Friday, March 01, 2024

Stewart Copeland interview

New interview with Rick Beato talking to Stewart Copeland, that is quite entertaining— he's an entertaining guy talking about things he knows about, like his own career. Here he mostly talks about how making all the Police records went down, and it's fairly illuminating. 

As much as these things ever are— most people can't tell you anything about what you liked about something they did. Usually making something involves a different set of concerns from just enjoying it, even enjoying as someone who makes music, and knows about music. Not everything is intentional, or under one person's conscious control. The illuminating part is finding out what he thinks he did.


It sounds like a large part of the story of The Police was in the conflict between Sting, having fully formed pop songs in mind, including the drumming, vs. Copeland fighting to have the percussion featured as a distinct voice.  

It's not surprising that in recording the first records he only got a few passes on each track. It's somewhat surprising how unformed the songs were at that point in the process— or how little information he had about them. I think that accounts for a good part of the unusual playing decisions on the records— there are things people might not play if they knew everything that was going on.  

It's also not surprising that he approached them like a player, playing each take differently, and not as a songwriter or producer, who would be more concerned with crafting a perfect “part”... which would take you to a product more like Nirvana's Nevermind, with every note of the drumming performance worked out in advance. A drummer working everything out for percussive effect might lead you to something more like a Rush record. Whatever those Rush records are, they're a clear picture of what Neil Peart would do on purpose on that piece of music. On the Police records it seems that every percussion effect is not something Copeland created himself deliberately— or did deliberately while he was playing it. As he says, they did a lot of editing and overdubbing. 

We're in kind of a funny position, as people who like the drumming on those records— it's our job to do things like that as informed playing decisions, even as the original guy actually may not have.    

Anyway, interesting interview, it is worth listening to the full hour of it, despite Copeland's flippancy, at times.  

Monday, February 26, 2024

15th anniversary at Revival Drum Shop

I had a nice time hanging out at Portland's Revival Drum Shop last night— an excellent, unique drum shop featuring mostly vintage gear, with a lot of interesting new percussion instruments, and new and vintage cymbals. They helped Cymbal & Gong get going early on, and still have their proprietary Revival line of cymbals with them. It's a great store and I send all my students there. 

It's owned by José Medeles of the band The Breeders, and it has become a real Portland institution. Last night they had a running party with friends of the shop playing, including: Dave King (Bad Plus, Rational Funk), Dave Elitch[!!!] (Mars Volta, Miley Cyrus), Spit Stix (Fear), Stephen Hodges (Tom Waits), Janet Weiss (Sleater Kinney) and others. I had to leave before the great Mel Brown played— naturally, he was playing a regular gig somewhere, and had to go last.   

Dave King, if you know of his Rational Funk series of videos, was completely hilarious, and of course played brilliantly. 

Dave Elitch played great, hitting some real LA style backbeats that had me plugging one ear, because I was ~ five feet away. His recent mini-to-do involving a rash comment on the value of rudiments was mentioned, and he got a thank you from the audience for being relieved of the task of having to learn to play them. 

Spit Stix (aka Tim Leitch) did a mini-clinic on the 3:2 polyrhythm and on orchestrating rudiments on the drums— which he has worked out in a really effective way. He said the polyrhythm was really the primary beat he plays off of, which is a really central concept for me. As a drumming concept it's a big deal, it's the central thing in most jazz drumming since Elvin Jones. 

Stephen Hodges played a brief solo, then played duo with José, which was really lovely, getting into some quite amazing sounds within an atmospheric swamp groove, including Hodges dragging chains on the drums— missed getting video of that part, I was too transfixed— and José playing I think a 26" Wuhan cymbal.

I got a little video: 


It was cool and interesting to see how much of the old rock & roll thing is still happening with people, like it hasn't gone anywhere. You could have gone to a clinic with the guy from Paul Revere & The Raiders and he would have been playing much of the same stuff, and it's great. It's a thing. 

Everyone was winging it, with several admitting (or claiming) to feeling nervous about it, and it was loose, rough, and good. You can't help but notice that not everyone's real job is to be amazing playing a solo in a clinic. Like watching Stephen Hodges you think well I could basically do that, that must mean I'm a happening guy, except: he's the guy on Rain Dogs, Swordfishtrombone, and Mule Variations. He's the person who got in a position to be asked to make those records, and then made them what they are. That's a whole different thing. That's a whole different kind of artistic life than just getting ready to sound amazing in a drum shop. 

Or, I can listen to Dave King play his stuff solo, and it's on a very high level, but it's on a continuum with what a lot of other good drummers do, including myself. So just taking it in terms of playing solo, you could get a little cocky, like hey I'm not that different from him, I'm a happening guy! Except his job is to be headlining jazz festivals, and blowing the audience away after they've been listening to other world class acts for three days. To be good at that you have to be really comfortable doing hard music, and have a couple of gears above normal good players for generating intensity within music. So no. That's not the only way to do music, but no. 

And it's funny— even at his level, he's worrying about the parts that felt off to him, afterwards he was thanking the audience for listening to “the bad along with the good”— “the bad” being virtually undetectable to anyone listening. 

