Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The sounds we make......

Hey all, it's been a while.
Here's an article I've been working on lately.

 In my function as an instructor and clinician, I sometimes run into issues with young players around listening. In these particular cases, it isn’t an issue of not listening to the rest of the band, it’s listening to themselves and the sounds they are making on the drumset. Often it feels like the drums are making the choices of what it sounds like, rather than the individual playing them. In this article, I’d like to go through the various parts of the standard drum set and discuss how we can consciously make better choices to get a good quality sound.

Snare Drum

On the snare, as well as all the drums the normal “default” place to play is the middle of the drum head. Simple, huh? Yet a lot of players left their hands fall to various places on the drum and get an inconsistent sound. We all need to get in the habit of playing in the centre of the drum. A good way to work on this is to play german grip (palms flat) and make a triangle that takes up a quarter of the drum. Listen to the sounds as you play there. You should hear less ring and overtones than when you play to the edge of the drum. Get used to this as a place to start playing the drum and your body and ears will know how to adjust when your hands drift.

Rimshots or not?

Another issue with the snare I hear is that we need to be consistent where and when we are playing rimshots. A good way to practice this is to play a simple beat and play beats 2 and 4 as rimshots for 4 bars, then as accented notes in the centre of the drum. This will get us used to being aware of when we are using rimshots. See exercise 1.

Bass Drum
2 of the standard ways to play bass drum are to play the foot into the drumhead and leave it there and to play off the head, removing the pedal beater right after the drum is struck. Both approaches have validity in various situations.
If you have difficulty playing “off’ the bass drum head, try imagining that the pedal wants to return to the at rest position (with the beater flexed away from the drumhead).

Cymbals- Cymbals are played mainly in 3 areas. The bell or crown (in the centre) to create a cowbell like sound, the edge (with a glancing blow with the shaft of the stick, or half way between these 2 areas. For all purpose riding/time keeping.
I often hear drummers riding the cymbals way down at the edge of the cymbal. This creates a lot of overtone build up and doesn’t give the band the definition in the time it needs. Remember, ALL cymbals are rides or crashes, depending on how you play them.

Hi-Hat- All the issues with the hi-hat are the same with one notable exception, splashing the hi-hat with the foot.
This is a sound that can be overused and quite obnoxious if played thoughtlessly. Also, when we are splashing, are we releasing the cymbals completely, or are we allowing them to “buzz” after the initial attack? Practice this both ways!

Working on habits.
If you do find yourself with a physical habit that’s hard to break, one way to get your body and ears aware of it is to practice playing ONLY the habit.
Play a lot of snare rimshots without thinking about it? Practice playing a beat or solo using ONLY rimshots on the snare, and the toms as well! (For a great example of how great rimshots on the toms can sound, check out Jack DeJohnette’s opening solo on “Salsa for Eddie G” from New Directions in Europe.).
Play to far to the edge of the cymbal while playing jazz time? Play Jazz time while crashing the cymbal only! Using methods like these will help you get used to playing specific sounds on purpose.

In conclusion if we really HEAR the sounds we’re making we can create beautiful music.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Inside the drummer's studio part 9

Today I'm going to be badgering the great Ron McClure.

He looks like this:

 ........and he's done THIS!
 Ron McClure has performed and/or recorded with artists as early as 1963 including: Mose Allison, Chet Baker, Tony Bennett, Richie Beirach, Blood,Sweat & Tears, Paul Bley, Carla Bley, Randy Brecker, Gary Burton, George Cables , Stanley Cowell, Jack DeJohnette’s Directions, Art Farmer, Joe Farrell, Michael Franks, Maynard Ferguson, The Fourth Way, Stan Getz, Slide Hampton, Joe Henderson, Conrad Herwig, Freddy Hubbard, Bobby Hutcherson, Keith Jarrett, Wynton Kelly, Jackie Byard, Lee Konitz, Michel LeGrand, Dave Liebman, Charles Lloyd, Marian McPartland, Herbie Mann, Thelonious Monk, Wes Montgomery, Frank Morgan, Michel Petrucianni,  The Pointer Sisters. Quest. Buddy Rich, George Russell, James  Spaulding, Sonny Stitt, Sarah Vaughn, Dionne Warwicke, The Jazz Foundation Orchestra, The Spirit of Life Ensemble.

Ron has been a recording arts for record companies including Steeple Chase, Naxos Jazz, Ken Music and EMP/EPC Records.  He has recorded over twenty CD's as a leader on Steeple Chase.

One really extra exciting thing is that as well as being a good sport about being interviewed, Ron will be performing this week with Ted Quinlan, Brian Dickinson, and myself at Humber (noon on Nov. 21st), the Rex (evenings of the 21st & 22nd), at Mowhawk (2-4PM the 22nd) and U of T (3:15-4:30 the 22nd). So as a preview to the gigs, here's Mr. McClure's responses.

1. Do you have any live performances or recordings you checked out in  
your formative years that had a profound influence on you?

Ron: There, of course, were many recordings that had a "profound influence"on me. The very recording that really moved me was "Hand Clappin'" by Red Prysock, a rhythm & blues Tenor player.My first mainstream jazz recording was "Blue Trane"
by John Coltrane with Paul Chambers. The tenor sax being one of my favorite instruments, and I've worked with some of the best. Of course, Bill Evans' recordings with Scott Lafaro tore my heart out!I'm still influenced heavily by things I hear. My latest musical infatuation is with "Dirty Loops", a Swedish trio. Their cover of Canadian, Justin Bieber's "Baby"is brilliant. Everything Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock have ever done are high on my hit parade.

 2. You've worked with most of the great drummers out there. Do you  
have any particular favorites and anyone you feel you've learned the  
most from?

 Ron: I learned how not to treat people from Buddy Rich! Enough said, I think Jack Dejohnette is probably the best drummer I ever played with. Billy Hart, with whom I've played in Quest for 30 years, is probably the most creative? Adam Nussbaum swings as hard as anyone, and Victor Lewis is also among my favorites to play with. 

 3.Do you have a favorite recording you've performed on?

 Ron: I'd have to say that the duo Cd: "Cold Blues" on Owl Records, France, I recorded with Michel Petrucciani in 1985 is my favorite recording. "McJolt", my first Cd for SteepleChase in 1989, with Richie Beirach, Adam Nussbaum and John Abercrombie would be my second choice. I have 28 Cds under my name. They are all with different groups. Nils Winther of SteepleChase has enabled me to document my music on recordings and the musicians I've played with over the past 23 years, for which I am extremely grateful.

 4. Like many working musicians, you teach as well. Do you feel  
there's anything missing from the playing of the current generation  
of students?

