Monday, May 30, 2011


Hey all,
A quick post today. I have to learn 3 new tunes on piano for a gig on Thursday so that's basically all I'll be doing until then. Fortunately I'm playing the second set of the same gig on drums which will be like a vacation after that.
Anyway, I recently remembered an experience I had in the early '90s. I was playing the first set of a 5 night run (those were the days) at the dearly departed Top Of the Senator with Mike Murley's group. There was a small but enthusiastic crowd, the band was excited to be playing together after a hiatus, and it felt like we were firing on all cylinders right from the beginning. We took our first break and headed to the bar, feeling pretty cocky about what we had done.

.....Then this came over the PA system.

We all looked at each other and said something to the effect of

"Well, yeah I guess we played okay."

It's important to remain humble.

Talk to you soon.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Nick Stabulas

I wanted to post a couple of videos of a drummer I recently became aware of, Nick Stabulas.
Here he is with Lennie Tristano on a tune based on "Out of Nowhere".

And here's the same group ( with Warne Marsh, Lee Konitz, and Sonny Dallas) playing "Background Music" (All of Me changes). Check out the phrasing on Tristano's solo, WOW!

Great playing. Inventive , swinging. It's interesting. As much as I love Tristano's music, I find Stabulas seems to be allowed to play more aggressively than his drummers usually do.
Nick Stabulas was playing into the '70s when he passed away in an automobile accident. Definitely our loss he was taken away before his time.

Thanks for stopping in......

Friday, May 27, 2011

Ted's Linear Adventures

Hey folks,
Those of you that have followed me have probably noted that I've often wished for more linear vocabulary on the drum set. I have decided to address this. One way to achieve this might be to go through one of Dave Garabaldi's great books, or to learn some Steve Gadd grooves and the like. I decided, however, to come up with my own solution to this. I think it's an important part of the creative process to approach difficulties and limitations on the instrument in an individualistic way, and hopefully that's what I've done here.

It's pretty simple, I first took doubles between the hands and inserted the right foot in place of each of the different strokes. I'll use "F" to signify the bass drum.

1. FR LL

Here's an example of me playing this:

Then I did the same thing except inserting the hi-hat instead of the bass drum. Here's an example of this while playing a samba pattern with my right foot:

Next I did the same thing with paradiddles:


For this one as well you can use either bass drum or hi-hat for the F part.

Finally, you can keep a pattern of paradiddles going and assign one limb to interrupt the pattern to play a melody. Here's me playing paradiddles between the hands with the melody to "Sonnymoon for Two" with the bass drum.

For some of you that have worked extensively on funk playing, some of this may seem basic, but for me it's a matter of working on one of my weak areas.
Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Swiss Triplet Brushes

Hi-ho (as kermit the Frog would say). Today I've got a little brush thing that I'm digging lately.
It looks like this:
I haven't labeled which hand is which because I think it's good to be able to play this off ether hand. To start with well play the first 2 strokes of the triplet with the right hand. Play the first stroke as a dead stroke and stop the movement of the brush, then for the second stroke keep your hand on the drum and sweep away from yourself, using as much of the brush surface as possible. Finally, tap the 3rd triplet with your left hand. To play this lefty, reverse the above instructions.
Here's some video of the lick, both righty and lefty, and then playing it as triplet doubles. I promise I'll get a stand for my camera soon so I can do this at the drum set.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ferenc Nemeth

No time, no blog! My apologies. Had a little health issue but am feeling better now. I'm going to post some things I've been working on but for now let's dig Ferenc Nemeth. Ferenc is best known for his work with Lionel Loueke's trio. I really love how Fernec plays these great linear patterns in an acoustic setting. I really, really love, how, even though he's got tons of chops, he's quite happy not to use them unless it serves the music. Check it out! Killing!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Music and its Formats

