Friday, October 11, 2019

Scraps

What is this, looking like the proverbial dog's breakfast? Just some stuff i was working on the other day. Let me try and explain. In the top left corner is a 12/8 beat written out between the hands and the RH plays the bell pattern and the LH fills in the rest of the triplets. The rest of the page are possible BD/HH patterns to play with it. On the top right side of the page is an unrelated idea of playing the last 3 16ths of every beat with LH on open snare then the next 2 strokes w/ RH playing a stick shot. ( RH on left stick ) with a salsa BD pattern and a 3 16th note HH pattern.
I KNOW this is super hard to read, but that's good for us to do sometimes.
I'll leave the final word on this to BartholeMEW MURRay Warren. Bart, what do you think?

Scraps? More like CRAPS! Now, don't bother me! I was napping!!!!


Well, there you have it. Everyone's a critic! Until next time......

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Sonny Rollins Trio Goodness

What can you say about Sonny in his prime, especially in a trio format? Here he is at his most ferocious, throw-down, stream of consciousness best, aided beautifully by Gilbert Rovere on Bass and the incomparable Art Taylor on drums! Fantastic!


Paris November 5 1965 from Saxology on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

CD BLOWOUT! Er,....what's a CD?

Hey folks,
I know, I know, modern laptops don't have a CD port, vinyl is supposedly coming back, and nobody wants to pay for music anymore! despite all this, I am offering 2 recordings I have played on for sale Ted's Warren Commission's " The Great Regina Pizza Debate" and "Two of Clubs' by Broadview.




They can be obtained directly online through  CD Baby or you can buy them from me. if you order them from me, you pay whatever you want to! ( Within reason ). The within reason part is you have to pay at least enough to pay shipping if I'm sending it to you. Otherwise, if you see me at a gig and you offer me $2, I'll take it. If you offer me $10,000 , I'll take it. It's just that I feel these are good recordings and I don't want to be eventually buried with them! :) Good talk!

P.S. Please direct all inquiries about purchasing CDs from me to twarren@gto.net. Thanks.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Versatility: A double edged sword

As someone who came up in an era when the "studio" musician was the pinnacle, versatility was seen as a great attribute. ( Truth be told, when I was in high school, I had planned to become a studio player, and then got super into playing Jazz. ) To be clear, it's important to be able to play a bunch of different styles and feels effectively, but I think it's also important to eventually decide on what sort of player you're going to be and be committed to that. When I was in university I was trying to play Rock like John Bonham, Pop like Ringo, modern Jazz like Elvin Jones, etc. But, if we look at any of those instantly recognizable players, they are known for doing very specific things. Bonham possibly could have been a great brush player, but that wasn't what put him on the map!
It's interesting, getting back to the idea of a studio player, because even someone like Steve Gadd, who was seen as the ultimate studio chameleon, actually has a very recognizable style. In fact, I think Gadd almost singlehandedly created a style where the studio influenced every other style of playing he did. Studio influenced big band, studio influenced small group jazz etc.
Sorry that was a slight tangent!

Anyway, I think partially what I'm getting at is, while you're working to be the best musician you can be, accept that there are going to be things you are going to gravitate towards, both physically and musically. Don't be afraid to embrace those, and especially to cultivate the scene that contains the music that fills your heart and imagination!!!! If you want to play Blues, meet the people in your town that play that music! If you want to play Death-Metal, find other death metal people, jam with them , AND SEE THEIR GIGS!!!!! Of course, you can try and cultivate all the scenes in your locale: just be aware that you could spread yourself too thin. Also, realize that where ever you are, people will tend to pigeon hole you, depending on what they've heard you play. I tend to do more Free Jazz-type things in Guelph, because I joined a freer band in that city, and we've played a fair amount of local gigs, whereas in Toronto I think I'm perceived as more of a straight ahead ( and possibly big band ) player. Please note that other's perceptions of you  may have nothing to do with how you feel you play a certain music. It's just good to be aware of it.

I also want to note that, just because you may never play a certain style of music, doesn't mean you won't get a lot out of studying it. i have spent a fair amount of time practicing "World" styles from Cuba, Brazil, and Western Africa etc. The closest I have come to playing any sort of gig in a non-North American style was with a Chilean singer, and she fired me before she even heard me!
So, work on ALL music. It's good for your brain. But don't be afraid to pursue the music that feeds your heart and soul most! Also be aware that in any music style that you view as just "my R n' B bag" for example, is never going to be as true and authentic as someone who has dedicated their life to that particular music! People who "discover their Jazz side" after they realize they are middle aged and haven't become a big Rock star a special pet peeve of mine!

Speaking of Gadd ( again ) . Let's dig his version of a Mozambique on "Late In The Evening ). He      ( and his leader in this case,  Paul Simon ) is a great example of getting lots of input and influences and filtering it out through your own style! :)



Monday, September 30, 2019

Lee Morgan with the Oscar Peterson Trio

Although I have a complicated relationship with social media, it was through the former that I was hipped to this great clip of Oscar Peterson's trio, with Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen, playing "Moanin" with Lee Morgan! Spectacular!  Enjoy!



A couple of observations....As a Canadian, i will probably be drawn and quartered for this, but I really prefer the OP trio when they are backing someone else. The piano tends to be less busy and Thigpen seems to always play more aggressively! He sounds like Art Blakey on this. Ferocious!


Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Don Van Vliet's Commandments of guitar playing

Another short post today. Here's Captain Beefheart's 10 commandments of guitar playing.....

Friday, September 20, 2019

Breakfast with Vinnie

Quick post today. Just wanted to point out Vinnie Colaiuta's great podcast.
"Breakfast with Vinnie" didn't kill me at first, but I think I just had to get into it, because I'm really enjoying it now. Particularly interesting to me is the current episode "Amateur or Professional, Who's Happier". This hits home because I am currently facing the reality that I need to look at other avenues of income other than playing or teaching. That said, I think whatever happens, I will consider myself a professional musician. I feel a professional musician is anyone who treats music ( and conducts themselves ) in a professional way. Anyway, that's a much bigger issue, that I might get more into at some point. In the meantime, dig Vinnie. He's a smart guy we all can learn from, whether he's playing drums or talking. :)

Monday, September 16, 2019

Blame it on my youth...

