Thursday, June 15, 2023

Two handed brush variations for fast tempos

UPDATE: I added some video of me practicing this.  

I've been practicing my fast tempos lately, both with sticks and brushes. I'm talking about jazz, tempos above ~290 bpm. I haven't had to do a lot of it my playing career, so I have to do it in the practice room and in sessions— I haven't had the chance to develop it naturally, on the gig. 

I can't/won't approach this as a pure technical thing, by working on my chops for playing the cymbal rhythm fast, and then learning coordination patterns to go with it— the way people initially learn to play jazz, learning a swing beat and adding some comping rhythms from Chapin. 

Basically my approach is to play complete phrases, change it up, have a lot of tactics available. This is one tactic for playing brushes: a varying and evolving two handed time pattern. 

Play these with brushes on the snare drum, playing each pattern one, several, or many times, before moving directly into any other pattern that connects easily with it. [UPDATE: Or whatever. You can see in the video below, I'm not really doing that at all.] We're in 4/4 the whole time, with the hihat on beats 2 and 4. The 3/4 patterns are generally meant to be connecting the 2/4 measures, you can also repeat them for a meter-within-meter effect. 

The left hand is sweeping sideways, so one hit will land in the middle of the drum, and the next one will be closer to the edge. Personally, I play matched grip, and my left hand tends to sweep left to right rather than in a circular motion. Finding your own left hand motion through the changing patterns is part of the deal here. We do need to hear the attack of the LH note as part of the rhythm, even as it's sweeping the drum after you hit it. 

I do this at 300 bpm, with a metronome set to 75 bpm— whole notes— while thinking Cherokee or whatever tune. 

Get the pdf

UPDATE: In the comments, our man in Berlin, Michael Griener, who plays a lot of fast music, asked for some VIDEO of this stuff. So here we go: 

This is basically how I practice this— I'm not systematic. I'm looking at the page and trying to work those patterns into a regular time feel, and connect them to each other. I think I'm doing patterns 1 and 3 together a lot, which is the crux of the idea— I'm building a time feel out of mixed RRLs and LRRs. You can hear that when I'm doing that, it basically sounds like the complete spangalang rhythm— the lefts are speaking as part of that rhythm. Though I am playing the complete rhythm with my right hand some times. 

The tempo is just under 300, I think. I'm not using a metronome here. 

Yeah. This page is kind of a failure. The basic idea works ok, for me, but the way I wrote that page isn't great for working on it, for me. Take it as a sketch pad. 


Michael Griener said...

I demand a video! Brush tutorials without video are so 1970s!

Todd Bishop said...

Oh god-- you'll laugh at me. You're the expert on this topic. My strategy actually = "flail around until you can do it." I should have some time to hit the drums on Sunday...

Anonymous said...

Is it better to comp with the left hand when playing brushes, like we do with sticks, or right hand ?

Todd Bishop said...

It's not really comping in the same sense as with sticks-- with one hand playing the time rhythm and the other playing an independent part. Maybe somebody does that, I don't, with brushes, unless I'm actually playing time on a cymbal.

The things here are about using both hands to make a time feel, with variations.

keith haldane said...

Really good stuff and a great video demo. Thanks again Todd!

Michael Griener said...

You did it! Awesome!