Hey everyone,
I'm probably going to get some heat for this post but please remember, this is just my opinion.
What got me thinking about this was Record Store Day being celebrated last month.
Now, I'm advanced enough in years to remember frequenting record stores as one of the only ways to obtain music in my formative years. I have great memories of visiting record stores.
....I also have great memories of using dial phones and typewriters but I don't think I'd celebrate a day dedicated to either of these things just as I don't observe record store day.
I visited a record store recently and the prices were horrendous. I couldn't find a single title for less than $20. Part of my belief the whole record industry collapsed was that the prices were unreasonable. What's the average price of a full length recording on iTunes? About $9.99. Now what about sound quality of digital vs. vinyl? Vinyl wins hands down. But digital is the most major step forward as far convenience is concerned and I'm certainly willing to sacrifice some sound quality if I can keep all the recordings I own in my BlackBerry and take them wherever I want.
I had a very interesting conversation a while ago ( watch out for a name to get dropped on your foot, ouch!) with Dave Holland before a gig. We were talking about digital and how he was a fan of it. Some one asked him about how to download cover art ( this was in the early stages of iTunes) and he replied he'd never bothered. Now he has to have 10 years on me so he also grew up in the era of records being the only format, but he didn't have any romantic notions about the LP anymore than your average 14 year old, or myself.
I think sometimes we think the search for the records is the music, or the cover art is the music. or the sound is the music. But as far as I'm concerned, only the music is the music.

Now. while I'm standing by waiting for the hate mail and rotten tomatoes, here's a Charles Ives piece that master musician and birthday boy today Reg Schwager hipped me to.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Fragments and Groove Surfing

I'm going to talk about a something that I've found quite helpful with playing metric modulations etc. I call it Groove Surfing and it basically involves playing along with common time signatures (e.g. 4/4 and 3/4) but playing in odd groupings rather than the originally presented feel. This came out of my wanting to use odd groupings (septuplets, quintuplets, and the like) more in my playing while still hearing the original time feel and being able to go back to it easily. It's pretty simple. Just play along to any music where the the pulse is stated very obviously. Most classic Rock or Dance music works well. Then just add whatever grouping you're working on. You can play it as a beat or fills, just on the snare drum if you're having trouble hearing it, or any combination of the above. To give us some possibilities, here are some ideas I've been working with lately.

Okay, some explanation is necessary. None of these examples use all four limbs. I wanted to use some examples where the instrument is orchestrated. In example 2 I like playing it with only left hand and right foot and doing the opposite for example 3. Now, what about those question marks, has Ted finally flipped? Nope. What I'm doing is purposely not telling anyone who reads examples 2 and 3 (myself included) where I should play on the question marked beats. There is no "correct' place to play at those points. In fact, try to play the question marked parts on a different part of the kit each time you play it.

Now here's me playing along with the radio using each one of the examples. I hope Katy Perry's (or whoever's) lawyers don't get after me!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Listening Exercises

With everything going on out there in the great big world (including Ari Hoenig's great band on the live feed from Smalls) I thought I'd just mention a couple of things I do to help me listen and concentrate, especially before gigs.
One of the main things I do is to listen to music, any music (the radio will do nicely) and focus on what is usually the most difficult thing to hear, the bass. I also:
1) Try and predict where it's (the bass line or root movement) going to go next,
2) Sing along. You don't have to sound like an opera star, but try to be as accurate with the pitches as you can. This helps everything!
3) Notice the relationship between the bass and drums. If it's a Pop, Rock, or R n' B tune do the drums play rhythms in unison with the bass, or do they both go their own way? If it's a Jazz tune, do the bass and drums play the time in the same place (in the middle, top, or bottom of the beat?) or in different spots?

I find doing some of these things helps my ears (which at this point are the part of me that I worry about my chops the most) and gets me ready to listen.

To close here's a great example of Bass and Drums playing counter to each other in a tune.
Bowie's classic "Ashes to Ashes". Very cool video too!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

This has been an unpaid political announcement.....