....That I'm posting so many "Produce Like A Pro " videos! Here's producer Jack Douglas talking about Aerosmith's "Walk This Way" and " Sweet Emotion". Very cool stuff!

Saturday, September 14, 2019

George Garzone doc

Boston is a pretty amazing place. It has been the birth place or primary residence to such great musical artists as Roy Haynes, Bob Moses, Benny Sharoni,  Bob Gullotti, Tony Williams, Alan Dawson, Jerry Bergonzi, and of course the great George Garzone. Here's a great recently released  doc about him. Enjoy!





:)

Monday, September 9, 2019

In defence of reading.......

These are indeed interesting times to be a drummer. More and more, the jobs I play involve "ear" work or at the most reading lead sheets. The only regular reading I'm guaranteed to do is once a month with John MacLeod's big band at the Rex, and even then, it's reading charts, which arguably require as much interpretation as reading.
So, should a young drummer not learn to read music? Nope, and I'll tell you why.

1. As reading is required less, it's also becoming a rarer commodity.
Being able to read music is one way of distinguishing yourself from other players, especially in situations that don't involve much rehearsal. Remember, if you can read, you can cut a lot of your heroes on the first run through of a piece of music. ( Admittedly, the second time might be a different story, but you get my point. )

2. If you need to learn something or remind yourself of something quickly, reading is the way to go.
If you want to have something be a part of your playing forever, by all means learn it by ear and memorize it, but sometimes we want our musical experience to be more ephemeral. Sometimes we're forced to record music we really DON'T want to remember! :) Reading helps with this.

3. Reading is not a difficult skill to learn and keep up.
The analogy has been made many times, but reading music and reading any language are the same thing. if you are literate, you certainly have enough brain power to learn to read music. Get a book and/or teacher and get it together, it can only help you.

I find personally that my reading can atrophy if I'm not doing it much, but I find it very easy to get it back in shape. Read classical snare drum etudes. The rhythms that you're reading are way more challenging than anything you'd see as a drum set player, and they usually have a lot of dynamics.        ( Which you should be sight reading as much as the rhythms. )

This one I particularly like, but any orchestral snare book will work.

                                       So, in conclusion, definitely use your ears etc, but don't be afraid to work on your eyes! :) 

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Your Character Is Your Calling Card

So, I'd like to mention a recent incident that proves the power of positive character.

Enter exhibit A, no stranger to this blog or fans of fine musicianship, Jerry Bergonzi.....

                                                                                                   I have been extremely fortunate to have worked with Jerry along with Brian Dickinson and Jim Vivian  for over a decade now. As well as being a  fantastic musician, Mr. Bergonzi has always been a great example of how to be in the world. He isn't impressed by money or fame, he is impeccably honest and respectful of others, and it's always about the music, which he loves. This past  summer Jerry was offered a gig in the Montreal Jazz Festival.  He was given the chance to choose anyone to work with him, and I don't think it would be out of line to suggest the festival probably hoped he would choose some big, well-known players to accompany him to help promote the event. Instead, he insisted that he play with Brian's trio with Jim and I. Why? Well, he mentioned how much work Brian had created for him in Canada over the years, and he thought  it would be fair to give Brian another opportunity. I believe he also realized that with Brian's trio he would get high level accompaniment, with no egos or bs, and that we had played together a lot so there would be a band concept, unlike playing with a bunch of big names he mightn't have worked with previously. This is class folks! And the thing is, this is not an unusual story about Jerry. No one who has worked with him ever has anything bad to say about him, because his ethics are impeccable! THAT is the kind of reputation we should all be striving for!


Here's a short video of Jerry explaining a way of using triad pairs. It's a little advanced for where i am harmonically, but I believe it's important to have some thing to work toward.


So, in conclusion, behave like Jerry Bergonzi and the world will be a much better, more moral, and way hipper place! 

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Heroic Drumming

Okay, I think this is the last of these I'm going to post but this is an interview with engineer Bradley Cook on his work on the Foo Fighters "My Hero". I've always loved this tune and Dave Grohl's monster drumming on it, so it was nice to get some insights about it's creation and recording.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Humour in music

Hey all,
Recently great bassist ( and neighbour of mine ) Jason Raso posted this on social media


A musician recently sent me the following message in reference to my videos...
“You’d be better off if you took your music and your image more seriously. Stop joking around.”
Well, he might be right, but I am what I am. Honestly, I don’t take myself that seriously, but make no mistake - I am dead serious about my music! It’s still ok to have some fun with it though.

SERIOUSLY? ( Said ironically! )

I can vouch for everything Jason says here. He is a hardworking, dedicated musician who is always trying to improve. He sets an example that I always find inspiring! He is also, not averse to poking fun at himself. He has some great videos where he poses as the disgraced owner of his record label,  complete with fake moustache, and they're really fun! I think it's also important to note what he said about being himself. I think if one has a bit of a goofy personality ( and I'm now referring even more to myself than Jason ) letting it come out is the most honest thing you can do with your audience. I also believe this combination of seriousness about the music/ not serious about myself that has helped me survive in a tough business for 40 some years now!

I short, be like Jason. Try your best but make sure you have fun too.

I couldn't find any of Mr. Raso's "acting" videos but here's him playing a tune I've always loved, Sam Cooke's "Cupid" on solo bass.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

"Hipifying" the rudiments

Hey all.
Many students have mentioned to me Tommy Igoe's " Great Hands For a Lifetime " book so I decided to check it out, having worked through his first "Groove Essentials" book and quite enjoying it.
All in all, it's a very helpful book on rudimental playing, well written and presented. I don't agree with everything he writes, but having played drums for 44 years this coming fall, I rarely agree with anything ANYONE writes! :)

One thing that struck me during my first cursory glances was that he talks about converting the rudiments to drum set ideas, but doesn't really offer any method of doing so. I plan to cover this in greater depth and send as a possible article, but for now I thought I'd offer some general principles that help me make rudiments hipper and more useable on drum set. Okay here goes....

