Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Transcription: Jeff Watts - Housed From Edward - 02

Part two of Branford Marsalis's Housed From Edward, from the album Trio Jeepy, with Jeff Watts on drums. Let's do the whole thing. This begins at the top of Marsalis's solo, at 1:27. 

Most of the action is on the second page, enjoy. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Embellishing Chaffee

This is why I can't get anything done, when I sit down to practice somethingpractice something I'll get two patterns in, and get involved in developing them as playing ideas, working out how to use them as part of a continuity. It's a different thing from playing a page of stuff like a drill. 

I'm not just fooling around, it's a legitimate way to practice. But it's not great if the goal is to have a total, 100% worked out and polished body of stuff, as packaged by Gary Chaffee, or me, or whoever.  

Anyway: some embellishments to try when practicing the Chaffee linear patterns and phrases me-style, playing a single pattern/phrase and developing it:

These all suggest other possibilities, which may work better for you. Try some things. 

Get the pdf [WORKING!]

Monday, July 22, 2024

Transcription: Jeff Watts - Housed From Edward - 01

Trio Jeepy by Branford Marsalis is a long time favorite album of mine, that was very influential on my concept of jazz. It's got Jeff Watts on drums and Milt Hinton on bass. This tune Housed From Edward was a big lesson on playing a form musically— 12 bar blues, in this case. 

This is the middle part, beginning at 5:15, where Branford takes a hike and Watts and Hinton play time— very lyrically— for several choruses. Tempo is about 122. 

Not much to say, the lesson is self-evident. There appear to be a lot of other transcriptions of this floating around— with videos of people playing them. 

Sunday, July 21, 2024

Playing Bellson

Here's a video I made yesterday— there was a slight online mishegoss over me not liking the Reading Text In 4/4, by Louis Bellson, and it was requested that prove myself by playing one of the harder pages in it: 

I played a lot of things of this level of difficulty, and harder, as a student, via the usual snare drum books, but don't normally practice this kind of thing now. For reading difficulty, this isn't the most egregious page in the book, but there are several measures of it that are offensively written, with quarter notes (including dotted) placed on the & of 2 in several spots— that is only acceptable/correct in a couple of special contexts. 

I practiced it for about 20 minutes, put in beat marks on the more wrongly notated measures, then made the video— this was the second take. Tempo is about 90 bpm. 

Let's analyze/critique it like I would somebody else's video:

Accuracy there is 100%, and my time is solid— there's no metronome or anything. I am guessing at the timing of the quarter note triplet— if I was reading ahead better, and practiced the page a little more, I would anticipate it better and have better awareness of where beat 2 falls during that rhythm. Still, the timing is tolerably accurate, I don't believe I would be dinged for that. I'm a little bit seat of the pants in lines 7 and 8— the time flexes just enough to not be purely metronomic, but I don't legitimately drag. For all musical purposes it ends at exactly the same tempo as it started. 

With my touch, I don't think I'll be mistaken for a concert snare drummer. It's a good touch— I don't play hard— but it's a percussive touch, it doesn't scream concert snare drum musicality at you. That's a pretty strong concert f all the way through. If I were preparing this piece further, I would be looking to add some dynamic motion, if not actual dynamic markings. The phrases should feel like they're going somewhere, even when played at the same dynamic level. The writing here is not conducive to doing that automatically. I don't find it easy to make music out of this piece.   

My whole issue with the Bellson book, of course, is that it doesn't work well for what I want to practice on the drum set, which is my main purpose for that kind of book. I have a half dozen similar books I also do not use. Even with Syncopation, which I use all the time, I'll rewrite things, mark it up, and write new stuff to fill in the gaps in it. For the type thing in this video, I'll use any of 6-8 regular snare drum books.  

