Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Joy of Brushes

I once had somebody come up to me at a gig and say that he was sorry I had to play so much brushes that night. Now, the gig was with a vocalist, but I don't ever recall her telling anything about how to play, let alone what implements I should use. Nope, I would say a good 90% of the time, I'm plying brushes because I want to. I may want a quieter groove or I may just want a different colour for that tune/intro/soloist. I'm not sure if I've made this abundantly clear but there are way more sounds available to us with brushes, and barring buzz strokes, we can also play all the stuff we play with sticks as well. Some of the things we can do are....


Circles
Normal taps
Articulated taps ( "whipping" the drum with the brushes )
Legato taps ( playing toward the drum horizontally as well as vertically. Jeff Hamilton is a master of this. )
Other legato shapes ( lines, triangles, z-shapes, all usually done while staying on the drum. )
Rolling the brushes across the drum to make the brush almost act like a rolling pin.
Accents created with the handle of the brush while still keeping the wires on the drum
Creating "buzz-like' sounds by hitting the rim of the drum with the handle, then bringing down the wires as they rebound.
Brush flams ( running over one brush with the other )
Choking up on the brushes a la Vernell Fournier to create less sweep sound but a more stick like sound and response.
Depend on the type of brushes, using the handle to create rimshots ( in the case of wood or extremely hard rubber), mallet type effects ( with softer handles ), or triangle imitations ( with the metal handle).

I'm not actually going to post any examples of these types of playing, but I would encourage you to seek them out. ( Hint: some of them are even posted on this blog ). Have fun!



Sunday, July 14, 2019

Dedication and Inspiration

Awhile back I was complaining about the sort of drum-related dreck one often sees on Instagram, but like most things on the internet, there is another side to this. One of the the drummers I love following on IG is the great Dan Weiss. His posts are always interesting and thoughtful, and he often posts excerpts from his online lessons   (available through Patreon ) which look amazing.
One post that really spoke to me is this recent run down of his practice schedule. Check it out......

Now, that's a lot of material, but when he writes "all day practice", he really means it! When he did this, he started at 7:30 AM and ended the session at 8 PM ! Think about that the next time you think you've "practiced hard" ( I'm mainly speaking to myself here, truth be told! ) It just goes to what's possible if one is dedicated to one's art form. Dan's a monster, and part of the evidence for this is right here. I'm not suggesting we're all physically and mentally capable of practicing this long ( again, I'm speaking about myself as much as anyone ) but I think we can all agree it's likely we could be practicing ( or playing, or listening ) more. Thanks for the kick in the behind, Dan Weiss! :)

Thursday, July 11, 2019

When you're playing,

Ask yourself the following questions.

1. Is my dynamic correct for what's going on?
2. Am I playing too busy, too sparse?
3. Am I playing appropriately for the style?
4. Does the time feel good?
5. How does this piece start? How does it end? Am I helping it get there?
6. Am I contributing positive energy to this situation?

This has nothing to do with the above: I just think it's awesome. Here's Bill Evans, Eddie Gomez, and Alex Riel, rehearsing and then taping a tv show. Thank goodness for European tv or we'd never see any of these great musicians in their prime!



Music is great! Also, I need to check out more Alex Riel........

Monday, July 8, 2019

Quick words of wisdom.......

Here's a quick bit of great advice from Vinnie Colaiuta. I love everything he says about drums almost as much as I love hearing him play. His responses are unfailingly intelligent and insightful. Even his response to this frankly drum jock/nerd question gets to the heart of the matter! Inspirational as always......


Saturday, July 6, 2019

Hot enough for ya? 12/8 Brushes

Yikes, this weather isn't endomorph friendly by any stretch of the imagination! Regardless, while sweating in the apartment I came up with this very simple yet (imho) effective 12/8 pattern on brushes. it uses the brush "buzzes " again and does them whenever there's a capital R in the sticking.

RlRlrR lRlRlr

Check it out....