1. Corrupt the symmetry.....
I've mentioned this before, but one of the things that makes the rudiments seem very square is this " 4 on the right, 4 on the left" quality they have, due to trying to make the hands equal. This makes sense from a physical conditioning sort of way, but results in very predictable boxy, phrasing. So, a very easy way to create interest is to take away or add a note to any rudimental idea to make it odd numbers.
Let's take a paradiddle- RLRR LRLL, and take away the last stroke. Now we have a 7 note idea. Now when we play this idea in 8th notes or triplets, it will go over the carline and give us some really cool textures.
Now, how about we add a note- RLRR LRLLL . This create a cool 9 beat idea. Again, it will go over the barline in 4/4 or it WILL fit into a bar of 3/4 as triplets, but that could also be cool as we spread out the hands between two surfaces so it could be used in a jazz waltz or a afro-cuban 9/8 groove.

2. Orchestrate! 
As I just mentioned, our  lowly paradiddle starts to sound more interesting not only with a note missing or added, but also as we put our hands to 2 different drum or cymbals surfaces. Here's just a few ways we can create interesting tonal ideas from RLRR LRLL

a) R on Hi-Hat, L on snare
b) "     "", L on rim click
c) "" , L on small tom
d) "" , L on floor tom
e) "" , L on any combination of above
f) R on floor tom, L any combination of above
g) R on Ride Cymbal, L ""
h) R on any rim, "" ""

Phew! And I just said I was going to mention a few. Anyway, check out how these different combinations sounds and don't be afraid to experiment with any possible sounds. You'll likely find you discover some favourites. Good!

3. Change the home rhythmic grid.
We've already seen that we can change any 8th note idea to triplets to make it more compelling, and the opposite ie true as well. We can also, however, change any idea to an odd grouping, and that really starts to sparkle!
If we again take RLRR LRLL and play it as 2 sets of quintuplets in a bar of 4/4, the quintuplets themselves don't go over the barline,  but the sticking does! This sounds really cool, especially when we again orchestrate the hands. In fact, a favourite exercise of mine with "Stick Control" is to take the first 3 pages and play the stickings as quintuplets, septuplets, and groupings of 9, all in 4/4. That's definitely something you'll never hear a drum corps play! :)

4. Change the attack
Now let's take RLRR LRLL and....

a) Buzz the first L
b) Buzz all Ls
c) Deadstroke the first and 5th notes
d) Deadsroke all Rs

So, here all we're doing is not playing all the notes as regular strokes, and again this creates interest.

5. Add accents, especially in unusual places
Take the paradiddle  and accent other notes the than the first set of each 4 ( the standard way ) and you'll get some very cool textures, especially accenting either the first or second note of a double. This is also great for your hands!

6. Substitute feet for hands in a portion of the lick
Some possible ways to evolve the feel in our paradiddle
a) RF L RR LF R LL
b) RF LRR LRLL
c) R LF RR LF R LL
d) RL RF RF LR LF LF

So, plenty of linear trouble was can get into with this one.




Obviously, working on rudiments and rudimental ideas ( I make that distinction because although paraddiles are a great lick and a great example to use, I actually don't think of them as rudiments per se.) are a great way of helping us create quality sounds, but to a drum set player, they are just the beginning and a mere means to an end. So, don't be afraid to take these building blocks and do something creative. That's what it's all about.










Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Please do us like that

Hey,
Quick post. Here's engineer Shelly Yakus talking  about his work on Tom Petty's "Don't Do Me Like That" with the great and underrated, in my opinion, Stan Lynch on drums.



Man, I love those splat-y 70s snare drums! It's interesting to note that producer Jimmy Iovine tried to replace Stan Lynch on this recording, but couldn't find anyone who fit the band and the recording better. I can't really imagine anyone else playing drums on this! Keep that in mind if ever anyone tries to replace your track, it might be just as likely that the producer doesn't know what he/she is talking about and are trying to justify their existence as the actual drumming isn't making it. :)

Be back soon.......

Thursday, August 8, 2019

The "this drummer is on the wrong gig " videos.

I'm sure many of you have seen this type of video on youtube, and probably the "drummer on the wrong gig" is now an official sub-genre.
So here's the one that started it all. Drummer Steve Moore playing with a cover band at a fairly low-key gig somewhere.



I was very entertained by this video, as were most of the drummers I showed it to. I do however, think it's mislabeled. How is he on the wrong gig? Try just listening to it and ignore all his visual stuff. Guess what? He's playing the gig! The drums sound appropriate, and the time feels good. Mr. Moore is doing his job! If he wants to add a little flash for his own amusement, as long as he plays the music, it's his prerogative!

Okay, here's a bit more suspect example.



Hmmm. Well how about our white haired friends? Is the volume appropriate? No. Is the time solid? Not really. Are the visuals getting in the way of the sound and consistency of the drumming? Definitely. Maybe he did steal the show, but crime doesn't pay!

Finally, here's a more current ( currant? ) example.



Look, I get it. It's a sort of dumb gig and the drummer is even in disguise. But if you want to play Speed metal, Mr. Giant Bird or whatever you are, get a Speed Metal band together. maybe it was his or her last day on the gig.

I also really dislike how this is labeled. Overqualified? You mean to play with taste? Playing appropriate is just as much a technique as playing fast, probably more.

This is something I used to do all the time. Put stupid things into the music that didn't belong there. It's egotistical and immature. remember, do anything you want, but PLAY the GIG!

Thanks.


Tuesday, August 6, 2019

"Chops Justified " Music

Hi all,
I shouldn't have done this, but I was procrastinating, trying to avoid working on my Masters thesis. So, I went on Instagram and looked at some drum videos. I know! I should have known better. ( Hey! That would make a good tune title! Fabs rule! )
I've probably mentioned this TOO much but, once again, these people seem to mainly play some complicated beat they've memorized and play it like they're a robot. They don't really develop ideas, and everything is a beat or a fill, and never the twain shall meet!

                    Are you talking about me again Ted?   

Anyway, thanks for your input Ilene! So, I was thinking that these people always play "compositions" that exist only so they can show off some drum stuff! Fear not, you will never get the melodies to these stuck in your head, because these tunes don't have melodies! So, henceforth, I will call this egregious sonic experience "Chops Justified" Music, because the only reason it exists is to show off how fast you can play! NO THANKS!!!!

