Monday, December 19, 2011

3 Elvin Ideas

I just did my piano gig last night so I'm hoping I'll have a little more time to post. although this season is usually busy around our house.
I thought I'd post 3 Elvin ideas.
First here's the source. I love all of Wayne Shorter's music, but I have a particular fondness for his 60s era Blue Note albums and "Night Dreamer" displays Mr. Elvin Ray Jones at the top of his form. Here he is on "Oriental Folk Song":

While I was talking to somebody about the feel, I noticed some voicings on the drums I particularly liked. (They all occur on the in head.) Now, I could have picked any bar of this and they would have been just as great. That's the thing about someone of Elvin's greatness. There's always more!
Here are the 3 ideas:

Here's me loosely playing around with these ideas.

...And here's using this stuff with more of a 2 feel on the cymbal.....

If I don't post again in the next week, Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Gear and stuff

I was just looking at an article on Paul Motian's cymbals and it reminded of another way this particular artist went his own way. Mr. Motian played cymbals from a combination of companies.
I assume he found what he wanted, and then stuck with it. He probably would have been in more ads etc. if he would have been exclusive to one manufacturer, but that obviously wasn't very important to him. I mention this because I think I am guilty of getting overly concerned with endorsements and press. Now, I have worked with both Vic Firth and Zildjian for some time now, and both companies have been great to me and have given me a lot of support over the years, which I'm very grateful for. I do feel, however, especially in my pursuit of a drum deal, that I have lost focus on what's important occasionally. I have drums that sound good and work well. Some I've paid for and some I have not. I don't necessarily need any more gear, and I think some of this is in pursuit of getting my ego stroked, which has nothing to do with the music.

I also feel sometimes I have overly focused on the gear. Some years back, my 20" old K Zildjian started cracking. This caused me a huge amount of stress. I had been playing that cymbal since high school and assumed I would be playing it for the rest of my life. Before I decided what to do about it I continued playing with other various Zildjians I had owned, both old and new. Did I suddenly forget how to play? No. Did the quality of my playing go on a massive downward turn? I don't think so. Ultimately this was a good experience of teaching me regardless of the gear, I have a sound and a way of playing, and that's going to be there no matter what I play on. (P.S. Roger Flock drilled a couple of holes in the cymbal, and it's been fine for about 10 years now.)
I no longer face drums (or cymbals) that I've never played before with trepidation and trust in the fact that I can create something with whatever is there. Apparently artists such as Joey Baron and Billy Hart often don't even bring cymbals on the road with them anymore. Why should they? Their talent and musicality will transcend any gear their using. Get the sound you want in your head and heart and it can go with you anywhere!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Jazz Jobber

I just had a very positive experience playing what's known around these parts as a Jazz Jobber. A "Jobber' or "Jobbing Gig" would be defined as any engagement where you're playing ambient music for an event. Around Montreal they call these gigs "Club Dates".

As I mentioned, I has a great time at the gig last night. The clients (it was a wedding) did everything right. They were very relaxed, they trusted us to do our thing and let us do it, they fed us, etc. etc. They couldn't have been nicer or easier to deal with. Now certainly, every gig of this type isn't always this easy or fun, but there's also a lot we as musicians can do to make it go smoothly. I'm also going to point out some common errors I feel people make in this type of gig environment.

1. Remember your purpose for being there.
Pretty well everything else I mention could fit under this main category. Whatever the even you're playing, be it wedding, fashion show, etc. You are not the centre 0f attention. Just as whoever does the floral arrangement, makes the meal, etc. Keep this in mind and you'll be a lot less frustrated and better fulfill your job.

2. Make sure your payment is in line with the gig.
This is also a way to keep yourself from being frustrated. These sort of jobs where you're not being paid close attention to should pay more than when you're playing for a strictly listening crowd. As soon as I'm in a situation where I absolutely have to wear a suit and I'm playing an event hall or a synagogue rather than a club, I generally expect to be paid more.

3. Leave your new symphonic work at home.
Okay, I'm being a bit facetious, but it's unbelievable how many times I've played an event and someone wants to play all original music. This is not why you're there! In the case of a "Jazz Jobber" this is a chance to polish up your "Great American Songbook" repertoire. By that I mean, tunes by Gershwin, Cole Porter, and the like and they should be memorized! I sometimes play with someone who has a book of original tunes and we played an event where the power stayed on but the lights went out. Since this person didn't know any standard tunes, we were stuck until we had light again. In a more experienced band the conversation might have went something like, "Do you know It had to be you?" " Sure, what key?" " I dunno, F?" "Sure". I often tell bands I coach that a lot of what I call "Broadway Standards" can function on Jazz gigs and Jobbers.

4. You will be ignored. Revel in it!
I also was in a situation where the bandleader was miffed that people at the wedding weren't clapping for our solos! This floored me! At a lot of these events people are experiencing life changing events and are seeing friends and family that they may have not seen in years. It doesn't matter if you're playing bass or we had a seance and brought back Paul Chambers. They have other concerns besides your hot solo!!! I've mentioned this before but the "flying under the radar" quality of these gigs actually offers a lot of freedom in a way. As long as you're playing standards you can can go for it within those confines as long as you.....

5. Don't play too loud.
This is essential. if people can't visit while you're playing, they won't be happy and you won't get hired again. For us drummers this is great for working on brushes or playing delicately with sticks. View it as a fun challenge and get your low volume chops together!

Alright, now put on your suit, be prepared to eat some good food, play soft, hang with your musician friends and play some standards. Not a bad way to make some $, is it?

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Greetings earthlings!

Today I'd like to chat a little about taste in music. Taste is something that takes a while to develop but like everything else, there are ways to work on it and hasten it's progress.
I like to think of taste as a combination of maturity, experience, and good judgement. Now some may ask, how do I work on experience if I've hardly played any gigs yet? Good question. Getting experience working professionally is invaluable , and there's no substitute for that. Experience listening, however, is something we can all work on every day, regardless of where we are in our professional drumming lives. When you listen to something, try to figure out why the drummer (or whatever instrument you're concentrating on) played what he/she played rather than worrying so much about what they played. What is the context in which they're performing. A lot of things people play in the moment don't look like much outside the context they were played in. That's why sometimes a transcription of a drum part alone doesn't really tell the whole story. That's also why there are a lot of great drum soloists that don't necessarily sound good with a band. If you hear stuff that sounds to your ears as inappropriate, try to figure out the why of that as well.

