Thursday, March 30, 2023

Ending the RLB pattern

Very minor little item. The RLB pattern is extremely useful in fills, and as part of a linear groove, and it's a good idea to be able to end it on 1, no matter where in the measure you start it— no matter how it ends up being inverted at the end of the measure.  

I played around with this yesterday, playing the pattern as a 16th note fill, starting on each 8th note of the measure. I was doing it in double time, along with my Watermelon Man loop. What happened was, I ended it one of three ways:  

For the example I put the R hand on the cymbal, but the idea is to move both hands around the drums. You can extend this over 1, 2, or 4 measures. I shifted it by one 8th note, but you could also shift it by 16th notes, starting the fill on the es and as. You'll know when you've taken that far enough. 

At some point, hopefully, you will be grounded enough with this pattern that you'll know on the fly how to get out of it, without planning or remembering which beat you started it on. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Hand dominance: still bull

Advertising a belief.
Yes, hand dominance is still bull. At least with regard to drumming. It happened again this week: a new student, right handed, who had never hit a drum before, automatically led everything with her left hand. I've seen it happen many times, maybe even a majority of the time. I pretty much expect it now. 

Why would they do that? My primitive drummer's brain believes that if hand dominance were a big deal, people would automatically lead with their preferred hand. Don't you think?  

Handedness people like to point out that, doing one-handed activities, the dominant hand does the work, and the other hand helps. We're to believe that that is the universal dynamic for all activities. But if that were the case, I would expect more students to attempt to play an entire rhythm with one hand. I've seen that rarely, and only with very slow rhythms. 

Drumming is a two-handed activity, and as with other activities requiring equal dexterity— and high dexterity— from both hands, people are able to do it. Like playing the piano or typing— both of which are regularly mastered to a reasonable degree of skill by large numbers of humans. For the most part there are no backwards keyboards and typewriters available, and no endless complaints from users about “weaker” hands.   

Where we get people with really weak left hands, it's a acquired thing— they've been playing the drums awhile, mostly playing basic rock stuff, with the right hand playing 8th notes and the left hand playing backbeats. Often they've settled on a left hand technique and movement that locks them into just slamming the 2 and 4. Plus they're used to having the right hand on the hihat all the time, so their left hand is chronically restricted that way. They don't practice a whole lot, and don't really know what to practice if they did. 

And to an extent it's a natural thing with more advanced players— the drum set, and the common vocabulary for playing it, are right hand oriented. So the right hand leads more, and usually plays more.  Unlike with piano, we're mostly not playing a literature that demands we develop the left hand equally, so it's easy to get away with slacking on it.  

It's endless.

But it's acquired— we're practicing to be that way. There's no reason both hands can't be equally able, and no reason anyone can't make any playing orientation work— right handed, left handed, “open” handed— regardless of which hand or foot they believe is dominant. There are other reasons to choose one of those orientations over the others, but that's another conversation.

Dominance and weakness are compelling, comforting words for enthusiasts, and the topic is heavily marketed to them by YouTubers, who are happy to have their viewers be disability oriented. The enthusiasts like talking about their “weak” hand, and having that be their main practice issue— not learning vocabulary, or other things they don't understand.  

Improving a “weaker” hand that has become less able through practice is extremely simple: open up your copy of Stick Control, maybe Accents & Rebounds, and practice it in front of a mirror, checking carefully for, and correcting, uneven stick heights and undesirable hand motion. Play left hand lead exercises about twice as long as right hand lead ones. That's it. You do have to do it.    

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Wilcoxon's Junior Drummer

I've had this copy of Charley Wilcoxon's book The Junior Drummer* lying around for some time, let's take a look at it, see how it holds up for modern usage. I have the Ludwig Masters edition pictured on the left.  

* - Full title: Fundamental Instruction For The Junior Drummer

It's not exactly a normal beginning snare drum method— it's more of an old fashioned drum set book, a “double drumming” book, intended for one player playing snare drum and bass drum. There are studies dedicated to bass drum, and to snare/bass interaction starting in the earliest pages. And there are some studies using a cymbal, hihat, and tom toms. It's not unlike Wilcoxon's Drum Method, but aimed at younger drummers. 

It's well graded, and I can imagine the entire book would be playable by an average student in a year or so. The focus is on rhythm, introducing the basic rudiments, and playing the snare drum and bass drum together. It does get into some fairly complex rhythm, with syncopation, ties, and 16th rests. It's never very technically demanding, and handling of rudiments is never real dense. Rolls are dealt with in rhythm form, in quarters, eighths, or 16ths— never in closed/long tone form, in 32nd note rhythm. 

Like in Wilcoxon's Drum Method, the text is heavily marked up at times, including counts, note durations/values, stickings, stroke movements, stick heights and dynamics. All that is probably mostly of interest to historically minded teachers and writers; it's pretty dense for beginning students to read: 

The book is 52 pages long, here's how it breaks down broadly by page numbers:

1-5 - introductory text, explanations of grips and rhythm.
6-16 - studies in quarter note and longer values. Rolls and paradiddles introduced. 
17-25 - studies in 8th notes and quarter notes.
26-32 - studies in 3/4 time, including 8th rests and syncopation.
33-42 - studies in 2/4, including 16th notes and rests.
43-47 - studies in 3/8 time.
48-52 - studies in 6/8 time. 

Sixteen pages are full-page solos, with titles like The Snare And Bass Polka, The Helena Waltz, The Swingster, In The Jungle.
There is one page where the student is intended to hum a tune while playing the drums. Tunes are decrepit chestnuts including Yankee Doodle, Oh! Susanna, Jingle Bells, Dixie

It's more a historical item than a usable modern drum book. I think Junior Drummer and Wilcoxon's Drum Method would actually be good companions to Stone's Technique of Percussion, if one were doing a historical study of the techniques of American show drumming in the 1920s-30s.