Saturday, July 20, 2024

Chaffee linear phrases - beginning with LH double

Getting back into Gary Chaffee's linear materials a little bit— originally outlined in the Time Functioning volume of his Patterns series of books. Since first working on this system as a student, it has been a little problem fitting the patterns into a regular musical phrase. That's what we do here, write up solutions to things that kind of bugged me 35 years ago. 

So here are some fill phrases in 4/4, beginning with a cymbal accent on 1, a double left on the e&, with the linear phrase beginning on the a of the beat. That's a natural entry. 

We have a choice with these: on the phrases ending with two bass drum notes— which makes three in a row including the 1 of the repeat— you can play that as a single 8th notes. That will be more playable for more people.  

Once you've learned a pattern repetitively, play it as a fill during a regular funk phrase, move your hands around the drums, and have a good time. 

Get the pdf

Thursday, July 18, 2024

Reed tweak: RH lead with single cym / flam

Yet another right hand lead Reed tweak— YART, or YARHLRT, for short. It's a little convoluted, but works out a slightly different thing from the other systems/tweaks we've done, and I think it's worthwhile. 

The plain straight 8th right hand lead system involves playing the melody rhythm from Syncopation on a cymbal* with the right hand, with the bass drum in unison, while filling in the spaces with the left hand on the snare drum, to make a full measure of 8th notes. 
* - You can also play the right hand on the toms, with no bass drum— most of my systems are written for the cym/BD way. 
Here, where there are two or more melody notes in a row, we'll hit the cymbal on the first note only, with the bass drum playing the full melody rhythm. We'll also add some flams. Play these warmups to get a feel for the kind of movement that creates:

Taking it in steps, here is how the first three lines of p. 38 in Syncopation would be played, with cymbal on the first note of any run of bass drum notes: 

Then add a flam right after each last unaccompanied bass drum note: 

Before, we added a flam at the end of the runs of multiple lefts, and there are several spots where we can do that in this system: 

Sight reading that gets a little silly, so you might just want to work out some one line exercises, and the p. 38 exercise. [UPDATE: Having played it a little more, it's not that bad, just do it.] 

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

You should get drum lessons from me

Making my periodic public observance that I don't get enough drum students through this site. 

I know everybody doesn't instantly get everything I post on here. And I know people are overloaded with information about how they should be focusing their practice lives— you could spend the rest of your life working things alleged to be “crucial” by some youtuber, and still never get to a satisfactory place with your drumming and music making. 

It's not about getting more information, it's about talking to somebody like me, who can figure out where you, an individual person, need work, and who can tell you what to do now to take where you want to go. 

Hopefully by now it's clear that I cater to all levels of players. I'm actually most interested in people who are having difficulties. This instrument is playable in a creative, controlled, musical way, by anyone— proportionate with their ambitions, and the time they have to dedicate to it. 

I'm not offering a special or anything— the special is, I show you how to do this, in a way you will find very rewarding, I believe. Shoot me a note— over there in the sidebar, it says “Email Todd.” Lay it on me, let's do something. -tb

Triplet burnout with the jazz waltz telephone page

Here are some things I do over the course of 15-20 minutes playing that jazz waltz telephone page, in addition to just playing repeating measures as written, in 3/4 time: 

1. Play each measure in 4/4 by adding the first beat of the following measure. 
2. Play each measure in 4/4 by adding the last beat of the previous measure.
3. Play in 2/4 by playing just the first two beats of each measure.
4. Play in 5/4 by adding the first two beats of the next measure. 
5. Play each two beats of each line, moving ahead one beat at a time. 
6. Play each 3/4 measure within 4/4 time. 


The page is just for illustration, you do these looking at the original page. I won't necessarily rigorously play through the entire page each of those ways, but I'll do them for awhile, moving quickly from thing to thing— it's a lot to play through. Obviously you have to have this stuff together already pretty thoroughly, so it's about conditioning, rather than learning new stuff. It's a triplet burnout drill. 

I play the cymbal as written through all of those changes, and add hihat as appropriate for the time signature. 