I recently had a young player express frustration to me because a bass player and I told him two completely opposite things when critiquing a performance of his. I remember experiencing the same thing myself when in school. The thing is, I'm sure we both had a point. The problem is often less experienced players only do certain things halfway, or think they're doing something when they aren't. (I remember one time Dave Holland quite severely taking me to task on the later point, and he was absolutely right.) As a young musician try to avoid rigid thinking such as "A ballad always has to go to double X feel in the solos." or "You should always switch to brushes for a bass solo." Both statements are good general concepts that will work well a lot of the time, but they're not absolutes. Nothing in music is. Also, strong, mature playing will sustain many different concepts. That's why 2 great players can play completely opposite things on a performance and they both will work. In fact, in the hands of a very strong player, they convince you that their way is the only way to play it! When I heard Victor Lewis play recently, he played things that were almost audacious, (and I mean that in a very positive way, the man is fearless!) yet they always worked and sounded beautiful. In less mature and experienced hands the same material would have been a disaster!

Try to think of listening as a flight simulator for your ears. Your not actually flying the plane, but you're getting valuable information for when you do actually take the controls. Playing along with recordings would also fit in with this concept.

Finally, keep in mind taste is something that you can work on, but you will also acquire with time, just from living your life and learning more about the world. When I was younger, I wouldn't say I played with bad taste as much as no taste. I would play things for the wrong reason, trying to justify things I had worked on rather than focusing on dynamic range and groove, for example. In fact, if there was some sort of award for "most inappropriate drumming in a show band context", my work with Saskatchewan Express in the early 80s would certainly be a contender. I apologize Vern and Carol, I was young and stupid!

Here's some great and tasteful drumming from Nashville great Buddy Harman. Check out how he maneuvers that little four stroke ruff throughout the bar. Very thematic. Mr. Harman also created other iconic drum parts on tunes such as Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman" as well.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Programming note

Well, November was a personal best in terms of quantity of posts but for the next little while the posts will slow down a bit and probably be a little less drum specific as I have a couple of gigs on piano and I really want to sound like I remotely have a clue, so .....I'd better get shedding.

The other day I did find a great post on the Cruise Ship Drummer blog on bass drum variations for Bossa Nova. You can check it out there. Thanks to Todd Bishop for this (and other material too) on his great blog.

Also here's more of Paul Motian's great trio playing Monk's "Misterioso".

The feel they get is like no one else! Also check out the new Lee Konitz "Live at Birdland" recording. Beautiful.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The price of tea in China....

Hello music world!
The title of this post is an expression I got from my Mother. When you are having a conversation with someone and they ask you "What does that have to do with the price of tea in China?" they mean, "What does what you said have to do with what we talking about?" I find this is often an appropriate expression in the drumming world, where it's often easy to get sucked into thinking and practicing things that might not be so important and ignoring things that are. I will also admit that some of the things I post here are rather esoteric. Wacky stuff on the drums is great, but it can never take place of certain "immutable principles" that I think we all have to have together before we work on anything else. Let's look at them, shall we?

1. A good sound on the instrument (this would include pleasing tuning, dynamic control throughout the drums and cymbals, consistent attack etc.)

2. Good feel and even time in whatever style we're playing.

3. Knowledge and mastery of whatever music we're playing. This includes knowledge of melodies, lyrics, basslines, chordal harmony, and most of all the FORM of a piece.

There's probably more of these so this is just a short, starting list. An example of me ignoring some of these immutable principles would be if I play some super clever thing I learned at a drum clinic but lose the form of the 32 bar tune I'm playing it on. That's not of much use, is it?

A good way to think about what to practice and how long to spend on it is to place anything you're working on in 1 of 3 sets of goals: immediate, maintenance , and long term.
I'll discuss then briefly now.

Immediate goals:
This would include anything that you have a short time to get together and is required of you for a gig, ensemble, or a lesson, in that order.
So if you got hired to play on a Patsy Cline tribute on a Tuesday and the gig's on a Friday, you'd better learn the tunes (and make cheat charts possibly too) before you do anything else. If you get together a brilliant Brazilian beat together but mess up on the gig, that's not a very good use of your time!

Maintenance and improvement goals:
This would roughly include any sort of work that will be of benefit to you in the near future but there isn't necessarily a deadline on. This is a bigger list and changes from individual to individual, but might include such things as rudiments and their applications, listening to and playing with records of various styles, learning tunes, different world grooves and styles, funk, brushes, reading, etc. A lot of this stuff might not be as glamorous as learning a tune from a Punk band that you love but no one else has ever heard of but you'll probably never play it in public so again, your practice time could be better spent.
Try to gear this list to your weak areas and things that you would be asked to do on a gig. A friend of mine told me a very funny story about a rather egotistical fusion drummer he knew who could play all sorts of drum stuff but sat in with a band playing the tune "Cute" and played time through all the drum breaks! Prioritize folks.

Long term goals:
This would include anything you want to do. It might include lifting your favorite prog rock song's drum part note for note, one handed rolls, double bass drum, etc. With this stuff, realize there will be a lot of times you play with people where you won't be able to use it and NEVER try to fit it in just because you've worked on it a lot and want to justify that. You are justifying that at the expense of the music, and that's way too high a price to pay! When I started working on odd groupings I'd say a good 2 years went by before I approached anything like playing any of that stuff in public. I also sometimes spent months ignoring it while I worked on things I had to know sooner. If you're going to play drums your whole life (and I certainly hope that you do) some things can wait a while.

I think in general, it's good to realize that all the crazy drum stuff will only mean something if you can play the gig. Gigs, for most of us mere mortals, means playing musically and appropriately with good sound and feel. There's a handful of people who travel the world playing solo at drum festivals but they're not going anywhere anytime soon!
A really good local example of a player who can make your mouth drop open but who never fails to play for the music is Paul DeLong. He has the musicality ( as well as good old career sustaining common sense) to pick and choose the spots where his virtuosity will have the most impact. I know he's sick of hearing how much I enjoy this performance of his, but here he is on Kim Mitchell's "All we are" playing the CRAP out of a 1/2 time 3/4 shuffle type groove, complete with cool bass drum placement, and great back end of the beat fills.

Thanks, and go practice something practical!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ted's weekend of getting his butt kicked!

Hey everyone,
I meant to post this about a week ago, but....well it was a very strange week, to say the least.
Anyway, a week ago last Sunday I had the treat of seeing more high quality music in one day than I had had a chance to in years!

First, I got to see JPEC's latest concert presentation in Toronto. The Jazz Performance and Education Centre is committed to putting on concerts by world class jazz artists, In fact, I played one of their events with Seamus Blake last year. This event was Darren Sigesmund's band opening for Lionel Loueke's band. First Darren's band. They played all original music with a great mixture of textures and grooves. They had a very unusual fron line of Voice, Trombone, and Alto, which Darren's writing showed off beautifully. Great solos and wonderful music. Also worth noting is that although the regular drummer is Ethan Ardelli, (a great younger player that I've mentioned in past blogs) subbing in for him that night was Fabio Ragnelli .He played the music so beautifully. Please check out this talented, musical drummer when you have the chance.