There is one good page of one measure 16th note exercises in 2/4, that I will use:

I like that a first year student could play the whole book, and learn many of the basics of music without major technical hurdles— like having to be able to play a “closed” roll at normal march tempo.  

Otherwise, much of the book is too heavily marked up for me to use with my students. Notation for cymbals, and especially hihat, is archaic, and not usable today. The drum set and musical aspects are pretty antiquated, geared to a long-gone form of vaudeville/show drumming. It doesn't really qualify even as a beginning drum set book for modern purposes, unless a teacher wanted to ground their students in a really old style of playing— someone could make a case for doing that. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

EZ Fast Rock Lesson

This page functions both as a page of easy stuff for beginners, and as basic vocabulary for fast-tempo rock drumming. There are a lot of patterns, deliberately. This'll be many students' first shot at processing a lot of stuff quickly. 

Like it says, learn the page, then combine patterns to make two measure phrases. Probably obvious groove patterns (like 1-2, 4-5, 10-11) are best to have as the first measure, and fill-like patterns are best for the second measure. Use the ride cymbal half the time, don't just hang out on the hihat all day. 26-27 want to be up on the top cymbals— the ride and crash— they're slightly awkward coming off the hihat. 

19-23 are all in aid of doing a one-beat 16th note fill, so observe the sticking on 19-20. 

Get the pdf

Monday, March 20, 2023

Limitations of loops

There's a good post about playing along with recordings, that everyone should read, over at Ted Warren's Trap'd blog.

Since he commented about playing with loops vs. whole tunes— and I do a lot with loops— I should clarify some things.  

2. Try to play with whole tunes rather than loops.

I've mentioned this before, and I don't want to step on anyone's toes around this, but I feel playing with loops never gives us the whole story. By loops I mean just taking a small section of an already existing tune and have it playing endlessly. When we do this we miss out on a lot of form. Not only the structure of the tune (AABA, 12 Bar Blues etc.) but the form of the whole performance. How do we differentiate between sections of the song like in head to solos, different solos, and last solo to out head? Does the tempo of the tune change from beginning to end? What about the relative volume of the drums at differing sections of the tune? These are important issues!

He's absolutely right. In jazz form is not dispensable, it is the whole thing. A jazz environment is not complete without considering form. All of my jazz loops will include at least one complete time through the form— except when there's a special purpose involved, like learning a figure, or learning to hear the connection from the last A section to the first A section on Stablemates

Once or twice through the form looping is still not the complete picture of performing a jazz tune, but I think we're talking about different practice goals here. Most of what I use the loops for is to take regular focused drumming practice— like, stuff from books— in a more musical direction. So we can hear these book ideas in a context, and try to match them to a musical vibe, and play them in a way that makes sense within a musical phrase, with some continuity. To an extent it's about concentrated exposure to a single figure or vamp, or a single solo. 

Ted's concerns above are bigger picture items re: playing a complete performance of a tune. For me it's hard to do the kind of practice above with complete tracks— the temptation is to just play.  

But it's true, no one should have any illusions that playing with a recording is a replacement for playing with people. They're really entirely different things. The track doesn't listen to you and fall apart when you play something so dumb you caused a train wreck. Or get mad at you and never call you again because you played selfishly. You don't learn anything about support playing with a track. So you have to be very cautious about the lessons you take from playalong practice to playing with people. 

Also see my previous post on this topic, that I wrote in hectoring screed form

Sunday, March 19, 2023

3/16 Control - 02

A very dense page today, but it's not for you, it's for me. I was practicing the original 3/16 Control pages along with my Watermelon Man loop, and thought some of the permutations would be better written down. 

You should just play the ink and not worry about it, but here's what's happening there: 

Instructions 1 and 2:
Play the 3/4 patterns, starting on each note of the pattern (unnecessary if you're playing them along with a loop in 4/4, as I was). 

Play each two beats of the pattern together in 2/4: beats 1-2, 2-3, 3-1. 

Instruction 3, written permutations in 4/4:

First line:  Play 3/4 pattern starting on each beat of the pattern, adding the starting beat at the end to make a measure of 4/4. I cut off the last 16th note of the measure because it sounded good. 

Second line: Starting on each beat of the 3/4 pattern, play the beats of the pattern in this order:

1st beat / 2nd beat / 1st beat / 3rd beat

That seems weird/artificial, but isn't. 

Bonus item: the patterns in 3/4 with a Tony Williams-like open hihat thing: 

I think I was doing the 4/4 exercises in a phrase of three measures of the pattern, plus one measure improvised fill. And of course improvising fills whenever I would make a mistake.  

I should probably say what I was doing this for— the individual three-note patterns here are all very ordinary modern drumming vocabulary. This page is a drill for doing it in a non-formulaic way. Some people practice out of Stick Control decade after decade, I do things like this. 

Get the pdf

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Very occasional quote of the day: the way they got built

“I’ve never really been interested in the books that do things like analyze Sonny Rollins or Coltrane solos because I’ve never seen one that breaks them down in the same way they got built.”

- Melvin Gibbs on Twitter

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Counting system overhaul - 02

I was working on this last year, and never posted part 2, because it was an unreadable mass. Still is. But for people who teach and deal with this subject every day, here we go:  

Lately I use a counting system I improvised when I thought about it for five minutes. It's based on speakability and familiarity: the only syllables are the beat numbers, e&a, and da, usually spoken in that order. Some may prefer to use ta instead of da, especially with sixtuplets and 32nd notes. I find it works very well. 

See part 1 from November for my complaints about other ways of counting. I've bolded some syllables to help make this mess more readable— don't take it to mean you should accent them with your voice. 