Get the pdf

Monday, July 15, 2024

That Steve Gadd lick

More on that Steve Gadd lick from the Full Compass transcription. It's essentially a familiar kind of four note tom ruff ending on the beat with the bass drum, with an extra snare drum note in unison with the bass. Sticking is LRLR. I'll try to add some video to this post in the next couple of days. 

Here's how it appears in the transcription, measure 18: 

The rhythm is unusual, and the best way to get it might be to play it in some more easily quantifiable rhythms, and then finesse timing to match Gadd's rhythm— or whatever sounds good to you. The other rhythms are also perfectly valid themselves. 

Line 7 is the rhythm as I transcribed it. When you're playing it correctly, you'll notice the snare drum is sounding the rhythm on line 6. The snare in line 5 will have the same timing, but with the ruff timed more tightly than in the finished rhythm.

Line 4 is the nearest neighbor of the finished lick; once you can play it, you can adjust the timing of the two snare drum hits to match line 6. Line 3 starts with a double left to help get the timing of the quintuplet. 

The tempo on the recording is 131, so work these up to that speed at least— 131 = dotted quarter note in 12/8, quarter note in 4/4. You may find it easiest to finesse the final rhythm playing faster— the timing adjustment will be smaller.  

It may help to prepare to play just the ruff, as on the bottom line, without the snare in unison with the bass.

Incidentally: you'll notice the rhythm, with a triplet played over the last two partials of another triplet— or the last two partials of a beat of compound 8th notes— is similar to a samba “tripteenth” rhythm, which has a triplet played over the first two partials of another triplet. It's a worthwhile area of “organic” rhythm to explore. 

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. Also visit the following link, where I've described how to work it up.  

 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... both emotionally, and in our actual playing. We should be working on that, but everybody has limits to when they're going to feel good and play well (or feel that they're playing well).   

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 but didn't, as the pianist Jasnam Daya Singh told me. I've felt badly about a gig only to have listeners come up to me afterwards, excited about the music. This happened last night. I don't play to get compliments, but you have to respect it when the audience enjoys what you did.  

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.  

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. So you proceed more on faith, when necessary. 

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— remembering that 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

Sunday, June 30, 2024

Very occasional quote of the day: productivity

If people saw the way I lived, they'd realize that I spend a huge amount of time just relaxing and goofing off, watching baseball on television, going to movies, taking walks, playing jazz, and practicing my clarinet. I don't work around the clock at all.

How productive is my output? A film every year at most, probably even a little longer than that, and occasional magazine pieces and that's really it. It's not all that much work. If you work only three to five hours a day, you become quite productive. It's the steadiness of it that counts. Getting to the typewriter every day is what makes for productivity.

- Woody Allen, interview with Robert F. Moss, Saturday Review, 1980

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Transcription: Chester Thompson - Gibraltar

Here's Chester Thompson playing on the tune Gibraltar, an extended groove number on the Weather Report album Black Market. The first thing I ever transcribed was Chester Thompson playing with Genesis, and I associate him with the kind of vibe there— very clean, professional, and deliberate. Here he sounds looser. 

This starts at 1:19, where the groove comes in— I bailed out just as he gets into a rather difficult to notate hihat groove— he's playing the hats while moving his foot a lot, resulting in a lot of irregular open sounds. Listen to the whole thing, it's pretty smoking by the end— and harder to separate the drums from the percussion to transcribe it. 

His backbeats and accents on the snare drum are played very strong, as rim shots. His left foot is pretty consistently playing 8th notes, though they're not always sounding real clearly— I didn't notate them. 

Get the pdf

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

How to stop - 01

Kind of a mundane item here— a multi-parter, believe it or not— mainly for teachers, about handling ordinary materials in a more real-life musical way, including how to stop in the conversation. Younger students and novices who haven't done much real playing will often end a practice pattern weakly, petering out.   

