Thursday, December 29, 2016

Han Bennink exercises

Much thanks to Jon McCaslin for this.
I finally got to see Mr. Bennink play live in a small room in Guelph playing SNARE DRUM ONLY!
I was blown away by his commitment and creativity. Here are some exercises to tap into that creativity yourself.

Han Bennink :

"Play as fast as you can for 5 minutes without repeating yourself."

"Same thing goes for slow, loud, soft and any combination of them."

"Play one piece of your drumkit for 5 minutes and try to keep it interesting, do this untill you have played all pieces."

"Repeat the same beat for 5 minutes and try to keep it interesting."

"Play a crescendo lasting 5 minutes ending as loud as possible."

"Play solid time for 5 minutes, check with metrone before and after, repeat untill your time is really solid."

"Play completely free for 5 minutes, no time is allowed."

"When you think you have become good at these exercises extend them by 5 minutes each. etc. These exercises should last you a lifetime."

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Drummers of Frank Zappa

I stumbled on this video a few weeks ago, but since this is Zappa's birthday, it seemed especially appropriate to post it.

And here's just the performances.....

A few takeaways.

The group drumming excerpts are wonderful, very musical.
It's great to see the love and respect all the people on the panel have for each other.
Sadly, it sounds like Ruth Underwood doesn't play anymore. I guess when one is challenged by a musical visionary like Zappa, it's probably hard to go back to regular gigs.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Ted's Warren Commission at The Jazz Room

Here's a video of my band playing "Dark Matter" from our new recording, " The Great Regina Pizza Debate". Sorry, my daughter filmed it sideways, and try as I might I couldn't get it turned around in iMovie. At least this way it can be watched while lying down.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Ted Diddly

I recently ran across Jon McCaslin's excellent entry on Shuffle Diddles from the Four on the Floor blog. I had an interesting ( but not rare, unfortunately ) experience where I realized that I wasn't satisfied with my execution of part of Jon's exercise. In particular I wasn't happy with my paradiddle diddle off my left hand. E.g. LRLLRR. So I kept working on playing this sticking and voicing it around the drums in different ways. I played it in 8th notes, triplets, 5s and 7s. I tried to articulate it in different ways using, doubles, buzzes, and dead strokes. I could write out a bunch of this stuff, but I think it's better if you go and discover your own vocabulary with this.

I think an even more important thing was reinforced for me during this process. I feel no one in drums, music, or even any art form creates in a vacuum. It's like Jon and I and every drummer who ever played are all in the same playground, trying ideas and getting inspired by each other. Very inspiring!

Monday, September 26, 2016

George Brown

Here's a quick transcription and audio example of the 3/4 pattern that the great unsung hero George Brown plays with Wes Montgomery on " Blues Riff" from the album Portrait of Wes.The Viennese waltz thing on the hi-hat on the and of one and beat 3 is what makes it a bit tricky. Despite this, it's a great way to work on this hi-hat pattern as, unlike Elvin Jones' use of this beat, the rest of the kit plays a four bar repeated part, at least for the head, although the rest of the drum performance is reasonably static, although you'll have to figure that out for yourself.

My apologies for the notation and the "natural font". I was having trouble with the new version (for me) of Sibelius. I'm hoping you'll find this has a certain "primitive charm"! No? Me neither!

I think it's important to reflect on two things in this example. One is how much static, repeated material the drums play in this performance. When I was younger I really thought "Jazz" drumming meant every bar had to be something different but as I matured I realized the power of hypnotic continuous grooves. Mr. Brown isn't playing what he's playing because he didn't have ideas, he's playing to lay a solid ground floor for the improvisations.  Point two is that there are many.many great drummers that added to the music, some of whom are not well known. That doesn't mean what they did wasn't great. I feel bt discovering these many great player's contributions to the drumming collective, we gain a deeper understanding of our instrument. Don't just focus on the 6 people playing drum festivals, folks! Thanks!

Friday, September 9, 2016


Just a short post today. Inspired by this wonderful video of the great Allison Miller.

What I especially like about this video is that it addresses just finding new colours on the drum set, something that anyone who knows me will tell you I'm passionate about. I must admit that seeing the above clip brought out my natural competitive tendencies. By that, I don't mean, I need to prove I'm better than Ms. Miller or anything. It's more like she's saying to me" Remember Ted? You used to work a lot at finding new sounds on the instrument! You should get back to that, because it's so cool and fun!"
I once remember Hal Galper talking about how when one has a reaction to a recording ( or video, in this case) you need to figure out what the person on the recording is telling you about YOUR playing. Don't be afraid to assess any input you get in terms of how it relates to you and your art. As always, have fun!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Ted's Taste Test

As many of you know, I have had a very good and fruitful relationship with the Vic Firth Company. Recently though, like an old relationship, I had been thinking about the brushes I grew up playing on. For our purposes let's call them brand R. In fact Vic Firth sticks didn't exist when I first started playing. So I decided, since my cymbal alliance recently changed, I owed it to myself to make sure I was playing the brushes that were best for me. Please don't misunderstand, I was very happy with my VF brushes. Just doing research. Lo and behold, I found VF and brand R brushes pretty comparable except that VF brushes fan out way more, and provide a more lush sound for ballads. ( Yes, you're much more likely to get brush strands caught at the edges of the snare drum. It's just something you have to get used to.) That and that brand R with tax were $35 Canadian (ouch) convinced me that I was were I belonged, with Vic Firth.