Ron: Funny you should ask this question. I was just talking to my students at NYU today about the lack of opportunity for APPRENTICESHIP in jazz today. I was blessed with opportunities to play with so many great artists during a time when there was a veritable plethora of jazz venues in which to play extended engagements. I think the digital age has greatly enhanced the students ability to access information and recordings, while isolating people from one another at the same time. There are fewer opportunities for musicians to gain the kind of experience I've had, and I hear it in many of the younger players. Jazz was once passed down from generation to generation in a personal way that is missing
in today's world. The lack of jazz venues in which to play and listen is another contributing factor to this void. The music is nevertheless being carried on by many strong minded young musicians all over the world.

 5. You've had a long and varied career. How has playing changed for  
you (or not) over the years?

Ron: My playing has changed over the years, as I gained experience. I've made changes in how and what I play the bass as I learned how to be a better accompanist and soloist. Of course, new opportunities as well as financial necessity compelled me to change my focus from merely being a jazz bassist to becoming a teacher, writer, arranger, and band leader for recordings and performances. 

 6. You play gigs on piano as well. How did that start and how has  
that informed your bass playing?

Ron: I began my musical journey on the accordion at the age of 5. The bass was thrust into my hands by a wise, high school band director who saw that I was a musician but needed a bass player in his school orchestra. As I began getting into Jazz, most of my teachers encouraged me to "get familiar with the piano" for very good reasons. Having played with so many great pianists, and being the student I have always been, I discovered music through spending countless hours at the piano. Through trial and error, I gradually learned how to write and even play a fairly decent style of solo jazz piano, good enough to get me a steady job playing at a McDonald's in lower Manhattan for the past decade or so... 

There you have it.
Here's a track from the "Cold Blues " recording with Michel Petrucciani that Ron mentioned.
The tune is "Something Like This"

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


No this isn't about the serial killer living in Miami, just a great documentary on tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon.

Check out the great trades with the highly under appreciated Eddie Gladden. Yeah!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

New Brush Lick

Hey all,
This is a thing where I'm fooling around with the effect of hitting the snare rim with the shaft of the brush on an angle and slowly bringing the brush wires down to the head. It creates a sort of buzzing sound, I don't know what it's called. Anyway, I applied it to some 4/4 swing. 2 feel swing, cha-cha, and samba. Hopefully you'll find it useful.

Here are two vids of it in action.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Don't believe everything you read......

Hi all,
I would like to talk about something that tends to happen when a strong  music reader gets a hold of a lead sheet or big band chart (especially in the rhythm section).
Now, reading music is an important skill and if one is a lousy reader, it's good to work on and develop that particular skill.
The problem is, if we are a good, accurate reader we tend to look at whatever our eyes see on the page as the absolute truth, when in the case of Jazz and related musics we are seeing relative truth that needs to be interpreted.

Case in point, any great American songbook-type tune found in a fake book.

Now, if we play this melody as written, it's going to sound extremely stiff and square, yet a lot of people will do that when playing this tune. A good thing to ask yourself when reading a leadsheet, even for the first time is, "Is this phrasing found in nature?" This means, would anybody actually play this as written and how would it sound?
Even if we look at the first 4 notes, they would sound infinitely better if we played the first note on the "+" of one and played the fourth note an 8th note ahead on the "+" of four. In fact, moving on the beat rhythms over one 8th is a very easy way of opening up phrasing on melodies. Of course probably the best way of avoiding stiff phrasing is to listen to people who phrase well. Also, memorizing tunes gets us away from the "I have to play it the way I see it" trap.

This same issue can create problems for drummers when reading charts.
How many of us have come across this?

I'm amazed at how many people will play this literally. It really is just short hand for "Please play swing the best way you know how." If you see a lot of bass drum/snare figures in unison even if they aren't just straight quarter notes, you don't need to play them as is.

In conclusion, don't let the written page get in the way of your good musical common sense. If you're the only one playing a part in an improvised situation, there's usually lots of room to add your own musical personality. In fact, it will likely be expected.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Local pizza

Hey all,
This is going to be mainly a pizza related post so bear with me.
Anyone who's read this post at all will know my preference for pizza from the prairie provinces of Canada but I also appreciate the regional differences in this particular food. For example, the sauce on pizza from Nova Scotia tends to have spicier sauce due to the Lebanese influence in that part of the country.

To that end, I thought I'd mention a very good local joint in Guelph, Victoria's Pizza.

Here it is:

The sauce is good, it's very fresh and they don't skimp on the cheese.

One of the great things about buying pizza in Central Canada is what I call "slice culture". Simply put, pizza is sold by the slice. For some reason, out west you have to buy a whole pizza most of the time. This is a) more time and calorie commitment and b) a lot more expensive.

Another weird regional difference is that in Ontario and Quebec they putting the toppings on top of the cheese whereas in Saskatchewan they put them under, inside the pizza. Which I guess makes then "middlings" rather than "toppings". No matter.

Also worth mentioning as a great example of "central' pizza is Amelio's which has the added attraction of being run by identical twin brothers who look incredibly like (Montreal born) pianist Paul Bley!

Okay.....quickly some music.

This is a performance of Ari Hoenig at a clinic which I lifted some ideas from that will be in a coming post. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Phrasing 8th notes

It's funny, it seems like a bunch of us think about the same things at the same time. Just before I got down to writing this, Cruise Ship Drummer wrote about a similar issue.
Anyway, here's a short video on Jazz 8th note interpretation. Hope you dig it!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Yet again

As the Mask would say, SOMEBODY STOP ME!!!

Here's another doubles around the toms with melody in the accents. This time the tune is "Things ain't what they used to be."

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Found some more!

So after fooling around with the idea from yesterday's post I came up with this. Still playing "Blue Monk" in accents, still playing doubles, but now moving the doubles (1set each) between snare and  3 toms.
The cool thing about this is the sticking resolves every 1 measure while it takes the tonal pattern 2 measures to start again.

Here it is:

It's a challenge to have the melody notes come out clearly enough (I'm speaking to myself as much as anyone else on this) so don't be afraid to take it slow.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

More accent control

Hey folks,
Here's a simple (in theory, at least) idea of playing triplets in double strokes while playing the melody to a tune, in this case "Blue Monk".  Here's a vid:

There are lots of ways to apply it around the drum set (RH on h.h., LH on snare, each hand on a different tom, etc.) so I'm going to try working on it this afternoon and I'll post more if there's something  I particularly like.

