Monday, November 27, 2017

One Piece at a Time Part 2; Snare Drum

In my continuing series where I look at each piece of the modern drum set individually, I will now focus on the snare drum.
The snare is the instrument that ia probably most associated with the drum set's military origins. As with the bass drum drum, it can be tuned to many different pitches with the added factor of how tight or loose the snares are. Whether the drum is metal, wood, or even fibreglass is also a factor

There's the delightful "splat" that players like the great Stan Lynch get.....

To the beautiful "crack" Roy Haynes achieves...

Of, course, if you turn the snares off, you have another tom, which Al Foster demonstrates so well in this frankly MAGICAL drum solo....

In conclusion, as it is often the highest pitched, but also arguably the brightest drum in the drum set, the snare drum creates many moods.It  goes from New Orleans swampy marches, to thuddy backbeats or Jazz comping, sometimes in the context of one tune! It is an important part of our instrument, as well as our heritage.

See you soon......

Monday, November 20, 2017

One Piece at a Time Part 1: Bass Drum

This will be an intermittent series in which I look at all the components of the modern drum set individually. Now, many who know me will recall I often rant that the drum set should be viewed as one instrument, It is also true it is an instrument made of many instruments that stand alone as well.
I'll start with the Bass Drum. ( Don't you DARE call it the "K" word around here!) Although the bass drum can be tuned many different ways, it is the lowest pitch we're playing. It, along with the snare drum, are the parts of the drum set that harken back the most to their military origins. Playing four beats to the bar with the bass drum is a sound that permeates much of North American modern music, whether it's the pounding of Disco or Blues shuffles or the  light feathering in a Jazz trio.

The Bass Drum is a marker. It's low pitch helps us stop and reset the music. If  we think the band is lost, we play bass drum on beat one. Often, inexperienced drummers ( like yours truly not so long ago    ) will play beat one with the Bass Drum ( especially in a Jazz setting ) so often, it will feel like the tune is only one or two bars long! Playing Bass Drum on beat one of every bar is one of the many "security blankets" we have to let go of as we free up our playing.

There's many ways this fascinating ways the  instrument can sound too. From Elvin Jones' wide open ringy 18" drum..... Steve Gadd's much bigger drum but much more muffled tone.

Or Jack DeJohnette's middle ground between the two...

Finally, I think of the modern drum set as having two major "sections", namely drums and cymbals. The drums give me images of earth. They are very grounded and grounding. The Bass Drum is especially earthbound. I find it interesting that the Bass Drum is the only part of the drum set where a major part of the instrument  itself, and not a stand, is touching the ground. What's more it's played with our foot. When the music needs it, we are literally "putting our foot down" to correct things. So, next time you're playing your drums, give some thought to our low-pitched earthy friend and how it fits into your music.

...until next time....

Saturday, November 18, 2017

RIP Ben Riley

Farewell to the great Ben Riley.  His artful swing and imaginative style propelled the bands of Thelonious Monk and many others. As well as enjoying  him on many recordings, I got to see him in Toronto and it was truly life-changing.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Hurry, Don't delay, ACT NOW!

....And check out Four On The Floor's posting of this interview with Philly Joe Jones.

Thank you Jon, I owe you some Houston's Pizza! :)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The 6 to 1 ratio

No, this isn't some sticking formula or weight training for your ankles to make your feet faster. This is a concept i came up with while discussing practice pads on social media. Anyone who knows me or has read this blog in any depth knows I'm not a fan of playing anything you wouldn't actually play on a gig or a recording. That would be the dreaded practice pad. Yes, I'm aware that many of us ( myself included ) are in living situations where we cannot practice on drums at home. I totally understand that and at one point would have said that if playing drums isn't possible, by all means use the pad.  However, I think in my ( ahem ) advancing years I would amend that to say, " If you are a drummer with a reasonable amount of experience on the drums, if you can't physically play the drums because of the situation you're in, your time might be better spent working on other issues related to music rather than whacking your sticks on a piece of rubber or plastic!"

Okay, since we can't play the drums, what can we do with our practice time? Here are a few suggestions....

1. Learn tunes by ear. 
All you need is some source of a recording, your ears and memory, and your voice. You don't need the drums to learn repertoire, but this is a vitally important thing to practice.

2. Practice brushes.
Now I can hear you all saying, " That's pretty hypocritical! What's the difference between practicing sticks and working on brushes, sans drum?" Well, when we're playing brushes on an album cover, pizza box, telephone book, etc. we are still dealing with the SOUNDS we are making. My big beef with pads is they don't sound even remotely anything like a drum, and as far as I'm concerned, separating sound and technique isn't very useful!

Need more proof you don't need drums to effectively performing on brushes? Here's Kenny Clarke playing on a phone book accompanying Lennie Tristano and Charlie Parker. He plays a little tentatively at first, but by the end, he's killing it!

3. Practice another instrument.
Sad but true, you will get fewer noise complaints from practicing almost any other instrument other than drums. Why not practice keyboard? I would say at this point in my life, that's about 80% of my practice time, and I feel I've never played the drums better!

4. Mentally practice.
Work over what you were going to do, imagining how it would look, sound, and feel as vividly as you can. You will see a huge difference from doing this regularly!

Okay, I think I've made my point, except for the title of this post, so here it is.

"The difference in playing on a drum, ANY DRUM, as opposed to a pad is a 6:1 ratio. If we practice 10 minutes on a drum, that's as beneficial as playing for an hour on a pad. 1/2 an hour on a drum = 3 hours on a pad, etc."

-Ted Warren 2017

No, I have no science to back this up, just my own feeling, experience, and common sense. It's just my opinion, and you're all entitled to yours! Happy trails......

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Programming notes

 Hello folks,
Just wanted to mention a few thing to do with the blog. One, is that I realize that a lot of the posts lately have been conceptual rather than sort of nuts and bolts exercises. While I post these sort of things to get us thinking as much as playing the balance has been a bit out of whack lately. I have been going through some physical/health issues the last few years that have made me a little camera shy, so I haven't done many posts where people can actually see me. I have recently turned a corner with these issues, so I hope to start some video posts in the near future, as I currently have a lot of stuff to share.

The other note of note ( I kill me! You hope! ) is that although I strive to be positive in my little blog corner of the world, in the future I do plan to offer more of my opinions on things I don't agree with, and that aren't , in my opinion healthy, in the world of music. Now, I would never "call out" an individual on this, that's not my style and I don't think it's professional, but I might make veiled references here and there. Of course, if I'm in favour of something, I will "call out" enthusiastically. For example, I might say, " A current foot cymbal only shop in rural Saskatchewan did not provide me with the greatest customer experience". But, if I'm in favour of something I might say, " The next time you're in Esterhazy Saskatchewan, check out Phil's House of Hi-Hats!, They'll treat you right!" ( P.S. My best to all the great folks at Phil's!!!! )
So, anticipating these changes, please keep in mind my opinions are mine alone, and I still respect your right to yours, and expect respect in return!  So if I post something like, " Trixon bass drums have always looked like a flat tire to me!", please keep your responses clean!

Ta for now......