Then the Loueke Trio played, and it was so great to hear them live after enjoying their recordings for so long. The three of them have such empathy, developed during 12 years of working together. Lionel Loueke deserves a lot of credit by sticking with Ferenc Nemeth and Massimo Biolcati in the early days when they weren't well known. I've talked about nemeth's drumming before and how much I love what he does, and he certainly didn't disappoint. He plays so sensitively, always the perfect thing at the right moment. A wonderful night of music.

I wasn't done though, I trundled over to the Rex where Sax player Ryan Oliver was finishing the last night of a 3 night run with Victor Lewis. I've been fortunate to have seen Mr. Lewis a few times over the years, but I don't think I've ever heard him play with as much authority and vitality. After recovering from a dislocated shoulder last year, he's playing better than ever!

This experience has also been very important for me to realize (again) the power of live music. I think many of us are lulled into think youtube or live feeds (great and handy as they are) are no substitute for being in a room with them and feeling them create. I am vowing to make checking out people live a priority from now on.

I had this pointed out to me on the weekend, it's long but do yourself a favour and check out this version of the Bill Evans trio with the dearly departed Paul Motian playing great, as he always did.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Ted's Warren Commission at The Jazz Room

Just a short missive to let everyone know I am playing at The Jazz Room in Waterloo tonight (Saturday November 26th) from 8:30-11:30 EST with my band, Ted's Warren Commission. The line up tonight is: Mike Downes-Bass, Mike Malone- Trumpet, and special guest commissioner Kim Ratcliffe -Guitar. It's been a difficult week for me so I'm especially looking forward to the cathartic experience of playing with such wonderful musicians. Also the Jazz room will be debuting it's live streaming from it's website so you can also check us out there.


Friday, November 25, 2011

What we can learn from Paul Motian (if only we would listen),

I am actually so nervous as I write this I'm trembling. This has never happened before, but the matter I'm about to address is of such vast importance I feel the pressure to get this right.

Before I get into the body of this post I'd like to mention again that the loss of Paul Motian this week has affected me deeply. There's a sort of pool of melancholy that I feel underneath everything. People might read this and say, firstly, that he wasn't a young man (chronologically) and had a long and varied career. That's true, but if you look at the man's work I'm convinced he wasn't done yet and partially I'm mourning all the great music we'll never get to hear. More on that later. Also, others might say that I didn't know the man personally, had no interactions with him socially, he wasn't family. What's the big deal? I think my wife, Kate put it best when we had a similar conversation about the passing of Tony Williams (another great lost to us at one of his many creative peaks). She said "What he did touched you. and you know the hard work and sacrifice it takes to do what he did". That Kate, with that sort of sensitivity, she would have made a great musician.

What we can learn from Paul Motian, and by"we" I mean myself as much as anyone, lest people feel I'm preaching.
1. Keep looking forward
Fairly early in his career Paul Motian (with Scott LaFaro and Bill Evans) basically started a whole new approach to piano trio. If he had passed when LaFaro did, we'd still be talking about his genius. Indeed, when I saw many postings about Motian's death a lot of people mentioned this trio. Sorry folks, but that's just the beginning of this story!!!! He later stayed in New York to be a part of all the new music being made in the 60s, played with Jarrett, formed many innovative bands of his own etc. In fact, I could be incorrect on this but I believe post-Bill Evans he never made a recording as a leader with piano, and didn't perform with many pianists other than Jarrett. (The wonderful work with great Italian pianist Enrico Pieranunzi would be a notable exception.) Mr. Motian could have probably spent the rest of his life playing in piano trios, becoming a shadow of his former greatness (it's a sad fact that many "jazz' fans would have preferred this) but he always followed his muse...forward, not back! A great example of this are two versions of the Bill Evans tune "Five". Here's the first from Bill Evans' debut as a leader "New Jazz Conceptions". Note how much Max Roach you can hear in his playing at this point. The year is 1956.

A great, great performance. But now let's fast forward to 1990 and hearing the version Mr. Motian records with his band (Joe Lovano, Bill Frisell, and Marc Johnson. Johnson also played with Evans, although in a much later version of the trio with the great Joe LaBarbera.)

It's the same guy playing drums and he was almost 60 years old at the time!!!!! Talk about an evolution (or even a revolution) in one's playing and conception. New Jazz conceptions indeed. This also shows how great these people were at rubato playing, but more on that later.

2. Always be yourself.
He consistently stayed on his own path throughout his career. As was typical of Jazz musicians of his era ( he was born in 1931) the music that first touched him was bebop and post-bop. Asked who some his major influences were, he would often mention Max Roach, Art Blakey, Sid Catlett, and the like. This is not unusual. He also didn't site many of the major drumming figures that came after him (Tony Williams, Elvin, etc.) as formative influences, even though I'm sure he listened to and appreciated them. He was also quoted as not caring for Electric (fusion) Jazz or Rock music. This is also not unusual. What is unusual is he used these early influences as a basis for musics that most of the drummers of his generation and earlier (with the possible exception of Max Roach) never came near! Motian played with no tempo, played funky straight 8th grooves, and on and on. As great as some one like Art Blakey, for example, was, he never strayed too far from his hard bop roots. This is not to denigrate Art Blakey who had a mission to preserve acoustic Jazz and made a lifetime of beautiful music because of it. Motian though, seemed to have had a restless spirit and I for one am very thankful for that.

3. The drum set is ONE instrument.
Before many of the drummers usually associated with "breaking up" the time. Paul Motion was using the entire instrument as sort of "sonic generators' rather than just mindlessly playing patterns. By "Bill Evans at the Village Vanguard" he's sometimes putting the hi-hat on 1, or 3, or leaving it out entirely but never interrupting the flow of the music. He was also one of the first players to realise that the cymbal would sustain, and certain quarter notes on the ride could be left out to create more space in the music. (He would go much further with this concept later in his career.) His way of playing time never remotely suggested a "hey look at me, I'm so hip" attitude. Rather, it appeared to be part of his search for personal expression on the drum set. Here's "My Romance" from the above mentioned album as an example.

4. They won't be with us forever.
This pains and shames me to admit this, but I never got to hear him play live. I could say something like "didn't get the chance" but really I didn't make the chance. It's not like he was hard to find playing in the later years either. He stayed in New York and played often. We are fortunate to have outlets like Small's and The Jazz Room that broadcast gigs over the web, and Youtube with it's many resources. My recent experience of seeing Victor Lewis live (which I will post on in detail in the next few days) made me come to the realisation that there simply is no parallel experience to seeing musicians close up in a club. You see them, you hear them, you feel them. You experience how they change the energy in the room with the sound of the drums and the strength of their vision. Certainly it's a testament to Motian's vision that I was affected so strongly purely through recordings but I know I missed the whole picture, and that's something I will regret always.

