
9:01 - 22" Janavar crash-ride - approx. 2250g
9:24 - 22" Janavar
10:26 - 18" Holy Grail crash - K-type [one on hold]

I played a number of A-type 20" Holy Grail rides— mostly around 1800 grams, possibly. These are some of my favorite C&G cymbals now. They have some substance, kind of a brawny quality . As I commented in the video, there was maybe 5% variance in quality among them— I say quality, but I mean best to my own taste. Different people would pick different ones; I could probably pick one at random and use it forever. 

The 18" A-type Holy Grails are pretty stout, and I didn't spend a lot of time with them. With rivets they would make good left side cymbals for a jazz drummer. They're quite a bit like an Alejian cymbal I talked about this summer. I may go back and compare them. 

The 18, 20, and 22" Janavars were all wonderful. Supposedly they're rock cymbals— inspired by the Paiste Giant Beat— but the weights are all squarely in jazz territory, and of course they're hand made out of B20 bronze. They're bright cymbals, but they're complex, and very musical. They have a very full sound, without washing out— your results might vary if you use heavier sticks. They may have the best crash sound I've heard anywhere in a long time. A couple of the ones I played will get heavy patinas to become Special Janavars.