Now, I make a very important distinction between "Chops Justified" music and what I know as Fusion. Good fusion takes the compositional ambition of Modern Jazz and mixes it with the excitement of Rock and is beautiful and powerful indeed. I never listen to Electric Miles, Weather Report, Metalwood,  or Alan Holdsworth ( to name a few ) and think they are justifying anything but making beautiful music.
So, in conclusion, I thought I'd post something that is blatantly NOT "Chops Justified" music. Here's Jason Raso, Stu Hamm, and Marito Marques playing Jason's super fun tune, "The Pork Chop Express"



So, why is this true fusion and not Chops Justified? Well, there is a lot of humour. CJ Music tends to be really self-important! It is concise. It says what it needs to say without a lot of extra fireworks or anything. It utilizes the 2 bass thing in a collaborative rather than competitive way. Finally, it shows a lot of humility and lack of ego. ( Full disclosure: Jason is my neighbour and he'd never make me coffee again if I complained about him! )
All joking aside, I'm really looking forward to playing some real Fusion with Mr. Raso  later this month. I just have to convince to change the title of his tune to "The Pork (Non-) Chop(s Justified) Express. Just rolls off the tongue, don't you think? :) 

Thursday, August 1, 2019

The Garden of Sound

No, I'm not getting all poetic, just posting two videos related to Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun". A great 90s track with some KILLER drumming from Matt Cameron on it.
Here's an interview with the producer,  Michael Beinhorn.



One of the takeaways for me, aside from what mics were used on the drums because admittedly, I need to learn more about that side of it, is that the musicians recorded their parts separately. I never would have guessed that because it sounds very live and natural.

And here's Matt Cameron's track, semi-isolated. Phew!



I love the way that dude plays! See ya soon......

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Articulation Exercise

This post is influenced by Dan Weiss and Sonny Rollins. Why? Because both articulate on their respective instruments in a lot of interesting ways. This is something I think a lot of drummers ignore. Namely, how are you attacking the drums? There's a lot of different ways to do it, and that creates variety.
So, this is pretty simple. My apologies for the size of the pic. We're just taking a paradiddle, and doing different combinations of buzzes, dead strokes, and regular strokes. I find when both hands are changing their techniques of sound production in a short period of time, it can be quite challenging. I also have some other variations suggested at the bottom of the page. Very simple in conception, but challenging in practice. Speaking of practice, that's what I should go do now. Happy trails folks......





Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Self-Review

Okay, this is going to sound very egotistical, but I was checking out a video of myself the other night. What struck me most about it was how much it captured where I was musically at the time. ( It was filmed about 10 years ago. ) The cool thing is, listening/watching old recordings can hip you to things you were doing and didn't quite develop, or how your sound has changed and why. Also, if the recording is old enough, one tends to forget all the subjective stuff around it and it can be listened to like it's someone else. I always encourage young players to record themselves and then check it out for what they like and don't like. It's one thing for ME to tell you what I like in your drumming, but your taste and aesthetic might be quite different than mine, and it's what YOU think that really matters here.
In short , it's good to occasionally review things you've done musically, so you can see where you've been and where you're headed......so, get going! :)

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!

Friday, June 28, 2019

New Brush idea

Hey,
Here's a brush thing utilizing a sticking that I've been obsessed with lately ( RLRL LRLR ) . All Ls are sweeps on the drum, all Rs are buzzes off the rim.



The video also is notable for an appearance by BartholeMEW MURRay Warren. Rare because he doesn't dig the drums very much.

P.S. Turns out I'll be teaching at NMC music camp at the end of the summer. I always enjoy doing Jazz camps and am looking forward to working with the talented young people that attend. :)

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Straight vs. Swung

Here's a couple of examples of playing straight and swung rhythms concurrently. In the first one. I'm playing Afro 12/8 in the right hand, straight 8ths in the left, generally playing a one handed paradiddle between the cross stick and small tom, bass drum on 2 & 4, and the hi-hat starting out in straight 8ths notes, but moving to quarter notes as I originally intended! ( Nobody could ever accuse me of over rehearsing these examples! )



In the second example. I'm playing straight 8ths in the right hand and the second 2 notes of an 8th note triplet in the left, bossa bd part and on again/off again 7 beat pattern in the left foot.



So, I'm hoping the obvious question now is, so??? That's certainly valid. Any "regular" situation utilizing bossa or 12/8 rhythms would not be well suited to playing this stuff. ( Unless you want to get fired! )
These rhythms, by their very nature, are not smooth or neat and tidy, but I believe there are  instances where we want to play rhythms that are jagged, ...angry even. That everything doesn't always line up is one thing that makes beats like these cool. It also gives a much more loose "ensemble" feel because it sounds like more than one person playing. These will also help you feel both straight and swing rhythms at the same time. Check it out if you like. It's a free country ( at least for now.....)

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Happy Father's Day!

What Better way to celebrate Dad's day than with the God FATHER of Soul singing " Papa's Got a Brand New Bag? But, do yourself a favour and watch it to the end when James Brown plays some DRUMS! Fantastic, and tellingly, he plays with the groove much more than he ever let Stubblefield of Sparks get away with! So cool! I had no idea he was such a powerful drummer. And was he a lefty?                  

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

What's in the attic?

Today I'm bringing you an idea that came to me while practicing, or more accurately I should say came back to me. I endeavour to review things I've worked on, use ideas I've created etc., but I've been playing and practicing for almost 44 years now, so it's impossible to recall everything all at once!
Anyway, I stumbled on to this 7 beat idea between hi-hat, bass drum, and snare drum. It's just RLRLRLF ( The F stands for feet as in its first incarnation, the right and left foot are playing together. ) I liked it. I thought sounded pretty slick. Then I realized that particular combination I had been playing for decades ( I can vividly remember playing it with Mike Murley's band) except I had never voiced between hats, snare, and bass drum. I more used it open handed with RH on toms and LF on hi-hat. Anyway, here's a quick video on the original idea. Note that even though I start between hat and snare, it's not until I play the idea with the hands alternating on the hats that I get to the current lick I stumbled on.



I generally play it as an over the barline thing in 4, with the bd on all quarter notes or a samba bass drum part, although you could keep it in 7 as well. Also started moving the RH around at the end.

