Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Transcription: Art Blakey fours - Well, You Needn't

Just a couple of solo 4s from Art Blakey, from the 1953 Miles Davis 10-inch release, Vol. 3. You'll most likely find it on a later Blue Note compilation. The tune is Well, You Needn't. Miles and Blakey trade on the first two A sections of the head out, Miles plays the melody on the bridge. The first drum break happens at 4:18. 


He's mostly playing stick shots on the snare drum, as you can see. The normal snare hits are played with the left hand, the shots with the right. He feathers the bass drum throughout. 

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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Reed method: bass drum with quarter note triplet filler - key

See, this is what I'm talking about— writing/organizing materials a certain way, you get practice ideas you wouldn't have gotten just practicing the books. I could have used this 30 years ago, but it came up yesterday when I was practicing my syncopation exercise with two notes per measure. It's totally impractical and pointless to do this with the regular exercises in Syncopation, and a pretty obvious thing to do with my two-note pages.   

We're playing jazz time, with the exercise melody rhythm on the bass drum, and filling in the remainder of the quarter note triplet, or inverted quarter note triplet, on the snare drum. Creating an Elvin Jones-like texture.  


Play through the examples on this page, then run the method with my two-note, one line exercises, and then yesterday's full page exercise. I left out the hihat for visual clarity— play the hihat on beats 2 and 4, or whatever you want to do with it. 

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Monday, November 16, 2020

Syncopation exercise: two notes per measure - 01

Another syncopation exercise written with a special set of parameters— this one just has two notes per measure, with quarter note or greater spacing. Last year I did a page of one-line exercises that way. This is good for basic jazz comping at faster tempos. I always include a stems-down part in quarter notes just for tradition, out of respect for Ted Reed. I never incorporate them with any of my practice methods. 


And a basic solo method this is good for: Hit the melody notes on a cymbal + bass drum, fill the rest of the grid on the snare drum with 8th notes or triplets, alternating sticking, playing the fill notes as taps or double strokes, or multiple bounce strokes.  

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Sunday, November 15, 2020

Very occasional quote of the day: the point of doing things

“When I was 15, I spent a month working on an archeological dig.  I was talking to one of the archeologists one day during our lunch break and he asked those kinds of “getting to know you” questions you ask young people: Do you play sports?  What’s your favorite subject? And I told him, no I don’t play any sports. I do theater, I’m in choir, I play the violin and piano, I used to take art classes.

And he went WOW. That’s amazing! And I said, “Oh no, but I’m not any good at ANY of them.”

And he said something then that I will never forget and which absolutely blew my mind because no one had ever said anything like it to me before: 

“I don’t think being good at things is the point of doing them.  I think you've got all these wonderful experiences with different skills, and that all teaches you things and makes you an interesting person, no matter how well you do them.”

And that honestly changed my life. Because I went from a failure, someone who hadn’t been talented enough at anything to excel, to someone who did things because I enjoyed them. I had been raised in such an achievement-oriented environment, so inundated with the myth of Talent, that I thought it was only worth doing things if you could “Win” at them.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

Thanks to my former student Karen for sharing this. 

Friday, November 13, 2020

Another set of patterns for improvisation

File this in the same category as the recent “extended shuffle” stickings page— it's a unified set of patterns based on a simple idea, organized to make them easy to improvise with. They're not new patterns, but we haven't seen them collected as a single idea before. 

These are right hand-accented, alternating stickings ending with a RRLL— or a RRL with the odd-numbered patterns. Get a feel for the premise by playing the first pattern on the first five lines— they all lean heavily on the strong beats. The last three patterns are really just inversions of the extended shuffle patterns, but I've included them so you can play them as an extension of this basic idea. 



Practice tips:

  • Play them as 8th notes, 16th notes, or triplets in any time signature. 
  • They are for soloing, for playing texturally, or for playing an ECM-type feel. 
  • It's easy to play them fast, but they're meant for all tempos. 
  • Play the hands on different instruments/sounds, and improvise moving them around the drums.
  • Play with the RH on a cymbal, with the bass drum in unison.
  • Add/vary accents with the left hand.   
  • Try other stickings with the same accents, as in my harmonic coordination method. Best to start with straight alternating, and single-handed. 

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Thursday, November 12, 2020

Listening and loops for jazz students

For my jazz students, here is a list of much loved, mainstream, historically important recordings to listen to in your first few years of learning. 

I'm also in the process of updating the practice loop labels, to group them by genre or interest. So here is a link for all my loops, and a link for just the jazz loops.  


Miles Davis
 
Round About Midnight - Philly Joe Jones
The New Miles Davis Quintet - Philly Joe Jones
Workin' / Steamin' /Cookin' / Relaxin' - Philly Joe Jones
Milestones - Philly Joe Jones
Kind of Blue - Jimmy Cobb
Bags' Groove - Kenny Clarke
Walkin' - Kenny Clarke

Thelonious Monk
Trio - Max Roach, Art Blakey
Monk's Dream - Frankie Dunlop
It's Monk's Time - Ben Riley
Criss Cross - Frankie Dunlop
Misterioso - Roy Haynes

Sonny Rollins
Saxophone Colossus - Max Roach
Freedom Suite - Max Roach
Newk's Time - Philly Joe Jones


More after the break!