5. Chops (in the conventional sense) doesn't necessarily mean great art.
Currently, drummers win wrestling type belts for their speed. I wonder how many of them will still be playing when they're 80. Being known in music for your speed is sort like being famous for your looks, it's not sustainable. Many of these individuals as well as some well known artists took Motian's playing to task, saying "he can't play". Certainly he was never flashy. In fact, one of the great things about his playing is you never got an empty display of technique to try and dazzle the audience. He always played the music honestly. As well he forged a completely original sound and time feel. Isn't individual expression the point of Jazz? If that's what it means when you "can't play", sign me up! I'd love to "can't play" half as well as he did!

5. Encourage and nurture young talent.
He consistently hired younger players to give them wider recognition as well as challenge him. A great example of this is the Electric Bebop band clip I posted a few days ago.

6. Get writing.
Motian came late to composing, but quickly amassed a number of beautiful, often simple, quirky tunes that often suggested folk or classical music as much as Jazz. Again, he didn't try to be anyone but himself. Here's his trio with Lovano and Frisell playing "it Should Have Happened a Long Time Ago".

It's also to important to note that this is yet another revolutionary trio he was involved in. Bass? What for?

7. Don't be afraid of sentimentality in music.
I often hear young musicians playing music that sounds like it was written with a calculator for no other reason than to prove how clever they are. If you're only goal is to be hip, there's not going to be much room to be tender and lyrical. Here's a hauntingly beautiful version of "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" found on the "Paul Motian and the E.B. Big Band" album.

In conclusion, we live in a world that celebrates spectacle, of style over substance. Where people's dream of a "life in music" consists of warbling a Celine Dion tune on a TV talent show like the sonic equivalent of a summer blockbuster gone wrong in hope of becoming famous. Where so-called "jazz magazines" feature musicians who look like fashion models with instruments. (In some cases I suspect they sound like fashion models with instruments.) Where young musicians decide to confuse audiences as mentioned before, or the alternative, play the music and lecture about it like it's some museum piece, ready to be put in mothballs and stored frozen in time, harkening back to the good old days of "real jazz".
Throughout all this, for over 50 years, Paul Motian fearlessly followed his vision. Trends and critics be damned. He made music that was thoughtful, playful, joyous, and challenging. He made people laugh and cry. In short, he was a true artist. True artists are an endangered species, I'm afraid. Anyone who picks up sticks, or any instrument for that matter, owes him a debt that is incalculable. We were indeed fortunate to have him around creating truth and beauty through his drums and melodies.

God bless you Paul Motian, and rest in peace.

Influences and aging

I recently had a conversation regarding influences with another player and I thought I'd write down a few of my thoughts. In music, there are always new talented players that come along and how they affect you will change as you go through your career. For example, I can still remember where I was the first time I heard Tony Williams, Elvin, and Monk. Partially the reason these experiences are still so clear to me is that I was young and just starting to find out about the music. That excitement I felt was created by this information coming at a formative time when I still hadn't heard very much music, so every time I heard something, it was completely new to me. Cool as this feeling was (and occasionally still is) it's pretty hard to sustain. So as much as I love Brian Blade, for example, I'm not going to hear him in the same way as someone who's just starting to check out Jazz and improvised music. His influence can't be as strong as some of my earlier listening. Plus, at this point in my life, I can't devote all my energy to checking out the latest thing and immersing myself in it to the exclusion of all else.
Plus, with a lot of the newer artists, as great as they are, I'm more likely to hear things that I feel are missing, as opposed to when I was young and just heard the new, cool parts of things.

It's interesting, when I studied at Banff in 1988, I feel I was very impressionable and was likely to get sucked in and completely "blown off course" if you will from any strong player I heard. Originally, when Dave Holland was heading the program he wanted DeJohnette to teach there, but it didn't work out. I think if he had, it might have been problematic for me (ironically) because I loved ( and do love) his playing so much. In fact, for awhile I had to not listen to Jack because I was becoming a very lame copy of him. As it was "Smitty" Smith was there, and it was great hearing him and checking him out. It was also impossible to even attempt to copy him because not only could I not begin to approach what he was doing technically, I couldn't even figure out what most of was he was playing was!!

So enjoy those first glimpses of what's possible on the drums, they will stay with you for a long time!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

....And we're back!

Hey all,
The computer is fixed. Thanks to the fine folks at Synergenics in Guelph!
A lot has happened in the last few days, not the least of which is the untimely deaths of Paul Motian and Robert Spizzichino, I will be devoting a whole post to Paul Motian soon but Peter Hum has has some great posts on this. I haven't been this affected by a musician's death since Tony Williams passed, but more on that later.

Here's the two cascara articulation vids I promised. The titles pretty much tell the tale.


Saturday, November 19, 2011


Hey folks,
Super quick one today. I will post some video related to this in the coming days but right now I'm having some computer issues which are limiting me. Hopefully they'll be fixed soon.

So quickly...

Take any beat you normally play (say some sort of standard rock beat) and on the back beats try buzzing one of the strokes on the snare rather than playing it straight up, Try it on 2 only, then four only. Then try it on the downbeat strokes on the hi-hat (you'll probably want to take this at a pretty slow tempo).

Okay, try the same thing except use a deadstroke ( pushing the drumstick into the head and leaving it there). Again, try it on different parts of the bar or on the hi-hat. The cool thing about this (at least on a drum) is it will deaden it yes, but also raise the pitch a bit.

Finally, mix and match this stuff. Remember, changing how you articulate any rhythm is a great way to create variety.

Okay here's some footage of Paul Motian's Electric Bebop band. It doesn't really have anything to do with this post, but it's awesome, and you should see it! :)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cascara part 2

here's a few more exercises using the Cascara rhythm. Please note, these aren't supposed to be in any way folklorically correct., although i would certainly hope that you're all trying to work on playing the music of Cuba (as well as other musics of the world) as authentically as you can. I've spent a lot of time working on "world" music (although I hate that term) yet never really have done many gigs playing it. This work , however, has helped my drumming and overall musicality in so many ways.

Okay here's the stuff:


Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Hey all,
Today I'm going to show a couple of things I did with the Cascara rhythm. Cascara is found in Cuban music. It means "shell" in Spanish, referring to the shell of the timbales this rhythm was originally played on.
The rhythm goes like this:

This rhythm is easily as important as the jazz ride rhythm or the basic rock beat and it's important for us to become very familiar with it.

Here's 2 current variations I've been playing around with:
The first one is the Cascara in the right hand, dotted quarters (played as flams between the rim of the small tom and a rim click on the snare), quarter notes with the hi-hat and the tumbao ( + of 2 and beat 4) with the bass drum.

Note the right hand part on the edge of the cymbal gives it an interesting quality, I think.

