Sunday, July 14, 2024

Transcription: Steve Gadd Afro 12/8

Here's Steve Gadd playing the whole first part of Full Compass, from George Benson's record Bad Benson— it's a fully arranged thing, with some drum breaks. It's an Afro-feel 12/8, modulating to 4/4 at the end. I could do a lot more with this track, but this is all I have time for today. 

As always we're struck by his incredibly deep time concept and execution— people should be thinking how do I sound that solid

The meter change happens in the middle of the last drum break, with the 8th notes in 12/8 becoming 16th notes in 4/4. The arranged four-8th note rhythm in bars 21-22 sets it up— the accent in that pattern, which is a cross rhythm in 12/8, is the new tempo in 4/4. The real tempo change is 12/8 = ~131 to 4/4 = ~103.   

In measure 18 there is a very Steve Gadd lick, I think I've written the rhythm correctly. Use a LRLR sticking, or go into the videos of him playing and see if he does this anywhere. There's something similar in the video at that link, but the bass drum is placed differently. 

You could learn it by itself as 16th notes in 4/4, or the 12/8 rhythm below, then adjust the timing to sound like what he plays on the recording. The timing of the first two snare notes will match the second thing below: 


Get the pdf

Saturday, July 13, 2024

On weird gigs

Having just played a weird gig, let's talk about weird gigs. The kind gig where everything seems basically in place, but for whatever reason, nothing is happening. There's nothing grossly wrong, but nothing feels right musically, and you don't feel like you're playing your best, to the point that you're doubting your abilities. You don't feel you have any ideas of what to play, or the time doesn't feel great, or you're not communicating well with the other players, or your hands aren't working well. You're not comfortable. 

Whatever the problem, contributing factors could be the sound, the material, another rhythm section player having a weird night. We blame ourselves, but we're not always completely to blame— maybe we're not handling these normal problems very well. We should be working on that, but everybody has limitations.  

First, if you're basically covering the gig, what you're doing is probably fine. If you didn't know what you were trying to do, you'd think you sounded fine. Nobody hears the notes you wanted to play, as the pianist Jasnam Daya Singh told me. I've felt badly about a gig only to have multiple listeners come up to me afterwards, excited about the music. This happened last night. I don't play to get compliments, but you do have to respect it when the audience enjoys what you did. 

Recording more helps. You'll play plenty of sessions where you hate the way you play, but listening to yourself later, after you've forgotten what you were trying to do, you sounded fine. Or good, or great. 

The answer is always to play more— more sessions, more gigs. It helps you to play better, and also to understand and accept that you won't be a genius every minute of your professional life. And that things are probably working better than you think they are. And it helps you recognize when some aspect of the gig is not working well for you. And you get better at dealing with those things, and correcting them, when possible.  

Listening more is good. You have to have something in your ears— melodies, forms, musical energy, percussion sounds and ideas that are inspiring to you. Probably it should be in some way connected to the gig stylistically.

Practicing is good, but practicing hard right before a gig can be a detriment. If you're doing something that puts you in a certain muscular zone, that may not be a useful physical state to be in on that gig. Often if you just walk in without having played, things move easily. Watch out for things that seem to help you play better, on a particular kind of gig, and practice that. What gets you ready for a rock or funk gig may put you in a funny place for a jazz gig. 

Remember what you tried to play that wasn't working on the weird gig, and practice that specifically. Something you thought of to play, but couldn't, is the most important thing to work on— if something comes to you as a musical impulse while playing, you want to be able to fulfill it.  

I write this in the form of advice, as if I have it completely worked it out, but this is really for myself. It's one thing to know it, it's another to be completely accepting and understanding of it. I've talked to people— like 70 years old, ultimate professionals— dealing with it in some capacity, in one circumstance or another. You'd be surprised. Some people are better at detachment than others, or are more naturally confident. Some are just simple people who don't worry about anything. A lot of people will be feeling that way, but will put up a front. It's better to do that, for the sake of their confidence in you— remember, you probably sounded fine.     