DO try this at home!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Doing the right thing

Amanda Palmer has now agreed to pay All her musicians.
It is good to see people doing the professional and decent thing.
Go ahead and check out what she is doing.
It is not my cup of tea but maybe you will dig it.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Odds and ends

Hey folks,
A couple of things.
As I'm sure some of you are aware by now, singer Amanda Palmer is trying to enlist musicians to play on her tour without being compensated. George Colligan's Jazz Truth has the lowdown.
If you feel as strongly about this as I do, please sign the petition and let this "artist" know how you feel about musicians being exploited.

Okay, on to happier things.

I just picked up Keith Jarrett's "Sleeper" off of iTunes and that's pretty much all I've been listening to this last week. This recording captures Jarrett's European band in 1979. They sound great! It's wonderful to hear the live version of "Personal Mountains" as well as material more associated with his Standards trio, namely "So Tender", and "Prism".
Jon Christensen sounds great throughout and I think this recording helps cement the idea that in a live setting, Danielsson and Christensen, were a lot groovier and tougher than they were ever given credit for.

Why this long for the recording to be released? Apparently, Jarrett didn't like it. For more on this see Peter Hum's Blog.
This makes me think that artists aren't always the best judge of their own work.
Recordings like this remind us of a time when Jarrett was creating new music, and as much as I love the trio with Peacock and DeJohnette, it's a bit more of a repertory band. ( I realize that's being a bit unfair. Jarrett's still improvising and I've never accused say, Red Garland of that even though he mainly played standards throughout his career. Jarrett has set the bar for himself very high indeed, because of his past work.)
Anyway, regardless of my gushing, go pick it up. You won't regret it!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Gonz at the Jazz Room

Here's some audio from my recent gig at The Jazz Room with Jerry Bergonzi, Jim Vivian, and Brian Dickinson. Hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


Here's a fairly simple exercise to increase your dynamic range, and have you read dynamics more consistently, even when sight reading.

In this exercise, just play any beat you're comfortable enough with to be able to play without thinking about it. Then, read the dynamics and bar structure of each of the examples. In a nutshell, we're only reading the information on the outside of the measure. This will help you get used to reading dynamics the first time you play a piece. When you play dynamically, it sounds like music, rather than just reading notes!

Thanks and Ta!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Dave Liebman and Lookout Farm

Here's some great footage of the Lookout Farm (with the great Jeff Williams on drums) in "75.

You know, it always sort sticks in my craw that the 70s is often represented as the time that Jazz forgot or something like that. In the states, there were great musicians coming out of the loft movement, and I think this band is  a wonderful example of that. There were also great things coming out of Europe on the ECM level as well. All this music has stood the test of time , I think.
Yes, no one's wearing a suit! Who cares? That doesn't have anything to do with the music!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dannie Richmond with Mingus

Hey all,
Here's a tune from a video of Mingus' band in Norway in '64.
Dig Dannie Richmond!
I actually got to see him play on my first trip to NYC about 20 years after it was recorded and he sounded great then too! Enjoy!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Solo gig

This may be a post only a (my) mother could love.
I played a solo gig at Knox church here in Guelph and decided to film it.
I used to play solo gigs in Montreal in the early 90s but this one was different for me because:

It was completely improvised.
I played continuously for the length of the concert.
It was a concert rather than a club setting.

I had a great time. The crowd was small but mighty, with a diverse age demographic, and they seemed to enjoy it.

Anyway, here it is......

It's continuing to be an exciting week. I'm also playing at Gallery 345, then at the Guelph Jazz Festival, and finally the Jazz room with Jerry Bergonzi so if I manage to record any of that, you'll be subjected to more of my ego trips!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Big Night

Well school's in and hopefully it means my posts will be more frequent.
Today, I thought I'd talk about one of my favorite movies, "The Big Night".

Here's what IMDB has to say about it.....

A failing Italian restaurant run by two brothers gambles on one special night to try to save the business. 

This is a movie I feel all musicians should see because one major point that the above plot synopsis doesn't explain is that it's a story of the uneasy relationship between art and commerce.

Primo is a chef. He feels cooking is his art form and shouldn't be compromised in any way. His younger brother (Secondo) manages their restaurant. He admires Primo's gift but realizes the restaurant will fail if they don't go a little more "commercial".

Here's a typically great scene:

The cool thing (without giving too much away) is that neither art nor commerce ultimately win out. The brothers have to balance their strengths and values, much as we all do. There are no easy answers, and the answers there are are very personal.

It's a great movie. Go see it and be inspired!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Calypso Beat

I heard this on the radio the other day so I tried to figure it out. A couple of things are a little tricky,
You have to get the RH over to the snare to play the open sound on the + of 1 in every 4th bar (there isn't time to move the LH to the open snare from the rim click, especially because I think I took this a little under the original tempo) and I thought the drummer kept the hi-hat going so I played it with my foot while my RH is moving over.

It's a sort of fun relentless groove. Sort of also reminds me of Merengue too. All musics are related!


Thursday, August 16, 2012

2 brush variations for Right Hand

Here's a couple of more brush variations, mainly what the right hand does makes them slightly different.

In the first one the R.H. slides away from you on 1 and 3, and taps 2,4, and the skip beat. I call it Back Beat because I like accenting 2 and 4 a bit.

In the second one we're tapping the skip beat and moving towards us on beats 1 and 3. Coming off the drum with an accent on 2 and 4. Sort of "flicking" the brush away, hence the title.

Hope you enjoy these. Thanks!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

4 limb single stroke melodies

Hey all,
I'm going to demonstrate something I stole from Mike Essoudry at Carleton Jazz Camp this week. Mike explained the idea of playing any rhythm and alternating between all 4 limbs in a predetermined order. He was talking about using it for reading studies but I thought I would apply it to standard melodies.

There's a few things about this that are cool:

1. It helps strengthen your knowledge of whatever melody you're playing.

If you don't know the tune really well, the whole thing will fall apart very quickly.

2. It gets you used to playing the rhythm of a melody, without necessarily playing its pitch contour.

You're almost assigning the rhythm of the melody to different pitches. (Which, by the way, is a concept Hal Galper talks about as a way of having hip rhythms in a solo.)

3. It gets you used to memorizing (by both sound and feel) repeating pitch patterns.

This will help you be ready to repeat ideas, even while improvising.

Here's the first example. One chorus of the melody to "Straight, No Chaser". The limb pattern is LF, RH, LH, RF. You could also sing the sound of the pitch pattern as ti,ss,pa, doom or something like that to help you memorize the sound.

Here's another example. This is "Billie's Bounce" with a RH, LH, RF, LF limb pattern. The cool thing about this melody is each chorus it starts on the next limb of the cycle, so I played it 4 times to start from each place.