Ultimately you come away from the event feeling like there's room for everything— that obvious, explosive kind of talent, along with more traditionally simple and direct heavy playing, and some more mysterious creativity, reaching into a deeper living history with Mel Brown. A very cool scene. 

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Ruffs, drags, and general correctness in snare drumming

The correct way to play ruffs (or drags if you prefer) on the snare drum is an extremely attractive topic for repeated, endless debate. Evidently. I've seen it again and again, people going nuts for the topic. 

The major burning issues seem to be: 

a) What they should be called— ruff or drag.   
b) How to play the embellishment— double stroke, multiple bounce, or...?


Around here we call them ruffs, and my concept of correctness playing them came from a kind of Charles Dowd / Tony Cirone / Fred Sanford axis. Mainly, most of my teachers and corps instructors, and many professional acquaintances, were students of one or all of them. Dowd and Sanford both studied with Cirone. Dowd and Cirone both studied with Saul Goodman— primarily known as a timpanist, but played and taught all orchestral percussion instruments. He's as important a figure as anyone in modern percussion. All four of those individuals taught many thousands of professionals over many decades, so there's a sizable community of players for whom this is part of their frame of reference, at least. 

Summarizing my views, and what I teach, this is from Cirone's book Orchestral Techniques Of The Standard Percussion Instruments


Except: in drum corps, we played them multiple bounce, not double stroke, with the buzz very tight against the main note. I believe that way of playing them in that setting was likely Fred Sanford and Bob Kalkoffen's innovation. More traditionally they were played with a double stroke. 

Also in corps: in practice, the term drag didn't refer to a specific rudimental pattern, but to a single metered open double played as part of an ongoing rhythm, which might be referred to as a drag passage, like: 


A real traditional rudimental geek could analyze each of those phrases as a series of named rudiments,  and I'm glad I never learned that way. For me this was always just a continuing rhythm with some of the strokes doubled. In fact there are some passages from traditional rudimental solos that could be interpreted that way, with the drag strokes metered. This line from Charley Wilcoxon's Roughing The Single Drag:  


Could be played: 

 


Continuing with the common ruff (or drag) here's another excellent description from Percussion For Musicians by Robert McCormick, edited by Cirone: 



So McCormick and Cirone are talking about interpreting that notation, and performing it on the snare drum in orchestra, wind ensemble, and other concert snare drum settings, and that is my baseline standard for how to do things. There are other reputable professionals who say they should be played with a double stroke— they are amply represented on YouTube— all you have to do is think the word ruff and you'll be presented with a lot of videos telling about that. I think they are offering incomplete information if they don't mention anything about the performance context. 

Friend/friend of the site and excellent drummer Ed Pierce (and author Alain Rieder) has pointed out that there is a Porcaro/Igoe/Henry Adler/Al Lepak lineage of players who refer to any three note single stroke pattern as a ruff. Ralph Humphrey as well. That's different from what we've been talking about— you would not read a snare drum part, or etude, with the above ruff notation and automatically play them as single strokes. In fact I don't know how that interpretation would be applied to written music, other than to assign a rudimental name to a written rhythm (calling a 1e& 2e& rhythm ruffs, for example). With this usage we're just giving that name to a simple rhythm structure, a cluster of three notes. 

There is an exception: you do play ruffs as alternating singles when you encounter that notation for most other percussion instruments— timpani, for example. 

This all may beg the question: what even is the purpose of doing it one way or another? Why does doing it “correctly” according to a certain school of thought matter? Who decides what's correct to begin with? 

I don't believe there's any real technical or hand-conditioning benefit to doing it one way of the other— it's purely a question of convention, taste, and musical effect and expression. 

If you're involved in concert snare drumming, you'll be working with conductors, band directors, other percussionists, professors and other teachers, and miscellaneous judges— via competitions, juries, auditions— each of whom may have opinions or demands about how you should play, which may be difficult to ignore completely.   

In rudimental drumming it is decided by the individual organization— marching bands, drum and bugle corps, other drum lines, will each have their individual style standards that players need to follow. Much of the rehearsal process is about learning those standards, you don't necessarily need to have them prepared in advance. 

As individual players, we're generally free to do whatever we want—  hopefully guided by some kind of sound idea, and a good musical ear. Generally it's best to to have a baseline of ability that fits with what the rest of the drumming world is doing, doing things the way other good players do them, until you're experienced enough to form a different idea about it. Someone doing something in a grossly unconventional way in a formal performance setting is most often taken as evidence the player doesn't know what he or she is doing. 

Postscript: In the comments there's a good question about diddles as distinct from drags. 

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Groove o' the day: Elvin waltz by Kenny Washington

Here's Kenny Washington playing an Elvin Jones-type of waltz groove on Simple Waltz, on Clark Terry's 1991 record Live at the Village Gate. It's kind of an obscure item now, I bought the record then to check out some Kenny Washington. I used to play along with it a lot. 

It's actually really Elvin like, though Washington has a different way of playing time from him— and sound, and touch. See my groove o' the day and transcription of John Coltrane's Your Lady. There's also a page o' coordination based on it. 


On the intro he plays the ties, when the band comes in he plays the straight cymbal rhythm as written, no ties. 

CYMBALISTIC: Oh, what the heck...

UPDATE: Bumping this to the top of the blog. 