How to do it isn't spelled out in drumming materials, which are often written as repeating single measure patterns. They're incomplete statements by themselves— the last note of the measure is usually not the true end of the idea. 

Ending this rock beat this way, for example, makes no musical sense: 

Breaking from a groove with that hanging hihat note is not going to happen in real music— except maybe as an arrangement device simulating a digital edit. The pattern is completed on the 1— the 1 is the beginning of the pattern, and also the end:  

A beat pattern with a bass drum or snare drum on the & of 4 is more complete on its last note— played as an accent the last time: 

You could practice breaking a number of places in the pattern, in fact: 

Or put on another ending altogether, regardless of what's happening in the written beat: 

Usually this gets worked out in the course of doing some real playing, but there's no reason not to include it in regular practicing in preparation for that. I introduce this after students are comfortable playing basic beats, and are ready to begin thinking about orchestration and fills. 

Monday, June 24, 2024

Very occasional quote of the day: Grady Tate on reading

“I never dealt with drum music as such, because ninety-five percent of it had nothing to do with what's happening in the band. So many people have destroyed their careers by reading exactly what's written for them.

My thing in recording is to look at the music, listen to what's being done instrumentally, and see what elements of that drum music fit with what's going down with the other instruments.”

- Grady Tate, Modern Drummer interview, June 2001

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Open handed redux

This but just me looking like an A-hole
This is a long one. This is what happens every time the subject of “open handed” drumming is raised online— a kind of church revival of drumming wrongness forms. 

It's why I have a blog, so I can correct rafts of grossly wrong things said about drumming, without having to fight every single person I see. Remember the “Crazy 88s” fight in Kill Bill? It'd be like that, except the end result is that I just look like kind of an A-hole. 

So here we have a forum question from someone experiencing problems playing open-handed— they're playing left handed on a right handed drum set— greatly edited for length:

Been playing off and on for four years— open-handed, which felt natural. I hit random hard brick walls with my playing and thought it was due to the following:

Left hand = weaker/slower/less endurance. Fingers don't have finesse. 

My body wants to lead with the right and I'd struggle with getting back to the groove unless I lead with my left. [Unclear to me what this means. -tb]

I felt I should be further along, so I got a teacher this year, who let me continue playing open. Then I was struggling with some parts to songs I'm learning, and he suggested trying playing crossed. [That's what open-handed people call playing right handed on a right handed set. -tb] and I have been. 

I suck at it. It feels like I'm starting over. I feel clumsy, sticks are clashing, dropping sticks, etc. My teacher advised me to take it SLOW and basically build myself back up. It has been humbling.

I'm getting bummed out. Feels like I ran 7 miles down the wrong path. Part of me is like, "if you keep strengthening that left hand and working on left hand leads you can do it" and the other part is like "if you just learn to play cross you'll probably blow past those barriers that were originally giving you issues in the first place".

Clearly, he's struggling with some fundamentals— his cymbal hand, which should be his most practiced hand by now, is weak. That his teacher, who wasn't against him playing open-handed, suggested that he switch to playing normal right handed drums, suggests to me that his playing is in such a rough state that making such a big change doesn't matter— he was going to have to rebuild the student's playing from scratch anyway. That was the situation when I made the same recommendation to a couple of students.     

He unknowingly created a difficult situation for himself, playing open handed and trying to copy things played by people who weren't playing that way. He'll have to make up a lot of one-off solutions to play things that were part of a natural flow for the person he's copying. We've replaced a naturalistic approach with a contrived one.  

On the forum where the question was posted, people were quick to give a lot of beliefs framed as definitive answers. Most of them should have been phrased as questions, like is my thinking about this right? Here I'm going to treat them as questions. I have seen all the major points below again and again, suggesting they're sources of confusion for a lot people. 

Let's put all of that below a page break— it really does go on awhile...