8th notes:
 1& 2&

8th note triplets/compound 8th notes:
1&a 2&a

16th notes: 
1e&a 2e&a

1e&a-da 2e&a-da
Alternative, phrased 3+2: 1ada-&a 2ada-&a

Sixtuplets / 16th note triplets: 
1ada-&ada 2ada-&ada
Problem: Slightly ungainly when speaking running sixtuplets— could use ta instead of da.  

Compound meter 16ths: 
1e&a-&a 2e&a-&a
Alternative: 1e&a-ada  2e&a-ada

Problem: Syllables are different for 8th notes and 16th notes. The 8th note becomes a second when 16th notes are involved. Also difficult to articulate the a-& syllables when isolated in a rhythm

Solution: Count compound 8th notes 1&& 2&&, or don't prosecute people making that mistake when counting a mixed passage. Or use the alternative 1e&a-ada, which has the 8th note syllables in their original places— but which will make some common rhythm combinations more difficult to pronounce. 

Saying the a-& syllables in isolation, I would say da-and.

Admittedly, this area requires the most tolerance for inconsistency and ambiguity. I still find this way of counting to be better than any other system I know of. 

1e&a-&ada 2e&a-&ada
Alternative, phrased 2+3+2: 1e-&ada-ada
Phrased: 3+2+2: 1ada-&a&a or 1ada-&e&a 

32nd notes: 
1da eda &a ada -2da eda &a ada  /  1ta eta &ta ata 2ta eta &a ata
This will be most useful when just a few 32nd notes are involved— you can just touch the extra syllables and communicate the rhythm. Of course it will be difficult above quite slow tempos, or with long runs of straight 32nds. Use the harder ta syllable at faster tempos.  

Counting complex passages of mixed 32nd notes and 16th note rhythms, it's probably best to count them in half time— using the more familiar 16th note syllables. 

PROBLEMS/COMPLAINTS: Parts of this bothered a couple of people on line. 

•  Reusing syllables with different subdivisions— as if the should be the platonic 4/4 forever, and saying any other time is confusing. Like when speaking you use a duh sound in the word dog and everyone's cool, but then you say diaphragm and everyone says Huh? What? Did he say dog? 

Obviously absurd. Anytime it's not clear from the context, you can distinguish the subdivision you intend by mentioning the subdivision— the triplet &, the compound a, the quintuplet e, the second &. Complex situations will be complex situations no matter what, no counting system will make them into non-complex situations. 

•  Teaching people a non-standard counting system, I am dooming them to be unable to communicate rhythm to others. To which I say:

a) It's not that non-standard.
b) I'm not a cultist, I don't pretend to my students that there are no other ways of doing things.
c) There is no standard counting system for most of these things.
d) Most people you talk to will not know the convention you're using, and you have to clarify anyway. 

• By what authority do I just make up my own way of doing things? There is no authority, the entire literature of drumming is nothing but guys figuring stuff out and publishing it. Players and teachers (and communities thereof) adopted what worked, or what they liked. 

CONCLUSION: This system has been very useful in my teaching, clarifying some areas of rhythm that were previously a little mysterious, that had to be “just gotten”, or counted in an unsatisfactory way— especially compound 16ths, and odd meters like 5/8 and 7/8. No doubt I'll continue refining it. 

Monday, March 13, 2023

CYMBALISTIC: New cymbals are in!

I just picked up a small order of cymbals from Cymbal & Gong, videos for which will be coming at the end of the week. There's some very interesting stuff— here are my first impressions of the two major items I got:

22" Extra Special Janavar
This is a custom project of mine— what if we did the very cool Janavar series cymbals with hammering and lathing similar to an old K.? Last summer I had them do some 20s that were very cool, now I have the light 22s— with heavy patina and three rivets. The 20s were a nice variation on the usual Holy Grail jazz ride— stronger bell, fuller sound generally.  

The 22s are lighter in proportion to their size, are generally low pitched, each with a unique funky edge. To me it's a very “vintage” sound— I don't know how else to put it. Lovely response to the stick— years ago I played several Turkish Ks with a similar quality, a soft feel under the stick, which these cymbals have, too. I would still call it basically a bright sound— not unlike a 40s/50s A— but the most mellow bright sound I've ever heard. Crash sound is beautiful; big but not obnoxious. Easy to play, very forgiving, to me this is basically a perfect jazz cymbal.    

I got two of them today, and there are two more at Cymbal & Gong. 

20" Holy Grail with hammered bell
There are a lot of options for 20" Cymbal & Gong jazz cymbals right now. As an experiment I suggested making some Holy Grails with hammered bells— I saw some old Ks with that. These aren't exactly the same thing, but the result is very cool. It seems to make the cymbals play a little lighter than their weight. They're about 1800 grams, same as the regular HG jazz rides, but the hammered bell cymbals open up faster. The bell sound is also mellower, and stick definition is perhaps a little softer. 

So the hammered-bell Holy Grails would be possibly the mellowest, most open 20s. The regular Holy Grails are perhaps a little stiffer, more tolerant of “digging in” (which is generally what I like most), and the Extra Special Janavar 20 is a little fuller and little louder, a little more cutting— and of course the thin 22s Extra Specials above have a different, mellower character. 

And we're talking degrees here. If I found one of any of these cymbals in a shop 20 years ago, I would have flipped and bought it and used it forever. There are so many great cymbals from this company, it's easy to lose sight of that. 

Video coming at the end of the week! See what else I currently have in stock at my site 

Also: there is a lot in stock at Cymbal & Gong right now— an excellent time for me to pick something out for you, if you need something not in stock on Cymbalistic. 

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Cymbal size vibe war!

Photo stolen from the cover of 
The Cymbal Book by Hugo Pinksterboer, 
which you should own.
At last, the definitive guide to the vibes we all get from the various sizes of cymbals. I don't know why most of them relate to cars for me. File this with my previous tom size vibe post

...mind you, what follows is rated 100% pure BS, so don't let it dissuade you from getting the cymbal you want or need. There are no “dumb” or “serious” cymbals, they're all instruments serving a musical purpose. But it's fun to let fly with these kinds of judgments.  

