Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Uptempo rock practice phrase

Here's a quick one— a practice phrase combining two practice systems from the rock drill I posted recently, that's good for fast tempos. It flows really nicely. I give you so many open-ended practice systems, it's nice have some with a narrower scope. You can do this with Syncopation pp. 34-45, maybe 30-31.  

There's nothing to it: play two-measure phrases—  six beats of groove, two beats of fill.

On the groove portion: book rhythm = bass drum, except hit the 2/4 on the snare drum. If there's no 2 or 4 sounding in the rhythm, add it. Add quarter notes on the ride cymbal.

On the fill portion: book rhythm = accents on the cymbals + bass drum. Fill in 8th notes on the snare drum. Use alternating sticking starting with the right hand. 

Here: do the two things I crudely circled from the rock drill page: 


So here is how you would play the first three lines of p. 34 of Syncopation: 



Accent the snare drum during the fill, and accent the 1 after the fill. Or whatever sounds good for that pattern. Use convenient cymbals for each hand— ride or right side crash for right hand, left side cymbal or open hihats with the left hand. 

And here's how you play the first two lines of Exercise One on p. 38: 



Practical tempo range for this is about quarter note = 130-200+. After you've done the p.38 exercise, and can sight read the other full page exercises easily, you should have a pretty good flow with this kind of thing. 

Monday, May 16, 2022

Max on the bass drum

An exchange on the evolution of the bass drum in jazz, from Max Roach, circa 1981, from his Modern Drummer interview with Scott K. Fish.

SF: Back in the '50s and '60s jazz drummers were primarily using the smaller size drums: 18" bass, 12" mounted tom and 14" floor tom. I've heard that one of the main reasons drummers used that size drum was because they were easier to transport than larger drums.

MR: Exactly. It made it easier to get from town to town. Pack up your gear, put it in your car, and off you go. That was one of the main reasons I think.

Plus, the bass drum had begun to become less and less an integral part of the whole musical set-up. It's different now. The bass drum, at that time, would stamp out what was happening with the acoustic bass. Even the pianists would leave that part. They would voice their chords so the bottom of the piano would be in thirds and sevenths instead of tonics and fifths. They left that part for the acoustic bass. So, your bass drum would only be used for accents and supports.

So the small drum was great, plus, you didn't have all the electronics around you, so you didn't need that power there. There were many reasons for it. But, today you do need that power with the electronic scene.

 
The italics are mine, and it's maybe a revealing part of the comment. Max typically played the bass drum in the way we now call feathering, but he doesn't bring it up as a role of the bass drum in modern jazz. It's important to note that at the time of the interview, larger bass drums were generally in favor— usually 20-22". And at that time bebop was not the only thing happening in jazz— many big players of the 60s had moved in a more fusion direction. 

But imagine Mel Lewis addressing this topic— well, we don't have to. He's rather strident on it. Art Blakey said something similar in his '80s MD interview: 

Like playing the bass drum: A lot of drummers today have no bottom. They talk about punctuating, but they don't keep that feeling in there, and that bass drum is the basis of the whole thing. And if you let that go it sounds like s*t to me. 


I don't know what Max would say if he was asked specifically about it— he absolutely might agree with Lewis and Blakey. Maybe somebody reading has talked to him or studied with him, or been to a clinic. But feathering the bass drum in a bop setting has become such a dogmatic thing, especially with jazz hobbyists on the internet, and I thought it was an interesting omission.

I originally wrote about this in 2012, and my thinking has changed a little bit— maybe it's time to revisit that. 

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Reed interpretation: Matt's double bass method - 03

More of an expansive double bass method using the book Syncopation, that I've been developing with a student. Here we'll get into 16th triplets on the bass drums. The method is a little obscure to read, but it's still the best way to get realistic playing vocabulary.

You can do this with all the usual major sections of the book: quarter notes (pp. 4-5), 8th notes (pp. 9-10), 8th rests (pp. 30-31), syncopation (pp. 34-45). 


Do that with as many of the variations from the last system as you see fit— the won't all work equally well with the triplets.

Note that triplets on an & will start with the left foot, so the downbeats always fall on the right foot— I imagine some people will be more comfortable starting every run of triplets with the right foot, which is fine, you'll just have to work some things out when you integrate the triplets with the rest of the system.