The best thing you can do, possibly, when this is happening, is scale back your ambitions. Maybe you don't have a lot of percussion to offer to the music tonight, but you can do the job. There are lots of great records out there like that, that are not loaded with big percussion statements. Play what you can, relax, probably some openings will present themselves and you can surprise people by being a genius then.   

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Very occasional quote of the day: movies

“[T]here is so much to love in movies be­sides great moviemaking.” 

- Pauline Kael, Movie Love

Kael was a movie reviewer for the New Yorker magazine through the 70s and 80s. I think most of her books are out of print, but you can read them online here. I still keep a falling-apart copy of 5001 Nights At The Movies from ~1985 by my bed. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Jazz waltz telephone - 01

This is a writing experiment, starting with a jazz waltz cymbal rhythm with triplets filled in, changing one note per measure— or two notes. The cymbal rhythm stays the same, and bass drum is added, but no hihat. Everything here is handled in different materials already, I just like coming at things from different angles. This will be useful for at least one student of mine.

Play one measure at a time, then complete lines, then the full page. You could also alternate measures, say, the first measure of line 1 combined with every other measure on the page. Pencil in hihat rhythms if you want. 

UPDATE: This is actually good. This is what anybody should be playing when they sit down to do this kind of thing, and for about the amount of time it plays through the page, playing around with each measure a little bit. The hidden thing with all the one measure drum patterns out there is that you're supposed to play it for a long time, and make some variations on it. So materials that trick you into doing those things = good.    

Get the pdf

Sunday, July 07, 2024

Drum lesson with Murray Spivack

Here's a rare thing, a famous drum teacher, Murray Spivack, giving a drum lesson to Louis Bellson: 

The portion with Spivack is dedicated to basic stuff: holding the sticks, making basic strokes, and playing rudiments. 

I think Louis Bellson was a lot more influential on drumming— via the clinics he used to do in the 60s/70s— than he gets credit for, and a lot of this technique style filtered down to me as a student in the 80s, via a number of people. 

It's interesting that in my playing, I've need to work out some things that are contrary to this technique; at least I needed some other things in addition to it. Doing every stroke as an up-down, for example, has you stopping the rebound at the end of every stroke, or double stroke, and puts the top of the stroke— which determines how loud you're going to play— in an undefined kinetic area, where you are only for an instant. 

When working on pure technique, I am more down-up oriented now, which makes for better dynamic control. And instead of practicing stopping the stick down low after each stroke, we're practicing getting ready for the next note quickly, which can't but help your speed. Also, generally, this whole approach frontloads each stroke with a lot of extra stuff between the beginning of the movement, and the bead actually striking the drum, all of which affects timing— having to lift the stick before playing a note, and leading the stroke with the arch of your articulated wrist, with the bead of the stick trailing that. It's not inconsequential— in drum corps, we had to train to get a precisely timed attack when starting the stroke with a lift. 

Clearly a lot of great players have used this technique, and it has worked well for them. As an excellent professional drummer using a similar technique, I found myself needing some things not directly addressed by it.    

There are some other small, interesting things: Spivack singing a Flam Accent #1 starting with a pick up. And when Bellson demonstrates double strokes slow to fast, or “open to closed”, in old terminology, at the fast end his roll becomes multiple bounce. Which was always my understanding of the term closed, but I've never seen that actual change in stroke type done in practice. My teachers all taught open (meaning double strokes) and closed (meaning multiple bounce) rolls as different things, not as a continuum depending on how fast you're playing. In fact Spivack does correct him on that, asking him to play his doubles more open, and not switch to a multiple bounce roll. 

It's very cool to hear from somebody who was an active drumming professional as early as Spivack was. I'll be looking through Stone's Technique of Percussion to see if there's an early mention of him. 

[h/t to Buddhadrummer @ DW]

Saturday, July 06, 2024

Transcription: Dannie Richmond - Straight, No Chaser

For my man Michael Griener in Berlin, some more Dannie Richmond, this time with Bennie Wallace, playing Straight No Chaser, by Thelonious Monk of course. From the 1981 album Bennie Wallace Plays Monk, on the Enja label. I transcribed the section where he plays duo with Wallace.