Any non-Canadians may want to skip this post.
Tomorrow a new government in Canada will be elected, and though I've publicly kept pretty quiet on this up until now, it's a very important matter to me. To this end, I thought I'd post something by someone far more eloquent than me, the great pianist and Senator, Mr. Tommy Banks.

"There is only one thing about the outcome of the May 2nd election on which Mr. Ignatieff and Mr. Harper agree. It is that one of them will be the Prime Minister of Canada. Mr. Layton, Mr. Duceppe and Ms. May are not in the running to form a government. They can’t. It will be either Mr. Ignatieff or Mr. Harper.
That is the choice, and it is a very clear – in fact, stark choice. We will choose between openness or secrecy. Between listening or refusing to listen. Between someone who respects Parliament or someone who disdains it. Between things we can and will do now or things that, (provided of course that everything goes well), we might do in five or six years. Between someone who answers all questions from Canadians, or someone who won’t accept any.
Between Mr. Harper who said “It’s past time the feds scrapped the Canada Health Act”, or Mr. Ignatieff who said “ . . . we don’t want user fees. We want universal, accessible, free-at-the-point-of-service health care, paid out of general revenue. That’s just bottom line. Otherwise we get two-tiered”.
Between buying jets or helping vets. Between real early childhood learning and care or Saturday-night babysitting. Between respect for our great institutions or contempt for them. Between helping families or helping big corporations. Between the Canada that we think we have, or the way in which Mr. Harper has already changed it.
Over the past few years Mr. Harper’s government has quietly engineered so many changes that there are some ways in which our country is barely recognizable. Many of us don’t yet realize the extent of those changes, because many of them have been brought about very carefully and gradually – almost imperceptibly in some cases.
This is diabolically clever. If these things had all been done at once, there would have been loud protests and reactions. But moving just one little brick at a time doesn’t cause much fuss – until you realize that the whole house has been renovated. And we’ve hardly noticed.
These are changes that are at the very heart of who and what Canadians are. They are changes to the protections that used to exist against the tyranny of the majority – or against a single-minded my-way-or-the-highway autocrat. These changes are losses to our very Canadian-ness. Let me remind you of some of them:
The Law Commission of Canada was created by an Act of Parliament in 1997. It worked very well. It kept an eye in a sort-of avuncular way, on necessary reforms of the law, including election law. The Commission couldn’t actually change law; but it was very good at letting governments and everybody else know when changes needed to be made and why. It was our legal Jiminy Cricket, and it performed a valuable service for Canada. The Commission was created by an Act of Parliament, and any government wanting to shut it down should have been up-front about it. It should have come to Parliament with a Bill to rescind The Law Commission of Canada Act. That’s what any of our 21 previous Prime Ministers would have done.
But to Mr. Harper, Parliament is an inconvenience. Somebody might ask “Why are you doing this?” But he didn’t want to go through all that Parliamentary trouble; so, rather than proposing the abolition of the Commission (a proposal about which there would have been pretty fierce debate on all sides), they just eliminated all funding for it in the federal budget. Governments can do that. Poof – no Law Commission.
Nice and quiet. Just one little brick. Hardly noticed.
Then there was the Court Challenges Programme, set up in 1994, which was the means by which a bit of legal help could be provided to a private individual or small organization who didn’t have a lot of money, and who was taking on, or being taken on by, the Government of Canada. It leveled the legal playing field a bit. It was a perfect example of fundamental Canadian fairness.
By convincing a tough panel of judges of the reasonableness of your cause, you could get a little help in paying for some lawyers to go up against the phalanx of legal beagles that could always, and forever, and at public expense, be brought to bear against you by the State. In other words, if you weren’t rich, and if you were taking on or being taken on by the Feds, you might have had a chance. But Mr. Harper doesn’t like being questioned, let alone challenged. It’s so inconvenient! Solution? Quietly announce that the Court Challenges Programme is being, er, discontinued. Poof – no Court Challenges Programme – no court challenges.