Next, I'm doing the cascara in the right hand, filling in the rest of the 8th notes with my left, same as above on the bass drum, and putting the dotted quarters on the hi-hat. This is also an interesting example of "Proactive Interference", which is "forgetting [of information] due to interference from the traces of events or learning that occurred prior to the materials to be remembered". The interference comes from me learning left foot clave which is a close but slightly different pattern. Ah, we're never short of challenges, are we?

Happy trails!!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

20 km Jazz diet

Hey folks,
Here's some footage from a recent house gig I was doing in home my town. (Unfortunately now it conflicts with an ensemble I'm running.) I've been trying to be a part of a weekly regular playing situation for a long time now. It's a great way to work on repertoire and develop something with a band as a unit. Even being guaranteed one night of playing a week helps when the phone isn't ringing and my lowly piano and harp playing have improved quite a bit. (In fact I would have played piano on this version of "Autumn Leaves" but Brent likes playing it in E flat! Pathetic I know, but I'm working on playing stuff in different keys....) Anyway, here's Brent Rowan, Jessie Turton, and myself.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Hey folks,
This is related to my earlier post ( Q. Who's that great drummer on that recording? A. You.) but I thought I'd mention it briefly. Today I was playing along with the great Keith Jarrett/Charlie Haden recording "Jasmine". Now this recording is mainly ballads, 4/4 time, just bass and drums, so there's nothing to playing along with it, right?

Not so fast (literally) Sonny! And I don't mean Rollins, Greenwich, or Clark!
There are many choices to make when playing drums along with this, and because there's no drummer on the recording, they're yours to make. Let's list some of them.

1. Implements. Brushes? Sticks? Mallets? Hands? A combination?
2. How are you expressing the ballad time? 12/8? Straight 8ths? Double time feel? A combination?
3. How are you changing colours between the piano and bass solos?
4. Are you playing empathetically yet strongly during the bass solos? Mr. Haden plays the time very freely, especially when he's blowing and it's easy to get off the rails.
5. Are the dynamics and amount of space in keeping with the spirit of each piece?

All of the above questions (especially no. 5) you will have to answer with the taste and good judgement you have developed through countless hours of listening. This may not get you a gig at a drum festival but it will certainly help you become a tasteful and supportive small group player.

Here's a brief doc on the making of the recording. Check it out, then go buy it and then play to it and raise your level as an aware musician!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

"Carrying the Torch" vs. "Hip and Modern"

Hey everyone,
I wanted to quickly talk about the divide in Jazz circles that seems to be going on forever. It's the divide caused by the crowd that wants to "carry the torch" (play only standard tunes, play only in 4/4 time, etc.) and those that want to be "hip and modern" ( play only originals, never play in 4 etc.). I feel that both these "camps" are illusions and can be traps as well. As far as carrying the torch goes, there's been original music written throughout jazz's history, from Louis Armstrong's Hot 5 on. From Ellington, to Monk, to Wayne Shorter and Steve Swallow and beyond, writing new music has and always will be part of the tradition. Conversely, I find I know run into people that almost brag that they don't know any standard tunes. How would you play with new musicians you've just met in Italy? Would you bring your books and teach them one of your own tunes? No, you'd use what Keith Jarrett calls "the tribal language" and play a standard tune. (This works even if the musicians you're jamming with don't understand english!)
When you actually look at a lot of the musicians that are out there really playing right now, most of them perform (and often record) their own tunes and standard tunes. I think it's incumbent for us to work on both types of vehicles. So if you're someone who only plays other people's tunes, try writing a contrafact. This is a fancy way of saying write a melody on an existing set of chord changes. It could even be a blues. Conversely, if you haven't dealt with learning tunes, get started. A lot of them aren't very hard and memorizing them will help your musicianship in general.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Stephen King and music.

Hey people,
Just heard a bit of the great writer Stephen King being interviewed on CBC and it reminded me of a book of his that I found very inspirational.

Here it is:

Here's the blurb about it:

In 1999, Stephen King began to write about his craft--and his life. By midyear, a widely reported accident jeopardized the survival of both. And in his months of recovery, the link between writing and living became more crucial than ever.

Rarely has a book on writing been so clear, so useful, and so revealing. On Writing begins with a mesmerizing account of King's childhood and his uncannily early focus on writing to tell a story. A series of vivid memories from adolescence, college, and the struggling years that led up to his first novel, Carrie, will afford readers a fresh and often very funny perspective on the formation of a writer. King next turns to the basic tools of his trade--how to sharpen and multiply them through use, and how the writer must always have them close at hand. He takes the reader through crucial aspects of the writer's art and life, offering practical and inspiring advice on everything from plot and character development to work habits and rejection.

Right, so what does this have to do with music? Well, once you check it out, everything.

For instance, here's a quote from the book, regarding getting input for inspiration.

"If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write."

If we substitute the words "listen" for "read" and "play" for "write" you'll see what I'm getting at. One of the things you realize from reading this book is what a voracious reader King was and is.He's getting input all the time. Same goes for us. If you want to learn how to trade 4s, play Ska, or anything else, you need to listen to someone do it well.
King also talks about inspiration from both sides. He mentions reading stuff that wasn't particularly well written and thinking to himself "I can write as well as that". That's also important for us to realize. There are some people playing that aren't that strong, and that may give us the courage to get out there and start doing it. He also talks about reading great writers like Steinbeck and thinking in that case, "I'll never be able to be able to write anything that great." Same for us musicians. Listening to Coltrane's 60s quartet make us realize how high the bar is, and what we should strive for, even if we don't make it there.
Read this book and you'll realize how the process of imitation and assimilation transcends all art forms. Highly recommended!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

5 Beat figures in triplets

Hello people!
Today I made some video of me playing a groove I stumbled upon last week.
It starts by using this sticking in triplets: RLRLL, it's 5 notes long so it circles around the bar lines in a fun way. Then I started playing it as a sort of Afro-Cuban 12/8 with the right hand on the cymbal and the left hand doing cross stick on the snare and going to the small tom for the left hand double. The first version is with the hi-hat on all 4 beats and bass drum on 2 and 4. Like so:

Next, the same thing with the hi-hat opening on the last triplet of the bar and then closing on the first triplet (with the foot). All quarter notes on the bass drum.

Finally, here's the same idea but with open and closed jazz hi-hat pattern with the left foot.

Certainly there's many different foot combinations we can all torture ourselves with! :)
I think it's important to note that I kept the "voicing" with the hands the same because I tried different ones and that's what I liked the best. Whenever you're working stuff out, take note of what appeals to you and develop that further.

(Mr.) T.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Odd groupings in 3/4!