Obviously there many other orders of limbs you can try. You can also split up melodies between 3 limbs and use the remaining limb in a more static, timekeeping way.

That's what music is, you continually walk towards the horizon, and it just keeps moving back on you! Good luck.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Peter Donald!

Hey all,
Been busy teaching at a camp (and am about to head to another). I hope to post some new brush patterns soon but in the meantime. let's all dig Peter Donald playing with John Abercrombie's great quartet with Richie Beirach and George Mraz.

What is Jazz? This is a pretty good definition, I think!

Friday, July 27, 2012

P.S. to rant and other stuff

Hello music friends!

One more item to include with my Olympic rant the other day. A lot of media as been including the Clash's classic tune London Calling in their coverage of the Olympics. (I tend to hear that in the openings before I switch it off. I'm boycotting any personal support of the games because of how London is treating musicians.) I find this hilarious. Has nobody involved listened to the lyrics? The subject matter of the song is the sort of thing the IOC is terrified of! No matter. Let's dig the clash!

They sound (and look) great!

Also, there's been a bit of a Steely Dan discussion lately through social media. Now I really dig the later stuff they did (Aja, Gaucho, as well as the recordings they've done after they've gotten back together) but in some ways I feel that original drummer Jim Hodder was just as great as the many drummers who played on later recordings. He's on Can't Buy a Thrill and Countdown to Ecstasy. He sounds beautiful throughout and even sings on the tune Midnight Cruiser.

The whole later Dan thing is a bit of a double edged sword, I feel. Yes, they were able to get the exact musician on each song that would play what they felt was the perfect thing, and they created a lot of incredible music. On the other hand they were a big part of the "studioization" of popular music in the 70s and 80s where band members would be replaced on tracks. (Now I know this is a process a lot older than Steely Dan, but they helped make it more commonplace, to be sure.)

There a sound a band has and I feel when you fill music with guest stars and studio legends, it doesn't feel the same. For another example, check out bands where all the vocals are one person multi-tracked as opposed to a blending of different voices. In Dan's case. Jim Hodder was the one who played all the crappy gigs and did all the tiring travel. (When they were still playing live.) There's a really funny story of them being laughed at by Sha Na Na when they were sharing a bill with them.

So here's a couple of tunes with the late, great, Jim Hodder.

Anybody know why Fagan didn't sing lead on that like the record? Another Dan mystery!

Thanks all!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bill Frisell

Sorry about yesterday but now we have something beautiful as guitar great Bill Frisell reveals elements of his creative process interspersed with footage of his trio with Kermit Driscoll and Joey Baron. I was lucky enough to see this band several times when I was living in New York in the early 90s and they never failed to inspire. Enjoy!

".....Or Joey, I don't know. He's out of his mind so we never know what he's going to play!"

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

An Olympic level rant (or I hope nobody in Britain sues me for this title)

Hi all,
No doubt you're aware of the upcoming events in London in a few days. If you're a musician or music fan you also might be aware of the 2012 London Olympics attempt to exploit musicians by paying them nothing or next to nothing for their time, artistry, and expertise. If not, the London Telegraph does a good job of explaining the situation.

I've been fairly vocal about this on social media, and one surprising response I've gotten (including from some members of the media)  is that musicians should not play for lousy compensation. Absolutely, I couldn't agree more. The trouble with this response (for me anyway) is that it doesn't address the underlying issues.

The Olympics and the IOC are a big corporate machine with deep pockets. They, like many similar such organizations, have decided that not paying musicians is a good way to cut costs (even though for them even paying the musicians very well would be just a drop in the bucket.) They are therefore saying music is not worth paying for and not valuable. Unfortunately, desperate musicians will play "for the exposure' or the Olympics will simply used canned music.

Hopefully this is an aberration and not a trend. Friends that played in the Vancouver Olympics tell me they were well paid. For now though, I refuse to watch, read about, engage in social media about, etc. ANYTHING to do with this year's Olympics. I have nothing against the athletes, I admire the work they have done to get where they are. However, artists such as David Occhipinti, for example, have worked just as hard and deserve our pride and support as much as any Olympians.

Okay, rant over. Thanks.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Refining technique

I think it's important to note that no matter how long one has been playing (and it's been almost 4 decades for me) that you can always "tweak" things to improve one's playing.
Case in point, usually when I played hi=hat, it was with a very french (thumb on top) grip. This worked great for playing Swing but didn't let me use much wrist. That was problematic when I was trying to play hi-hat accent patterns in Funk and Brazilian styles. So when I do hi-hat with a lot of accents i switch to a more german (thumb on the side) grip.

For a great example of how this can work for us, here's the great Jeff Porcaro:

Try it and see if it works for you!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Alan Dawson!

I just found this video while trolling around (when I should have been doing something else!) It's BillEvans with Lee Konitz, Neils Henning Orsted Peterson, and Alan Dawson. To the best of my knowledge, Dawson never recorded with Evans or Konitz, but he sounds amazing here! Compare this with Dawson playing with Sonny and you'll hear how he completely adapts to the gig, yet always sounds like himself. It's unfortunate that Alan Dawson didn't tour more (apparently he got into teaching because travel was hard with his bad back) and is known mainly as an instructor. He's BAD!

Also it's always great to hear (and see) Evans to realize what's possible when you know the music and your instrument that well!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Reasons to do something and RIP another club

I'm posting another one of my coordination things (melody to Tenor Madness on small tom in left hand while filling in 8th notes on cym. Right hand plays quarters, right foot plays + of 2, 4, and + of four in every bar and hi-hat plays 2:3 son clave. Now this took awhile to get together (and still isn't completely together either) and because my ego controls me sometimes, I posted this for no other reason than to prove i could do it. Now, that's okay in an artificial situations like this, but what I used to do is try to do what I learned during the day on a gig that night, with predictably disastrous results.

Why is this problematic? Well...

a) It was about satisfying my ego, rather than a need in the music.
b) The idea or concept usually wasn't ready to be played naturally and organically so rarely could I actually play it under "battle" conditions. (I.E. the gig!)

Don't feel you have to justify everything you practice, most things will eventually work into your playing, usually when you're not stressing about it!

Oh, here's the lick.......

Finally, we received news today that Ottawa's Cafe Paradiso is closing. Sad news. It was a nice place to play with good sound, good food, and a supportive staff. (More on this at Peter Hum's Blog).
Hopefully someone in the nation's capitol will pick up the torch....

Happy trails!

Monday, July 9, 2012

More melodic coordination!

Hey folks,
I'm the first to admit things are a little slow these days at Trap'd but here's something I've been working on that could potentially keep us all busy for awhile.