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Three Camps for drum set - inverted - 05

Another page working on normal jazz drumset vocabulary using Three Camps— we're sort of inverting the basic version, except I've taken a few liberties with it to make a normal Elvin-like texture out of it. That's what you hired me for, to know what you're supposed to be learning, and not waste your time with things that are hard and abnormal. 




I really like this whole method, and I think it is really worth your while to learn it, figuring out all the correct form for each version. It's easy when you do it. It's really good for people who like clearly-defined lesson assignments, or for undisciplined people like me who tend to drift into creative practice rather than practice things thoroughly.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2020

A great jazz ride cymbal

 

This question was asked on a drumming forum: “What makes a great ride cymbal?” I answered it for  jazz cymbals specifically, because that's what interests me, and that's the music where the ride cymbal is most important:


Basics
20, 21, 22" are normal, full-voiced ride cymbals. 18, 19, 24" are semi-normal, but a little more limited— 18/19 are simpler, 24 is grandiose. Not every situation calls for the Gustav Mahler of ride cymbals. 


<18" ride cymbals are specialty items; >24"... seek help. 


Function
A jazz cymbal should be multi purpose. It needs to handle well and sound great when riding, crashing, playing accents with the shoulder of the stick, and playing the bell.


Playability
It should be well suited to your touch, so you can play in a way that is comfortable to you, and have it be the right volume— not louder or softer than you intend. It should be controllable and sound good played soft or loud, through the usual range of styles/settings you play. It should sound good with a variety of normal sticks for the music— it shouldn't demand special sticks. 


Sound
It should have a fairly complex sound— sought-after sounds are either warm/dark (a la K Zildjian) or bright/airy/musical (a la Paiste 602), or moderately bright/complex (a la pre-1960s A. Zildjian). The ride cymbal is your main voice, so it shouldn't be overly ear-catching or unusual by itself— just like any other normal instrument, an acoustic bass, piano, tenor sax. For their main voice, musicians typically seek sounds that are classically excellent. It's an instrument, not the main show by itself.


Inspiration
It should make you want to play it. It shouldn't be annoying, or cause you to flinch because it did something you didn't expect. It should sound like a record that defined a great cymbal sound for you. You could sacrifice playability a bit if it leads you to play more thoughtfully, without being a distraction.        


“Left side” ride cymbal
The second ride cymbal is usually about forming an ensemble, complementing the main cymbal. You can make moderate compromises on the above criteria. Most often the second ride will be in the area of a crash/ride— a little lighter and airier than you might use for your main cymbal. It should contrast the main ride, and have a nice melodic interval with it. Usually smaller and lighter, sometimes heavier, it could also be a brighter or darker sound, too. Possibly with rivets, if the main cymbal doesn't have them. 

Head over to my cymbal site, Cymbalistic, to check out some examples of cymbals that embody these qualities— including the blog, which has some posts looking at classic cymbal sounds for jazz. 

Monday, November 09, 2020

Beginning of the end

 Well, that was the longest week of my life. I'm still recovering, and after I've recovered I probably won't want to write about this. I hope everyone is celebrating the electoral defeat of the most destructive, abusive, fascistic, anti-American president the United States has seen in modern times, possibly ever. And I hope everyone has been radicalized by this experience to vote in every election, and vote effectively to deny power to the party that foisted him upon us, and enabled and exploited his abuses. 

By effectively I mean voting for opponents who can win, which usually means Democratic Party candidates. I understand the attraction of voting for third party candidates who may be closer to your views, but if it is 100% impossible that they will be elected, what are you accomplishing? Unfortunately voting in the USA often means voting to mitigate harm. As more states adopt ranked-choice voting, it will be more realistic to promote very progressive candidates without sacrificing the one piece of political power you truly have. 

Electoral wins have been happening on some very tight margins in recent years. The 2016 election was decided by less than 100,000 voters in three states— a population of 29 million people. If a few more people had turned out and/or voted effectively, we would have been spared this four year nightmare, and there would not be a hard core right wing lock on the Supreme Court— who are shameless and aggressive enough to not only block all future progressive legislation, but also dismantle what we have. And we would not have ~300,000 dead people, and hundreds of thousands more who are guaranteed to die because COVID-19 was allowed to get out of control. Go through the list of egregious acts by the current administration. Child abuse as official United States policy, separating refugee families. 

We just dodged a very dire situation— people like Donald Trump destroy nations— but all the people who enabled him and supported him are still around, still trying to do all the same things. I hope everyone is radicalized to never forget, and show up and vote in all future elections.