This is something I've been working on as part of my commitment to get more odd groupings into my playing. I wrote about doing this in 4/4. It's in The Jan. 2010 and March 2010 issues of Percussive Notes and can be ordered here. (BTW, I have an article on crossovers in the current issue.) Although we're dealing with waltz time, the concept is the same. Take rhythms you're familiar with in 3/4 that are 5 notes long (a quarter note triplet and two 8th notes, for example) and after you've played that for awhile, start working towards slightly slowing down the 8th notes and speeding up the triplets until you have 5 equidistant notes in the bar. Now I had one fellow who worked with me who preferred to figure out where each note of the quintuplet worked out in 16th notes in the bar, and probably for some folks, it's a good method. I found for myself however, if it got too "mathy" it was hard for me to access and I also didn't think subdividing 16ths helped the feel too much if it was a swing setting. The same individual tried to tell some folks later and out of my presence (I know, classy huh?) that my way of doing this was baloney and I was just guessing at the grouping. Nothing could be further from the truth. As drummers, we're always working on ideas that are based on equidistant beats in the bar (Quarter notes in 4/4 time anyone?) so all I've done is worked on hearing this with 5 and 7 note groupings to find the groove in them and be able to play them as naturally as possible.

Here's me first counting in 3 and playing 5, then counting 5 and playing 3, then I repeat the whole process with 7.

Now I sing "Someday My Prince will Come" while tapping out 5 and then 7. Hollywood is going to be calling. I can feel it!

Finally, here I'm trading 4 bar phrases in 3/4 using only 5s and 7s in the trades. (Near the end I'm leaving more rests for extra wackiness!)

I have also sometimes doubled and tripled the odd groupings, BTW.
So... you may not use this stuff tonight, next week, or next year even. But I have found all this stuff has improved my time immensely. If you can divide 3 into 7 equal parts, dividing it into 3 is like a vacation!


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Inside the drummer's studio, Installment 6!

Today I'm extremely pleased and proud to present a mini-interview with the great Adam Nussbaum!

He looks like this:

....And here's just a few things that he's done.......

Nussbaum grew up in Norwalk, Connecticut and started to play drums at age 12 after studying piano for 5 years, also playing bass and saxophone as a teenager. He moved to New York City in 1975 to attend The Davis Center for Performing Arts at City College. While there he began working with Albert Dailey, Monty Waters, Joe Lee Wilson, Sheila Jordan and he played with Sonny Rollins in 1977 in Milwaukee. In 1978 he joined Dave Liebman's quintet and did his first European tour with John Scofield. During the early eighties he continued working with John Scofield in a celebrated trio with Steve Swallow. In 1983 he become a member of Gil Evans Orchestra and played with Stan Getz as well. He later joined Eliane Elias/Randy Brecker Quartet, Gary Burton, and Toots Thielemans. In 1987 he began touring with the Michael Brecker Quintet. In 1988 they recorded the Grammy winning "Don't Try This At Home" During 1992 he was part of the Carla Bley Big Band and that same year John Abercrombie hired him to complete his organ trio.

Since then he has kept active in a wide variety of groups. Among them a recently formed quartet 'BANN' with Seamus Blake, Jay Anderson & Oz Noy, A co-op quartet "NUTTREE" with Abercrombie, Jerry Bergonzi & Gary Versace, The James Moody Quartet, 'We Three' w/ Dave Liebman & Steve Swallow, Eliane Elias Trio, 'Playing in Traffic' w/ Steve Swallow & Ohad Talmor and also busy maintaining an active freelance schedule. Adam has taught as an Adjunct professor at New York University, the New School and State University of New York at Purchase. He also does clinics and master classes around the world.

I'd also like to thank Adam for doing this interview while he's on tour in Europe. He's currently playing with The Impossible Gentlemen. Do yourself a favour and check out this band. Great music! Once again this is a case where the artist's responses are very much like their playing. Adam Nussbaum is known for playing in a direct, empathetic, and above all passionate way and his answers definitely reflect all those qualities.

Anyway, on to the questions......

1. Can you name a live performance and/or recording that has had a particularly profound affect on you?

Countless hours of listening to recordings and absorbing the music when I was able to be in the room with it and feel it.
Right now I can mention seeing Dizzy when I was eight. Hearing the original Tony Williams Lifetime. Digging Monk and so much great music at the Vanguard. Going to Boomers. Lots of great music in NYC!

2. As a younger player, did you do specific things to develop various types of feels (e.g. Playing on the back of the beat for some medium tempos) or did these things more develop through osmosis from careful listening?

Osmosis would be it. also playing with great players. I'm always trying to stay balanced with focus and relaxation. Intensity, not 'tense-ity'

3. Do you feel there are certain elements of the music that younger players of today might be missing?

There are so many adept young players now. If anything, with all the information so easily available there seems to be a lack and belief in the importance of some of the primary foundational basic elements.

4. How much preparation goes into the average recording session you do?

Sometimes you get a short rehearsal, sometimes not....

For example, did the band the played on Steve Swallow's "Deconstructed" get a chance to play any gigs before you recorded?

Yes. We were fortunate to have done a short tour before that date and it was wonderful to have that opportunity.

5. Do you have a favorite recording of yours and/or a recording you've done that you wish more people have heard?

This is a hard one to answer. I can't really think of one off hand..... mmmm.
Some have a had more visibility that others. I generally feel good about the projects that are musically honest valid statements. It's nice when the music, the band and the sound are all happening. I always try to do my best with what the music tells me to do. You have to play well with others (-:

I can't think of a better way to conclude except with some footage of the man himself.
Here he is playing in a killing trio with Dave Liebman and Steve Swallow. (If I ever win the lottery I'm hiring these guys to play at my birthday party!)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The gig triangle

Hey folks,
I'd like to talk about a concept around deciding what work to take as a musician. This comes from great sax man and educator Dave Neill. Dave talks about the "gig triangle". Basically there are three points (or corners) to consider when taking (or not) a gig. The first corner would be good, satisfying music, the second is decent people you want to be around, and finally the third is money. The concept is that after a certain amount of professional playing ( when you're young and inexperienced, you should take EVERYTHING that comes along, and this wouldn't apply to you) two of the three corners should be present for it to be worth your while to come out and play. For example, if you're getting to play interesting and challenging music with people who are fun to be with, then it's probably still worth doing the gig, even though it probably won't make much of a dent in your retirement fund. or, if you're with nice folks and you're making a decent taste, you can probably live with the fact that the music is a little wanting in quality. Finally, if you're getting well paid and it's good music, you can probably put up with almost anyone (especially if it's only one night!)

Occasionally you run into a gig that satisfies all the corners of the triangle. I ran into one of those tonight. In fact, it was extra cool because it was a quintet, and that particular 5 people had never played together before, but almost from the first note there was a very great vibe about that combination of people. A great feeling, almost a bit like a first infatuation with someone. We'll definitely work together again!


Friday, November 4, 2011

Yet another rant!