Lately I've been working on playing straight 8ths with either hand, and then moving the same hand to another surface for whatever melody I play. I assign the other 3 limbs static things to do. I'm finding this is very helpful for working one hand moving around.

In the first example I'm playing the melody to Monk's Oska T. on the floor tom while filling in the rest of the 8th notes with my right hand. In my left I'm playing 3:2 clave. My left foot is playing half notes and my right is playing the + of 2, 3, and 4.

In the 2nd example I'm playing the melody to C Jam Blues in my left hand while filling in the rest of the 8th notes, my right hand is playing 3:2 cascara, and the feet are the same as the last example.

Obviously I've taken some very simple tunes as my melodic material but I"m going to try it with some more rhythmically challenging material in the coming days. have fun and wear sunscreen (if you're outside!)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Philly Joe Brush Variations

Hey all,
Here's a couple of videos showing how I adapted some patterns from Philly Joe Jones' book, Brush Artistry. I put in the link because it's been out of print for awhile. Anyways, here's the 2 vids. I hope you find it useful.

Friday, June 22, 2012


.....A perfect time for a Block Party! So, here's Ted Quinlan's quartet playing his tune "Block Party" at a recent gig at the Rex.
Interestingly enough I felt like I was really struggling this particular gig. Some of the issues coming up were:
1)  A generally bad feeling about my playing in general.
2) The Rex drum throne was giving me grief so I had to sit way lower than normal.
3) It was so hot in the club I thought I was going to pass out a couple of times.

I don't mention this to air out all my neurosis in public but just to state this is stuff we all go through. Relationships are complicated and music has a lot to do with our relationship to ourselves. These things ebb and flow, and right now I am back feeling more positive and excited about music than ever. Also when I listen and watch the video now I go, "that sounds pretty good" because even with a week away from that performance I can look at it more objectively.

Let's all be kind and gentle with ourselves.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day!

...And to celebrate, here's some brief footage of one of the fathers of the modern drum set. Warren "Baby" Dodds!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Odd is everywhere!

I'm still super busy so this will be  quick. I was very inspired by the Cruise Ship Drummer post on tunes in 5/4. The cool thing about odd time signatures is when it enters the vernacular through Pop and Rock music. I thought I'd add one of my favorite 5/4 tunes, Soundgarden's "My Wave". Although it starts in 4 (on the + on 3) it switches to 5/4 for the verses after the intro. (What they're doing at the end, I've never managed to figure out!)
 Matt Cameron= YEAH!!!!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Hey folks,
i recently got an email on practice and I thought I would share a few thoughts.
I need to head out to a session soon, so this will be in point form.

1. Don't be afraid to sound bad
Many people perform rather than practice, meaning they play stuff they already know how to do. Try not to get seduced by this. It's mainly an ego thing. if you're trying to improve a beat or something, fine bur remember, if what you're doing sounds lousy now it means you're getting something together.

2. A little practice can go a long way.
Let's say you don't particularly enjoy practicing sight-reading (guilty!). You don't have to do it for hours and hours, just 5 to 10 minutes will make a huge difference.

3. There are many ways to practice.
If it's not working for you at the drum set this minute you could try a) Learning a tune, b) writing a tune, c) learning some scales and/or intervals. All these things will help you become a better player.

4. Try creating a schedule
This will help if you find yourself not knowing what to practice. This will help you target your weak areas. gave the schedule go over several days, if necessary.

5. Be "zoned in"
If you find it hard to concentrate, try small amounts of practice (10 minutes or so) at a time. It's far better to practice mindfully than to be thinking about your laundry. Also, don't stress about the quantity of time rather than the quality. As you get used to your practice regime, you will find you will be going past the 10 minute mark without thinking about it.

6. Take your time.
This is true in several ways. Don't feel you have to get through tons of material (that's the ego talking again.) Rather, try to get the most out of anything you are practicing. I used to zoom through books that I couldn't even remember a day later. Now, that was a waste of my time!
Also take your time in terms of tempo. Again, your ego wants to play everything fast to shop how heavy you are, but ignore it! let your body and mind assimilate what you want to do.

Okay, see you soon.....

Monday, June 4, 2012

Up to my neck in.....

....everything except blogging lately, I'm afraid.
However here's some video from a fun gig I played on Saturday with Jason Raso. Between that, a gig w/ the squirrels on Sunday and a gig with Broadview today I'm lucky enough to be playing a variety of things where the only thing similar about them is the quality of the musicians!


Monday, May 28, 2012

Freddie Crump

Hey all I found this footage of Freddie Crump on Mike Terrani's excellent Music For Drummers blog.
I think it's very easy to try to limit the history of the trap drum set down to a half a dozen people, but that doesn't do justice to the many talented people who helped advance the instrument. Mr. Freddie Crump is a great example. Check out the clip from 1929 on Mike's blog and be amazed. It's also interesting to note how much showmanship was involved, even at this early date, and how it's a part of the instrument's history too. (Although for  some African-Americans, this did have more far reaching negative implications.) Mr. Crump makes Papa Jo, no stranger to showmanship himself, look like a librarian!

It's also worth noting that these early drummers figured out all this stuff for themselves on a relatively new instrument!

Sorry about the relative scarcity and lame-ity of the posts, but between designing my course, gigs, and no Q3, that's how it's been. It will improve soon. Thanks!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Contrary Motion Studies

Arrrgh! I won't be able to post any personal video because I think I fried my Q3 and I don't know when I'll be flush enough to get a new one. So we're back to notation for awhile folks. Sorry.....

Anyway, this stuff was inspired by Terry O'Mahoney's Contrary Motion/Changing Meters exercise on the PAS website. Check it out. It was originally for tympani and is just as challenging on drumset.

My 2 examples are a little easier because I'm not dealing with 2 meters. It's just triplets in both hands and the R.H is going between ride cymbal and small tom while the left is going between hi-hat and snare. The real snarl is that one hand is alternating the the triplets between surfaces every stroke, while the other hand plays a shuffle on one surface and only moves for the middle triplet.

Assign any foot pattern you like and have fun!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The conga beat

Hey everyone.
Here's me fooling around with different voicings of the swing conga beat.

And here's me playing the conga beat with Triplet, Srt. 8th, and dotted 8th/16th Ride articulations. I really dig presenting more than one rhythmic feel at once sometimes.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

More Wes!

Here's a great radio doc about Wes Montgomery, narrated by Nancy Wilson. Excellent!

Finally here's footage of Wes in '65. Anybody know anything about Jackie Dougan? He sounds good!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Playing to recordings

Between writing grants, designing a course for next fall, and cleaning up my practice space, I'm afraid I haven't had much time to devote to the blog.