CYMBALISTIC: Oh, what the heck, business has been a little slow lately, so let's goose this thing a little bit, and do a special on cymbals

I'll give the FIRST THREE PEOPLE who want to buy a wonderful Cymbal & Gong cymbal in the month of February an extra special deal— we're a tiny, tiny business, and normally the specials we can afford to offer are in the nature of free shipping, or 10-15% off, but we'll do something better than that. Contact me for details. 

The cymbals have all been individually selected by me as ones I would want to own and use— there are no dogs. And as I've ranted about endlessly before, the cymbals themselves are consistently the best available for a traditional sound— a 50s/60s sound. The other jazz professionals who play them know this, and go nuts for them. 

Right now I have a number of Extra Special Janavars, with regular patina— making them big and lush— and heavy patina— making them more dry and funky. These have been a very hot item. I took several to Germany in October and they all sold before the real meet even started. 


I also have a few great A-type Holy Grails— Cymbal & Gong's best selling cymbal. The 20s are a little stouter, and are great light-mediums. The 22 is thin with a heavy patina, for a big, rather rough Tony Williams type of sound.


And there are a few random items, on which I'll be inclined to make you an extra special deal: 

18" Turk “Rin” - Great cymbal, it's just been in stock awhile. Lovely, rather delicate Turk for combo playing.

16" Holy Grail “Bobby” - 16" cymbals used to be a left side mainstay, and this is a very worthy, versatile cymbal for that. Give it a shot. I just got a 16 very similar to this, and love it. 

14" China “Chi” -  Really cool effect cymbal. C&G's Chinas are excellent, with the real Chinese sound, but not obnoxious, and not too loud.

  

OK, visit CYMBALISTIC to pick, out your cymbal(s), and then contact me through the form on that site.  

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Max Roach / Stan Levey duo transcription: Milano Blues

Here's a composed drum duo played by Max Roach and Stan Levey, on their album Drummin' The Blues. They trade off on some parts, and play in unison on others. I believe the whole thing is pre-written— by Roach, from the sound of it— maybe the trading portions are improvised. 

Begins at 3:03 in the track, tempo is 127 bpm. 


They didn't just breeze in and do the session, they took some trouble to tune their drums the same, and select cymbals that sounded similar, and their execution is very tight— no flamming between players on the unison parts.

If you're able to loop the first four bars, you can hear that bars 1-2 are one player, bars 3-4 are the other, mainly from the pitch of the cymbal. As best I can tell, they're trading twos— soloing two measures each— in the first 8 bars, then playing together. This would be a good recital or jury piece for somebody. If I were going to perform it, I'd look into some creative ways of splitting it up between players, fill it out with some actual improvised trading. 

Get the pdf

Duo begins at 7:51 in the video below: 

Friday, February 16, 2024

Very occasional quote of the day: getting fired

“There’s been times when I was fired from gigs because, lets say I had the ability to get my foot in the door, but wasn’t living up to the expectations that people had. In that process I’d go through a lot of reassessment and then address my weak points and make them strong points. That’s a situation that happens to a lot of musicians. 

Psychologically you can’t let that get you down. You have to use those situations as learning opportunities, not to develop attitudes about people, but to develop a perspective of your strengths and weaknesses. At those times I did a lot of deep analysis of my playing and tried to be as objective as possible. I’ve tried to address my weaknesses and really work hard to develop them into strengths. 

Over the years I’ve been let go for not having good time, not being able to play with a click track, not being a real asset as a guy on the road that has a good attitude, you know any number of things which I’ve learned from and developed my playing and developed my personality to be easy to work with and professional as a musician on tour and in the studio.”

- Steve Smith in The Psychology of Drumming by Chris Peacock

You can download a pdf of the book on Scribd— though I don't know if it was posted with the consent of the author. I believe Peacock is the author of the Drum Ninja site, so maybe you can get it through him, or at least make a donation for pirating his book. 

Monday, February 12, 2024

Practical comping lesson with Rothman

Joel Rothman's books don't get a ton of attention in the jazz drums-learning world, but they're good. I like the comping materials in his book Basic Drumming (duplicated in his book Drumming And All That Jazz). They cover the practical basics, bridging into more modern*, filled in, Elvin Jones-like textural playing.
 

* - Yes, Elvin Jones died 20 years ago[!!!] at age 76, but his playing is still modern; everybody who plays gets into him in a serious way, and he did drumming as art, not simply accompaniment (I think he would have disputed that). Modern doesn't just mean contemporary.


The other usual books tend to deal more in pure rhythm/independence/reading problems, and I've never found them to be totally satisfactory for getting to a realistic comping texture with new jazz students. Rothmans' stuff is friendlier to my teaching purposes that way. 

They're notated as just a snare drum and cymbal rhythm, written as triplets, with the swing interpretation baked in. It's assumed we'll add the hihat on beats 2 and 4, and maybe feathering the bass drum if you swing that way


You'll notice that the first two beats of each pattern are the same— hopefully that teaches you the first idea really well, and teaches you some places to go with it. 