I would encourage everyone to have these "taste tests" occasionally to find what works best for them.

Ta-ta for now........

Friday, July 29, 2016

Ted's Loon-ar obsession

Hello all,
On a recent trip to visit family I picked up Tony Fletcher's excellent biography of Keith Moon. While much of Mr Moon's life is a cautionary tale (alcoholism, domestic violence, and anti-semitism to name but a few issues) it does offer some insights into how he developed into such an exciting and unique player. Naturally I've been listening to and watching him a lot. Perhaps more than I ever have.
Here's some footage:

Some observations:
Well, first of all, no hi-hat. I think for Keith Moon it just didn't make enough noise for him!
Even in this clip, he has a hi-hat but plays it on his right side and as this pre-dates any cable remote technology, it was most likely permanently closed.

This has led me to practice one day each this week omitting one limb. Yesterday I let my left foot rest. Today it was my left hand etc. I think I've mentioned this before, but I realized a lot of the coordination work I've done in the past meant I was trying to "prove" I had done the work by using all 4 limbs when it would have been better orchestration to leave something else out.

I think also worth mentioning is how Moon "dances" between his various cymbals, often in the middle of a phrase. I believe Stewart Copeland, among others, was influenced by this approach.

Well, there you have it. Like a lot of great players, Keith Moon was a school of one. Let's use his musical example by all becoming as individual as we can.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Musicians and the art of self flagellation

Hey folks, quick post today.
A recent FaceBook post got me thinking about how hard musicians are on themselves. We work, we listen, we hustle grants and gigs, we write and record, and above all we practice, all the while telling ourselves we're "not good enough". Sound familiar? An even more perverse aspect of this attitude is the idea many people have that this negative self-talk is "good for us" and "keeps us humble"!

Excuse my language but.......BALONEY!!!!!

Like many of us, when I was a young musician I would repeatedly tell myself I sucked. When I was playing and practicing, as well as any other activities I attempted. I made slow progress on my instrument and writing, was miserable, and eventually developed tendonitis.
Eventually, I started doing work on myself and my self image, both on and off the drums. I read many books, recited positive affirmations to myself, and started working on loving and accepting myself.       ( I'm still working on it. Like music, it's a lifetime process!)
Lo and behold, after a while, I was making way more progress even though I was practicing less, I was having way more fun playing music and living my life, and MY TENDONITIS DISAPPEARED!!!

Don't get me wrong, we still have to work hard and dispassionately assess and work on our weak areas. We would do this like we would kindly help a friend or anyone we cared about. But not being as advanced as so and so ( another fool's errand, believe me) DOES NOT MAKE US A BAD PERSON!

In short, yes, absolutely strive to be the best musician ( and human) you can be, but do it in a gentle and loving way!

Now, what are you going to do today to celebrate yourself and your musicianship? You have a great gift and you are creating more beauty in the world! Try thinking about that before you practice next!

Friday, April 29, 2016

2 new brush patterns

Here's a couple of new brush patterns. You know, being devil's advocate, I will ask the question someone of might pose to me, mainly "Why do you have so many brush patterns that are variations on the basic Jazz ride cymbal beat?" Ah, Ted. Excellent question. I will answer by reminiscing about my time in Montreal, studying at McGill, many moons ago. I was fortunate to see a gallery exhibition of Leonardo Da Vinci's inventions, created from his original blueprints. What I saw was devices like a pulley system to draw water. The fascinating thing was though, he didn't design just one pulley, he would create blueprints for TWELVE pulleys all that served the same function, but with tiny variations. He obviously didn't need to do that, he was just working out all the possibilities. Let me be clear, I'm not comparing myself to Da Vinci, just recognizing creative thinking. Paul DeLong's drum books employ the same " Here's the first way of doing this, now here's 20 variations" type of thinking.. If you employ this sort of thinking in your practice, it will bleed into your performing as well.
 Anyway, on to the patterns.  The first pattern is called "Rattlesnakes 2" and has the hands alternating quarter note trill/vibrato strokes (which you can play around with the speed of) and the right hand tapping the skip beat.

In the second pattern, we're doing the same thing on the downbeats but we're staying on the drum the whole time and on the skip beat,  we run then brush over the other, as we have done in the "Brush flam" patterns. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

If I had a drum festival

Further to my post several days ago complaining about the amount of spectacle in the drumming world, I started think about the kind of drum festival, no.... music celebration I would have.

Firstly, all the guest artists would be players know for their time playing. Genres wouldn't be important, so Jim Keltner would be just as welcome as Jimmy Cobb. I would love to see Dennis Chambers and Vinnie Colaiuta there as well, because as wonderful soloists they both are, they both can really play time.

There also would be NO fastest drumming competition. This would be replaced by events ( not competitions) where drummers could....

-Try playing extremely SLOW tempos in front of an audience.

-See how to best interpret a drum chart.