Let's do this from little to big: 

<6" - Finger cymbals, bells, crotales, Necco Wafers, other rejected Halloween candy.  

6" - Do you need something that goes ki? Looks ridiculous if not carefully placed, like putting a tiny hat on your drum set. 

8" - Normal splash, slightly suspect economy vibes, Honda Civic.  
10" - True normal splash.  Ford Bronco of splashes.

12" - Serious splash. BMW 5-series of splashes. Or, from another perspective, a big dumb splash. Hihats on a child's drum set, or for really trebly Dixieland, with a guy singing through a paper megaphone. 

13" - Sport hihats. Either Ferrari-like or Suzuki Samurai-like, depending on your perspective, abilities, and quality of the cymbals. Meinl = Suzuki. 

Tiny hat cymbal

- Normal hihats— Volvo 240, Gap jeans. Small crash or splash for serious people.   

15" - Alternate normal hihats. The viola of hihats, slightly bigger, dumber. Enticing/intriguing crash size. 

16" - Normal crash, most people's first crash cymbal. Now looks slightly inadequate in its former spot on the left side of the set. Fiat Panda, Volkswagen Rabbit/Golf. Big hihats for when you want people to know you're serious about “pocket.”  

17" - Sporty, agreeable-looking, the optimal size for a crash cymbal. Stupid looking hihat size, trying too hard. Like somebody really late to the party with the 80s wide leg jeans phase. 

18" - Platonic normal universal all-purpose cymbal size, though currently out of favor as such. People want their crashes either smaller or huger, and want their rides— left side or otherwise— bigger. Smallest size for a ride cymbal without getting weird. 

19" - Compact ride, big crash. Subaru Forester of rides, Oldsmobile 98 of crashes.  

20" - Normal ride, junior ride. The Ford Taurus of ride sizes. People are unsettled by its universality, interpreting it as a mundane rather than classic vibe. A little out of hand as a crash cymbal— you'd better be playing a lot of Billy Squier covers in that case, with a Pinstripe on your snare drum.     

21" - Compact master cymbal, Ferrari-like vibe, when a 22" would just bog you down, hold you back.  

22" - Master cymbal. Big, substantial, serious cymbal for grown ups. Full size Mercedes. I refuse to acknowledge that people buy crash cymbals in this size. 

My '70 Buick Elektra,.en route to Las
Vegas from Los Angeles, 1989

- There are a few of them around. Contrarian. You're not like those regular 22 and 24 inch cymbal using clods. 

24" - Big dumb cymbal— 1970 Buick Elektra, or DUKW aquatic military truck. I drove an Elektra when I went to USC. Driving it to LA with my brother, five minutes outside of Eugene, we passed a flaming hulk on the side of the road, then the Elektra's crumbling vinyl top peeled back and was flapping behind the car like a sad cape. We had to tear it off and keep driving. That's the 24" cymbal experience. 

>24" - The block long Hummer limo of cymbal dimensions. For the kind of person who's always looking for a hoppier beer. Looks like elephantiasis.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Reed Linear Quarters - beat 4 displaced

With a student I've been working on a Blue Note type groove a la Cantaloupe Island, and the linear quarter notes lesson (pp. 8-9) in Ted Reed's Progressive Steps to Syncopation* seemed a good place to start. Just teaching somebody a finished beat off a record and saying OK, now you know “the song”— it don't work that way, there's a creative language involved.

* - I think Google will like me better if I write out the whole title like none of us have heard of it.

So we'll start building that with the linear quarter notes from Reed. A good place to go from there is to do the same thing, but moves some notes around. Like, let's play the note on beat 4 late— put it on the & of 4: 


The easy drum set application for this is to add 8th notes or quarter notes on a cymbal, maybe add hihat with the left foot on beats 2 and 4, or on all four beats. Play rim clicks on the snare drum and we've got some variations for a loose-form boogaloo beat, maybe a cha cha. 

Get the pdf

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

Groove o' the day: Grady Tate Afro

Grady Tate playing a heavy Afro-Cuban style groove, or Afro 6, as I've been calling it, on Grant Green's The Final Comedown movie soundtrack. The track is Soul Food African Shop, and the transcription is of the percussion break starting at 0:48. 

Bar 7 is probably the cleanest shot of his baseline groove here. He's hitting the bell of the cymbal, except in bar 6 where he moves his hand between a couple of cymbals. He hits the the drums strongly all the way, with a feeling of building into the next beat 1, a standard thing with this style.

Feet are in unison on the dotted quarters throughout— there is some dynamic variance in them, mainly occasional ghosted notes in the bass drum, which I wouldn't call accidental. I think he's very aware of the dynamic movement from beat to beat, and is sometimes getting the bass drum to help with that, mainly coming down with it in the middle of the measure, or on beat 3 as he builds into the next downbeat.  

Get the pdf

Monday, March 06, 2023

Hey, buy stuff

Two pieces of gear-buying news:  

My friend and student Bill W. owns a bunch of great snare drums, and is letting some of them go on Reverb. He's got a 60s Gretsch Progressive Jazz, a wood Dynasonic, a 50s Radio King, some Craviottos, and more! And I'm sure he'll be posting more in coming days/weeks. He also has a bunch of great Turkish K. Zildjians— I'm sure he'll put those up some time. 

I already bought a sweet 60s 5x14 Gretsch COB, and will be getting a super-cool old Eames drum with wood hoops soon. He had a sweet 50s 4x14" Max Roach model that is long gone.  

Ohh yeahh. OOOHHH yeahhh. 

I'll be picking up a new round of Cymbal & Gong cymbals, Thursday, including:  

Two light weight 22" Extra Special Janavars
This is my first custom experiment in cymbals. Janavar style cymbals with K-type hammering/lathing, with heavy patina, three rivets. The first round of 20s from last year sounded great, these will be a little lighter. 