One thing I do— not necessarily first, but first now— is add some bass drum. I'll circle some notes or rests in the student's book, and have them add bass drum there. For example: 



Most of the snare drum part should be played softly, with usually one or two accents per measure. I'll also pencil in some accents to give an idea of how to shape the measure: 



The problem here, as with almost all comping materials, is we're dealing with one-measure ideas repeating on the 1. We're too 1 oriented, too single-measure oriented.

There are some ways of making a musical phrase out of this, more like how drummers realistically play, with some space. For the examples below, we'll use pattern 4 above, with the added bass drum, and hihat on beats 2 and 4: 



First, obviously, play 1 measure of jazz time, one measure of the exercise: 


That's a good way to learn the patterns in the first place, as part of a continuity, not just as an isolated measure. If a student is able to read the patterns correctly the first time, that's how we'll do it. 

We can also get off the 1, and play the pattern across the barline, a couple of different ways. 

First, just play the pattern as written, except starting on beat 3 of the last measure of the phrase: 


Or play beats 3-4 of the pattern on beats 3-4 at the end of the phrase, and beats 1-2 at the beginning of the new phrase: 


If that seems weird, it's not, it's what you were playing on the repeat of the one measure pattern: 


Here's what a four measure practice phrase would look like, playing that way: 


Obviously there are other possibilities. It's not necessary to take it too far faking a drumming performance from book materials, we're just giving people a sketch of how you might actually play. The next step turning book patterns into music is to play music— with people or with recordings.  

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Ndugu Leon Chancler with George Duke

Here's a cool video of Ndugu Leon Chancler in the studio with George Duke, playing Dukey Stick, which ended up on his record Don't Let Go. They start playing after about 1:45. The way Ndugu counts it in is hilarious: 


That's Napoleon Murphy Brock, best known from Zappa's band, doing background vocals here, and Sheila E. (Escovedo at the time) on percussion. The guitarist (“Goin' surfin baby!”) is Charles Johnson who much later became a well known blogger, writing the Little Green Footballs blog— which was very pro Iraq war during the Bush years, and has since become much more politically liberal. 

Monday, February 05, 2024

Very occasional quote of the day: religion

“This is my religion. I take long breaks now when I don't perform and I am not myself when I am not performing.”

- Roy Haynes

h/t Sheet Music Library 

Sunday, February 04, 2024

Antonio Sanchez on drumming in movies

From Anzonio Sanchez's twitter feed, here's a video of him commenting on some drumming performances in movies, including School of Rock, Sound of Metal, Whiplash, and some other things. 

Most of the examples don't have much in them for actual drummers, but he's very businesslike about it. It's funny to bring in one of the top drummers on the planet to point out, OK, there's no bass drum there, here's how you hold the sticks

This is all just an excuse to share that screen shot, which I thought was hilarious. It is funny when they get to the movie Whiplash

Enjoy:

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Tresillo unit

For a couple of weeks I've been working with an area of stuff covering several different styles— grooves with a tresillo rhythm, or part of it, in the bass drum. I've been polishing it for a recording session today. 

That bass drum rhythm occurs most famously in New Orleans drumming, Songo and other Caribbean styles, and Baiao. All different things from different countries, but with jazz groups things have a way of getting mashed up. The chart we're recording is marked “samba”, but the bass line is based on this type of rhythm, and nothing else about the piece is particularly samba-like.   


We have there: 

Systems for New Breed
I've been doing a few ostinato variations with the reading in The New Breed— which I've decided I like a lot. The reading portion of that book is different enough from Syncopation to be worth doing— more space, fewer runs of multiple notes, and of course 16th notes are the main subdivision. 

The ostinatos are played by the right hand on a cymbal, bass drum, and hihat played with the foot. On a couple of them the right hand moves to the floor tom. 

Subtractive method
Practicing from the book Syncopation, I've been running a subtractive thing I detailed before (the item at that link would actually be good to include in this unit)— voicing the melody rhythm in the book corresponding with a BSSB-SBBS pattern

Songo variations
A couple of different songo grooves, with fills, making variations on the fly. 


Street beat / alternating singles
Played on either the snare drum or hihat, varying the accents/articulations, with a move to the floor tom.  

Get the pdf


And here's one loop I've been using, sampled from Eddie Palmieri— Azucar, from the album Azucar Pa' Ti:


And another loop, a little faster, a baiao groove from Airto— Papo Furado, from the album Seeds On The Ground: 

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Chop busters: syncopated flammed 16ths

More rooting around in my archives, with a stealth from the zone item. I found this in one of my notebooks from high school, and it's worth playing, with some mixed 16th note rhythms with flams in funny places. So I wrote it up nicely so people can actually read it: 


There are accents on all the flams, and I believe the stickings alternate all the way through.   

...aaand as I look at it, it appears that this is just one pattern displaced by a 16th note from line to line. There are a couple of small variations, but those are probably mistakes. See my December page of flammed 16ths for something a little more challenging. 

Here's the original sheet scanned from my notebook: 


Get the pdf

Thursday, January 25, 2024

From the zone: Danny Gottlieb solo break

Another archive item— lots of action around here right now, and not a lot of time to write. And I just found some more of my old writing. I wrote a lot of drum stuff in school. 

Here I've bashed out a transcription of a four bar drum break by Danny Gottlieb, on the title track from his album Aquamarine. By the end of it I clearly lost patience with it. 



