Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Short Post

I ran across this the other day. This is a trio performance with Brad Turner and Mike Downes. We're playing the standard "Golden Earrings".

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Introducing your children to the band

.....And by children, in this case I mean your compositions.
Drummers often get intimidated presenting tunes to a band so I thought I'd share a few thoughts to help make it go smoothly.

1) Pick your opportunities carefully:
If you're a sideman, there might not be that many chances to get your originals played.
If it's a cooperative band and you're asked to submit tunes, by all means. Don't, however, thrust your compositions on a band where they might not fit, or you would be seen as being overly pushy.

2) Have a way of communicating your tune to the others:
You either have to be able to play your compositions on piano/guitar or write out a chart for the band to read off of. I don't have enough piano chops to play both melodies and chords at the same time, so I usually write out a "lead sheet" with the necessary information on it. (I'll post an example of one of my lead sheets at the end.)

3) Learn everything about harmony you can.
Writing tunes is a chance for us to use all the information we've learned in theory classes etc. Pay attention and you'll be more likely to write something people can solo on ( in the case of Jazz compositions).

4) Go over the tunes before the rehearsal with someone you trust
In the early stages of my writing, I would often get together with the great bassist Mike Downes to get his take on my tunes. He would suggest ways of writing the chords so they would be easier to solo over, calligraphy problems etc. This helped me avoid a lot of confusion when I presented songs to the whole band. ...and with that in mind.....

5) Accept criticism with grace
If someone in the band suggests "this needs a bridge", or "this part of the progression doesn't make sense" or " this sounds A LOT like a Lady Gaga tune", they are trying to help you. You their advice (if you agree with it) to make your tunes better.

6) Make your written parts look as good as you can
A piano player I worked with years ago told me something to the effect that the better the music looks on paper (clear, isn't sloopy etc.) the more the players will treat it like important music and play their best. I think we've all experienced trying to read badly written music and how difficult it is to play it well, especially the first few times through.

and finally...

7) If you want to play a lot of your own music, it's time to be a bandleader
This way, if someone really doesn't like your tunes, they don't have to be in your band!

As promised here's a lead sheet and audio example of one of my tunes.

Drummers offer a lot in compositional terms. Their rhythmic acumen, their sensitivity to feels, tempo, and mood all can lead to excellent variety in the writing department. Now let's all get writing!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Recordings and Fluxible footage

Recently I had the unique opportunity to play 5 minutes of solo snare drum at the Fluxible User Experience Event. The idea was to have short musical interludes between speakers and it was recorded.
I'm posting this because it helps further the idea that although the drum set in a single instrument and should be thought of as such, (this is part of the reason I detest the term "kick drum") all of it's component parts can be thought of as stand alone instruments as well.

Here's the solo:

I also thought I'd mention I'm listening a lot to Ella Fitzgerald Sings the George and Ira Gershwin Songbook. All the drummers sound great on this recording, but particularly Alvin Stoller.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Dream

On the 50th anniversary on Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I have a Dream" speech, I'm posting Max Roach's piece "The Dream".
Just a couple of notes. I just found out today that King's speech was improvised after he was encouraged to deviate from his prepared notes. He had used these ideas before, but never put them in quite this combination before. (Much like Jazz musicians.)
Max matches the contour of the speech's excerpt perfectly. Enjoy.

Finally, this anniversary reminds us how much further the world has to go to achieve equality and how we all need to work towards this goal.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

RIP Alan Myers

Just got word that Devo's original drummer, Alan Myers, passed away due to cancer. Myers was an important early influence on me and many drummers of my generation. He was one of the first live drummers to play like a drum machine and put it in an American popular music context. Players as diverse as Questlove and Jojo Mayer owe him a debt.

Monday, June 17, 2013


Long, time, no blog. I never call, I never excuses, I'll just get on with it.

Here's some great footage of one of Art Blakey's greatest versions of the Messengers from the early 60s. As always, Art demonstrates his creativity and fierce commitment to the groove. Enjoy!

Also, I transcribed Mr. Blakey's simple, yet elegant ballad brush pattern he plays on Wayne Shorter's feature, "I Didn't Know What Time It Was".

Here's the pattern:

Thanks for your patience and see you soon.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

12/8 Orchestrations

Hi all,
For the past while I have been working through some 12/8 exercises  I found on Cruise Ship Drummer as well as the foot and left hand patterns to go with it. I recorded some possible ways of orchestrating these left hand patterns around the kit. Nothing revolutionary here, just exploring some tonal possibilities while working the coordination of moving my hand around.