Fortunately, while I was paper diving, I found this brief piece I wrote on practicing to recordings.

As they say...I hope you dig it!

Playing to recordings
I’d like to briefly discuss playing along with recordings as a way to grow and improve as a drummer. Even though this can be a very pleasant part of practicing, when done properly it is not “fooling around’ and is indeed a essential part of practice. I will outline the benefits and principles of this sort of practice and some different variations in its application.

1. What does it feel like?
This is probably the most important benefit to playing with recordings. You can learn a drummer’s feel on a particular piece. Want to learn to play ahead of the beat? Play along with Tony Williams. Want to be able to play laid-back rock feels? Bonham’s your man! A metronome will tell you when you’re speeding up and slowing down (which is important in itself) but will not teach you how to convey certain emotions in the music. That’s why it’s very important to approximate as best you can the feel on the recording you’re playing to. If you’re playing along to Eddie Palmieri and you’re not playing ahead of the beat, you’re probably not playing the music correctly. I often would play along with recordings and not get so far behind or ahead as to turn the time around, but I also wasn’t playing the same feel as the recording. Some feels will be quite uncomfortable to you. Good! That’s means you’ll learn something!  This brings me to my next point….

2. The “how” is WAY more important than the “what”.
With simpler beats and drumming that tends to be more static, by all means learn exactly what the drummer on the recording did. For Jazz and other improvised musics, however, don’t feel you have to play exactly what the recorded drummer did. The drummer would play something different on the next take anyway. What you do ABSOLUTELY need to play is a) the same placement of the beat as the person on the recording i.e. ahead or behind the beat, b) the same mix of the drums and cymbals. What’s the loudest part of the kit? What’s the softest? and c) the way the drummer articulates the swing ride rhythm. Is it triplets (Elvin, Art Blakey at certain tempos), almost straight 8ths (Billy Higgins, Max Roach, Ben Riley) or dotted 8th 16th (Kenny Clarke, Tony Williams). Again some of these feels will be difficult to do but those will be the ones you learn the most from. This is also probably a good time to mention that we as drummers can get sucked in by the drummer on the recording. Don’t be tempted. Try to listen to all the musicians, especially the bass player, to stay with the feel of the recording.

3. Keep your rhythmic balance
With the notable exception of dance music and tunes from the 80s, a lot of the music you’ll play along to will have not been done to a click track. Even the best players in the world will have little (sometimes almost microscopic) dents and dips in the time. It’s part of being human. The challenge for us is to be able to account for the those little dips and dent in the time without getting out of sync with the recording. Believe me, keeping in sync with the recording is the most important part of this exercise. I often compare this to bike riding. To keep our balance, we will always be making some minute adjustments. We need to do the same thing when playing to recordings. If we play some slick thing and we’re not focused on the recording, we will get out of time with it and we will have failed.  If it’s complex or very implied time you’re playing along with, simplify! I often like to think of myself when playing to music (especially music I’m not yet very familiar with) as an active listener who happens to have sticks in his hands. Remember, the recording isn’t going to listen to you, so you really have to listen more than play sometimes. Ultimately, remember in this environment that the recording is more important than you.

I hope these concepts help you to learn and get as much knowledge from great drummers (some of whom aren’t even with us anymore) on recordings. Remember, a recording is like a great lesson you can get someone to demonstrate to you an infinite number of times, and they won’t get annoyed with you! Have fun.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Another day, another brush pattern

Here's another brush pattern. it sort of uses the Marty Morell circle within a circle sort of thing. it gives it a little more oomf on the skip beat a la Elvin.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Feels between feels

I'm going to post a little demo of me going between str. 8ths, to shuffle, and then to a dotted 8th/16th. First sort of "morphing" between them and then going from one to another suddenly.

Why is this valuable. Well, there are many applications.

1. Modern ballad playing
When one is playing a slow tune in a Jazz setting, it's important to be able to hint at different feels at different times. There's nothing worse than playing a ballad and being stuck in a "12/8 prison" if the music doesn't require it.

2. Lots of feels call for "rolled 8ths"
Many times we'll play feels that exist somewhere between straight and shuffled. This happens in Rock, New orleans style, Brazilian, as well as many types of Jazz.

here's a fun example: Check out Ringo's hi-hat!

..Well I bet, you, I'm gonna be a big star!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Perry Como of blog posts!

I just thought I'd do a quick post of me explaining how I work on taking tunes normally played at a medium or fast tempo and how I sing them slowly with a metronome.

This post should be very good if you have insomnia!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Odds and ends and flams between different limbs

First I'd like to say thank you to Todd at Cruise Ship Drummer for his posting of my brush patterns that I've shared so far (the book is still coming, honest!) He also mentioned something that I'd like to elaborate on. He talked about the importance of developing brush playing by playing with people. He's absolutely right. This is vital. I think also, once you get the basics of a pattern down and it starts to "morph" into something else, as long as it's comfortable and sounds and feels good, it isn't a problem. No one's going to sit behind you with a clipboard and say "Hey, you didn't play page 87 exactly as written!", and if they did, they definitely need to join a book club or something!

Also, I would like to direct you to Earl MacDonald's website. Earl is director of Jazz Studies at the University of Connecticut. He's also a great pianist and arranger. I've been checking out some of his piano lessons at he's clarified things that I've been confused about for years! The vids are helpful and easy to understand, all delivered with Earl's particular brand of dry wit! A great resource.

Please people, if you haven't started getting your harmony chops together, please do it now! There's a real tendency among drummers (as well as other instrumentalists) to act as if our responsibility doesn't extend beyond our instrument. As a matter of fact, that's just where it begins!

Now here's some drum stuff. A quick vid of me playing flams between limbs besides the normal hand flams. These can create a lot of great effects. It can give things a nice jagged, loose quality. I do a few different combos, also sometimes playing double stops (both limbs at the exact same time) so you can hear the difference. It can also change up the feel. In the video example I employ a "lazy" hi-hat in a swing feel by playing it on the last part of a flam. I also play a rock beat with a "lazy" snare on the back beats then go to a four on the snare with the snare anticipating the hi-hat (flam with snare first) before going back to the lazy snare.

Happy trails!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Good form, bad form and keeping the form

Hey people!

Firstly, here's the good form. The great and almost criminally under-appreciated Chuck Thompson playing with Hampton Hawes, and Red Mitchell. The tune is "Blues the Most". YEAH!

Now here's the bad form. (Caution: Rant Alert!)
If you want to let me know about your gig be it by email or Social media, PLEASE ONLY TELL ME ONCE! I've been getting a lot of "Spammy Davis Jrs." lately and it just gets me feeling you're inconsiderate and that probably extends to your music as well.