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Syncopation Ex. 1 - modified for speed

Another one of my cut and paste jobs, this time inflicted on Syncopation Exercise 1, from Reed. P. 37 or 38, depending on the edition. I've modified it so there are no more than two 8th note spaced notes or rests at a time. I've written some other things with that limitation. It's good for speed, with many practice systems— right hand lead especially. 

Enjoy. There is no pdf, you'll have to print it from the image above. 

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Andy Newmark's set up

Pilfered from a Modern Drummer interview in 1984, here is Andy Newmark talking about his drumming set up. He's a session drummer, and was real active in the 70s and 80s especially. I excerpted some more of this interview in 2011, and it is highly worth reading.

Everyone won't agree with every single one of the following decisions, but we get a real clear picture of his thinking about it:

 A four-piece drumset tends to make me play more groove conscious. Ninety-five percent of the time, I'm playing only hihat, snare and bass drum. So by not having too many other options around me, it keeps my approach more groove oriented.

I always had a problem having a second mounted tom-tom, because it never allowed me to place my ride cymbal exactly where I wanted it. I had to put my cymbal up higher and further to the right of the drum, and that's not where I like to play my ride cymbal. So by not having that tom-tom there, I actually get to have my ride cymbal in the most comfortable place for me to play it.

I also don't feel the need to play fills with lots of drums. I don't put down those who do it, but a couple of extra tom-toms tuned to various notes just don't do that much for me. I think it sounds great when other people do it, but I don't like the sound so much that I want to crowd my drumset with more toms. 

I like what happens to me when I play a real basic drumkit, because it alters my approach, as it would any drummer. You have to work within limitations, and when you put governors around yourself, trying to extract the most out of a little is a big challenge. Pop music is the same three or four chords over and over again, and the challenge is to find a new way to play those three or four chords and get something new out of it. It's the same idea with getting the most out of a little drumset as opposed to having lots of drums.

An aside: I don't see a smaller set up as a limitation to begin with. Playing pop, rock, R&B, whatever, having many gradations of tom tom and cymbal sounds is not a tremendous musical advantage; having the major categories of sound— high tom, low tom, crash, ride— within easy reach is

Also, I might add, in the studio, engineers get off on a small drumkit immensely, because it's a much more easily controlled sound. There's less spill into other microphones. It's a tighter drum sound and much easier to work with.

I play a Yamaha kit. I have a 24" bass drum for a big sound—I have a very, very heavy foot. A big part of my sound is the bass drum. I have an 12" tom-tom mounted on the bass drum, and I have a 16" floor tom. I also have a 13" tom-tom, which I sometimes will use in place of the 8 x 12, depending on what I'm doing.

Generally I lean towards the 12 , because I get a high note from it. If I'm only going to have two drums, I like a big difference in pitch, so I've got high and real low.

I have the Recording series, and I also have the same kit in the Tour series. I have a Yamaha snare drum, which is 5 1/2 x 14. I've never been able to play snare drums deeper than the regular depth of 5 1/2".

When I play live, I tune the snare drum real tight, and 99% of the time, every time I hit it, it's a rimshot, because it gives me a lot more volume and cuts through anything. With a deeper drum, I seem to lose that real sharp crack that I can get out of a 5 1/2" drum, which is a very fast response and very piercing. With a deeper drum, I tend to get a mushier sound.

I tune my snare drum tight for a high-pitched crack. It's not tuned to any kind of note. In fact, if you hit the drum softly, it won't sound very good, but if you hit it at the volume I hit it at, it works on stage. In the studio, I tune it way down and usually put a little piece of tape or a little Kleenex or something on the side just to take some of the ring out.

With the toms, I tune both sides identically, so that if I hit the top of the drum or the bottom, it's the exact same pitch. There would be no right or wrong side to hit—they're tuned the same. I tune the floor tom to the lowest possible note before the sound starts to distort and buzz from being too loose. With the mounted tom-tom, I look for the note that will ring the longest. I like the toms to resonate for the full life of the drum. So I find the note that will ring the longest on the high tom.