For example, if you A-B the 16th triplet and 16th note versions of the following rhythm, starting that last 16th triplet with the left foot foot, that puts the 16th note measure lead normally with the right foot:


If you started that last triplet with the right foot, the 16th note measure would lead with the left. Maybe that's fine with you, you'll just have to make a decision about how you want to handle it. 

Another way of doing this system that would be easier to read, would be to invert the above thing— play the book rhythm on the snare drum, fill each 8th note worth of spaces with a 16th triplet:


That generally creates a different kind of vocabulary than the first way— it more suggests ensemble figures with the bass drum filling. If you want to emphasize that, you could play the cymbal as accents only (on a crash or China), along with the snare drum, and play the bass drum filler by itself, with no cymbal. 

Get the pdf

Friday, May 13, 2022

Stewart Copeland: complete clown

Stewart Copeland's statements about jazz came up on line recently, and I was curious about that, so I dug around and found some things. He dubiously claims to have a jazz background, but as we'll see, I don't think he learned anything from it beyond how to ding on a ride cymbal. 

This video sums up everything that follows. He makes some provocative statements and uses Miles Davis's and John Coltrane's names as punchlines for riling people up and showing how much he doesn't care about that type of music, because it's self-indulgent. And then he non-self-indulgently jumps around and clowns for the audience and plays way too much drums on some music he calls jazz, and then collects a big non-self-indulgent check for his time:  




In case you're in any doubt about what you're hearing with his playing there— it's nothing. He's not playing shit. To be clear. 

Moving forward, he famously said some things in Modern Drummer magazine, that elicited a pretty stern rebuke from Peter Erskine. MD was doing a blindfold test type column, where they would play records for a famous drummer, and have them respond. They talked to Copeland in the March '94 issue. 

They set him up with some pretty weird recordings— Kenwood Dennard playing duo with Marcus Miller, an Alan Holdsworth track with Vinnie Colaiuta going bananas, some bad early King Crimson. I don't know what the idea was. I can see how it would put someone in a bad mood. But then they played him a really good track (It Is, from Motian in Tokyo) from Paul Motian's trio with Joe Lovano and Bill Frisell, about which Copeland said: 

[mocking the melody] Daa-daa-doo-daa-doo, daa-da-do-da-doo... I tell you what here's the problem: All the good melodies have been written, so let's write some bad ones. Any old shitty secquence of notes will do as long as it's screwed up. The drumming's not bad; it's got sort of an anarchic, “Boy, this is a screwed-up melody,” sort of feel. With a melody like this, I'd be playing like that, too. We call this “washing up” at the end of a song— the crescendo before you go out. These guys are washing up— and they haven't even got any dishes. This is completely predictable, right in a very narrow band of what you have to play if you're a jazz musician. Utterly conservative, utterly un-groundbreaking. A better man with a better ear than I would be able to hear something out of this shit. 


In the June '94 issue they printed this letter to the editor from Peter Erskine: 

While I can appreciate the candid and forthright quality of Stewart Copeland's remarks concerning the various recordings he listened to for Ken Micallef's Impressions column, I feel compelled to state my objection to his terming the music performed by Paul Motian, Bill Frisell, and Joe Lovano as “shit.” It takes all kinds of music to make up this world, Mr. Copeland, and mssrs. Motian, Frisell, and Lovano have explored and created more than any musician's fair share of compelling, innovative, enjoyable, exciting, and beautiful music.

Stewart: Music such as what you heard from the Motian In Tokyo recording might be a lot of things to a lot of people, but I can't imagine how you could possibly label it as “Utterly conservative, utterly un-groundbreaking.” I'd be willing to cut you some slack, in that the “blindfold test” / grab-bag nature of listening to randomly (for the listener) selected tracks can possibly skew one's perspective. But, since you make your commentary polemical, and direct it at my colleagues and the art form I care most about, I decided to write.

Your comments about jazz... “This is completely predictable, right in a very narrow band of what you have to play if you're a jazz musician...” show that your arrogance is almost as outstanding as is your being ill-informed. If nothing else, I don't think you're very qualified to judge what a jazz musician can or has to play, in whatever bandwidth— just as I would not presume what a reggae/ska/pop musician should “have to play” in his or her field or style of music. Whether one likes a performance or a particular type of music is another matter. I certainly have enjoyed your drumming over the years, but I think you have a big mouth when it comes to something you don't understand. 
 

