Saturday, October 30, 2010

Harmony, the elephant in the room

Hey everyone,
I just wanted to talk about something I've been working on the last year or so. I've been working on piano, attempting to learn some standard tunes, working on voicings, and trying to blow over the changes.
For a long time I've been trying to avoid it, but I think to throughly participate in music (especially jazz) we drummers have to tackle learning about the harmony. It's a vast world and there's tons of stuff to do to even be mediocre, but I think it's vital. Jerry Fuller, Andre White, and Jack DeJohnette are just 3 examples of drummers who actually know the changes, and I think it's positive effects are shown in their playing. One interesting result for me is when I'm jamming with other drummers while I'm playing piano, I think I appreciate how they contribute and support the music, rather than just listening to their 'drumistics". Certainly an eye opener for me.

Alright, I've got to get going. One 2 5 1 lick isn't going to cut it.......

Then I have to learn how to play the drums!

Friday, October 29, 2010

The "You'll Never Believe This _____Year Old Drummer" Email

Hey folks,
Almost weekly, someone sends me a video of a young drummer. In fact they get younger all the time. I rarely actually look at these because:
a) They ALL play better (technically) than me, and I'm already aware of that.

b) The videos are usually circus sideshow drumming things without a lot of musical context and I tire of that pretty quickly.

I did look at the following video and I really like it. Why? Because this kid:
a) Is only interested in keeping time and playing appropriately for the song. A lot of adult drummers who have been playing for years never get that together.

b) Even when he messes up a bit, he just corrects himself and gets on with it. He's showing a healthy attitude and humility that will get him through the ups and downs of the music business. Again, a lot of seasoned professionals could learn from this.

Check it out.

Now that's someone I would like to hear in 10 or 20 years from now! Plus the hat is a nice seasonal touch.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The case for Phil

Hey folks,
I thought I would post a couple of videos of the great Phil Collins. Yes, I know for many years he's made music better suited to dentist's offices, but he is a great drummer.

Here is explaining a couple of beats from "Face Value' Dig those toms!

Also check out this duet with Chester Thompson. That's it! I'm taking the bottom heads off my toms! Not really, but it is interesting the sort of attack he gets.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

More Weeds/ Senensky/ Schwager video

This time it's from the Rex. Enjoy.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Elvin Jones Trio

Perhaps some of you have seen these before but I consider them the best live Elvin footage anywhere.
Watch and revel in the life affirming beauty of one of the greatest drummers ever.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cory Weeds/ Bernie Senensky Pilot Video

Hello all,
Today I'm posting of a video from a recent gig at the Pilot tavern with Cory Weeds, Bernie Senensky, and Reg Schwager. We played about four gigs over last weekend and had a great time. Cory is a great tenor player as well as running the wonderful Cellar club in Vancouver. As well as playing together, it was great to talk to Cory about matters relating to the club owner's side of things. It just further strengthened my belief that in these tough times especially, musicians and clubs have to work together.
Couple of notes about the vid.
1) Reg, Bernie and Cory all play great.
2) The reason I'm not using any floor tom is that I'm using it as a music stand because Cory borrowed mine.
3) I cuffed the ending but Cory saved it like a true improviser.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Thanks and soloshapes

Hey everyone, I hope you got over the incredible seriousness of my previous post.
First, a quick thank you to my friend and great drummer Jon McCaslin for his mention of this site in his excellent blog, FOUR ON THE FLOOR. My day usually starts with checking out what Jon is up to and his mind blowing selection of videos and articles.

Speaking of articles, this next set of exercises stems from my work on melodic soloing. These exercises are to be used on song forms and if you don't have any tunes memorized, you need to learn some before embarking on this journey. These will help with structuring drum solos as well as playing any ideas that come to mind while still keeping the form of whatever tune we're playing.