Hey folks,
Just something quick I've been thinking about. I like to think I'm quite generous with whatever knowledge I've gained (I like to think about the blog as an extension of that spirit.) Yet occasionally I sometimes feel like people are trying to get something for nothing. I remember a friend of a friend coming by and casually asking me to "show him some licks and stuff on the drums". I told him no and said if he wanted to hear me he could come by a club I was playing and check out that. Maybe that seems harsh but it felt like he wanted a free performance or clinic. Musicians struggle to make money, so for someone who I have no relationship with to ask for me to basically dole out stuff at will, well, that doesn't seem reasonable to me. I certainly will chat about ideas with students and peers etc. when there's already a rapport either professionally or in an already established learning environment. If however, I'm made to feel someone's trying to get a free lesson or performance, I will definitely take umbrage!

Okay, I don't want to end on a grumpy note so here's the great Howlin' Wolf with "Smokestack Lightning". (One of my many harp heroes!)

....and here's some music that Tony Williams once remarked about, "Now THAT'S drumming!"

Monday, October 31, 2011

Little green monsters, just in time for Halloween!

Hey everyone and happy All Hallows Eve to all. Those pagans knew how to party!
Actually this doesn't have a ton to do with the holiday, just the green part.
I have realised in the past while that I badly need to jettison my feelings of professional envy and jealousy. These feelings are making me a more bitter and hardened person and that certainly isn't going to help me be a better musician, or human being for that matter. I have realised I'm spending too much time (read any) wondering why I don't get called for certain gigs, why I haven't toured New Zealand as a leader yet, why I don't have my own talk show etc. Okay with the last two I was being facetious but all those questions are basically useless. I'm going to work on concentrating on the work and celebrating the successes of others without feeling I'm comparing myself to them. I was put on this planet to be the best Ted Warren I can, and I won't get there by being jealous of someone else's life.
I thought I would post this footage of Eric Harland. it's been making the rounds a lot so maybe most of you have seen it. It was significant for me because of the joy and eloquence he always plays with. Whenever I hear him, I want to celebrate his absolute mastery of the instrument and music by becoming as masterful ( in my own way) myself.

Thanks so much. Now smell my feet AND give me something good to eat!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Brian Dickinson Trio

Hey folks, happy Devil's Night!
I'm just doing a quick post of a blues from a gig I did last night with Brian Dickinson and Jim Vivian. (Although you can't see them. My daughter was the videographer, do you think she's biased? :) )
The gig made me think about how I get to work with so many inspiring musicians and how they've easily been as much an influence on me as any drummers I've checked out. Also it made me think how in these times of decreased work, how I need to work on artificially creating the looseness that comes with constant playing. More on that in the days to come. Meanwhile, enjoy "Blues in the Closet". Later.

Monday, October 24, 2011

More Brushes

Here's a couple of more brush patterns, suitable mainly for ballads so let's all get romantic!

Wow, some of these diagrams are starting to get a "science class in the 50s" sort of vibe.

Here's video of both of the patterns:

...And here's the crossover pattern with hi-hat on 2 & 4 while I play the melody to Wayne Shorter's "12 More Bars to Go" on the bass drum.'s the same idea with four on the bass drum and the melody on the hi-hat.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Vertical Squirrels & Jane Bunnett

Hey all,
I just found this video. This same line up will be at Van Gogh's Ear in Guelph on December 8th. I've really enjoyed playing with the Squirrels since I joined them a couple of years ago. It's great fun to play in a wide open setting like this where every gig is completely different.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A little Jam

I got into "preparing" the cymbals after seeing a recent Eric Harland performance (I have a tambourine on top of the left hand cymbal and a splash mounted directly on top of the right) and thought I'd play a little solo piece inspired by the slightly different sounds around me.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The left foot, the final frontier!

Hey everyone in this musical neighbourhood we call the internet!
Here's a couple of hi-hat things. They both use a 2 quarter note then one dotted quarter note pattern (seven 8th notes long) while in both examples the right hand plays 8th, the left hand plays quarters, and in the first example the bass drum plays the samba/bossa pattern and in the second example the bass drum plays more of a salsa pattern. I find the coordination where the feet are playing independently of each other some of the most challenging stuff.

Ex. 1

Oh also in example 1 the hi-hat is splashing, in example 2 the hi-hat is played closed.

Ex. 2


Monday, October 17, 2011

3 brush patterns

Hey all, happy Monday.
Here's 3 more brush patterns. I'm still working on the book and when it's finished, all you lovely people will be the first to know.

Here are the 3 diagrams:

...and here's the video of said patterns.

Happy trails!!!!!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Stan Levey

Hey everybody,
Here's some great footage of the highly underrated Bebop drummer, Stan Levey.
I find Mr. Levey especially helpful in terms of playing fast tempos because his comping always hits interesting parts of the bar yet isn't as "blatantly virtuosic" as say, Max Roach or Tony Williams. Some great recordings he's on are Victor Feldman's "The Arrival of Victor Feldman", Dizzy Gillespie's "For Musicians Only", and his own "This Time the Drum's on Me". (Although I just found it on iTunes and it was called "& Stan Levey" and was under Dexter Gordon's name.)

It's interesting, a lot of the musicians categorized as "West Coast" said that it was more of a marketing ploy than an actual style. Certainly if a kind of jazz could be labeled "cool" the music Lennie Tristano and his disciples ( all New Yorkers) were making is probably closer to that. Not that any of that matters. It's all great music.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Shhh part 2

Here's also some exercises on dynamics, some of which were inspired by the late Lou Williamson.


Over the course of my teaching career, I have noticed that dynamic control is an issue for most drummers. In this article I’m going to outline some basic ways of working on this important aspect of drumming. For all these exercises, please use a metrenome or drum machine, as keeping steady time throughout drastic dynamic changes is an extremely important component.

1. FADE IN Pick a beat and tempo that you are reasonably comfortable with and you can play without having to think about it. Preferably a beat or pattern that uses all four limbs. If this isn’t possible, start with what you can handle and work up to it. Play time over a predtermined phraes length, e.g. sixteen bars, and fade the sound in gradually. Start at your lowest dynamic level and evenly play up to your highest dynamic level. Make sure that the dynamic relationship btween all four limbs does not change over the course of the crescendo. If the bass drum is the loudest part of the kit when you begin, it should dominate at the end as well. As always, keep the time steady throughout.

2 FADE OUT Just the same as exercise 1, but in the opposite direction dynamically. Experiment with different types of feels, tempos and phrase lengths.


4. PRACTICING READING ONLY DYNAMICS Find any kind of music that has dynamic markings. It doesn’t have to be drum music. It could be a classical piano score, choral music etc. Now play a beat you’re comfortable with, and concentrate on playing the dynamics correctly, keeping the time steady, and keeping your place in the phrase. The actual content of the notation (e.g. the actual pitches and rhythms) doesn’t concern us in this exercise. We are working on playing dynamics while reading. I find this exercise also helps with grades of dynamics. Most of us can play very loud or soft. Its all the range in between that gets tricky. This example also helps us work on not getting “stuck” dynamically. If our forte dynamic is already as loud as we can play, we will have difficulty if the music calls for fortissimo later on. We need to develop a good sense of relative dynamics. On the following page you’ll find a sample piece to work with.