In searching that up I came across some other comments he's made, like in this 2004 MD interview:

MD: Speaking of listening, and Trey [Anastasio, of Phish(!!!)] called you a better listener than any of the jazz drummers he’s played with.

Stewart: Hah! Well, the problem with jazz musicians is that they’re all crap!

MD: Yeah? Can we quote you on that?

Stewart: Oh, yes! It’s an old favorite of mine. And I don’t mean it, of course. I just enjoy saying it. But most jazz players are crap.

MD: Trey said that for a guy who doesn’t listen to jazz?

Stewart: and the reason I don’t listen to jazz is not because jazz people are bad, or because I’m a jazzist, or something, but because I was raised to play jazz. I was brought up to be a jazz drummer. My dad’s trumpet is sitting right there. But to me, jazz was safe, Sunday-lunch-with-the-family music. It was the opposite of rebellion. And my whole musical angst comes from rebelling against jazz. Occasionally I’ll rub elbows with someone who calls themselves a jazz player – stanley Clarke, Tony Williams, Branford Marsalis. But apart from about ten guys who are friends of mine, the rest of them are all shit! With attitudes. That suck. They play music of the mind. Music is not of the mind, music is of the heart.

MD: And the classical music that you’re writing for Orchestralli, is that music of the mind or heart?

Stewart: Ahhhh – you got me. It’s a mental exercise, and my heart is gladdened by non-libidinal things. I was just soaring into a pontification, but you shot me right down there [laughing]. OK. Let me regroup here for a second.

What I’m saying here is that even the philosophy of the music of Stewart the composer is different from the philosophy of Stewart the drummer. The basic credo is different. The composer guy is some other artsy-fartsy intellectual jerk! He’s a jazz musician! [horrified laughter] Wow. What a strange realization.


So he's a Hollywood blabbermouth who has been famous for a long time and is used to being around piles of money, and he believes that makes him the center of the universe. And certainly he's done a million interviews and has his technique down for appearing interesting and “punk” without saying anything. 

In this interview from Drum! Magazine he really shows his ass, in this humble blogger's opinion. He's talking to someone called Brain, who was the drummer for Primus at the time: 


Brain: Remember when we were talking about attitude and you made the comment about Miles? I know you liked the early jazz stuff like big bands …

Copeland: Big bands. As soon as they stopped going “ting, ting-a ting,” that’s when they lost me.

Brain: You didn’t like the attitude that Miles had?

Copeland: I liked Tony Williams, but after that, fusion stuff started getting too cold for me.

Brain: So after the period of Miles in the ’70s, when he was just gone, and it was all about experimenting, and –

Copeland: It did nothing for me.

Brain: You just hated that.

Copeland: I went through a period, in fact when I was moving in here, I went down to [a record store] and bought Thelonius Monk, Miles, all the real icons, and I’m sitting here unpacking boxes, listening to these records. I’ve done these jams. There’s nothing magical. I can just hear five guys stoned out of their brains. They’re on smack. I was on pot. What’s the difference? It’s just totally self-indulgent. “A Love Supreme.” Get the hell out of here! There was some cool Miles stuff, though. The early stuff where he had Tony Williams with him. You get the vibe out of that. Have you ever been through a Mahavishnu thing?

Brain: Yeah, a little bit. But I was never a Billy Cobham fan. He just bugged me.

Copeland: Really?

Brain: Yeah.

Copeland: I liked the first album and the second album. Then I lost it from there. He’s quite stiff. He doesn’t groove at all. If you listen to his albums now they don’t survive well at all. 


I want to take a moment to say how much I appreciate criticisms of jazz musicians from guys who played with Phish and Primus.

Anyway, it's very rock & roll: two bros in LA, at the top of their respective scenes, acting like masters of the universe, talking absolutely vacuous shit about Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Billy Cobham.

I can't help notice they're all black artists— and the only jazz musicians Copeland talks about with any fondness in that first video are white. People can infer from that what they want. At minimum it displays zero respect for Black culture, without which Stewart Copeland would be  N O T H I N G. He can't even pretend to respect it, and is happy to denigrate the greatest Black artists' names in service of his media image. 

It's disappointing, because I do love his drumming with Sting's band from 40 years ago, The Police. I expect good players to have respect for other players, and to respond to music thoughtfully, even music they don't like or understand. Musicians are supposed to care about music more than they care about running around with their pants down to elevate their image as a 75 year old “bad boy.”