Solo Shape Examples
In this set of exercises we’ll practice predetermined solo forms. This isn’t something one would do in a playing situation. One would improvise based on what has occurred before the drum solo, general mood, size of room etc. It’s important that we work on these concepts on our own. If one looks at a typical evening of music from a jazz quartet (Tenor Sax, Piano, bass and drums), the band plays three sets, that’s somewhere between 12 and 15 tunes. There will likely be a tenor solo on every composition. Ditto for the piano solos. The amount of bass solos can vary, depending on the openess of the leader (especially if it’s the bass player!). Let’s say they’ll be bass solos on half of the tunes. How many drum solos will there be? The average would be none to about 2 at most. (Trading 4s and 8s can be fun and a good challenge, but it isn’t the same thing.) What I’m getting at is that drummers have to get their soloing chops together on their own because we don’t get enough chances to do it on the gig. If we practice these examples, we can start to build solo architecture in the moment because we’re used to thinking this way in the practice room. Another thing you’ll notice in the examples here are that there are a great number of solo shapes that don't use all of the drumset. An important part of creating drama and interest is orchestration of the drumset. We don’t have to play all of the kit all of the time. How many times have you seen a symphony play with all members of the orchestra all the time? I would hazard the answer is never. If the trombone plays only in the fourth movement of a piece, it means that colour was appropriate for that part of the music. They’re not there for show. The same thing applies to the drumset. If you want to play a gong once in an evening because it’s perfect for that one section of that one tune, GO FOR IT!
. As you go through these solo shapes, you will find if one part of your vocabulary is limited by the dictates of the soloshape, (e.g. limited palette of drums to use) you will start to use the other options available to you (dynamics, use of space, variations in density of texture, etc.) that you previously haven’t exploited. You will also notice that these solo shapes generally ask very little of you in terms of content (nuts and bolts drum stuff). That’s because if the architecture of a solo is solid, the content isn’t all that important. That’s why both Jack DeJohnette and Paul Motian can play solos that are moving and interesting, even though the Paul Motian solo probably has a quarter of the notes in it that Jack’s does.
Now on to the shapes:

1.As many choruses as you can stand. This is a type of solo to get one to explore all the possiblities of a tune. It’s the sort of practice where one plays through ones cliches. Usually when you’re really bored and ready to give up on the solo, that interesting things start to happen. Try anything.
2. Half chorus. This is the opposite of number one. We’re only going to solo on two A sections of a tune (AABA tune only) and then play the bridge and last A as if we were –playing the out head. This is excellent for really developing small statements that make sense. These are the solos one does if one ever plays on televsion, where two minutes is a “very long time”
3. One chorus Similar to 2 but we get one whole chorus to express ourselves.
4. Play one chorus only using rhythms of a half note or slower.
5. Same as number 4 but using rhythms of eighth notes or faster.
6. Solo for 3 choruses playing only one voice at a time.
7. Solo for 4 choruses using the foot ostinato of your choice.
8. Play two choruses playing only during the rests in the melody. For further insight into this “counterline” please listen to “Nefertitti” by Miles Davis.
9. Play 3 choruses of two bars solo, two bars space (absolute silence) Do this with four and eight bar lengths as well.
10. Play four choruses of solo playing hi-hat on 2 and 4 ONLY on the bridge while still soloing with the rest of the kit. If the form is a blues, play hi-hat only the last four measures.
11. Play 2 choruses, starting at pp and gradulally crescendoing to FF.
12. Reverse 11.
13. Play five choruses of keeping time with the right hand on the cymbal while the rest of the kit solos.
14. Play six choruses, using only large tom and bass drum.
15. Play one chorus snare drum only.
16. Same as 15 but play 3 choruses with the snares turned off in the second chorus, turned back on in the third.
17. Play four choruses of trading 4s of solo between brushes and sticks.
18. Same as 17 but trade between brushes, sticks, mallets and playing with your hands.
19. Two choruses trading 8s between cymbals and drums.
20. Four choruses at dynamic p, cymbals only.
21. One chorus using only deadsticking, pushing the sticks into the drumhead.
22. Two choruses hands play constant buzz roll at ppp. Feet solo underneath at FFF.
23. Four choruses at tempo of quarter note equals sixty or slower.
24. Two choruses of only being allowed to play on the and of 3.
25. One chorus of quarter note equals 240 or faster.
26. Play six choruses, starting at the sparsest texture you can play, gradually ending up at the thickest, busiest you can play.

As you can see, some of these can be quite challenging but I feel they can be very beneficial towards making us more dynamic, exciting soloists.

Houston, We Have a Problem!

