Monday, January 19, 2015

More compound rudiments

Today I'd like to talk briefly about something I was working on the other day. It involves playing a paradiddle (RLRR LRLL) and putting a deadstroke (pushing the stick into the drumhead) at the beginning of each side of the paradiddle. In other words, if I capitalize only the deadstrokes, it would be Rlrr Lrll. This sounds good divided between two toms because we can really hear the pitch difference between the dead and regular strokes or it's cool to have one hand on a cymbal because we get a dramatic difference between the muted and unmuted sounds. Experiment with where you're putting your hands. Also, we can put the deadstroke on the 2nd note of the paradiddle or the last double of each side. rLrr lRll or rlRR lrLL. When I was working on this, I didn't bother separating the doubles between dead and regular strokes. I'll leave some of you young geniuses to work that out. :)

There we have it. Deadadiddles (sorry, that's sort of a morose name!)

Have fun!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

More thoughts on orchestration

During my recent Roy Haynes listening kick I was struck by how he uses static rhythmic functions like hi-hat on 2 and 4 sometimes but isn't bound by it. I think this is an area where my practicing hasn't reflected my reality. I would often practice ideas with my hands and sort of just "plug in" timekeeping with my feet, usually four on the bass drum and hi-hat on 2 and 4. The problem with always doing this while practicing is that isn't usually the way I play while playing modern Jazz. I tend to comp with the bass drum and hi-hat or sometimes leave them out all together. To that end, I 've started taking ideas that originate with my hands and practicing these various ways.

1) Hand pattern only.
2) Hand pattern with bass drum only playing some static pattern (four to the bar, 1 and 3, 2 and 4 etc.
3) Same as 2) but with hi-hat only with hand pattern.
4) Hands with feet playing various static patterns.
5) Hands with feet sometimes playing. (Try playing while thinking of an AABA tune, and only use your feet during the bridge).

This will also help  with being comfortable with more spaces in the ideas. Remember, independent coordination isn't just always putting things together and then having some of the limbs on "auto pilot"
 ( although it's important to be able to do that), it's also being aware of when a limb IS or ISN'T playing and doing that consciously to best serve the music. Just because we can play all the drum kit at once doesn't necessarily mean it makes the best sounds.

Give it a try and good luck!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Ted's Rules of Social Engagement

Hey all,
This doesn't have much to do with music directly but, as a public service, I thought I would share my "rules" on behavior online, especially on social media. Remember, this is just my opinion.

1. No profanity
I don't profess to never swear in person, but I certainly don't in any professional situation or public forum. Social media is both these things, and I interact with people of all ages in this realm. I also believe it's good practice to learn to express yourself without resorting to "blue" language.

2. No compromising photos
There was a recent scandal involving the Hollywood community involving hacked nude photos and as much as I sympathize with this invasion of privacy there's an easy way this could have been avoided. No naked pictures ever. It's just not worth the risk. This category also involves any activity you're not comfortable sharing with EVERYONE. It might be fun to show your friends on Facebook what a party animal you are, but what about potential employers? Parents of future students? Photos in the digital realm will be around a long time, if not forever. Don't let a poor decision you made as a (possibly) young person haunt you for the rest of your life.

3. Don't air your dirty laundry
Unless it's the Don Henley song. (Jeff Porcaro, whoooo!)
Seriously, I can't believe the number of times people complain about the service at "Phil's house of Elbow Joints" or that they were treated unfairly at their gig at "The Magenta Flamingo Bar, Grill, and Firearms Repair". If you have a complaint with some business, call, email, or go over there and talk to them. Don't get into a war of words online for everyone to look at like a car accident. This goes for individuals that you feel have mistreated you as well. I was once not paid for a gig and blabbed about it on Myspace some time I ago. I eventually took the posts down because a) I came off as classless, b) I also came off as a raving lunatic, c) I still didn't get paid anyway. Things that seem like legitimate complaints can easily appear as personal attacks and you wind up with a lawsuit on your hands.

4. Steer clear of controversy
Again, this is just my opinion, but I feel that social media/online is a poor place to discuss matters of religion or politics. If you feel strongly about something ( and I have in the past complained about our current government in terms of it's support of the arts) make sure you're willing to stand behind it and discuss it civilly with people who may not have the same views.

5. If you dig something/someone and can say something positive, say it
I've mentioned this before, but I think it's important to encourage others and celebrate their victories when we can. For example, Todd Bishop, Jon McCaslin, and George Colligan have great blogs. What can it hurt to be positive?

Again, take this as you will. We all have to decide as individuals how we present ourselves to the (online) world.

Okay, here's some Roy Haynes I've been digging lately. Notice how how much personality he injects even into a quasi "latin' rhythm. This is on iTunes. I got it. You should too!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Art Taylor

I've been listening to 2 great recordings recently, both of which feature Art Taylor on drums. One is the Donald Byrd/ Gigi Gryce Jazz Lab Quintet

Yes, it's on Youtube, but you should really own this!

The second record is Arnett Cobb's party time. (No youtube, just buy it!)

Finally,  here's some footage of Mr. Taylor playing with Zoot Sims.  The tune is "I'll remember April". Beautiful!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Staying Loose

In my post the other day I stated that I thought the idea of getting "out of shape" on one's instrument was primarily a mental trick. I also mentioned we can avoid this trap if we get out of our own way and not focus on the time we've been away from our axe. But what do we do when we can't play our instrument? Here's some ideas how to not feel distant from music and our instrument when we can't physically play it.

1. Mentally Practice
I've mentioned this in previous posts but it bears repeating. Simply imagine playing the drums as completely as you can. How it sounds, how it feels, all of it! I found this helps immensely and I'm convinced this is how touring musicians stay loose while not playing their instruments except at the gig.

2. Listen to lots of music
Learn tunes, imagine yourself playing along (see above) etc.

3. Sing
You don't have to be an opera star to sing tunes, chord tones, or scales. You can also "vocalize" drum ideas to work on at the kit later.

In conclusion, don't despair if travel, illness, or irate neighbours keep you from the drums. There's still a lot you can work on. As Art Blakey said "You are the instrument!"

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Mind over Matter

Recently I came across a young drummer's statement online of how out of shape his playing felt after a recent vacation. I know this individual as a working professional who has obviously worked hard at developing knowledge and skills on the drums, and his playing never fails to impress me.
I too, have often thought my skills have diminished after some (voluntary or circumstance-imposed) time off. My approach to this has changed in recent years, however, and I have come to believe this is another losing game we musicians tend to play against ourselves.

I believe that if a musician has spent enough time learning his/her instrument, he/she reaches a level that cannot be washed away by a little time off. (Although there is debate about it, I feel the 10,000 hours rule applies here.) I also believe that most of the "loss of chops" we tend to feel is in our minds and our body knows what we have trained it to do as long as we get out of its way. The great Glenn Gould apparently felt like he should be able to play to his full potential any time of the day or night. I'm sure he did. Why? Because he believed it! 

Notice I said earlier that we reach this level if we've spent enough time on the instrument.
When I don't play piano or harmonica for awhile I can feel my skills atrophy. That's because I haven't put in enough time on these instruments. There is no substitute for this.

So if you're an experienced musician who has been away from your instrument for one reason or another. Don't tell yourself you're out of shape! What should you tell yourself? We'll explore that in the next post. Stay tuned........