That's usually not its lowest note and certainly not its highest note. It's the place where the note seems to go on for the longest amount of time. I don't put any muffling on the tom-toms. I like them to be very natural and have their own decay.

The bass drum is not tuned to anything. The head is very flat. There's no pitch at all because I have a blanket inside. So I tune it down as low as I can before the head actually starts to wrinkle, and then I'll go up half a turn on each lug to take it out of that area.

I guess you can say, in the toms I look for a note that has a life to it and a ring and a decay. The bass drum and the snare drum are noteless—it's a "thump" and a "crack." I want a thump that hits me in my gut. Hopefully, people fall over if they walk in front of the bass drum when I hit it—their knees crack or demolecularize.

The cymbals are Zildjians. I use one 20" ride cymbal. I have a K., and I also have an A.—I switch back and forth. I use two crash cymbals: one over the little tom and one over the floor tom. Those two cymbals could be any combination of 16", 17", and 18", depending on the music I'm playing.

The hi-hat cymbals are the smallest that Zildjian makes—they're 13" New Beats. All of my cymbals are high pitched. The crashes are all bright, very high ended and die away very quickly—a quick explosion and it's gone. The hi-hats are small so that I get a very high-pitched "tick." The ride cymbal is also high pitched. I like to get a "ping" that is distinct so that each beat is distinguished. I find that with a lot of cymbals, if I start riding on them, they just turn into a big wash. Something else I should add is that I don't use the ride cymbal a lot because there's so much more definition in the hi-hat as far as keeping a rhythm section locked into something. The hi-hat is much more deliberate. If I do play the ride cymbal, I very rarely play in the middle or on the edge. I always play on the bell, because the bell cuts through.

For sticks I use Regal 5A wooden tip because I think that wood is more natural than nylon. When I'm playing the snare drum, I play with the back end of the stick, because it makes it fatter and bigger. I feel I'm getting more of the meat of the stick into the drum, and if you ever watch me play, you'll see that I'm often flipping the sticks; it's become a completely involuntary action now. I use the proper end of the stick on the hi-hat, but when I go to the cymbal, I usually use the back end of the stick because I get more volume out of the bell using the back end. So if you see me play, you often see the stick being flipped around depending on whether I'm coming back to the hi-hat or going up to the cymbal. 

When I play matched grip, I tend to use the back end of the stick also. If I'm playing my left hand in a legitimate [traditional] grip, then I use the proper end of the stick on the drum.

There's a mentality that's woven through all that I've talked about, and that is that there's nothing in the middle in my drumset. It's either super low or super high—super bottom or super top. Everything cuts through the band. The bass drum and the floor tom are like volcanoes. The high tom is high, like a timbale. It cuts. The snare drum is a high-pitched crack, and all my cymbals are high, quick explosions. The hi-hat has definition, just by the nature of it. And when I play the ride cymbal, it's on the bell because the bell has much more punch to it. So there is an attitude here that shows through the whole drumkit, and that is that every note on the kit is designed to have an impact. There's no middle-of-the-road in the drumset.

Another aside: Note that even within that philosophy of very high and very low sounds, we are still using normal-size drums— 12 and 16" toms, 24" bass drum. 16-18"crash, 20" ride, 13" hihats. A lot of players now would be inclined to take that further, into extreme ranges, where we begin losing the normal tonal functionality of the sounds.  

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. 

Sunday, June 09, 2024

Transcription: Charli Persip blues

Charli Persip playing a medium blues with Oliver Nelson: J&B, from Nelson's 1961 record Main Stem. Persip is really enjoyable to listen to, and has a little bit of Roy Haynes's edgy, modern thing happening. Good example of someone playing pretty modern in groove environment— he heard Idris Muhammad doing that before. If you swing and play good time you can get away with some stuff, you don't always have to slam pure context groove. 

