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!