His playing here is very similar to some things we talk about on the site— you can see here what I meant calling him a modern player, in a way that clearly evolved on the gig, a la Roy Haynes or Mel Lewis, rather than in the practice room. 

It's a good natural example of the right hand lead thing, or “non-independent” playing— driven by the cymbal and bass drum, in broken, syncopated rhythms, with the snare drum filling in. Contrast that with a real grounded bebop kind of playing, with a steady cymbal and hihat rhythm, independent left hand, with bass drum feathering and making punctuations.   

Generally he'll lean into beats 2 and 4, often ending measures and phrases on the & of 4, rarely landing strongly on the 1. A lot of it is phrased in syncopated three beat ideas, usually contained within two measure phrases. 

The transcription begins at 2:35 in the track, and they play five 12-bar choruses before the band comes back in. The tempo is quarter note = 238—  a number deserving of some kind of special status, because I see it a lot. Seems to be about the bottom fast tempo. A good first number to have in mind when learning to play faster tempos.  

I notated three cymbals here, but it hardly matters. There is probably more snare drum activity than I was able to hear— he plays it very softly at times. It's also hard to hear the hihat for much of it, and I gave up on including it part way in. Where I did write it, it seems significant to the way he's phrasing that passage. 

I may do some further analysis of this— there are clearly some emergent rubadub type patterns in there, and some kind of Reed system to be gleaned from it.   

Get the pdf

Thursday, July 04, 2024

Very occasional quote of the day: play what you hear

“Play what you hear, and if you can't play it, then practice it.”

- Barry Altschul, Modern Drummer interview by Rick Mattingly, November, 1982

Periodic reminder that, creatively, the fundamental equation is real simple. Of course, if you don't hear anything, you have to get some stuff in your ear by listening to records and seeing people play. 

Wednesday, July 03, 2024

16th note reading boot camp

Plotting out an intensive couple of lessons with a younger student, who has been doing extremely well with his playing the past year, but who is deficient reading 16th note rhythms. It's not unexpected that there be some gaps. When you're young you learn a lot really fast, largely from the actual playing you do, and may not keep up so well with things requiring deliberate study. And the way I teach, I don't force things on people that they're not ready to get into. 

For a normal 14 year old he's about on schedule for getting this together. I'll be spending a pretty rigorous couple of hours with him on the subject to get him up to speed:

First, just speaking the syllables counting the major single beat combinations of 8th notes and 16th notes, apart from reading them on the page. Including ghosting counts for rests— e.g., with a 16th rest at the beginning, 1e& becomes (w)e&. He is already good at this. 


Part of becoming functional in reading is simply recognizing a symbol or a one-beat group of symbols as representing a particular counted rhythm. That's mostly how reading is done, at first: people don't fractionally add their way through music, they look at one-beat symbols. 

Looking at the rhythms below, people can recognize that that's a 1e&, that's a 1-a, without actually knowing the values and accounting for each note of it. Which is why people will often mistake the 1e& rhythm for the similar looking 1-&a rhythm.   

When speaking the counts for these rhythms, say them with their proper spacing. Some students will say 1e&, 1-&a, or 1e-a, and space all the syllables evenly— they need to be spaced like the rhythm is played, even in conversation. 

The linear mathematics
Understanding the actual math of how a measure of music progresses, in linear order, from symbol to symbol: based on the value and placement of the current note, what is the count of the next note?

For example, in 4/4 time, a quarter note on beat 1 will be followed with something on beat 2— whatever kind of note or rest it is, it's happening on 2. An 8th rest on any downbeat will be followed by something on the &. A 16th note on the & will be followed by something on the a.  

For this we will be penciling in the counts for every single note or rest on the page. Using a throwaway printed page— not in the book or on the actual practice page. In his normal practicing, I don't want the counts written in. 

Once it's clear he's solid accounting for every single symbol in the measure, we'll do a little bit just putting in beat marks:

The person
Communication is a bitch. Everyone brings their own set of issues to the lesson, and is reprocessing the stuff you tell them their own way. You have to pay attention to your words, and to the person. There are a lot of ways to do it wrong. You don't want to lose the person— by bombarding them with detail, or by not making it easy enough... or by not making the easiness of it obvious to them. People overthink, and will look for a hard answer even when you give them a very clear, simple request or problem. 