Light 20" Holy Grail Jazz Ride
Usually they come in the high 1700s to mid 1800s range; this one will be in the low 1600s. I played several Ks like this when I was in school, and to me it's a basic type. 

14 and 16" “Wide” China cymbals
These are my favorite Chinas— very thin, with an authentic, high energy Chinese sound, without being too trashy or obnoxious. Easy to handle, they blend well with other cymbals, and work at all volume levels— you can get that vibe without having to wail on them, and without accidentally wiping out the rest of the rhythm section.  

14" Light-Medium Holy Grail Hihats
No big deal— I say that like they won't be the best hihats you've ever owned— I've been short on hihats for awhile, and I tend to like them kind of medium. I only sell cymbals I'm excited about. You'll love these for any kind of music. 

Not a ton of stuff, because I already have a bunch of good cymbals for sale on my site Cymbalistic

And be advised: because the shipment just came in from Türkiye, C&G will have a lot of stock on hand, so if you want something special I don't have, now's the time to ask for it. 

Here's one of those little Chinas, now owned by a great drummer in New York: 

Saturday, March 04, 2023

Transcription: Tony Williams - Cantaloupe Island

A student was asking about Cantaloupe Island, played by Tony Williams on Herbie Hancock's Empyrean Isles album, so I went ahead and transcribed the whole thing. Why not. The style may get called as a Blue Note beat, a boogaloo beat, a Lee Morgan beat, a Cantaloupe Island beat— it's a very well known tune, and was heavily sampled in the 90s. This should probably go in a future transcription collection on Amazon, so get it free while you can.  

The tempo is around 115; it's starts a little slower, and ends a little faster. The form is 16 bars long:
4 bars F min | 4 bars Db7 | 4 bars rhythm figure | 4 bars F min  

It's pretty straightforward, with a lot of repetition. He'll do variations on the main groove, which he will repeat for several measures in a row. I could have used more one measure repeats, but I've been pretty strict about notating subtle variations and dynamics. 

He's following the dynamics of the soloists pretty closely— even within a repeating pattern, he'll build or back off in a subtle way. He's also not punching hard in obvious places, like at the beginning of phrases. Despite the repetition, he's not playing it like a groove drummer, he's playing color. He's also deliberate in how he uses the hihat, playing it with his foot mostly just during Freddie Hubbard's solo— the strongest part of the track.  

Thursday, March 02, 2023

Wayne's gone

One of my favorite solos of his: 

From the zone: SD chops

Another notebook item from the later 80s, as I get my act together following recent personal developments. Cleaning out my mom's basement, I found a bunch of my old notebooks and music materials.

Basically, I've been doing all this for a long time— here's a page summarizing my snare drum practice circa 1987:  

My instructions to myself: 

- Play from both Stone books [Stick Control and Accents & Rebounds] 
- Slow down the things that are causing tension— don't play faster than you can [play] relaxed— but push yourself— don't play the same d*mn speed for six months. 
- Cover as much material from the books as possible. [I'm not sure what books I meant, other than Stone— in my lessons I was working from Goldenberg, Cirone, Delecluse]

Identifying those rudiments by column, we have: 

Flam taps
Inverted flam taps
Flamadiddles again
Flam drag-adiddles

Flam Accent #1
Swiss Triplets
Flam Drags
Flam Drag #2 - I made that name up just now
Flammed 5 stroke rolls
Paradiddle diddles
Flam tap-adiddles - another name I made up right now
Inverted flam tap-adiddles - no sticking indicated, I assume it's connected to the thing above it

Ratamacues - my own form, inverted
Double ratamacues
Triple ratamacues
Double paradiddles
Flam double paradiddles

Four stroke ruffs
Tap 7 stroke rolls
Tap 5 stroke rolls - triplets
6 stroke roll - taps at the beginning
5 stroke roll - triplets
6 stroke roll - taps at end
6 stroke roll - usual format
Drag pataflaflas

Wednesday, March 01, 2023

Metric modulation a la Silverman - 01

A student brought in a copy of Chuck Silverman's Practical Applications: Afro-Caribbean Rhythms for Drum Set, and we worked through a part of it together, dealing with metric modulations— or more accurately superimposed metric modulations (Vinnie Colaiuta's term).

It means an illusory tempo/time change while remaining in the original meter. It's a drumming hot topic; as a musical device it's mainly a trap, a bad decision. But it's worth pursuing a little bit to learn something about rhythm. 

Patterns 1 and 2 are warm ups; line 3 is the pattern as it appears in Silverman's book. Lines 4-10 are my own variations, making some basic funk rhythms, superimposed. 

As an exercise, you could play four measures of a simple half time feel groove with the same cymbal rhythm, alternating with four measures of the above patterns: 

Try it along with a Afro 6 type loop— here's a reasonable-tempo one, and a faster one

Here's a similar page I wrote in 2019. 

Get the pdf

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Very occasional quote of the day: listening

“Listening is the whole thing. I'll tell you exactly how I play. My whole approach to playing is reaction. I don't listen to myself play. I'm not aware of myself because I'm too busy listening to everything going on around me. All my body is doing is reacting to that. Sometimes I'm forcing things, making things happen another way, but I'm reacting to everything I hear. The composition I'm creating as I play is because of what I'm hearing. How can you work out how you're going to accompany somebody? You can't! You're supposed to be complementing and accompanying.

Everything depends on your ears. If I'm busy listening to me, then I'm not hearing the rest of the band.”

- Mel Lewis, 1978 Modern Drummer interview by Scott K. Fish

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Paradiddle-diddle game

Everybody Good Knows The Same Stuff, Part 1000:

Another handout from a clinic Russ Tincher at UC Berkeley in 1989— I confirmed that's where it was from. Here he shows how to interpret triplets with Reed or Bellson, and details a practice system for it, based on paradiddle-diddles. Or six stroke rolls, more accurately— that terminology wasn't universal then.  