Hardly noticed.
The Coordination of Access to Information Request System (CAIRS) was created (by a Progressive-Conservative government) in 1989 so that departments of government could harmonize their responses to access-to-information requests that might need multi-departmental responses. It was efficient; it made sure that in most cases the left hand knew what the right hand was doing, or at least what they were saying; and it helped keep government open and accountable. Well, if you’re running a closed-door government, that’s not a good idea, is it? So, as a Treasury Board official explained to the Canadian Press, CAIRS was killed by the Harper government because “extensive” consultations showed it wasn’t valued by government departments. I guess that means that the extensive consultations were all with government departments.
Wait! Wasn’t there anybody else with whom to extensively consult? Wasn’t there some other purpose and use for CAIRS? Didn’t it have something to do with openness and accountability? I guess not. Robert Makichuk, speaking for Mr. Harper’s government, explained that “valuable resources currently being used to maintain CAIRS would be better used in the collection and analysis of improved statistical reporting”.
Right. In other words, CAIRS was an inconvenience to the government. So poof – it’s disappeared. And, except for investigative reporters and other people who might (horrors!) ask questions, its loss is hardly noticed.
And the bridge too far for me: Cutting the already-utterly-inadequate funding for the exposure of Canadian art and artists in other countries. That funding was, by any comparison, already laughably miniscule. Mr. Harper says that “ordinary” Canadians don’t support the arts. He’s wrong. And his is now the only government of any significant country in the world that clearly just doesn’t get it.
All these changes were done quietly, cleverly, and under the radar. No fuss. No outcry. Just one little brick at a time. But in these and other ways, our Canadian house is no longer the kind of place it once was. Nobody minds good renovations. Nobody even minds tearing something down, as long as we put up something better in its place. That’s not what has happened.
Mr. Harper fired the head of the Canadian Wheat Board because he was doing his job properly. He removed the head of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission because she wanted to make sure that the Chalk River nuclear reactor was safe.
Hardly noticed.
There are many more things that were hardly noticed: Cuts to funding for the Status of Women, Adult Learning and Literacy, Environmental Programs, museums funding, and more. All quietly, just one brick at a time.
Hardly noticed.
As to campaign promises, everybody in sight on every side is guilty of breaking those. Except the Federal NDP of course, who haven’t yet had the opportunity. (It’s very easy to make promises that you know you will not likely have to keep).
But the government promised to end wait times in health care. They didn’t. They promised to end, once and for all, the whining of some provinces about the non-existent “fiscal imbalance”. They didn’t. They said they had brought final resolution to the softwood lumber problem with the U.S. They haven’t. They promised to create thousands of new child-care spaces in Canada. They haven’t. They promised not to tax income trusts (“We will NEVER do that!” they said). They taxed them. They promised to lower your income tax.
They raised it.
They said they had a good “made-in-Canada” plan to meet our obligations on climate change. They don’t. Mr. Harper has said plainly that whatever the Americans do is what we’ll do too.
They campaign on a platform of transparency and accountability; but they’re now trying to discredit the Parliamentary Budget Officer that they created, because he’s trying to do the job that they gave him. Mr. Harper said that our form of government, evolved over centuries from the 900-year-old British Westminster tradition, was all wrong. We had to have fixed election dates, because otherwise, democratic principles would be trampled. ”Fixed election dates”, he said, “stop leaders from trying to manipulate the calendar. They level the playing field for all parties”.
So Parliament (remember them?) at Mr. Harper’s insistence, passed a law requiring fixed election dates, which Mr. Harper promptly broke.
Somebody once said that we get the kind of government we deserve. What did we do to deserve Mr. Harper? He once said that we should all “Stand Up for Canada”. Well, let’s do that. We just have to decide whether the present version of Canada is the one that we’ll stand up for. Or stand for.
Thank you
Tommy Banks (an Alberta Senator.)"

Thanks for listening (reading).