I haven't listened to a ton of Danny Gottlieb. This was released in 1987, when fusion was easing into what people started calling “fuzak”, and this record was a little light for me. It's difficult for me now. But I made an effort to listen to it. The break happens at 2:56 in the recording. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Pro vs. semi-pro

Another item from the archives— this is from Jack Wheaton (1932-2015), my jazz styles and analysis professor when I was at USC in 1988-89.

In some context or other he gave us this list of attitudes/characteristics of professional vs. semi-pro/amateur musicians. I imagine a few of these will be more aspirational than others, for some people. Some are certainly deliberately directed at common jazz student shortcomings as he experienced them in his decades of teaching.  


So, you read this then you know how to try to be. I put an arrow by high energy— I think I felt that was a weak spot. I was pretty intense about music, but felt I wasn't high energy enough. 

Friday, January 19, 2024

Very occasional quote of the day: feel gotten with respect

From Vernon Reid's Twitter feed

Funk ain’t easy. Many ASSUME  that it is. Swing is complex, but it doesn’t grant carte blanche over other styles. Every idiom has its nuances that demand respect & attention to detail. If the particular Feel isn’t gotten with RESPECT ? Not gonna happen.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Philly Joe set ups

Here's a tune involving a lot of isolated kicks on the & of 2, where we get to hear a lot of different ways Philly Joe Jones sets them up— Blue Roz the Milt Jackson / Wes Montgomery album Bags Meets Wes. I've had a lot of people asking about kicks and set ups lately— here you go:


You can practice those as part of a two-measure phrase like this: 


Also move the kick over to the & of 3: 


Add two measures to the front of that if you need a longer cycle. Get the timing accurate from the cymbal accent to the following beat where you get back to the time— from the & of 2 to the 4 in the first example, from the & of 3 to the 1 in the second. They're easy spots to rush.  

Get the pdf 

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Nothing to do with drumming?

Dave Elitch (L) with Rational Funk's Dave King
There was a fascinating exchange on Instagram, starting with the drummer Dave Elitch (formerly of the band Mars Volta, done a bunch of big gigs), who gave a rather provocative reaction to a quote from Stanley Spector— which we talked about here before, you can read here. 

Elitch comments on it: 

I had a student send me some quotes by Stanley Spector who was a drum teacher that’d I’d previously never heard of before. He sounded like an interesting character and I still can’t decide if he was nuts or not because it’s hard to find a lot of information about him other than secondhand blurbs here and there.

I did however, come across this quote circa 1980 from him in regard to his opinion about rudiments and I couldn’t agree more.

I’ve always thought that there has been far too much emphasis on rudiments as a topic of study and how they are fundamentally out dated and largely irrelevant in regards to playing the drum set in a contemporary music setting in the 20th, let alone 21st century. You want to play drum corps or pipe band? Go for it, just don’t fool yourself into thinking it has anything to do with playing the drums. It doesn’t.

It’s imperative that we make smart choices when it comes to what we choose to practice. So many times when I’m working with someone, they are working on things simply because they can’t do them and that’s not a good enough reason in my book.


Emphasis is mine all the way here. The drummer Dan Weiss, who is a hot item in New York, comments: 

Love you and I think what you say has some value. But I also think that the rudimental vernacular is one of the defining elements of drummers such as Cozy Cole, Max Roach, Philly Joe Jones , Elvin Jones, Frankie Dunlop, Alan Dawson Tony Williams, etc. If I am teaching someone how to swing and play in this style I most certainly teach rudiments ( see my new course :) because it is part of the language. If I teach someone who is interested in something else I might not teach rudiments at all. Context is everything. There’s no one way, there’s no right way.


(I don't agree with him that rudiments are strictly for learning a vernacular style, though they are necessary for understanding those players.)  

Elitch then responds: 

This is more geared towards someone who wants to play contemporary drum set and contemporary music. If we’re talking about jazz and a certain approach to jazz that harkens back to when military drumming was a direct influence on it as an art form, then sure, absolutely. I’m just saying that someone thinking (or being taught to) play a triple ratamcue as if that will help them or have any relation to feel/pocket/time - that’s where it all falls apart for me


Digesting all of that, I have a number of comments. 

Looking at the key portion again:

 [Rudiments are] out dated and largely irrelevant in regards to playing the drum set in a contemporary music setting in the 20th, let alone 21st century. You want to play drum corps or pipe band? Go for it, just don’t fool yourself into thinking it has anything to do with playing the drums. It doesn’t.

I don't know what they have to do with if not playing the drums. I play them on a drum. And obviously the idea that rudiments were irrelevant to contemporary music of even the 20th century is ridiculous. As is the idea that 21st century drumming is some revolutionary new animal totally unconnected from what was done in the past. It is not. 

About the rudiments themselves, their packaging is old fashioned, but there aren't many of them you can just throw away, and still be a competent drummer. A lot of them are simply articulations, or ways of making a long tone, or they're standard short rolls, or forms of paradiddles— all of which are heavily exploited on the drum set, in this century even, even by unprecedentedly modern players like Dave Elitch. Some of them, if they are of no other use to someone, are good for conditioning the hands for playing layered rhythms. 