Thursday, July 4, 2019

The Dangers of Drum Corps

I can't remember if I've mentioned this before, but I grew up playing in marching bands. I played bass drum, snare drum, tri-toms, cymbals and glockenspiel in my time with the Lions Band. The Lions Band was not a drum corps ( as we still had reed instruments ) but in the early 80s, the band certainly had drum corps aspirations. I must admit, at first I got caught up in it, but after awhile, I started to see elements in it that were problematic. Let's look at a few, shall we?

1. Drumset is an instrument born of individual, not group thinking.
The trap set's early objective was to take a role that was performed by two drummers, that is, badd drum and snare drum, and have an INDIVIDUAL perform this function. Drum corps, with it's emphasis on uniformity, is the antithesis of this. I personally don't think it's always healthy to have stickings to a particular passage dictated to us. Stickings are a mode of expression, and the main reason I switched to glockenspiel was that, even within the confines of the marching band, i got a bit of my individuality back, as no one else was playing my instrument.

2. Drum Corps values technique over sound.
Modern American marching snare drums tend to sound ( and feel ) like tabletops. The harder  (tighter) the drums surface, the more bounce. The snares are on super tight, creating a super dead, dry, sound that helps show off the uniformity of the players. To me, it's a very uninspiring sound, and all the Corps' drums tend to sound the same.

3. Only certain techniques are valued.
Ever notice how none of the lists of rudiments has any buzz rudiments ( other than the one buzz roll ) or any dead stroke rudiments. Why? Because most of those lists are decided by DRUM CORPS instructors, and buzzes and dead strokes sound crappy on the table top sounding drums when 20 people are playing them out in a field. But you know what? Those are very valid ways of playing a drum, and classical and drum set players use those techniques all the time!

4. Timekeeping in undervalued.
My experience is that ham-fisted playing with massive sticks on the table top drums generally doesn't involve the concept that time-keeping is an art form. In the band I was in, there were times when some snare drummers were asked to play quarter notes and couldn't keep them in time! That's as fundamental as any rudiment, as far as I'm concerned.

5. If you think the  employment opportunities for a drum set player are limited......
I had peers that went to the states to join DCI ( Drum Corps International ) bands after they finished high school, to spend their summers playing in football fields and sleeping in school gymnasiums. That's all good if you have a passion to do that, but it really doesn't lead to anything career-wise except a lot of student debt. At least if you play with a local country band between semesters of university, you come back with experience and a bit of money in your pocket.

So, if you feel compelled by the competition, patriotism ( something Americans are VERY good at ) and all that implies ( Don't get me started on the whole colour guard/rifles thing. Shudder! ) go for it. Just don't be surprised if, in the process of becoming a sensitive, original, light-touch drum set player, that you might have some unlearning to do afterwards.

Please note that the opinions expressed above are mine only. Don't send Tom Float over to my place or anything.........

Monday, July 1, 2019

A few steps back

I was recently practising something quite challeging ( it was in 9 ) and utilizing a paradiddle variation ( RLRLLRLR ) that i don't use as much and was trying to get it to feel more instinctual. I really wasn't getting anywhere with it, and I realized that I had to get the sticking naturalized in 4, before I attempted it going over the barline in an odd time signature. This is something that, not long ago, i would have been annoyed with. You know, I don't want to play in 4, i want to be "hip and modern". It was quite a silly way to think. I wasn't performing for anyone, and if I really wanted to get this together, I needed to stop trying to do so many complicated things at once. Any issues I had with this were just ego. This used to happen to me a lot while practicing. I would start working on idea A and while I was playing it I would be thinking about the next 4 steps, and sometimes trying to incorporate them while I was still playing the first idea. I wasted a lot of time with this. Don't be like me!!! Start whatever you're working on in a reasonable space, and add things only after you're comfortable with the first thing. If the first thing is giving you a lot of trouble, simplify it! There is no shame in this!

Okay, just because it's awesome, here's Thelonious Monk's band in '61 with the great Frankie Dunlop on drums. The ballad gets cut off, unfortunately, but it's still great stuff. Enjoy!




P.S. Happy Canada Day!
P.S.S. I'm playing with Jerry Bergonzi and the Brian Dickinson trio at Upstairs in Montreal for the Jazz festival tonight. Come on by if you're in the neighbourhood!