In John Ramsay's Alan Dawson book there's a similar system he calls “Ruff bossa.” The only difference is in how you interpret a (written) beat of 8th notes. Dawson plays them as alternating swing 8th notes, without filling in the triplet: 

Tincher fills in the triplet, and plays it with an alternating sticking, which you see in the first example below. With certain rhythms that may take the system in a different direction, so it leads with the left hand a good part of the time. With Dawson's system the lead is very consistent, with a simple alternating motion no matter what you're reading. 

This system is probably best for using with the first couple of pages of Bellson, which has just quarter notes and offbeat 8th notes only, but we'll see, I'll play around with it when I have some time to practice. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Very occasional quote of the day: space to contribute

“The way guys like Bud Powell shaped their solos, they automatically left spaces for the drummers to contribute. A lot of times today, in student performers, I don’t hear that space being offered, because they’re not really aware of what’s going on. 

When you learn technique out of a book, you’re not really taught how to make your part fit with something else. That’s something you can only experience when you’re playing with somebody. You have to learn how to react to each other.

You can tell in about eight bars if a soloist is going to work with you or if he’s just going to ride over the rhythm section and pay no attention to what’s going on back there. A lot of times my students get frustrated because they don’t feel like they’re fitting into the group. I’ll listen to a little bit of who they’re playing with and realize that they’re not getting an opportunity to contribute. They’re being blocked out, and when that happens, I tell them to just pull back because there’s no space being left. 

If the soloist is filling every beat, the poor piano player or guitar player has to find space to get that harmonic information in there, and that doesn’t leave any room at all for the drummer to contribute. So just play the ride cymbal and wait for the next soloist. This is the kind of thing you learn when you study the whole band as opposed to just your instrument.”

- Joe La Barbara, 2002 Modern Drummer interview by Rick Mattingly

Monday, February 20, 2023

Uptempo drill a la Riley

Major rehash alert: an uptempo jazz drill I was playing yesterday, using what John Riley once called “my C major scale”: an SSBB pattern in 8th notes, with notes omitted. The page below is very similar to what I wrote about that, but in a better sequence for fast tempos.    

I practice it reading out of Syncopation, using my subtractive method*— voicing the book rhythm according to that SSBB pattern. Anything sounding on a 1&/3& is played on the snare, anything sounding on a 2&/4& is played on the bass drum. 

* -  Rated by the same Mr. Riley as “convoluted, but sometimes that's necessary.”

Here are some key starter patterns:

Do this with Syncopation pp. 9-10, 30-31, and 34-45.

Tempo goals are half note = 120, 130, 143, 150, and beyond. Play straight 8ths at all tempos, even tempos you would normally swing when performing. I usually practice these playing double time along with a straight 8th jazz/fusion/modern music loop.   

I've written a number of these drills over the years, and there's another good one in Riley's book Beyond Bop Drumming. The best drill is the one you do— whatever works for you. 

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Transcription: Buddy Rich - Big Mac

Buddy Rich drum solo on Big Mac, a prodigious funk/rock arrangement by Ernie Wilkins, from Rich's album Ease On Down The Road— it's actually better known from Roar of '74, but I have it on EODTR. I'm not particularly a lover of Buddy Rich's playing, but my God. 

Ever feel like basically all instrumentalists— and arrangers— have forgotten that this kind of energy is a thing? Everybody's moving sideways, fussing around in the fine subdivisions. I'm complaining about the young, people in their 60s definitely haven't forgotten.  

Tempo is 93, the solo begins at 3:49. 

It's Buddy, so lots of rim shots, he's extremely aggressive with his accents. We hear more unisons between the snare drum and bass drum than perhaps with other drummers. It's a powerful sound but kind of crude. His rock thing doesn't sound fully formed, but he's certainly bringing the energy. Who needs fully formed. 

I would expect him to be doing a lot of paradiddles, but here I believe the stickings on the denser stuff are mostly singles. He seems to be playing some very thin little hihats, and mostly hanging out on a very bright 70s 20" A. Zildjian. Tom toms sound good, classic rockin' late 60s/early 70s sound. Very little left foot activity that I can hear. 

Style note for you transcribers: when there's a lot of double time— 32nd notes and sixtuplets— it's best to create a little imaginary beat separation between the downbeat cluster of notes and the &-of-the-beat cluster of notes, connecting them with a single beam, as I've done here. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Very occasional quote of the day: sound and touch

“I’m not happy with my sound at all. I wish I sounded like Art Blakey or Elvin Jones. You have to be born with a certain feel or touch. Blakey had that African sound. It was so physical. Art played on my old Slingerland drums once at Minton’s Playhouse, and they were tuned tight like Max’s. But Art managed to capture his own deep sound on my drums. That’s when I realized it’s really physical.” 

“I try to practice lightly. I played so loud and hard with Miles, and even on some of the gigs I did with Sonny. That’s what they wanted. But now I’m going back to the ’60s, approaching things in a much lighter way. I just don’t think you have to bash. You can get the same intensity without bashing. Billy Higgins proved that. You could feel the tune building with each chorus when he played. You could feel the fire getting hotter without the volume getting louder. That’s what I’m trying to get back to.”

- Al Foster, 2003 Modern Drummer interview by Ken Micallef 

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Everything at once

Another archive item— these things are a very welcome brain cleansing for me.

This is a clinic handout by Russ Tincher, from when I was a student at the U. of Southern California. Tincher was a Bay Area drummer and teacher. I don't know much about him, and information online is sparse. I believe he passed away in the teens. He did some big band work, and played in a fusion band called Solar Plexus, and was Jeff Ballard's teacher. I'm sure somebody reading knows more about him, please share in the comments. 