The second video is the same idea in triplets in 4, with either quarter notes or a shuffle on the bass drum. By the time I get over to the ride the pattern has essentially fallen apart but I kept it in because I thought it was funny! ( Don't try this at home folks! )



Believe it or not, my whole point to this post wasn't to show you these ideas, although I like them and they might prove useful to some of you. No, what I'm getting at is what I experienced with this "old" lick that I thought I had forgotten. I really believe that everything we work on in music is stored SOMEWHERE in our mind. ( Barring traumatic head injury, etc. ) I like to think of our brain as some sort of dusty attic full  of treasures we may have temporarily forgotten. But sometimes on the way to find a sweater from high school, we might find a cool vintage fan that we thought we had gotten rid of! Our mind is like that too. So, sometimes when you're practicing, don't be afraid to let your mind wander a bit, and you might rediscover something!
Have fun! Love yourself and others!


Friday, June 7, 2019

RIP John Sumner and "That Thing"

Sad news out of Toronto this week. Veteran Jazz drummer John Sumner has passed. John was one of the many great older generation of drummers I checked out when I got to T.O. Here he is playing in Mark Eisenman's band.



This rhythm section, Eisenman-piano, Steve Wallace- bass, and John Sumner on drums played together A LOT. That trio had a definite "thing" like no one else. That's what happens in this music when you log so many hours together with simpatico spirits. I was reminded upon Mr. Sumner's passing that we don't have that thing anymore ( at least in the live sense ) and my sadness about this was mitigated by the fact that I heard it in the first place. RIP John Sumner, and thank you for the music.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Gary Burton interview

I love vibraphone! It's an instrument that often doesn't get the respect it deserves. ( I had a friend who called it "the rolling doorbell" ! ) Even though I don't play it myself, it does seem to be that middle ground between two instruments I do play, piano and drums, and many drummers do double on vibes.
I recently got to record with great ( and now local ) vibist Dan McCarthy, and through serendipity, found this great interview with vibraphone pioneer Gary Burton in which he looks back on his career.
Check it out!



An important takeaway for me is that he talks about not being obsessed with playing his own music in his band, but rather finding the best tunes, no matter who wrote them. Even though this makes recordings less lucrative ( your own tunes mean you get the mechanical royalties' proceeds.) and more expensive ( you have to pay to put standards etc. on a recording ), this is something I plan to consider. I already have gotten a lot looser on how many originals I feel I have to play on gigs, and I think my earlier insistence on my own tunes was ego, more than anything. Oh well, another way I'm a work in progress. :)

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

House Drums and Being a Good Guest

It's been a while, so it's probably time for a rant.
I recently did a workshop at the venue Silence in Guelph. They have a house kit. A really nice Gretsch Catalina kit ( a very good value for the money. I've tried two sets and they both have very gutsy bass drums! ) Unfortunately, it's only about half useable because a lot of the drummers that have played it and used it moronically!
So, let's discuss good house kit etiquette. Because, you know what? If you treat a house kit with care and respect, if it's a decent set of drums at all, it will last FOR YEARS and you won't have to drag your drums in. Also, do you think the club is going to invest in more drums if you destroy them? Not likely.
So let's get started, and I apologize to all my "good guest" friends.

1. Do not over tighten stands
If the stands start new, they just have to tightened enough to stay in place. House cymbal/snare stands by their very nature are going to get moved up and down a lot. You can extend their life by quite a bit by not tightening the crap out of them. Plus it's a major drag to adjust them if you play at a club after some Edward Wrenchands......

2. Do not lose cymbal felts, hi-hat clutches, and sleeves/ wing nuts.
Do us all a favour. Put up and take down each cymbal separately, being careful to put the felts, sleeves and wing nuts back properly BEFORE you go on to the next stand. Cymbals without sleeves get cracked easily, so don't be selfish and in a hurry and mess it up for the next drummer. If you bring your own hi-hat clutch, put the house clutch somewhere safe and put it back afterward, and if you're using the house clutch, IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS HOLY PUT IT BACK ON THE STAND AFTER YOU'RE DONE WITH IT!!!!!!!

3. Leave the drum heads as they were
If you must put duct tape, duck ponds, paper towels, paper moons, or blue gummy bears all over the drums, please take them off afterward. Some of us are into that "non-cardboard box" sound! Same goes for putting things in the bass drum, and for Pete's sake, don't cut a port hole into a solid bass drum head! Believe it or not, not everybody is into that!

In closing, if you treat house drums with respect, you demonstrate you respect the music and your fellow drummers. If you don't, well, you are not welcome in my house (drums! )

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Jimmy Lovelace idea

Quick post today of a 3/4 idea from the almost criminally under appreciated drummer, Jimmy Lovelace. This is from a live version of "Full House" from the recently released Wes Montgomery in Paris album.

Although Mr. Lovelace starts Wes' solo in a fairly conventional swing 3 feel, he starts weaving in and out of the idea above during the 2nd chorus. One of the cool things about it is that although it's a metric modulation that makes it sound like he's playing a solo swing 4, it resolves to the + of 3 and leaves out beat 1 once it gets started, giving it an extra snake-y feeling. I can't tell if he's playing bass drum at the end of the phrase or not so try it both ways.  Check it out....



It certainly doesn't seem to disturb the flow of the rest of the band at all, so I suspect he had done this before. All of Wes' band has a very interesting ability to react to what was going on in Jazz in the 60s with modal playing etc., and adapt it too their own purposes.

Now, we can all learn it and adapt it to our own purposes! Thanks. :)

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Stanton Moore sticking lesson

Hey folks,
Thanks to Mr. Stanton Moore and the good folks at DRUM! Magazine for this concise video on a LLRLRLRR sticking and some applications of it. Check it out.



I think it's important to note this post includes 2 things I usually find really annoying, mainly practice pads and a "novelty" location. But Moore gets such a beautiful, funky, and varied palate from the pads that I found myself grooving along to the sounds with him, and the presentation of this lesson on a  gondola is so endearingly goofy that it warmed even my cold, cynical heart! :)

Friday, May 10, 2019

This isn't about us: epilogue

Recently, a talented and beloved member of the Toronto Creative passed away tragically and suddenly. Justin Haynes' contribution to the Canadian music scene has been well documented elsewhere, so I'll just say that if you haven't checked out his music, you really owe it to yourself to do so.
The week of Justin's death, I had two gigs that weekend. Both had their issues. The first one was at an establishment that likes to think of itself as a dedicated music room, but really their main purpose is selling food. The second gig was in a listening situation but it was with a front person who seems to think the more instruments they play (including random percussion ) the better with no regard for the quality of said playing.
 As the gigs came up, I was feeling very sad about Justin's death, partially because I had a sister die some years ago for similar reasons. I decided to dedicate both evenings of music to them....