The transcription covers his playing behind all the solos, starting at 1:25. Tempo is 106.  

Comping with the snare drum is fairly sparse; it seems like there's a little more activity there than is audible on the recording. He feathers the bass drum throughout, fairly audibly. He does a Roy Haynes-like thing of unisons in the hand vs. bass drum, like you see in measure 12. Hihat is consistently on 2/4 all the way, except he hits some accents on it, and sometimes drops it out when he's doing something complicated.

In the third chorus there's a double time 2 feel happening. Swing the 16ths there. Otherwise the 16ths are played evenly. 

He's using a small (18"?) bright, rather tinny ride cymbal— light with short decay. Not anybody's dream cymbal, but it sounds fine. You could get the same sound out of one of those old Ludwig/Paiste or Ludwig Standard cymbals.  

Get the pdf

Friday, June 07, 2024

Pulse memory

From one of the better YouTube channels, for bassists, here's a video on the subject of time, in which the guy works through practicing with a slow click— which I highly recommend, practicing with the click on the 1 only, or on the 1 every two measures. Or every four measures, at fast tempos. 

The basic idea there is sound, I don't agree with the word choices: “groove automation”, the idea of feeling the time. “Pulse memory.” It don't work that way, in my opinion. I think they attached some buzzwords to a partially formed concept, to promote the video. 

Partially formed concepts are not bad, they're most of how the fine points of music are taught. Somebody gives you a clue about how things work, and you're left alone to figure it out through your practicing and playing. Some people do that correctly and use the clues effectively, others struggle with them because they were misled by the choice of words. They drew a wrong implication from it, and wasted a lot of time trying to develop something that doesn't work. Probably most of us have done it, one one topic or another. 

Like saying groove automation makes it sound like a background process— a subroutine, while we're using techy language— as if the goal is to not think about it. The same way people talk about an “internal clock”— suggesting a mechanism that gives you perfect time without you knowing anything about it. The goal is the opposite of that, time/groove awareness

“Pulse memory” is also misleading— the hardest thing to memorize is a naked pulse, as you get it from a metronome. It's one dimensional. Maybe someone can do it well enough to have functionally good time, but it's more natural to use memorized sound— the actual sound of a recorded piece of music, or of someone counting off a tune, or of a rhythm, counted or played. Those are complex structures, we have a better, more precise memory for them. 

And feeling time; time feelings are easily influenced by your other physical and emotional feelings. Feeling is extremely unreliable. Instead, we want to be able to conceptualize time. That's what using the the slow click is all about: you're forced to subdivide, which is a conceptualizing process.  

I've written more about all of this here. Like I said, this is basically a good video. If somebody just started working with a slow click all the time, they'd get their time together to a satisfactory level. 

Monday, June 03, 2024

Messing with the EAD 10

I got a Yamaha EAD 10 recently— a popular interface/recording device for making drum cover videos. It's suddenly clear why there has been such a proliferation of those videos— there's infrastructure for it now. You can really do it with just the EAD 10, a phone and phone app, and a drum set.  

It's pretty cool, getting a reasonably decent recorded sound from the drums with just a little unit that clips on to the bass drum hoop. It has a lot of audio effects and triggering capability, which aren't of much interest to me. I'll do a more detailed post on it soon.   

I may as well share some videos I've made while figuring out the device, and my set up— like this one, playing along with a loop sampled from the intro of Herbie Hancock's Watermelon Man, from Headhunters:

The first part is drums and loop, at 4:50 you hear it again with the drums soloed. 

Here's another one of me playing with a longer sampled section of Tunji, from the John Coltrane album Coltrane. Drums are soloed after 5:18.  

I'm not trying to make good music or a good accompaniment to the recording, I'm practicing being at ease playing my stuff while being really self conscious about how my timing is going to sound with the recording. I had a lot to say about that, but it's not forming itself well into writing right now, so that'll have to wait for another post...