You can also craft a lesson that progresses well, with easy steps, but they may also be impatient with that— with the easiness of it. They may have a strong urge to lunge right to the thing they can't do at all, and then give up because it's too hard. That's part of the problem for this student, I believe. He's already good with direct application of rhythm, and likely feels the reading is a hindrance.


I'll be using:

Syncopation - As briefly as possible, the 16th notes materials in it are boring and formulaic, but good for a specific state of learning them.  

New Breed -  Although it's not a real friendly environment for this student, the pages are well written, and in an engraving style I approve of. 

Funky Primer -  There's a good short 16th note rhythm summary at the beginning. 

Elementary Snare Drum Studies by Mitchell Peters - This has the best overall rhythm summary I've seen, with all ordinary 8th note/16th note rhythms, each written a variety of common ways. See the copied examples above.  

Reading Text in 4/4 by Louis Bellson - For the pencil and paper practice. I'll have him write in the counted syllables for each note or rest on the page. I've already given the reasons I don't like this book for regular practicing. Even for this it's barely useful to me.

Tuesday, July 02, 2024

Daily best music in the world: Dannie Richmond with Don Pullen / George Adams

Title track from Earth Beams, a great record by George Adams & Don Pullen, with Dannie Richmond on the drums— all three are Charles Mingus band alumni. Richmond was a key partner in that relationship for a long time, and is one of my favorite drummers. 

This is really fundamental to what a jazz musician is— the groundedness in blues, the way they handle the jazz musical environment. Not about chops, or even pure groove— in the details the time and rhythm can be a little squishy, though the overall feeling of drive is there, and overwhelming. You can tell players who just live in that playing environment. Polish is not the point.    

Here's another one, a gospel 5/4, which you didn't even know was a thing. It's so deep it took me a minute to realize they were playing in 5. 

This is what anyone would call modern playing, but it's defiant to analysis— by me, anyway. I can't approach it looking for vocabulary. The point is the total playing entity.   

Monday, July 01, 2024

One measure 5/4 triplet fills with Reed!

Another one of my hack and slash jobs. This is something I improvised in a lesson— a student is working on some of the Pages o' Coordination in 5/4, based on an Elvin Jones groove, and we made some fills using the accented triplet pages from Syncopation, alternating between one measure of groove, one measure of fill. There's a good way of handling triplet stickings so you always come out on the right hand here, in whatever time signature. 

First, we'll be using the accented triplet pages from Syncopation, putting them into 5/4 time, playing the first five beats of each line, repeating, as I've brutally scribbled in here: 

Here are all the one line exercises copied and pasted in into 5/4, jammed onto one page: 

Get the pdf - Reed accented triplets in 5/4. There is another pdf to download below. 

On the drum set, the accented notes are played on a cymbal, with the right hand, supported by the bass drum, and the unaccented notes are played on the snare drum— and later moved around the drums. 

To get the cymbal notes onto the right hand, and to get in and out of the fill easily, we had to use some different stickings. Following some simple-ish rules:

All cymbal notes played with RH 

All snare notes start with LH: 

1-2 notes on SD: LH only
3 notes on SD: alternate - LRL
4 notes on SD: LH paradiddle or inversion: LRLL, LRRL
5 notes: alternate - LRLRL
6 notes: LH double paradiddle or inverion: LRLRLL, LRRLRL 
7 notes: alternate - LRLRLRL
8 notes: LH triple paradiddle or inversion: LRLRLRLL, LRRLRLRL

You get the picture:

•  odd number of SD notes = alternate
•  even number = alternate with LL double at end, or RR double after first note 

I prefer the second type of paradiddle sticking, but there are good reasons to do either. The timing of the next cymbal accent may influence what feels best to somebody. 

This page illustrates all the above possibilities, in the two-measure phrase I described:

When the fill begins with snare drum, you can add bass drum to the last note of the groove measure— to begin the fill more strongly. 

Get the pdf - Reed triplet patterns as fill with Elvin Jones groove