Monday, June 10, 2024

YouTube solo analyzed

Elaborating on a question I answered on a forum— someone was asking about the playing in the video below. Here is a little bit of analysis of it, and some suggestions about how you should proceed in learning to play like this.  

The drummer sent a transcription of part of this, written as 16th notes in 6/8 time, but it's plainly in 3/4 time. 

Here is the main groove, played after the short little intro fill. He's improvising, it's not played as a strictly repeating thing. 

And the same thing written in 6/8:

To be 6/8, it has to be stated somewhere— either in the drumming or in the context. Maybe he was getting it from the metronome, and playing off of it. If so, we don't hear it, all we have is his drumming, which, with the dotted 8th/16th BD rhythm at the beginning, and SD backbeat on 3, clearly states 3/4. Both those things are contrary to stating 6/8— they're suggestive of a cross rhythm. 

The form is an 8 measure phrase, with fills every two bars, and a long fill at the end of the phrase. Longer fills come more frequently towards the end of the video. The bass drum rhythm at the beginning of the measure is the major unifying thing throughout it. 

The solo activity is mostly alternating singles, with a lot of hand movement— with both hands— and embellishments. There is some right hand lead activity— or you could call them mixed diddle stickings. And a little bit of hands in unison. And a little bit of linear activity with the bass drum, a few single notes inserted in the ongoing 16th texture. There are a few spots where he plays with rhythm a little bit, and he plays across the barline on the longer fills, often leaving some space in the first measure of the new phrase. 

To copy this way of playing, you can't get caught up in the particulars. There are a number of general things (“skills”, I guess) you would have to be fluent improvising with: 

1. Learn the basic groove as above. I've written it as a linear pattern, which is what he plays there, but much of the time he just plays alternating 16ths there. Which fits with the linear pattern, which uses natural sticking.

2. Play alternating 16th notes in 3
, moving both hands around the drums, and cymbals. Open ended, practicing the movements. Play over the bass drum rhythm, or add bass drum later.

3. Add dynamics
— accents, crescendo/decrescendo. These should follow naturally from the hand movements. You would have to be reasonably fluent with making accents just on a practice pad, reading snare drum solos or exercises. 

4. Add embellishments
, broad fill ideas:

  • Short 32nd note singles— three notes or five notes
  • 16th triplets, one or two
  • Mixed 16th stickings— diddles, RH lead
  • Flammed 16ths— adding one flam to the ongoing alternating texture
  • Solo rhythm with both hands in unison on snare and cymbal

5. Starting and ending fills
— fills start loosely, part of the continuing alternating 16ths of the groove. Fills ending with a cymbal accent usually end on the 1, or on the a of 3. Or the & of 3, or on 3. There is one spot where he ends with two crashes, on the a of 3 and & of 1.   

6. Add space
— usually that comes after the big phrase ending cymbal accent on 1, or near the 1. The groove returns in the middle of the measure, after a short rest. 

7. Figure out the funny rhythmic things
he does early in the solo: 

  • At 0:28 he plays two cym/SD accents with bass drum in between. Clue: the first note falls on the a of the beat, the second two fall on the last two partials of an 8th note triplet. 
  • At 0:30 he plays something between the snare and high tom. You could get there by fooling around with an 8th note quintuplet, plus some very wide flams. Starting off a downbeat and ending before a downbeat.
  • Everything else falls on a 16th grid, except for the obvious 16th note triplets. 

He gets his left hand onto the cymbals enough that it gives the illusion of switching leads, or playing “open handed” or whatever. But the whole thing leads with the right. Just hitting a cymbal with your left hand doesn't change that. 

This is the level you have to deal with things to improvise— broad fluency with basic things. You can't get too hung up in specifics. A transcription would clarify a few things, but the incidental details would obscure what's important. Which is: this is fundamentally pretty simple. 

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