Now, keeping the form.

I'm not sure if I have related this story, but nevertheless it bears repeating. David Liebman did a workshop while I was attending St. F.X. University in the early '80s. It was the first time I had been exposed to a working Jazz musician of that caliber and it was very exciting, as well as terrifying!
Liebs played a jam with the students one night and Mike Downes and I played a tune with him. I've forgotten what selection, but Mike tells me it was "Confirmation". Mike has since said as we were playing he started thinking "Uh-oh, I think we've played a lot of A sections in a row". I'm afraid I wasn't even that aware at that point. After we finished, Liebman said in that awesome accent of his, "C'mon guys, the form, THE FORM!" Both Mike and I felt pretty bad about this, but it meant that we both worked very hard on this particular issue and rarely have had a problem with it since.
Was that a bit embarrassing to have Dave Liebman taking us to task on messing up the form? Yes. Was he right to tell us about it? Absolutely! This has come up recently because sometimes I find myself in situations where the form is getting messed up and even the people who are correct bail immediately and change where they are to suit the culprit who is off the rails. Don't do this unless there is no hope of the soloist finding their way back, especially if it's a casual gig or a jam session. Nobody learns anything unless they're aware of when their messing up.

On the other hand, in an improvised music, stuff can happen....

Case in point, check this out. The tune Joshua, is a bit weird, form-wise. To begin with, the head and solo forms are different. The solo form is 12 bar A (although it's not a blues), another A of the same length, then a B section that's 6 bars of 3/4 and 2 two of 4/4, repeated 3 times, finally there's one last A section. Herbie misses an A section in choruses 2 and 3 of George Coleman's Tenor solo. It's still a great performance and Herbie is still one of the best living improvisors around (and a personal favorite).
Jazz, especially back in the day, was recorded "without a net" and the process was more important than the product.

A couple of more tips about keeping form.

1. Learn the melody
Many tunes have similar chord changes, but the melody is unique. Know your melodies, and you can always find your way back if anything goes awry.

2. Think of the form as one unit. 
As soon as you learn the melody, try to see the form as one 32 bar, AABA, or blues etc. chunk that's being played over and over again. As soon as one gets into say, thinking of So What as Dmin for 16, then E-flat minor for 8, then back to Dmin, for 8, you're asking for trouble. Which Dmin. section are you on? The form is one thing, not a bunch of little harmonic pieces.

3. Keep your place in the form when you're listening to music. as well.
This is a great way of working on forms. Eventually you will be able to keep your place even when you're not listening that carefully, and you'll not instinctively when the form is wrong.


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Rudiment of the moment!

Hey everybody,
Today's rudiment comes to us courtesy of Alan Dawson's Rudimental ritual. I think I've mentioned I never have actually memorized this particular etude or played it from start to finish (bad, bad Ted!) but I have used it as a huge amount of source material.

Anyway, here's the rudiment.

For those of you keeping score, it's at the top of page 8 of the ritual.
So as usual, I started by playing the rudiment as is, then displaced it. In this example I start it on all 3 parts of a triplet.

Then I started voicing it on the kit in different ways. I didn't notate any of these examples, partially because you should figure out your own variations. Thanks and have fun!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What I've been listening to....

Hey all,
I've been fortunate lately that instead of the usual bills (bad) and cheques (good) sent to me in the mail some actual HUMAN BEING FRIEND TYPES have sent me their recordings and they're both great.
First one I got was Steve Amirault's One Existence. Steve is a great pianist/composer who has now launched a project where he is singing as well. He sounds great and the tunes and the band are wonderful. Pick this up, you'll love it!

I also received Jon McCaslin's Sunalta. Jon's drumming sounds great as usual, but I also was impressed by the writing. (All the tunes on the disc are Jon's original compositions). It also has a great band on it, so how can you go wrong? I'm going to be checking this one out a lot!

I've also been checking out Zep's How the West Was Won (Bonzo sounds amazing!) as well as Joe Henderson's Live at the Lighthouse ( I haven't checked out enough Lenny White, and he and Ron McClure sound killer on this.)

And finally, just because it's awesome, is Kenny Wheeler's band playing his tune Hotel Le Hot. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Big band vs. small group

I got a request to discuss the differences between big band and small group playing, so I've recorded some musings on the subject.

As promised here's a couple of examples of "Big Band" vs. "Be-Bop" setting up of figures.

Here's Butch Miles playing with the Count Basie Band. Notice how during all the band figures on the + of 3 and 2 during the head he gives the band the quarter note beforehand. He sets up the band perfectly. Very clean and accurate (as well as swinging and extremely dynamic.)

Now here's Philly Joe Jones playing with Bill Evans. Notice how he sets up beat 2 on bar 11 of the head. The first time he plays the + of 3 preceding it. The second time through on the in head he plays beat 4. In both cases it requires that the person playing the melody feel those spaces as strongly as he does. Also on the way into the solos he ends his roll (on purpose) two bars into the form. He also sets up the melody on 2 with beat 4 on both times through the out head. Fantastic, beautiful, timeless, small group playing.

Anyway, I hope this was helpful. Regardless of the size of the band, play musically!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Yet more brushes

Hey folks,
Here's 4 more brush patterns, both in diagram and video form. Forgive the camera work, it was achieved with a cymbal boom stand and many elastics!

I guess it should have been called "Backwards Comma" or maybe "Coma"! I'll get back to you on that!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

What we can learn from Levon Helm

As everyone knows by now, we lost a great Musician, Bandleader, Drummer, Singer, etc. this week.
I have been thinking about Levon Helm a lot. I never got to see him live but nonetheless learned so much from him from recordings and video footage.

I believe the main thing I learned from him was, above all else, be yourself! I never heard Mr. Helm sound phony or "clever", or insincere. Ever! He always accepted his playing and delivered it as honestly as he could. I believe that's why his playing and singing touched so many.

It's funny, I had a very good gig with John Tank at the Registry Theatre in Kitchener-Waterloo. it's a nice place to play, the band and the tunes were good but I think the main reason it felt successful to me is that I just accepted and enjoyed what I was playing without questioning it. I wasn't trying to be someone else, and even when I made an error, I just corrected it and moved on. I felt very free in the music because I wasn't second guessing myself all the time. Thanks to the examples of  Levon Helm, I hope to someday play as honestly and from the heart as he always did.

Here's a great interview featuring his eloquence and humility.....
God bless Levon Helm!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

More 3rd Stream fun!

Hey all,
It's been a crazy week, with the untimely death of Levon Helm as well as I was working some gigs with John Tank's band. I will post some more about what Mr. Helm's work meant to me but I thought I would finally get around to talking a little bit about what I did last week.