Here's also a "fake piece of music to practice # 4 to. Sorry about the weirdness in size, but if you print it, it should be normal.

Friday, October 14, 2011


Hey all,
The lovely and talented Jon McCaslin recently requested that I talk about quiet playing and since I love not having to think of subjects for the blog, here goes!

A couple of things first though....
At around 3:23 in the video the talking may get pretty quiet (oh, the irony!) so please adjust your volume. Also, I mention earplugs very briefly. It's my belief we should all do a little of our low volume practicing sans earplugs. It goes back to hearing the sounds we're making and developing our touch. Absolutely it's important to protect your ears but I've dealt with drummers who never heard their instrument without earplugs! Not great for the sensitivity......

...and here's me attempting to apply some of these concepts to Dizzy Gillespie's "Ow".
Okay, I got a little louder in sections but I think the general idea is there.

Thanks so much! See you soon! I need to stop using exclamation marks!!!!!!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cold for teacher?

Hey everyone,
Today I thought I'd reflect on my days as a student, which actually includes up to the present time as I'm finishing off my B Mus. but even more importantly I am always trying to learn everything I can about music, drums, and especially being a better human being. If I look back on my early university days (sometime during the precambrian era, I assure you) I'm struck by the fact that I wasn't a very good student. Oh yes, I was keen and hardworking in a certain way, but there are many things I understand now that make me a much better learner. Let me outline them.

1. I'm much more open-minded
Back in the day, I had very specific ideas about what good teaching constituted. I tended to listen to and do what someone told me to do if I agreed with them (my study with Andre White would be a good example of this) but if I didn't like someone's method, playing. or even their personality I tended to dismiss them out of hand. I suspect in retrospect I didn't even understand some of the concepts I was dismissing, and certainly didn't give them much of a chance. It's interesting, in some types of Eastern based "guru" type situations, the student isn't allowed to question anything his/her teacher tells them. This is probably a bit extreme but it does allow time for the student to assimilate and understand what the teacher is getting at.

2. I value experience as a teacher
I think that when I was younger I viewed lessons as almost a commodity that one could buy, like soap.(This is an idea that has gained in popularity since then, I fear.) As I got older I found so many different ways to learn. This is especially true of music, which like life itself, is very complex and can't always be boiled down to neat and tidy exercises. In one of my earlier posts I mentioned how "on the job" experience, even when it's been quite painful, has been invaluable to me.

So I go forth and am trying to learn every day. I can only hope nowadays I have the bravery, maturity, patience, and understanding to take in information and growth from whatever source it comes from. I encourage all students of music (and life, which pretty well covers everybody) to strive to do the same.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Brush circle comping

Hey everyone, happy Thanksgiving to all the Canadians out there. I want to briefly touch on using circles of various sizes and note lengths in the left hand while keeping time with the right in 4/4 and 3/4 while using brushes. This is an idea used very successfully by great Canadian drummer Marty Morell, amongst others. The principles behind it are pretty simple. The longer the rhythmic duration you're trying to achieve, the bigger the circle. I've filmed a couple of examples to demonstrate this. First in 3/4 I've played dotted half notes, dotted quarter notes, and quartuplets in the circles with my left hand. Like so:

Another length of circle that I neglected to do in this is example would be half notes, which would give us something that would resolve every two measures. if you do that one make sure you're playing a one measure pattern in the right hand to still give it the feeling of 3/4.

Next up are some examples in 4/4. I start with a dotted half note and then go to a dotted quarter note, (all these examples will go across the bar line) then switch to a on again/off again figure that repeats every five 8th notes, then to a seven 8th note pattern of the same type.

I hope these examples give you some further repertoire to use when playing brushes.

P.S. For extra fun(?) try playing the melody to a tune in the right hand while playing some of these circle lengths in the left.

Happy turkey-day!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Don't phone it in!

Hey all,
I just briefly wanted to talk about something that occurred to me on a gig last night. I had a great time playing with Jules Estrin's band. I was subbing for an ailing Joel Haynes so I hadn't played the music or played with this particular combination of people before. I had a great time and really enjoyed the arrangements and all the individual musician's contributions to it. This really didn't surprise me but I started thinking about what the possible thread that ran through all the music we played and that runs through all of the music I feel passionate about. I realized it was that spirit of going for it, of giving it everything you have. If there's anything I would be egotistical enough to think I will be remembered for after I'm no longer around, I hope it would be that I always gave it my all, and never "phoned it in". There are always some reasons to make excuses, hold back, and not be fully engaged with the music. Some of them might be:
1) I'm playing some corporate event and no one (including the band sometimes) is listening.
2) My gear is crumby. If I had the latest (insert brand name here) I'd really be playing something. Or maybe....
3) The money on this gig is crap.

Let's look at these briefly...
1) You're probably make some coin. You're not digging a ditch, you're playing you're instrument! You're performing a function so don't sweat it if the "audience' isn't hanging on your every note. In fact, there's a lot of freedom in that. Also, if the band isn't listening, listen to them even harder! You'd be amazed at how this can affect the people you're playing with in a positive way.

2) Don't give me that! Make whatever you're playing sound beautiful. Remember, as Art Blakey once said, "You are the instrument!".

3) If you play like a bored lame-o who doesn't care about music, will that make the money improve?

In short, we're lucky to be doing something we love. We have a limited amount of time on the planet, so don't waste it thinking about what isn't happening. let's make the most of whatever is happening!

And now, a man who never phones it in , the great Billy hart!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Where's 1?

I was just reminded of the many tunes I heard a as a young person that I originally had turned around. That is, I thought they started on beat 1 when they actually began in another part of the bar. A couple of examples would be "I Want to Hold Your hand" (+ of 3), "Walkin" (beat 4), or "Car Wash' (beat 2). It can be quite challenging to "unlearn" when you hear something in the wrong spot. Figuring out where a tune starts in the phrase is part of the detective work we do when learning a tune so use logic (placement of hi-hat etc.) to suss it out correctly the first time.
This whole concept got me thinking about reversing the bass drum and snare drum roles in rock and funk beats. This also occurs in Reggae. This is a great way to freshen up garden variety beats and work on coordination as well as hearing your place in the bar despite "sonic information" to the contrary.

Here's me playing around with this a bit. Hint, it starts on the + of 4.

If I am to be slightly critical of the above example, the time is slightly further "on top" than I would prefer it to be for this type of groove. That said, although I will continue to work on my behind the beat and laid back playing, I do naturally hear the time ahead. That's as much a part of me as my height and eye colour, and like those other two factors, I will accept it as I continue to work with it.

Here's the tune that inspired me.
It actually starts on the + of 3.