The first paragraph is the most important. I don't know if I first heard it as an idea from him, or if I already knew it and he reinforced it, but everything at once in drumming practice was a philosophy I really ran with in the 90s— not just with what I played, but the way I played it, with an emphasis on exciting dynamics and sound. 

Typing out the text, so it gets insidiously woven into the fabric of the internet: 

by Russ Tincher

A common problem among beginning drummers is that they tend to split their practice time up. A typical practice session begins with the drummer just “whaling” for awhile and then working on some coordination, then maybe some technique exercises, and, if he or she is not completely bored, some reading. What we tend to forget is that in the real world of playing we do all of these things at the same time! It is necessary, then, to learn to practice several areas of importance at once. 

How does a drummer do this? One of the most useful exercises I have found lies in Louis Bellson's Reading Text in 4/4. Here is a basic program for the book. 

1. Learn and play the first 25 pages “hand-to-hand.” Be able to play it slowly and evenly without stopping. 

2. Starting at the beginning, play Jazz Ride Cymbal and Hi-hat while playing the written material on the snare drum. Swing the 8th notes. 

3. Starting at the beginning, play Bossa Nova Ride Cymbal, Hi-hat, and Bass Drum while playing the written material on the cross-stick snare. Play straight 8ths.

4. Starting at the beginning, play Samba Ride Cymbal, Hi-hat, and Bass Drum while playing the written material on the Snare Drum. 

In completing these four steps you'll find that your coordination will be challenged and your reading will improve dramatically. Using this technique as a launching place, try superimposing your own favorite grooves over the written material— it works for Funk, Latin, Swing, just about anything. Also be sure to play the written material with the bass drum, Ride Cymbal, and Hi-hat. Try the same method with other books; don't be afraid to develop your own practice routines! And finally, always use a metronome.

Monday, February 13, 2023

EZ simultaneous clave exercises

Awhile back we noted that if you play a simple rhythm in an alternating sticking: 

And move one hand to a different sound: are playing the Son Clave rhythm in the 3-2 and 2-3 orientations at the same time

I don't know what that means— as far as I know that never happens in actual music, unless something's going wrong. But it may suggest something about where the rhythm originally came from. On a student's first exposure to it, it seems rather arbitrary, so it's interesting to find a very simple rhythm and hand movement underlying it. Maybe grounding it in easy hand movements will help us non-Latin folk play it in a more natural way, helping make up for not acquiring it through culture— a little bit. 

So, it's worth playing around with it a little bit. Someone could spend maybe .5 to 2 hours total with the following: 

I've made a small effort to take those exercises into a Latin music direction, but none of this is meant to be performance vocabulary. Play it, then back to legit Latin studies... 

Get the pdf

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Stanley Spector news

I received an email yesterday, from a violinist named Xinou Wei, regarding the “Spector School of Drumming”— which sells itself as an official Stanley Spector enterprise, and apparently it is a complete fraud. 

Wei says:  

“I just wanted to let you a bit about the situation, as a close friend of Stanley's widow Astrid. All the materials were taken from Astrid, around 2012 by John O'Reilly. It was verbally agreed between the two of them that John would make copies of the material, for studying purposes with no details envisioned. The opening of the school, the selling of the materials, [asking “thousands” of dollars, see comments. -TB] the lie that "from the Spector estate" was nothing but without Astrid's consent/awareness. 

Without an exaggeration, John's indecency remains one of the heaviest regrets the 86-year-old Astrid has to carry in her heart.” 

To clarify, that is not the respected drummer and author John Riley. The John O'Reilly who is doing this is a prog drummer living in Pennsylvania.  

So, he took a lot of Spector's materials on the pretense that it was for his personal use, and immediately ran out and set up a whole business entity around it, marketing it as an “official” Spector enterprise, using Spector's name, and hyping it from a very hard-sell paranoid angle.

And I see there's an interesting legal notice on his YouTube page: 


Maverick Musician is O'Reilly's business. Unclear whether he's claiming to own the SSSOD trademark, or that it simply is trademarked by someone. It's quite sleazy to ambiguously suggest he owns the trademark, knowing that the Spector estate owns it, and even more sleazy to have trademarked it himself, stealing Spector's name after stealing his materials. 

Looking further, on the site itself, under terms of use:  

Publications, products, content or services referenced herein or on the Site are the exclusive trademarks or servicemarks of Maverick Musician LLC. 

I'm pretty sure you can't just trademark somebody else's name, business name, and copyrighted work just because you got your little rat claws on some photocopies of it. I'm no lawyer! 

It's pretty slimy stuff, and pathetic. He thought he got his hands on a hot property, but he can't be making much money off it. Drumming materials, especially niche materials, are not that lucrative. I don't believe the hypey / secretive marketing pitch he's using will attract many students. I assumed he would've folded the con after it initially flopped— there are a few YouTube videos posted about ten years ago, and nothing since; but then the site was updated in 2022, and the Facebook page gets updated about once a year, so I guess he's still doing it.   

Wei said Mrs. Spector is seeking legal representation— I doubt there's any financial damages to recover, but she would like him to stop what he's doing. If anyone has any recommendations for music/copyright attorneys, please contact me via the EMAIL TODD link in the sidebar, and I'll pass it along to them.  

Friday, February 10, 2023

Time is money

Another funny item I dug out of my archives. I believe it's from the jazz festival at UC Berkeley in 1989— I was there playing with USC's guitar ensemble. A bassist and drummer gave a clinic that was mainly about time, and I think this was a handout. I forget their names, but they were Bay Area jazz professionals, not an 80s pop band from Indiana also called The Phonz

They've padded it out with some jokes, but there are some good points: 

The main thing I took from the clinic and never forgot was: 

Laying back or playing on top are confusing terms, they are a smokescreen. Time should be played in the middle of the beat by the rhythm section. 