About his response to Weiss's list of players as harkening to military drummers, I have to wonder has he ever heard a Tony Williams record? I'm not sure he has. How deep into Elvin Jones can someone be to say that? We assume that everybody has studied everybody, but show me you actually know something about them, to be making a comment like that. [Since writing this I've learned he knows them very well, it's still a strange comment.] 

Some of the other comments there are fascinating. I wish there were more constructive conversation involving Mr. Elitch. Mainly there are a lot of people thanking him for freeing them from having to learn to play some elementary stuff on a snare drum. A few people helpfully point out that pursuing the rudiments in a monomaniacally monofocused way that no one actually advocates doing, will not make you groove. True that! 

It's weird to me. It's a strange form of communication that I'm not used to, from people involved in teaching. Ultimately, great teachers— e.g. Ed Soph, Ralph Humphrey, John Beck, John Riley, Peter Erskine— want to make people understand. They work hard to communicate openly. They write a lot and give everything up. They generally don't denigrate entire, widely used, bodies of drumming literature.


Postscript:
Oh, and I'm totally with him on the ratamacues, screw those things.

[h/t to Thomas at DW for sharing the quote]

Monday, January 15, 2024

Stick Control in 7 by Ralph Humphrey

A little item from an old issue of Percussioner International magazine, which I just found in my mom's basement— the Steve Smith issue, from November 1987. 

Here Ralph Humphrey shares some paradiddle-based stick control patterns in 7/8:


Humphrey says:

Practice each exercise with the written accents. But remember that when you begin to apply the patterns to the drum set, you might choose to keep the accents intact, or try a linear approach and set the hands off so that you hear the rhythm that each hand creates. This may change your accents and also change the way the rhythm sounds.


The main drum set application he suggests playing the patterns right hand lead style, with the R on the cymbal and the L on the snare drum (and moving to other drums), adding bass drum as follows: 

The choice of  bass drum placement depends on the style you wish to create, and/or helps to support one of the hands. Notice that not all of one hand's pattern is supported with the kick as this would create a heavy or over-active bass drum part. Learn to abbreviate the kick part so that it supports the hands and stands by itself. Experiment! 


Basically, he adds bass drum along with some, but not all of the RH notes. 

Also see my Stick Control in odd meters posts, and Dahlgren & Fine in 5/4, for some other possibilities for adapting those books into odd meters. And see my Stick Control related posts generally, there's a ton of stuff. 

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Feathering by not feathering

Here's kind of a funny video by Alvin Atkinson that was shared by a forum user asking about about feathering the bass drum in jazz— the technique for playing jazz time that includes running quarter notes played barely-audibly on the bass drum. It's a Jazz At Lincoln Center video, so this is officially approved doctrine, now that Mr. Marsalis has forced the existence of such a thing: 



Describing the technique: he proposes “feathering” by tapping quarter notes with your heel, with the bass drum beater buried against the head, rather than activating the beater and hitting the drum. The sound aspect comes from your heel hitting the foot plate, and probably causing some resonance from the stage floor. 

It's basically: “What if we didn't feather, but we called it feathering?”

This is funny to me because, as basically* a non-feathering guy, I've been doing that this whole time with my left foot— there's no good reason this technique has to be done on the bass drum— to the exact same effect. We had to pass it through the feathering filter and give it a name, and suddenly it's an approved technique.

* - I feather the bass drum— actually playing it— more than I used to, deliberately, for a specific reason. I still don't play it as part of my time feel routinely. I really don't do anything routinely, but  that's another topic...


I don't think I know any players who even think this way, with this focus on labeled, required techniques. The actual art form we're involved with is conducted on a different set of terms altogether. And that's another other topic...

Saturday, January 06, 2024

Buy records: a screed

Go to places like this and buy things.
I was half an hour early for an appointment with Tim at Cymbal & Gong— picking out a career ride cymbal for one of my students— so I hopped over to Music Millenium, the venerable SE Portland record store, for a few minutes, and bought some CDs.  

And, gang, buying records has really never been cheaper. I got used CDs of Sketches of Spain, Bill Evans with Joe La Barbera, and a Joey De Francesco record with Idris Muhammad, for $16. For $50 you could get enough of Miles Davis's catalog to occupy your listening for the rest of the year.   

For the rest of the year— that's how you're supposed to listen: to one thing over and over for a long time, until it occupies a corner of your mind, soul, and musical ear. There's a limited amount of music you can take in that way. For a relative pittance you get all the music you can realistically absorb, and you're supporting an economy that is healthy for music.  

And anybody serious about music needs to control their own library. You can't have your stuff be sitting on somebody else's server, with your access to it beholden to your internet connection, and the good graces of whatever corporate streaming platform. Beholden to the state of their licensing contracts, whether those are sufficiently lucrative for them. The streaming people don't care what business they're in, if they can figure a way of making more money without having to handle music, they'll take it, and you'll get stuck.  

See Spotify— offering up virtual ownership of all the music in the world for $0 was a good way to drive everyone else out of business, but— shocking everyone— they can't figure out how to make that profitable. Right now it's dawning on them that they can do better with inflammatory podcasts, and are paying millions to broadcast “Joe Rogan” doing what he does. While cutting royalties for music.  

