Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Cymbalistic: little cymbal day

CYMBALISTIC: Yesterday afternoon I went to Cymbal & Gong HQ to pick out a few things. I needed to pick out a 22" 11th Anniversary ride— an Elvin Jones tribute cymbal— for someone. They took the middle one. They others were excellent as well, and I can get them from C&G, until some other dealer buys them. All jazz weight, around 2250+ grams. 

Last chance to get those 2022 Schedule C deductions in, you know? And prices will be going up a bit after January 1st, hint hint... 

Here's a nice group of crashes I got, that will soon be for sale on my Cymbalistic site— all of them will be getting a heavy patina, which will funkify them substantially. Left to right they are: 18" A-style crash, 17" Janavar crash-ride, 16" A-style crash. I didn't get the gram weights, but they're all in the thin category, the Janavar might be a medium thin. 

I also got some 15" hihats, of which I'll post some video soon. [UPDATE: Forget it, they've sold... ] Lots of great cymbals in stock at Cymbal & Gong right now— I can pick something out for you if you don't see what you want on Cymbalistic. Just let me know! 

Saturday, December 03, 2022

Page o' coordination: Juju

I'm transcribing a little bit of Elvin Jones's playing on the Wayne Shorter tune Juju, which I originally did off the LP around 1988. It'll take some time to finish it, so here's a page developing the main groove from it— a version of the thing I've been calling an “Afro waltz.” Most people would probably say “Elvin waltz.”

Slightly different format from the usual POCs, exercises 1-10 build the particular groove Elvin played on the recording, and have specific drums assigned, including some changes to the bass drum rhythm. Exercises 11-18 have other left hand rhythms for basic fluency. 

Swing the 8th notes. Practice with and without the tie on the cymbal rhythm in the first measure. On exercises 11-18 you can do the stock left hand moves I use with these pages. 

Get the pdf

Here's the tune, it's a record you should know well:

Thursday, December 01, 2022

Best books: revisiting Rubank

The matte industrial looking horizon blue
cover has that depression era band room reek.
A fresh look at the very old, very turgid Rubank drum method books. Rubank, a series of method books for all band instruments, has been around since 1935, and is a core item in modern American school band literature. My only exposure to the book was in the 7th grade, when a teacher printed out a few pages for me. There are elementary, intermediate, and advanced volumes; here I'll mainly look at the elementary book, by Paul Yoger. 

Upshot: it's actually pretty good.  

I've never been completely happy with the available beginning snare drum books. Mitchell Peters's Elementary Snare Drum Studies is the best, but it's a little denser than it needs to be for average 5th-7th graders. 

All of these books have a few pages of fundamentals at the beginning, with a lot of verbiage, instructions on how to tuck a calf skin head, a picture of some jerk standing at a drum... all of which every kid in the world ignores completely. In Rubank there are just two pages of that, which are actually useful, covering grip, explanation of a roll (double stroke only), and a table of rhythm values and time signatures. 

The suggested right hand grip is interesting, a Moeller type grip with the fulcrum in back:

Then is the main body of the book, starting with four very useful pages of four measure rhythm studies, in 4/4, 2/2, 3/4, and 6/8 time. Then sections on 5, 7, and 9 stroke rolls, flams, and dotted notes, with more short studies— about 16 pages of those all together. All have stickings and counts marked in.  They're well graded and presented— better for younger students than Peters, or the Vic Firth and Roy Burns methods, which I have also used. 

It's a pretty quick introduction to the rhythms and time signatures they'll be playing in band class, with the more serious technical practice dedicated to rolls— that will be the hardest part for the target age group. The flam pages are good, and not over-technical.  

There's not a lot of verbiage, and what there is is pretty concise, even if it's not always phrased in a way that will be clear to students. But the point of that is not just for the student to read it and understand it immediately— it's more about giving the teacher the major points to re-explain to the student until they get it. 

There are pretty useless sections covering the bass drum, and some other band percussion instruments— cymbals, triangle, castanets, tom tom, woodblock, tambourine. And several pages of percussion parts for Rubank band pieces. 