It simplifies your thinking if you just decide to be the reference point stating the tempo, and let everyone else play ahead or behind. Which may put you seemingly ahead of / behind the beat, depending on the other players' ears / time concepts. The main thing is that you're being the reference point— you're not getting the time from them.  

Thursday, February 09, 2023

From the zone: feel the groove

Cleaning out my mom's house I found a box of all the siblings' music materials that she saved, including a bunch of my archive items, that are pretty interesting. 

The thing below was written and sent to me by my friend Kirk Ross, mainly a bassist then, now mainly a songwriter. Kind of an extreme personality. We played in a couple of bands at the University of Oregon, then we went off to different schools— me to U. of Southern California, him to Berklee. Later he got me on my first cruise ship gig, and he brought me to Los Angeles ~7 years ago to make a record with Geoff Keezer on piano, playing Kirk's songs and a Neil Sedaka cover. 

His first year at Berklee he was getting into some things from Gary Chaffee that I showed him, and he really ran with them. Following is a one-measure sight reading exercise— the left side got cut off, but top to bottom, I think each line was meant for snare drum, hihat, and bass drum:  

A joke, clearly. I'm sure it works out mathematically. After this Kirk moved to LA and sought out and befriended Vinnie Colaiuta, and jammed with him a few times. He had a big moment was when he was able to lose Vinnie playing the above kind of nonsense— I guess even he needed a foundation to play off of. We each had our course corrections shortly after this— Kirk going back to Berklee and getting really into James Brown, me at SC getting into Elvin Jones.  

Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Tyranny of the barline or something else

Headline: TED Video Irritating

Alt headline: Media Company Declares Own Take On 15th Century Graphic Concept Groundbreaking 

Alt alt headline: tEd Dopes Find Music Unintuitive


Getting back to my usual form: complaining about a dumb, currently circulating tED video from 2014. It could be seen as nitpicky, but hell, rhythm is our trade, the fine points of it are supposed to matter. And it's fun. 

Per normal, the video producers have compressed the timing of the speech into a rapid fire alien chatter, spewing a lot of colorful facts all over us, so we don't have time to notice that what they're saying is possibly scientifically a lot of crap. 

This is the major thrust of it, and I don't like any part of it: 

“The continuity of a wheel can be a more intuitive way to visualize rhythm than a linear score which requires moving back and forth along the page.”

Massive irritation:

1. What is it with these guys and “intuitive”? Is the English language, for example, intuitive? Or any language? Languages take years to acquire— reading them, speaking them, understanding them. Even if you believe music should be a people's art, doable by everyone, people's art, like language, still requires immersion. People don't pick it up like playing Tetris or driving a Honda.

I've never heard reading music described as “back and forth.” Usually we read from left to right, one line at a time, down the page. Like reading most languages— which billions of humans, starting around age 5, do every single day, processing fantastic quantities of information quickly and efficiently. 

They say visualizing rhythm like it's a thing. They try to slide these things past you.  

Musicians deal with rhythm primarily as an aural phenomenon, and also as a physical phenomenon, and as an information phenomenon. We learn rhythm by hearing it, playing it, counting or singing it. We may conceive it as a mathematical form. And we read it— which is visual, but not visualizing. Is the word reading a visualization of the act of reading? No. 

Yes, an animated wheel graphic is way to visually represent simple repeating rhythms, and to an extent, illustrate how subdivisions work. Clock faces and sun dials are very old technology, it's fine. We can have visual aids. But normally we don't promote our visual metaphors as being possibly superior to the information system they are in aid of understanding. 

I believe if a person is going to re-invent music, he should know its basic terms. For example:

“In standard notation, rhythm is written on a musical bar line”

...illustrated with a line of music written on a staff, of course— the horizontal thingy with five lines where music is written.. The bar line is the actual vertical line demarking bars or measures. It's like a mechanic calling the catalytic converter the muffler. You want to find a new mechanic.   

Even the guy who can't spell treble knows
the difference between staff and bar line.

[... ... ...]

So I just fail to see how some colored dots on ungraded concentric circles is more intuitive or precise than standard notation. Anything off the 12, 3, 6, or 9 o'clock position, you have to guess what the subdivision is supposed to be. Maybe we're just supposed to space out on the spinning dial hand and just hit something when it hits a dot. 

Or maybe it's it's not supposed to be a notation system for humans playing instruments, and he's developing a beat programming interface, and is doing a little advance publicity with an “educational” video. 

The closing bit about “tyranny of the barline”... based on the above maybe he means tyranny of the staff? If we're talking about the actual bar line— not the staff— it's only tyrannical if we don't teach people how to use it, understanding that it does have limitations. To me a closed looping circle is tyrannical. 

I actually think we're dealing with someone for whom music = something done on a laptop. If somebody lives their whole musical life in a 16 chamber grid, yes, that will seem “tyrannical”: 

Looking at a blank page of manuscript, knowing that you can put the barlines anywhere you want, or nowhere, where's the tyranny? Does he know that measures are only used for organization, and that measures can be any size you like, and you can change that any time you like? 

No built in forced repeat signs, even.

It's like saying tyranny of the paragraph. Tyranny of the comma. It's completely stupid. 

Their big discovery:
 rhythms become other rhythms if you invert them (as a musician would say), or “rotate wheels” (as they say in the video).

It's not a big discovery, it did not require wheel magic to learn it. They made a graphical representation of an ordinary concept, without teaching the concept. Check that— they explain it in terms of their animated graphic— rotate the wheel. Of course, there is no way for you to “rotate the wheel” yourself, you have no tool for doing that. You would need whatever proprietary app this person is/was apparently developing. Normally it can be done by anyone in the world with a pencil and paper and a little bit of knowledge. No computer device or animation software required whatsoever.

 I was digging around in vain for any evidence of a musical career of the guy who made the video, and came across some comments by a musicology professor.