Hello folks,
I wish to report a tragedy in pizza related news. A band recently played in Regina and asked for food recommendations. I suggested the pizza joint of my youth that will remain nameless except for the title of this post and the logo above. The band responded that the quality of said food product was somewhat lacking. Oh the shame! C'mon pizza joint named after a certain large city in Texas, get it together! Or else where will students of Sheldon Williams Collegiate go to skip classes, as I did? (I didn't say that out loud, did I?) Are you going to force me to go to some WESTERN location where I will TRIFON my own feet because there's no room? Or will I feel like I've been hit over the head with a COPPER KETTLE at my friend SAMMY'S place?

Okay Ferg! You've won this round. But this isn't over yet..............

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Brushes in 3/4

Hi folks, a pattern (and two variations) in 3/4 on brushes today.
In the main pattern the right hand is constantly circling quarter notes in a clockwise direction.
The left hand is playing a ride pattern by sweeping 8th notes, starting at the top of the drum on beat two going back down to the next beat one. Remember, the left hand will sweep all downbeats to the right and all upbeats to the left.
Here's how the first one looks:

In the first variation the left hand remains the same, while the right hand circles in dotted quarter notes.

Finally, in the last variation. The right hand now circles dotted half notes.

I hope you enjoy these 3/4 patterns. As my skill (and resources) improve I plan to add more notation and video to help clarify these. Until then, play for the music and be good to yourselves!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ted Quinlan Trio

The post today is video from the recording of Ted Quinlan's "Streetscape" with myself and Kieran Overs. The tune is "Go West' and we're actually recording the take that's on the CD as we're being filmed. I have no idea I looked so geeky while recording, but I should have guessed!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Someone we should all be thankful for

For thanksgiving, I thought I would post this great footage of Tony Williams, whom I am eternally thankful for. This is a clip from late in his career because he didn't play Drum Workshop until pretty close to when he passed. I see this and am sure that, had he lived, he would still be kicking the crap out of the drums and showing all us young punks how it's done.

Thank you Mr. Williams.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Couple of brush patterns

Hi Folks,
Just posting a couple of the brush patterns that will be in my upcoming book.
The first one divides up the ride pattern between the two hands. On beat 1 and 2 the hands alternate sliding towards us (starting with the right) and on beats 3 and 4 the hands alternate moving away from us. The right hand taps the skip beats of 2 and 4. In the second one I got the idea from Art Taylor on a Red Garland recording. The right hand is playing legato quarter notes sliding to the right and tapping either the skip beat of 2 and 4 or all four beats to create a shuffle. The left hand is sliding 16th notes, heading to right on all the downbeat 16th and going left for all the es and ahs. This creates a nice tension between the swung 8ths in the right hand and the 16ths in the left. The left hand stays on the drum surface the whole time.

Hope you enjoy these. They'll be lots more in future posts.

Here's a video with me playing brushes (along with other weapons of my choice) with Charles MacPherson, Bernie Senensky, and Mike Downes a few years ago.

First Video Post!

Hey everyone. I thought for my video post I would share my dog Jackson and I doing a bluesy duet. I know I got totally upstaged. What did W.C. Fields say again about working with dogs and children? :)

Friday, October 8, 2010

My students this year.

I just wanted to quickly say I'm very pleased with my students this year. They are a hard working bunch and generally show a lot of drive, self-direction, and talent. Bravo!

See, I told you the next one would be positive.


Hi folks,
I would like to discuss a personal pet peeve. I hate the term "kick drum". In fact, I rarely respond when it's called that. It's a bass drum folks, and I'll tell you why I feel that way.
Kick drum is a term I associate with live sound engineers. These are well meaning folks but their concept of the drum set I often find quite disturbing. Part of the concept is that drums sound one way. That there's one way for a BASS DRUM to sound. When I hear Tony Williams', John Bonhams', or Dave Grohls' bass drums, they all sound great to me even though they sound totally different. The other problem is the sound people view the drum set as a collection of disparate instruments. The drum set has many components but it is indeed one instrument. When does a soundperson say to the bass or guitar player, "Let's hear your E string, now play your A string". They get the musician to play and balance the WHOLE instrument as they play it. That's the way the drums should be listened to. In fact, I've been on a few recording dates where the engineer listens this way, and the drums have sounded like they were a collection of different instruments. Sometimes they don't even sound like they've been played by the same person!
Lastly, Kick drum sounds derogatory to me. Jack DeJohnette doesn't kick his bass drum. He plays it, just as Glenn Gould played the piano or Charlie Parker played the saxophone.
Sorry to get a bit rant-y folks. Just wanted to get that off my chest.

I promise the next post will be very positive.