At gig one there was a table seated right next to the drums. They weren't only ignoring me, they were screaming over top of me! For 3 sets! I kept thinking they wouldn't want to hear me and either move to another table or leave entirely! Nope! They got up and left as we were playing the last note of the night! Funny part is, I barely noticed them! I was able to concentrate on the sounds the piano trio was making and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

At gig two, the front person behaved as usual, and again, it didn't bother me. I had a lovely time playing the drums and it felt meaningful to me.

What happened? I think a couple of things. I think Justin's death reminded me ( once again ) that we have a limited time here on earth and there's no time ( as my beloved Fabs would say ) for fussing and fighting my friend. I think the other thing is I believe Justin and my sister heard me and were helping me focus.

Anyway, be kind and gentle with yourselves, and I'll be back soon. :)

Friday, May 3, 2019

Brush Circles, the eternal conundrum

Howdy,
One question I get asked fairly frequently is " What direction do you make your circles in when playing brushes"?
Basically, one can circle in ( right hand counter clockwise, left hand clockwise ) or circle out ( direction of hands reversed ). I tend to find matched grip players tend to circle in more, because circling out seems a bit more awkward for non-traditional grip players.
I think if you're just starting on brushes, it's good to find one way that works the best, and stick with that as you develop your technique. However, if you're a true brush nerd like me ( I blame Dad and the Papa Jo record he gave me when I was in grade 9 ) I think you'll discover there are great advantages to being able to circle both directions with either hand. They feel different and I think they are both useful at different times. So, how to work on this? Well, figure 8s work really well in getting us comfortable with both directions and create a pattern that's great in it's own right.



Here's a couple of more videos of ways to get looser with the concept.





Also Philly Joe's great book " Brush Artistry" ( now out of print but can be found online ) can be very useful for inward circlers who want to work on their outward circling chops.
Please be reminded though, it's more important to be very comfortable with one direction of circles than to play both ways poorly. I well aware that many wonderful drummers are not nearly as obsessed about this stuff as I am. Good luck and have fun!

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Happy International Jazz Day!

Well, here we are with the 7th celebration of International Jazz Day. What better way to honour it than to check out this performance of Shelly Manne and his Men on Jazz Scene U.S.A. from 1962. It's great to see this footage of Shelly. he looks so relaxed and balanced, and man does it swing. I could watch his right hand forever! Enjoy.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Erroneous Impressions

 NOTE: I am aware that Scott K Fish posted the Kenny Clarke footage previously on his excellent blog.   I actually put this blog together a couple of weeks ago ( sure ,Ted, sure! )  and I realized that I'm putting in a slightly different context here so I'll go ahead with my original post....


Firstly, don't get the wrong impression about this post. It's not about this.....



Whew! I hadn't seen that in a while! Also, there's a great version of this tune on last year's "Both Directions At Once".

Now, on to my point.
I'm paraphrasing here, but Keith Jarrett said something to the effect of that if you haven't seen someone live, you don't really know their playing, and if you've seen them only once, that doesn't count. Now for a Canadian of my age, they are many great Jazz musicians I've never seen live. My knowledge of Charlie Parker, for example, was gathered only through recordings. I'm sure seeing Bird live was a whole other dimension!
Mentioning Mr. Parker is a good segue to a great drummer who played with Charlie Parker who I had an erroneous impression of, based on the recordings I'd heard. I was VERY aware of Kenny Clarke's importance in BeBop, Jazz, and drumming history in general. Unfortunately, most of the first recordings I heard were like this.....



Don't get me wrong. I love this record, and I bought in my first year of university and it made a great impression on me. It's just that a lot of the drums recorded on the Savoy label sound sort of dry and pinched, especially the snare drum and cymbals. Add to that a very obtrusive plate reverb on the horns and I find I like these recordings in spite of the sound rather than because of it. Kenny tends to play very sparsely on these recordings and doesn't use a lot of toms or velocity in his playing. It's beautiful and tasteful, but I did find myself thinking that his approach was rather cerebral and reserved. I eventually picked up the "Monk Plays Ellington" recording, which sounded a little more open to me, although he really sticks to playing the time, which sounded perfect to me for that situation.
Then one day piano great Dave Restivo hipped me to THIS recording.....



All of " A Tribute To Cannonball"  is killing" and the drums sound nice and open. The drums are very exciting on this! There is also a lot more "chops" displayed on this recording from Clarke. When I first heard it the difference was so dramatic from the Savoy recordings I thought he'd just played a week opposite Buddy Rich's band or something! Definitely sounds more like someone who is going for it!

Then, just today, I stumbled upon this.....



Wow! Nice aggressive jazz drumming! Lots of single stroke language, toms, and Kenny Clarke sounds as modern as any current drummer! I think this gives a much more accurate view of what Kenny Clarke was playing like on gigs!

I guess the lesson for me is to keep searching out different sources of the great players. Also Clarke's playing, like all of the greats is complex, nuanced, and situational.
If anyone builds a time machine I'd go to 52nd St. in New York in the '40s. I'm sure Kenny Clarke would consistently blow my mind! :)

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The rise and fall of the studio musician

This post of was inspired by thoughts I had upon hearing of the passing of drumming great Hal Blaine. Mr. Blaine was part of a unique group of musicians that played on many of the hits of the '60s and '70s. They were almost always uncredited for their work. Hal Blaine's group ( dubbed the Wrecking Crew ) was located in California, but there have many examples of similar situations in various locales and eras, wherever commercial recordings are made. It is interesting to note, this sort of exclusive society of people who played on the vast majority of recordings hasn't ever really existed beyond the movies/television and the Pop?rock area. For instance, there was no "ghost' piano player on the Goldberg Variations  and then Glenn Gould was hired to be it's good looking, eccentric face. As well, there doesn't seem to be any incidence of say, Johnny Griffin going in to record at Blue Note and his work being substituted for a tenor player with more "studio chops".