They have a much better feel for that kind of “content” than for music, which is a more difficult product to predict. Listeners' attraction to music is less than tangible than a guy talking and deliberately trying to make you mad about nothing real in your life. Manipulating people to anger is a mechanical skill, and easily drowns out fulfilling, happiness-producing things like music.   

See also the movie streaming platforms: having driven every video store in the country out of business, they've decided they don't like being in that business very much, and are cutting a lot of movies:



No s***. 


“Consumers, the poor ridiculous saps, thought they'd be able to see what they want forever.”

No, they will screw you at the first opportunity, regardless of what promises they made about being “the future of movies” going in. The director Guillermo Del Toro recently made this statement


So there's a larger picture. They tried to sell you an image of a future reality that benefitted them, where there would be no physical media, but then they decided there are easier ways of making money than giving you the things they promised. Thus you become stuck— potentially or actually— without access to art that is an essential part of your life. 

Last point: buy people's CDs— at shows, gigs, clinics. Pay the extra $10. Doesn't matter how many times you think you'll listen to it, just buy it. They lost money making this record and need a little encouragement that there is value in losing money making the next one. Thus this whole music making ecosystem is able to continue to exist. You can afford it— how many shows do you go to? 

You have to be a part of the money machine— you have to pay into it. 

Friday, January 05, 2024

Listening to The Musings of Miles

Listening to a Miles Davis record I never really heard before: The Musings of Miles. It's a lower profile item in Miles's catalog. These listening to albums posts are a test for me, because I normally don't feel I have a lot to say about what I hear. 

It was Miles's first LP album, recorded and released in 1955, with Red Garland and Philly Joe Jones, who would soon be members of Miles's regular quintet. Oscar Pettiford rounds out the quartet recorded here. 


Will You Still Be Mine
One of those tunes I've played many times, but nobody calls the titles so I can hear them, so I never learned a lot of them. Half my reason for writing this post is so I can finally memorize the title: WILL YOU STILL BE MINE.

WILL YOU STILL BE MINE. 

Bright little item, and they play it moderately fast, the tempo is about 256. They cruise through it. 

Form is a long AABA, 56 bars; A sections are 16 bars long, bridge is 8. On the head the last A has a four bar tag.  

Miles solos for two choruses, Garland plays a chorus and a half; Miles finishes his second chorus, then plays another chorus, and solos through the head out, finally playing the tune on the last A only. Pettiford pedals on the first 8 bars of the first two As of the head out.

Jones plays brushes behind Garland's solo; switching back to sticks for Miles to come in in the middle of Garland's second chorus, so I guess that was planned, or Miles signaled he was coming back in, and Joe was on it.

There's no mistaking his cymbal beat, is there? It's dominant on the recording, you don't hear the rest of the drums real well, though his left hand is very active— all his slick stuff is there. He seems more polished with that than players before him. 


I See Your Face Before Me
Lovely ballad I wasn't aware of, they really set a mood here. I'll have to dig up the Johnny Hartman recording of it

32 bars, form is ABAC, tempo 59 beats a minute. Walking ballad, Pettiford plays in 4 on all of it except the first 8 bars of the piano solo, where he plays in 2. They play two choruses total, all Miles except for the first half of the second chorus. Plus there's a four bar piano intro.

Jones is playing with brushes, obviously, mostly lovely long quarter notes, playing the bell of the cymbal with the metal loop especially during the piano solo. Skip note is present in his brush rhythm in a subtle way, and very late, suggesting double time— I think his skip note lands right before Pettiford's attack, and his downbeat right after. He double times the hihat briefly on the end of the C section.  

I Didn't
Cool Miles Davis tune based on Thelonious Monk's Well, You Needn't. I had to look that up, I figured it was based on a show tune, because Miles took it a whole different direction. But you can clearly hear Monk's changes happening on the solos. The title is a hip play on Monk's title. Form is 32 bars, AABA of course, tempo around 272. 8 bars of drums up front. 

At 1:10 you can hear a familiar cue Miles plays on later recordings. I don't know what the deal is with it, but you should recognize it. Like on Four & More Miles sets up Tony Williams's solo with it, and Tony cues the end of his solo with the rhythm figure. 

After the piano solo Miles and Jones do some irregular trading— Miles plays a chorus, gives Joe the bridge, Miles plays the last A; the next chorus they trade 4s, except Miles plays the tune on the last A. Then he solos for another chorus, and again plays the tune on the last A, and they're done.

Jones and Pettiford are kind of brawling in a nice way here— both playing very muscularly, not exactly together. Things don't have to be perfectly in unison to swing. 
 

A Gal In Calico
Kind of a mundane standard. Miles must have heard Ahmad Jamal play it. Maybe there's some interest in it for the horns, I find it a rather insipid, uninteresting tune. 32 bars, tempo is about 186. 

A Night In Tunisia
The centerpiece of the album, which it has to be. The tune is AABA with an interlude; the A sections are six bars Latin / two bars swing, the bridge swings. There's also a shout chorus that frequently gets played over the A sections the last time through, as it is here— I don't know where that originated. Tempo is about 174.  