There are eight OK pages outlining the 26 snare drum rudiments, and a few extra variants. Most are written in quarter notes, 8th notes, and 16th notes, and with roll notation, if there are rolls involved. The author wants us to play them slow to fast— all are marked with an accelerando— which I don't agree with. Acceptable, better than the usual single page list of rudiments.

The Intermediate book was written Robert Buggert, who has his own very old snare drum method book, that is pretty good, and long out of print. The intermediate Rubank book is all performance pieces for band percussion section— solo snare drum, snare and bass drum, full section. And a few band pieces. It's dated, and not real useful to me. There's also an advanced volume that I haven't seen yet. 

The elementary volume, even as it's pushing 90 years old, is still a pretty good first book for students in the 8-12 year old range. The roll section is a little out of balance for that age group, but rolls were important for that time and setting. Rudiments are covered but not over emphasized— it's not a hard core rudimental book a la Haskell Harr. It's a good overview of what a snare drummer, and band drummer, is. I'll probably use this with some younger students mainly for the rhythm portions.  

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Hey, you should get drum lessons with me

NOTE: I'm going to keep this pinned to the top of the blog for a little while. Scroll down for new stuff. 

You know what, I don't think I get as many students via this site as I should. Look me up, gang, I can help with what you're working on. Despite my occasionally prickly writing persona, I'm an easy, friendly, low pressure teacher, and am interested in students of all ages, levels, and ambitions. I like helping people with their drumming problems— especially big problems. 

I share so much stuff on this site you could think that's all you need— a lot of pages of stuff to practice. It's not. It's about how you do it. The notes on the page are just the beginning. In lessons you learn the processes for a) learning things quickly and b) in a form that is conducive to playing creatively, to a high musical standard.

Lessons are not information— when I was a student teachers could get away with just throwing some pages of stuff at you. Not-good teachers. Today things to practice are massively available, as are people broadcasting highly detailed advice on what to practice. 

What is not so available are instant answers about what you personally should be doing right now. What you need help with, what you are not getting, what's going to get you to your immediate goals the fastest. What parts of the online advice tsunami you can safely ignore right now, or forever. 

That's the point of all of it: what to do now, what's important now, and what isn't.

So don't be shy, look where it says EMAIL TODD in the sidebar, and shoot me a line, let's yak about it. Let me know what's hanging you up. 

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Marking up Reed for chart reading practice

Continuing the kicks/set-ups Reed tweak— in aid of that kind of practicing, let's mark up the full-page exercises in Syncopation some more. You may not want to look at these changes all the time, so print out those pages, or get a second copy.

Exercise 4  on p. 41 has the most of the kind of activity we're looking for, so I'll use that. 

In the last post I suggested penciling in housetop accents on any off-beat long notes after a long space— three 8th notes worth of space before them, or more:

You'll notice a couple of those are not actual long notes— they're 8th notes with a rest after them. In the second and sixth lines. For these purposes we can treat them the same. 

Syncopation has a shortage of long notes on the &s of beats 2 and 4. They happen a lot in real life, they're rare in Reed. So let's make some by adding ties/accents to 8th notes on the & of 2/4, after a long space: 

To make it easier to read, let's mark the spaces where the set ups go. I put a little line there, you could write FILL, or whatever:

Oops, I missed one in the third line.

You can do this with all eight of the regular syncopation exercises in Reed— some are better than others. Start with 1 and 4, exercise 2 is not great. There are also a couple of the syncopation exercises in Louis Bellson's Reading Text in 4/4 that are usable, as well— pp. 18, 21-22. And my book, Syncopation in 3/4

Also see my much simpler post from 2011, Kicks and set ups using Syncopation. And probably my Chart reading pyramid while we're at it. And my 2021 post with other suggestions for marking up Syncopation

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Reed tweaks: kicks and setups with RH lead triplets

An online student in Europe is working on his reading with me, in preparation for an audition, and we're talking about kicks and set ups. There's a minor tweak to a common Reed solo/fill method— right hand plays melody on drums/cymbals, left hand fills in triplets on snare— that will help with that. 

Part of that method is that any time RH notes are spaced greater than a quarter note, which would require multiple LH notes to fill the space, we break up those multiples by bringing the RH to the snare drum. I've written before about how we do that. Many of those spots are also places you would do a set up if you were reading an actual piece of music. 