-Work on how quickly and effectively they can memorize a piece of music

- Do an " gig obstacle course" where they see how well they play when faced with such impediments as running late to the gig, a drunk bass player, a club owner who has an idea the drums are too loud before the drummer has even played etc.

Perhaps ending with some drum duets where the point is to make as a complete musical composition as possible.

In closing, I don't know how popular my drum festival, oops, music celebration would be as it wouldn't be very flashy, but perhaps there's some sort of balance point in the middle between what's generally currently being offered and what I've proposed.
Something to think about anyway. See you soon!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Billy James, and the threat of ego

Just the other day, a friend of mine posted a track of music from the great saxophonist Sonny Stitt.  The tune was called "Donny Brook" and the drumming was great! A nice clean cymbal beat, and a snare drum "bark" that was reminiscent of some of Joe Chambers' work. The drummer, I found out, was Billy James. Another great player I'd never heard about! Here's some brief biographical information about Mr. James....

Billy James's career began at the tender age of 15 when he began to gig with the Lionel Hampton band. The Pittsburgh-based drummer is best known for his collaborations with keyboardist Don Patterson and Sonny Stitt as well as his flawless technique at rapid tempos that was complemented by his signature shuffle.

Billy was part of the Prestige label's house rhythm section during the 1960s and 1970s, earning him many record credits as a sideman, although his longstanding collaborations with Don, Sonny, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Eddie Harris, and Houston Person are his greatest legacy.

So I started checking out some recordings. Sonny's Stitt's aforementioned "Brothers Four" and Sonny Stitt/Gene Ammons "Boss Tenors in Orbit" are particularly strong. Here is Mr. James doing a great job on a straight 8th backbeat thing. Playing just what the music needs!

Another thing to note about Billy James is that he evidently didn't particularly like soloing and preferred the team effort of creating time with the rhythm section. This was of great interest to me as the day before, I started watching a documentary about a drum "camp" and I could only get about 10 minutes in before I had to shut it off because I was getting so depressed. It really was the same old story, the celebration of chops, no musical context, and circus style visuals. Now, I'm no stranger to soloing, and I think it's an important part of playing any instrument. But I think if that's your main love, drums probably aren't the instrument for you. I think of players of the past such as Billy James, who dedicated their whole lives to playing time, and I think that puts into perspective what's really important.
Now, I'd promise I won't play any fills or solos on my gig tonight, but I'm only human!!!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

What we can learn from Prince.....

By now, anybody with an internet connection, a radio, or a newspaper knows that the great songwriter/performer/producer/multi-intrumentalist Prince has passed away at the young age of 57.
Like the recent passing of David Bowie, I wouldn't call myself a huge Prince fan. I certainly owned some of his recordings, but there was a lot of his music I hadn't checked out and I never had the privilege of seeing him live. That said, like with Bowie, I found myself quite despondent of the news of his untimely death. I think one of the main reasons in both cases is that the world lost an artists, with a capital A. Let's examine some of the elements that made Prince so special, and what we as artists can learn from him.

1. Follow your own muse.
Prince always did things his way. He wrote the songs he wanted to write. He put out recordings as often as he wanted to. he dressed the way he wanted to etc. Ultimately, how we present ourselves and the music we make is our choice. Prince always exerted this control, whether what he did was popular or not.

2. Make it about the music
Again, like Bowie, but even more so, Prince was very private and really didn't volunteer much information about his personal life. He wasn't at fancy parties and premiers in New York and Los Angeles. As a result, after he passed, people are talking about his music rather than scandals. I don't think this was any accident on his part.

3. Make the presentation of your music interesting
As great as a songwriter and musician Prince was, he was also a completely captivating performer. ( As I said, I certainly never saw him live, but have seen a lot of concert footage over the years).
I can't pretend that the presence he had onstage isn't a rare thing, but I think we can all learn things from the mystic and drama he created onstage.

4. Keep exploring
Like all great artists, Prince didn't stand still. He kept evolving and trying different things. In fact, I very much liked his latest work with his all female backing band ( including great Toronto guitarist Donna Grantis). That music seems to have a bit more of a rock edge than I'd heard from him in a while, and it sounds great!

In closing, I'd like to quote myself on FaceBook. (What an ego!)

What do you do when a great artist passes on? You create more art! Let's get busy folks!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Murat Diril cymbals

In a year or so of many changes in my personal and professional life, a very significant switch has occurred as far as cymbals go. I am now endorsing Murat Diril cymbals exclusively. I am very pleased to be working with this innovative company. Special mention also goes to Canadian  rep David Millar, a musician's friend if there ever was one. For more information about these wonderful cymbals, please visit their website.

Finally, here's some video David and I shot of me demonstrating some of the many hi-hat sounds Murat Diril offers. There's a lot of videos, so I don't expect you to watch all of them! ( Unless you're my Mom!)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Clapping Music

Hi floks,
Just a little post inspired by an inspiring interview with the Great Steve Reich on CBC today. He has a gig in Toronto tonight that unfortunately I couldn't make it to, but I thought I would post footage of his great piece "Clapping Music" before I head out to the practice space to use it for my own nefarious purposes! :)