Let me be clear, I think it's great that, eventually, the great Mr. Blaine and his cohorts, along with the people who played for Motown, etc. got their due. The other side of this, however, is the recognition of the studio musician also led to its fetishization. AS well, music magazines and bands like Steely Dan's tendency to use a different band for every tune furthered this attitude among musos. I think the feeling in the recording industry ( at least the commercial side of it ) was that if you didn't have one of the "cats", you weren't going to have a good recording at all. This led to a lot of musicians               ( especially the drummers ) in bands being replaced on recordings. Check out the documentary on Chicago ( Now More Than Ever ) and hear the frankly heartbreaking story about how Danny Seraphine was replaced on some tracks without being informed! What makes this particularly bizarre is that, at the time, Chicago was signed to Warner Bros., a label with considerably big pockets. So, if producer David Foster wasn't satisfied with Seraphine's playing, he could have told the rest of the band to chill for a couple of days and worked with Chicago's actual drummer on the intricacies of the click track etc. It's interesting to note that when Bob Ezrin worked with Kiss, he did pretty much what I've just described. He has more patience, I guess.

I believe this whole worshipping of one way to play, sound, etc. or that there's one absolute way to play a tune led to recordings eventually sounding more generic. If a limited amount of people play on all the hits, aren't the hits all going to sound the same after awhile?                                                

Another issue is that bands have alchemy, and as soon as one person is removed, that alchemy is destroyed. I don't think it's a coincidence that the Beatles' recordings didn't truly capture the imagination of the listening public until Ringo Starr was established as their recording drummer. Ringo was of a similar age and had the same influences as the rest of the band, but Andy White, although a very capable drummer, did not. This is borne out on the out takes that White plays on. Lightning will probably strike me for this, but I've always felt that Steely's Dan's best drummer was Jim Hodder, the one who played all their original gigs. Which leads me to......

Another aspect of this is loyalty. A recording is a reward for doing all the crummy gigs at county fairs where the drums get covered in dirt and horse manure. It's a payback for all the low pay, tough load-ins, and lack of sleep. There's no better way for a young player to get experience recording than actually doing it. Imagine how the world would have been different if Miles Davis hadn't used Tony Williams in the studio because he thought he should have someone more experienced!

Let me make this abundantly clear. I have nothing but love and admiration for all the studio greats that have made such great music, I'm just suggesting that at times, there may be other options.

Thanks!

Monday, April 8, 2019

How flexible are your ears?

PLEASE NOTE: This is not a post about learning how to wiggle your ears. ( Although I've always been jealous of people who can do that. )

                            Potentially an ear wiggler!

No, today I was going to talk about how we all tend to listen to all music in the same way, despite it's differences and the variety of things we can learn from it.

Example A
My theory teacher when I was an undergrad at McGill introduced me to this piece and I've loved it ever since. Check it out....



Now, what do I love about  the Hadyn Variations? Well, the orchestration is beautiful, it's a great way to learn about taking a musical theme and varying it, and the melody is very pretty. If I was listening for a deep funky groove, or lopsided rhythms, or electric instruments, I would be very disappointed.

Example B
This artist actually performed in my hometown of Regina, Saskatchewan when I was a teen and this represents a very compelling era of his music for me.



In this case, I really like the poetry of the lyrics, the groovy clavichord and percussion, and even the relative lo-fi of the recording. Super exotic instruments? Wild orchestrations? Nope. I actually know a couple of Jazz musicians I know and admire a lot who reject Reggae completely because it doesn't have many chord changes! Huh? And one of these people EVEN DOUBLES ON DRUMS!!! If you can't appreciate Sly Dunbar's fantastic drumming on this, I don't really know how to respond!

Finally, this is an artist I've listened to a lot, although I slept on this particular recording until recently



No, Paul Motian's music does not have blazing displays of technique, and in this case, much Bebop language or much of a tight groove. But, I'm not listening for those things so I can enjoy the deep improvisatory vibe, the beautiful instrumental colouring etc.

The point is, there's tons of great music to listen to, enjoy, and learn from as long as we don't view it all with the same expectations!!! Enjoy!


Sunday, March 31, 2019

This isn't about us......

I recently watched a documentary on a famous drum company. I may post about it in future but that's not what I'm going to discuss today. While watching the doc, the host/drummer, who obviously is a bit jet-lagged as the company he's visiting is in Europe, muses aloud if he has any "chops" left and if there's a possibility that one could use up owns allotment of technique for any one day. Now, it's readily apparent he's being facetious, but it did get me wondering about that manner of thinking. Is technique a limited resource? I don't think so. Once one develops a certain level of physical comfort with an instrument, that doesn't go away, unless one becomes physically or physiologically damaged because of some sort of trauma. At least that's what I believe. Okay, what about ideas? Is there a bank of ideas that one borrows from until your account is empty? I don't buy that either! Have you every listened to someone play and it seems like they never run out of things to say? To write? What causes that?

I think the answer, for me, is that it doesn't come from us. I really think there are higher creative forces, muses, whatever you want to call it, that send us information and guidance, in the moment, if we're open to it. Okay, this where all the atheists get annoyed at me and stop reading, but hear me out...
How do explain music, where it comes from, and the effect it has on us? I really feel it comes from something bigger than ourselves. I don't think we have to give it a name, read the bible, go to church or chant to receive this higher force's transmissions. ( Although if any of the former practices help you do that, by all means go for it. ) I think we just have to be open to it. We need to take the pressure off ourselves to create. To let go of the extremely egotistical idea that everything we do emanates from us. Instead, let's embrace the idea that we are a channel for this higher creative spirit, and work on preparing so that we can receive it's wisdom. How do we prepare? I believe there are a few ways.

1. Calm your mind

A big part of this process for me has been getting out of my own way. That means letting go of negative self talk and judgement, not only when I'm playing but in all aspects of my daily life. Any sort of meditative practice will help with this. There are many meditation videos online or Kenny Werner's great Effortless Mastery books and seminars are great resources. Don't worry if you're getting it right, just get started!

2. Practice your instrument

I think there's a tendency when there's discussion of higher creative forces to think the muse will visit you and present you with a brilliant idea even if you never spend any time with your instrument. Not so! You need to develop a relationship and get comfortable with whatever your physical conduit to the music is. You need to have a loose open mind and technique to receive whatever secrets the creative force is willing to whisper in your ear. Otherwise you won't be ready to hear it.

3. Build your creative appetites

When we're talking about music, this means LISTENING! LOTS AND LOTS OF IT! Listening to music of all styles, played by all instruments and vocals. Listening to the sounds of industry and nature, and finding music in that as well.