Look at p. 38 in Syncopation, and pretend we're interpreting a big band chart, and find the syncopated hits that would require (or suggest) a set up from the drummer. We're looking for long notes on an &, with a long space before them. The second note, on the &, is the kick— you could pencil in housetop accents over each of those. Or print the page out and mark them.  

You can see most of them consist of a quarter note, an 8th rest, and then a quarter, dotted-quarter, or tied note. 

Here's how to play that, with 1) all the filler with the LH, 2) breaking up the filler with the RH, 3) playing that filler RH as an accent on the downbeat before the kick, 4) two note set up:

There are a couple of spots where there are two &s in a row— in the third and fifth lines. All through Syncopation they're just on the & of 1/3, in real life they'll often be on the & of 2/4. 

Again, how you would play that: 1) all filler with the LH, 2) filler broken up normally with the RH, 3) set up falling on the left hand, this time, 4) two note set up: 

Normally with this system the right hand is on the snare or toms, or cymbal + bass drum. To do this tweak, whatever you're hitting for the rest of the page, play the set ups on the drums, and the kicks on the cym + BD.  

Here's how you would play the second and third lines of p. 38, with the right hand playing the small tom for everything but the kicks: 

Or playing the two-note setups: 

There are other possibilities for what to do with the set ups, which we'll talk about later. The idea here is not just to play the thing, it's to read differently, to be able to identify the figures that need support from the drummer— syncopated hits after a long space. 

Next I'll have some suggestions for marking up Syncopation for this kind of practicing. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Stickings a la Funky Primer

This is part of why I write so much stuff— you never know what a particular student is going to need, and in what form. For whatever weird reason, somebody will do really well with one thing, so I want to take it further than the original material. 

Like one younger student responded really well to this obnoxious looking page of sticking patterns from A Funky Primer: 

Hence this, taking it a little further: 

In the lesson we did this with his lead hand on the cymbal, other hand on the snare drum, with bass drum added on some or all of the cymbal notes, and the 32nd notes played on the snare or toms. He plays left handed, and we did just the patterns starting with the left hand. 

I'll be playing through it in a right handed orientation all the way— RH on the cymbal on all patterns. You could also do it in a reversed "open-handed" orientation by playing the starting hand on the cymbal.

Get the pdf

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Syncopation exercise: downbeats and &s

A full page syncopation exercise with the notes spaced a quarter note a greater. Some practice systems only work well, or work well at faster tempos, when there are certain limitations in the reading material, which are not covered in Reed.  

This is similar to an exercise in Chuck Kerrigan's Syncopated Rhythms book— which is excellent, and out of print, and worth seeking out if you're practicing out of Ted Reed a lot. I'm contacting the publisher to see if they're willing to reprint it. We'll see how much pull I have in this business. 

Get the pdf [NOTE: I can't upload the pdf right now, you'll have to print this from the image above]

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Transcription: Al Harewood - Lil' Darlin'

Transcription of a slow tune, Lil' Darlin', as played by Al Harewood, with George Benson. This is a really great group of Benson's, with Mickey Tucker and George Duvivier, recorded on a Jazz Hour album called Witchcraft.  

Anyway, the tune was written by Neil Hefti, in the 50s, for Count Basie's band. On this recording there's a four bar intro, and then the tune is 32 bars long— a 16 bar AABA played twice. I've written out just the intro and head. We're just looking at how Harewood plays the tune. It's not that easy to play those syncopated kicks and maintain groove at this tempo, about 65 bpm. 

The 8th notes are swung, basically in a triplet feel, which is the basic groove of the tune— that very broad Basie groove. But he plays a wider dotted 8th/16th rhythm on the bass drum at times. In fact there's much more going on with rhythm than just a stereotyped Basie groove. If you listen through the whole recording you'll hear that the players are not always playing the same feel— rhythm might be playing a triplet feel while the soloist is double timing, or there may be different feels happening within the rhythm section. It's very open.   

The tied quarter notes in the first four lines are just brush texture, maybe with a light quarter note pulse. Untied quarter notes with the brushes are articulated, maybe with the left hand playing texture. The staccato open hihat accents in the third line are fast chokes with the foot, I simplified the notation there. 

Get the pdf