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.  

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