I got to play some gigs and do some rehearsals with the Hannaford Street Silver Band with special guest trumpeter (and old friend) Jens Lindemann. Now I got to play with Hannaford some years back with Australian multi-instrumentalist James Morrison and that was great fun, but this time there was a huge percussion section as well. The great players that were assembled were: Richard Moore, John Brownell, Lorne Grossman, Kris Maddigan, and another great old friend, Mark Mazur. They played the music so well and were so inspiring to listen to. I even got to play a bit of bass drum and tam-tam in rehearsals. Also, we had great tuba player Patrick Sheridan conducting us, so it was a real pleasure, even though it was very challenging music.

This is one of the pieces they played (done by the Black Dike Brass Band) called Extreme Makeover. Check it out! Very modern Brass band writing.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Hey all,
Here's a very simple idea for the bass drum that I've known about for a long time but didn't start really working on until recently.

When one plays a fairly open (non-muffled) bass drum, we can play it two ways. We can play off the drum getting an open ringing tone, much the same way we tend to play a drum with our hands. We can also play into the drum. This will shorten the duration of the note and also make the drum's pitch higher. (I noticed I can raise the pitch of my drum by almost a minor 3rd. Lower pitched drums may have even more range.)

So I finally decided to make use of these different sounds. I started by playing any sort of bossa pattern and playing this in the bass drum:

The +s mean shoving the bass drum beater into the head, (make sure the beater doesn't "buzz" while doing this. I find it helps to play this part heel up) and the os are playing off the drum head. When I was working on playing off the head I would often imagine the beater was returning to it's "normal" position away from the drum head, and the pedal board was forcing my foot up. I also feel playing this part heel down helps.

I call this Pseudo Surdo because the open bass drum on beat 3 sort of imitates the open surdo sound found in lots of brazilian music. If this is too much at first, try it with only half notes on 1 and 3. This can feel sort of strange at first, so take your time.

Obviously there are lots of other applications for this. I've also been playing swing four on the bass drum and playing closed on 1 and 3 and open on 2 and 4. I've also been messing around with some funk beats and working on changing the pitch of the bass drum within the beat.

This also might be a good exercise for you "Bass drum squashers" (as my teacher Jack Mouse once described drummers who only play into the bass drum head) because it forces us to be very conscious of how we're playing the drum.

Elvin used the open and closed bass drum sounds to great effect, almost getting a quasi tabla vibe. Here's an example of that from the late 70s.

See ya!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Levon Helm

Just a short post today.
It is reported that Levon Helm is in the final stages of his battle with cancer and is not expected to live much longer. To say Levon his a huge influence on many musicians would be a vast understatement.

As Paul Delong put it very earthily on Facebook regarding Mr. Helm
...." Fuck gospel chops, this is the real shit. Nobody can teach this. One soulful motherfucker.......I'm already sad at the prospect of his not being with us anymore....."

Well put Paul.
I thought I'd post this from his 1981 performance on SCTV. A great example of his soulful singing and playing.

Thank you Levon. They'll never be another like you!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Flams n' Accents

Hey folks,
The blog has been a little light lately. I had a very busy week doing some interesting music (more on that in a future post) but i thought I'd show you some exercises I actually was forced to create because of some stuff at Jesse Cahill's blog. He shows what they call a two way gridded paradiddle. I started to look at it and the thing about it that totally messed me up was the fact that in a lot of the examples, the flam was the unaccented note of the bar and the accents were elsewhere. I realized I need to work on this even before I worked on Jesse's stuff so I made up a few exercises. Here they are:

Some of them are awkward, but they're meant to be. Anyway, this has opened up a whole world of working on unaccented flam stuff.

Who knew there would be so much to do with 2 pieces of wood and a drum?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

5 beat brush thing

This is a pattern based off of the way I think most of us were taught to draw stars and applying to any sliding brush pattern we want to make 5 beats long.

Here's what it looks like:

...and here's a demo.


Monday, April 9, 2012

What I've learned from playing with other drummers

As many of you know, over the last 2 years or so, I have been working on my piano playing. My study has been quite narrow. I haven't worked on classical repertoire (although that's a good idea), sight reading, or even very much in terms of exercises. I've just been working on learning Jazz standards and being able to play the melodies, play decent changes with good voicings, and trying to solo over them.

One side benefit of playing another instrument is that I've gotten to play with a lot of drummers. What's been fascinating is what I've learned so much about drummers and what other musicians hear when they play. Let me share a few points about this.

1. Other musicians rarely notice velocity.

When I played with drummers the sort of things that struck me were their dynamic control, their awareness of form, the strength of the time etc. When I played with lots of different drummers the only time I noticed their "slick drum stuff' is when they were soloing, and even then, it didn't become the focus of attention.

2. There are lots of different ways to play and be effective.

I've mentioned this before, but the great thing about Jazz is that it supports so many different visions of the music.
I've played with Fab Ragnelli, Adam Bowman, Sam Cino, and Joe Sorbara, to name a few. They all approached the music differently, but all sounded great and more importantly helped me to play the best that I could with my limited piano resources. I would also note they all played the music differently than I would have if I was playing the drums, which is awesome and also the point, isn't it?

3. The rest of the band wants the drummer to be strong.

By this I mean soloists want the time to be solid and not wavering. They want the drummer to play with conviction and to follow through on their ideas. They want a good, pleasing drum and cymbal sound behind them to inspire them to play. If all these elements are present, I find the drummer can play quiet loudly (within reason) at appropriate times in the music and I love it.
it's a lot harder to play with conviction as a soloist if the drummer sounds tentative and afraid.

4. The band wants the drummer to listen.

By this I don't mean to parrot back things the soloist is playing, but to know when to keep the time, and when to break out of it a bit to create interest. The drummer should be listening for ways to create variety in the dynamics, density of sound, colour change etc. The drummer should be also listening to the form of the piece he/she is playing, and find ways to outline that to aid and abet the soloist as well. It's hard playing when one feels the form of the tune is going to get lost all the time, and a good drummer will help keep that together.

I mentioned this before, but it would do us all a lot of good (for many reasons) to double on another instrument. I feel one of the most important results of this different perspective is that it helps us drummers understand what is really important when playing with others. Often we can get sidetracked by the world of drum magazines, drum festivals etc. I'm not knocking any of that stuff, it serves and important function, but as far as pure context goes, if you're trying to play another axe, you'll soon realize how a drummer can help or hinder you.

I expect a big run on the sale of Zithers, Tubas, and Bagpipes as you all find your second instrument!

Can I trade this in for a pan flute?