And it totally discredits him as an artist. You can't be that bad a listener and have anything to say. If you put on a Monk record and hear nothing, and have no desire to figure it out, you're done. Stop pretending to be an artist. Go score another Charles Schwab commercial, count your money, order somebody to polish the windows on your limo. Go make life hell for your lackeys. 

POSTSCRIPT: In the same MD issue as Erskine's response, Paul Motian was interviewed, and was told what Copeland said. Motian responded:  

[hard laughing] That's great— just too much! 


I doubt Motian was familiar with anything Copeland has written, and don't take his further comments completely at face value:

I can understand Steward Copeland's criticism. He's coming from a totally different way of playing. You have to remember that those are my tunes and my melodies. Some of them may be crappy. I don't have anywhere near the knowledge he has of writing. He's great. But I'd like to see him make a jazz record. Let's see what he can write.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Syncopation rhythms - quarter note triplets

The need for this arose when I was practicing yesterday, so here we go— two pages of syncopation rhythms including quarter note triplets and inverted quarter note triplets. 


You know what to do

Get the pdf

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Page o' coordination: quasi-samba - bass drum variations

More student stuff! Someone needed a Latin rhythm for a tune he's playing in a rehearsal combo, and this repeating quasi-samba pattern is what he came up with. So in the lesson we worked through some bass drum possibilities, so he'll have some options for developing the groove over the course of the tune. It's a jazz tune, so the rhythms do not need to be stylistically “correct”, they need to fit and adapt to what's going on with that particular arrangement. 


Repeat each pattern until it settles into a relaxed groove. Hihat can be played on beats 2/4, on all four beats, or on the &s. We discussed that you don't need to assemble a full-blown four limb part for a static groove like this— every change you make to it is a big deal. Adding hihat, taking it away, moving to a different cymbal, switching from rim clicks to hitting the drums normally, adding bass drum, adding slightly busier bass drum.  

Get the pdf

Sunday, May 08, 2022

Converting 3/8 hemiola patterns to 2/4

That's it, CRUISE SHIP DRUMMER! is now an all what-I'm-teaching-in-lessons web site. I'm preoccupied with other stuff right now, travel plans and whatnot. 

I started doing this around 2013, and quite a bit lately— changing time signatures of practice materials by repeating beats in the written part. Here, I'm using the hemiola patterns in 3/8 page with a couple of students, which we can expand into a pretty comprehensive basic funk vocabulary for a regular 4/4 environment by just repeating some notes. 

We're putting the 3/8 patterns into 2/4 time by repeating the last 8th note (or first two 16ths) in the measure; or by repeating the first 8th/two 16ths; or by adding the first 8th note/two 16ths in the measure to the end:




We're teaching people that patterns are portable, and about working with patterns without having to see them written out, and about generally being not too boxed in by time signatures.  

I do this only with students who can do it easily— to some people, at some stages of development, it will be confusing, and possibly undermining. There's no need press them to get it if it doesn't immediately make sense to them. 

While we're moving things around, many of the resulting patterns will work better as funk vocabulary if you reverse the beats, starting them on beat 2. For example: 



Try that if the pattern has snare drum on the first note. If that results in a pattern with no bass drum on the first note— like with the last pattern on the fourth line on the page— I'll often have students add bass drum on that note.  

Get the pdf, if you need it. 

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

More Tiki Fulwood funk fills

Another item I was working on with a student, for everyone waiting for the other shoe to drop on that 2013 Tiki Fulwood/Funkadelic fills post. It's a fun, low-intensity thing to do with Syncopation pp. 22-27, played in cut time— all the funk stuff I do with Reed is in 2/2. 

Here's a basic groove to use as an environment— we'll play one or three measures of this, one measure of fill: 



The fill is just one measure of the book rhythm, played on the snare drum. You can start the fill on the 1, or after. The fill here is line 5 on p. 24 of Reed.  



We settled on going to the fill on the & of 2— that sounded hippest. It also makes a good lead in— you can jump in with that while they're counting off the tune. Here's the practice phrase: 


And the fill portion of some lines from Syncopation:  



It usually works best if you start the fill with the right hand, and alternate— most of the time that will have you land on the cymbal with your right hand on beat 1. Drill it with this Betty Davis practice loop

We were talking about fills, and how they're difficult to teach, and how most books on the subject are not helpful— too specific and too “drummery.” The later parts of my rock drill are helpful for a kind of non-specific textural thing with unisons and singles, which is a lot of what filling is. But a lot of it is just listening and getting a concept in your ear. Ringo Starr's thing is easy to mimic. What we're doing here, copying Tiki Fulwood's 32nd note fills on the slower 16th note grooves on Maggot Brain is another thing. Ndugu Leon Chancler's tom tom fills with George Duke is another one for me. Now we just have to listen to a lot more records and get about 50 more like that. 