4. Be less attached to results

Be willing to accept whatever you hear in your improvisations and compositions. Don't worry if you think it's hip or not, just flow with it.

 5. No matter what happens, love yourself unconditionally

And i mean unconditionally. Not "if I play well" or "If I write a tune that merits my affection". Nope. Being kind and gentle with yourself is a prerequisite to all creativity, as far as I'm concerned, and non-negotiable!

Usually, at this point, I usually post some music, but I think in this case, I'll issue a challenge instead. If you feel this post has helped you, or even got you thinking slightly differently, then please go play, write or draw, etc. If you're comfortable with it, please send me link to the results. If I get some responses, perhaps I'll share some of them in a future post.

Thanks for being here, and celebrate yourself TODAY!

Monday, March 18, 2019

Pet Peeves

This instalment of Trap'd is brought to you by my assistant BartholeMEW MURRay Warren. As usual, he's working hard to make things happen around here......

Speaking of pets, I thought I would share a few of my most persistent pet peeves. One of the biggest has to be......

1. Retro Snare-y Drum Solos

I think I've mentioned this before, but there's a real tendency among current Jazz drummers to play solos that sounded better in the bebop and post-bop eras, you know, WHEN THEY WERE CONCEIVED!!!
They feature LOTS of snare drum language, heavy on a very self conscious use of rudiments, and not much tonal or dynamic variation or independent coordination. Oh, and NEVER any non-Jazz references! That's clearly a no-no! Now, let me be clear, I'm not talking about people like Philly Joe and Buddy Rich etc. who played a lot of snare drum because that's what they heard, I'm talking about current players who play a lot of snare drum because they think  they're supposed to! I find this extremely tiresome! Let's listen to Philly and use him to inspire us to play something THAT HIP, not just regurgitate it!

2. Yet More Instagram Complaints

I discussed some of the many problems with drums-related posts on my "The Drummers of InstaHAM" rant. One problem I hadn't twigged onto then was the absolute dearth of anything remotely improvised on this social media platform ( or so it appears with the posts that come up when I'm searching for drum and music related content. ) I see a LOT of people doing their moves, looking like they were choreographed weeks in advance, with the stiffness of execution that comes with trying to be impressive. Not interested.

3. Cymbal Stands That Double As Tom Stands

To be honest, I seem to be seeing this a lot less lately, but that doesn't change my extreme dislike of this "inventor who has never played the drums" proposed solution to freeing up a minuscule amount of space in one's set-up. Once I can get the tom where I want it, I can't get the cymbal within 5 feet of me. Grrrrrrr!

4. Weird Set Ups

I should probably just quit ever looking at drummers on Instagram.
Saw someone playing one of the written solos from the Rick Latham book. Great, but this person had the snare drum down by their knees!!!! Um, what if you want to play a rimshot?  If you can't get at all parts of the instrument, change something. No cymbals covering up bells of other cymbals, etc......

Okay, enough ranting. Let's end with something positive.
Here's some video of Roger Taylor playing with Queen at Wembley stadium in 1986. Between seeing the Queen biopic and playing " Bohemian Rhapsody" with a choir as part part of my Masters, I've been appreciating Mr. Taylor's unique style. Note how he often opens his hi-hat along with his backbeat on 2 & 4, making it that much fatter. I can't think of another player who does this very often, if at all. Enjoy.

Monday, March 11, 2019

What's in your back pocket?

Recently, I got to play a bunch of great music with trumpet master Jason Logue's new 9 piece band. ( BTW Jason's arrangements are KILLER and we plan to be recording and playing more gigs soon. )
Before the gig,  Jason sent us the arrangements beforehand and after checking them out myself, I decided it would be fun to have some of my students take a crack at playing them. Here's the first page of one of the charts.

Sorry, it's somewhat cut off. I will include a full pdf as well. Now Jason writes very good charts that are very clear and don't need a lot of explanation. What was interesting is that some of the students couldn't get the first part of the chart. Not because they couldn't read, not because the chart was unclear, but because they didn't have a 12/8 beat that they could play without thinking about it.   
Granted 12/8 rhythms can be tricky, so that's even more reason to have one that's "in your back pocket' ready to go!
This got me thinking of how I often teach these rhythms. I usually get the student started on the general vibe of the beat and then give  them 12-16 variations to work on. The problem is, when the tune is being counted off with a band you don't know, a chart you don't know, you're feeling nervous , the sound is weird, etc., you don't have time to think about what you're going to do. You just need ONE thing that's reasonably appropriate and ready to go. If you don't, the attention you need to put on the 10, 000 other musical issues you're dealing will be used for trying to put a groove together you're not comfortable with. So, from henceforth ( Hear ye! Hear ye! ) I will give the student the 12-16 exercises, but I will ask them to pick one that they like the most, and they will have to have it memorized, be able to play it at at least 3 tempos and 3 dynamic markings ( Thanks Joe LaBarbera! ) and even be able to carry on a conversation with me, while still being able to play the beat steadily.
12/8 is certainly one rhythm we should be able to do this with, but what are some others? Let's make a short list.

Back Pocket Beats
12/8
Rock (8ths-based)
Funk (16ths-based )
Shuffle
Swing
Bossa Nova
Samba
Rhumba
Bolero
Mambo
Songo
Jazz Waltz
Ballad Brush Pattern
Medium Brush Pattern
Darn it! I forgot 2 beat swing, but definitely 2 beat swing!

Play all at at least  3 different tempos and dynamics


Now, there's certainly a lot more beats it would be good to be able to do this with, but this is a good start. Remember, you just have to have just ONE of these beats together at first, but by together, I mean you have to know it inside and out, so there's no situation you can't play it smoothly and effectively in. The source material can be from books, or learning beats by ear from recordings, but you've got to have them be as second nature as breathing. :)

And to conclude, you couldn't do much better for a rock beat or two than from the great Jeff Porcaro, shown here playing, as always with great time, commitment, and taste.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Bill Evans Beautiful Love

Just stumbled onto this online. Bill Evans playing with Niels Hening Orsted Pedersen on bass and Alan Dawson on drums playing "Beautiful Love" in Berlin in 1965. 3 great artists at the height of their powers. Check it out!



This is why we play music.
This is why we listen to music.
This is why we practice music.
This is why we love music.