There's a free time intro by Pettiford, with Jones playing jingle sticks, for a tambourine effect. On the head they do the normal Latin/swing switching thing, on the solos they swing, but it's pulling all kinds of directions. Pettiford's playing very independently at times.

On the solos they just play the AABA form— no interlude. Then they trade fours kind of roughly with Jones for 1 and a half choruses, sketching in the shout chorus line on the A sections. Actually on the last A of the first chorus, Miles plays the whole 8 bars— Jones doesn't get a break there. Then they play the head out from the bridge. The end gets drawn out, they're clearly winging it.


Green Haze 
12 bar blues, tempo about 78 beats per minute. Miles gets composer credit, but there's no tune that I can discern, it's just a blues. 

Piano plays two choruses, then Miles plays four, then Pettiford. Double time feel in 2 on the second chorus of Miles's solo, back to the slow 4 on Pettiford's solo, back to double time on the head out. Jones plays brushes all the way, except he plays time on the cymbal on Miles's solo. Again, his feel suggests double time even while he's playing the slow 4. 

Pettiford is doing hip stuff at the end of the first chorus of piano, and into the second and then third chorus of Miles's solo, where he forces the double time. He's playing like an arranger, and leader. To me he's the star of this record. 


There you go— you'll notice a lot of it simple description of what happened. It's important information, knowing the parameters of what happens when people play, and knowing what's out of the ordinary. You could ask for deeper insight to what they're really doing, beyond he's doing something hip here, but that's on the record, that's not translatable into words. Or if it were it wouldn't be communicable. 

Tuesday, January 02, 2024

Transcription: Ahmad's Blues - fours

Hitting the ground running with this 2024 business, here's Philly Joe Jones trading fours with Red Garland on Ahmad's Blues, from the Miles Davis album Workin'. Joe sounds quite beautiful, hand made, and direct after a couple of days of listening to all that Dave Weckl polish

Tempo is about 118, and the first break is at 4:09.




Note that several of the breaks start with a partial measure— he gets into them before the 1. A lot of them are in double time; swing the 8ths on the first solo, on the rest of them any 8th notes will likely be straight. 

Some other unusual things: in the second break the triplets are played with the left hand, with the grace notes of the flams played with the right. On the 8th break he muffles the drum with his hand— you'll have to figure out a logical way to do that, that gets the sound. I offered a possible sticking on one of the sixtuplets, you could probably use that, or part of it, on many of them.   

Hey, how come I haven't put out a Philly Joe transcriptions e-book to go with all the others


Monday, January 01, 2024

Groove o' the day: Dave Weckl Afro 6

Hey, happy new year— let's roll in 2024 with a snazzy Dave Weckl groove, which inspired some conversation. It's from 1994— hey, 30 years ago now— and Weckl is in his zone. He's been writing a lot, doing big gigs, he's fully world class: 


A lot happening there— so many syncopations that it's hard to get fully oriented. 

Having never heard it before, and me being a smart guy, I made a hasty, crappy guess about it being in an odd meter. On second listen it seemed more clearly to be in 6/8, or 12/8, seemingly based around 3-2 Rumba clave:  


With the first few bars of the track going: 


...incidentally, I believe the hihat part there is played on two sets of cymbals— the regular hihats, and some x-hats on the right. I'm pretty sure the right hand is doing a normal “long” or “short” bell rhythm there, and the left hand filling in the other notes.

David Crigger, an LA pro who has done a ton of stuff, decided that the tune was in 3/2 (the time signature*, not the clave rhythm), with the downbeat an 8th note later:

* - 3/2 time is a time signature with three beats per measure, each a half note long. 3-2 Rumba clave is a Latin rhythm, so called because it's comprised of groupings of three notes and two notes.


So the opening of the track would go: 


It may be hard to hear that, so he made an mp3 with a click giving the 3/2 pulse: 



It actually sits really easily that way— at least for that part of the tune— I just don't think that's what they're doing. I think they're doing an Afro 12/8, and getting cute with it rhythmically. It's part of the nature of this feel that there are cross rhythms other than that of the main “actual” time signature, that are strong enough to plausibly be an alternative time signature. There's a lot going on, a lot of major accents not happening on the 1.  


Those would seem to be totally opposed interpretations, following quite different major pulses, and putting the 1 of each measure an 8th note apart, but they're actually not. 


Notice that the beats in 3/2 time, when added to my transcribed groove in 12/8: 



Are quite similar to 3-2 Rumba clave: 


So if a player were orienting around the clave rhythm, rather than the dotted quarter note beat of the 12/8, they would actually be doing both things— putting the 1 where it obviously seems to be at the beginning of the track, and playing the rest of the major orienting rhythm agreeing with 3/2 time in Crigger's orientation.  

I think that's what's happening. Who knows whether they're observing clave throughout, or if that's just a rhythm he used in writing the main groove for the arrangement. 


Part of the deal here is, it's not difficult to confound even an educated listener— we're not privy to all the information they had making the recording. If you write some ambiguous/deceptive stuff and then don't show people the lead sheet, it's going to be hard for people to figure out what you're doing. Obviously they're all really sharp players, and don't have to put down a lot of auditory markers that are apparent as such without being able to see the chart

So, Weckl: 1, everybody else: 0, I guess...