Monday, May 02, 2022

Afro 6 - advanced bass drum ideas/coordination

A page of patterns I'm playing around with, in an Afro 6 feel, that are difficult or unusual for varying reasons— either the bass drum is in unison with the left hand, or the actual rhythm is unusual. Use it as a companion to a similar page I wrote a couple of years ago, to develop some possibilities for soloing and blowing, with maybe more of an African vibe. 



Before even getting into this, you should develop line 1 as standalone groove. Vary the bass drum by playing it along with the cymbal, like on this page. The left hand part fills in the gaps in the cymbal rhythm— play it as rim clicks, or move it around the drums, varying the accents and articulations. Or do it funk style by accenting the snare on beat 3, and ghosting the rest. Add hihat however you like, on all four beats, or on beats 2/4. 

Get the pdf

Sunday, May 01, 2022

Reed interpretation: Matt's double bass method - 02

Continuing a double bass drum method I'm developing with a student. I don't play double bass, and have very little to teach on the subject, but we're building a pretty substantial drill out of it. That's been my focus lately, putting together a set of stuff you can work on for about an hour at a time, that covers most of the fundamentals of a style— see my recent jazz drill and rock drill

As always, use Syncopation pp. 30-45, interpreting the top line part only, ignoring the stems-down “bass drum” part.


Step one is to play two 16th notes for every note sounding in the book rhythm— it doesn't matter what the note value is, just play two 16ths instead of the one note. Play that rhythm on the bass drums, add quarter notes, 8th notes, or offbeat 8th notes on the cymbal. Add snare drum on the 8th note gaps in the bass drum rhythm, or on beats 2 and 4, or on all of the &s, to make a double time feel. Play all combinations of the above. 

Combine this with the previous post, and play all parts of it in one continuous drill— no breaks, focusing on polishing each individual thing, and on being able to switch from one to the other without stopping.  

Get the pdf

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. 

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Cymbals are in!

SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: I'll be posting lightly for the better part of this week, A) because I'm doing my taxes, B) because a huge new shipment of cymbals just came in, and I'll be making videos and writing descriptions of them. 

3/31 UPDATE: Videos are up NOW. 

New cymbals include: 
Two 22" Holy Grail Jazz Rides
18/20/22" Thin Turks - 4/4: the 18 is sold, the 20 is on hold
Two 20" Holy Grail Light Jazz Rides - 4/3: one of these is on hold
17/19" Holy Grail Crashes, and Janavar Crashes - 4/1: the Janvavars have been sold


Visit my Cymbalistic site to see what I have in stock, and don't be shy about reserving something that catches your ear. Things have a way of getting bought and disappearing these days... 

Here's one of the new Turks, a 20" Jazz Ride, “Seijun”: 


Very occasional quote of the day: practicing in time

“Through the years I had always practiced from slow to fast, but then I found out that that's the worst possible thing any drummer can do for his time. If you practice like that, you end up playing like that. 

After that clinic [Stan Kenton, with Peter Erskine teaching drums], I started practicing everything in time and in meter. I started playing along with the metronome and records and being really conscious about it[.]”

“To improve my time, I geared myself to think in that way. I really set out in search of wanting to play with good feel and I think that was probably the most important thing I did. I know a lot of players who don't play with good feel, but haphazardly think that you're either born with it or you're not.

You have to develop it, so I tried to do everything to do so. I talked to people about it and listened to a lot of records, like a lot of Aretha records with Bernard Purdie and a lot of old James Brown records, and studied in depth what notes were being played. I would try to write it down and then try to play it and get the same feeling they had gotten.

I guess I understood the importance. Most of the young people I know now, and those I have taught, don't realize the importance of working on their time and their feeling. They think it's more important to work on their flash and their chops, their technique and their reading. If they would only understand that it's time and feeling that is going to get them the work, they would devote themselves to do that.”


- Steve Smith, 1981 Modern Drummer interview with Robyn Flans