Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Humour in music

Hey all,
Recently great bassist ( and neighbour of mine ) Jason Raso posted this on social media

A musician recently sent me the following message in reference to my videos...
“You’d be better off if you took your music and your image more seriously. Stop joking around.”
Well, he might be right, but I am what I am. Honestly, I don’t take myself that seriously, but make no mistake - I am dead serious about my music! It’s still ok to have some fun with it though.

SERIOUSLY? ( Said ironically! )

I can vouch for everything Jason says here. He is a hardworking, dedicated musician who is always trying to improve. He sets an example that I always find inspiring! He is also, not averse to poking fun at himself. He has some great videos where he poses as the disgraced owner of his record label,  complete with fake moustache, and they're really fun! I think it's also important to note what he said about being himself. I think if one has a bit of a goofy personality ( and I'm now referring even more to myself than Jason ) letting it come out is the most honest thing you can do with your audience. I also believe this combination of seriousness about the music/ not serious about myself that has helped me survive in a tough business for 40 some years now!

In short, be like Jason. Try your best but make sure you have fun too.

I couldn't find any of Mr. Raso's "acting" videos but here's him playing a tune I've always loved, Sam Cooke's "Cupid" on solo bass.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

"Hipifying" the rudiments

Hey all.
Many students have mentioned to me Tommy Igoe's " Great Hands For a Lifetime " book so I decided to check it out, having worked through his first "Groove Essentials" book and quite enjoying it.
All in all, it's a very helpful book on rudimental playing, well written and presented. I don't agree with everything he writes, but having played drums for 44 years this coming fall, I rarely agree with anything ANYONE writes! :)

One thing that struck me during my first cursory glances was that he talks about converting the rudiments to drum set ideas, but doesn't really offer any method of doing so. I plan to cover this in greater depth and send as a possible article, but for now I thought I'd offer some general principles that help me make rudiments hipper and more useable on drum set. Okay here goes....

1. Corrupt the symmetry.....
I've mentioned this before, but one of the things that makes the rudiments seem very square is this " 4 on the right, 4 on the left" quality they have, due to trying to make the hands equal. This makes sense from a physical conditioning sort of way, but results in very predictable boxy, phrasing. So, a very easy way to create interest is to take away or add a note to any rudimental idea to make it odd numbers.
Let's take a paradiddle- RLRR LRLL, and take away the last stroke. Now we have a 7 note idea. Now when we play this idea in 8th notes or triplets, it will go over the carline and give us some really cool textures.
Now, how about we add a note- RLRR LRLLL . This create a cool 9 beat idea. Again, it will go over the barline in 4/4 or it WILL fit into a bar of 3/4 as triplets, but that could also be cool as we spread out the hands between two surfaces so it could be used in a jazz waltz or a afro-cuban 9/8 groove.

2. Orchestrate! 
As I just mentioned, our  lowly paradiddle starts to sound more interesting not only with a note missing or added, but also as we put our hands to 2 different drum or cymbals surfaces. Here's just a few ways we can create interesting tonal ideas from RLRR LRLL

a) R on Hi-Hat, L on snare
b) "     "", L on rim click
c) "" , L on small tom
d) "" , L on floor tom
e) "" , L on any combination of above
f) R on floor tom, L any combination of above
g) R on Ride Cymbal, L ""
h) R on any rim, "" ""

Phew! And I just said I was going to mention a few. Anyway, check out how these different combinations sounds and don't be afraid to experiment with any possible sounds. You'll likely find you discover some favourites. Good!

3. Change the home rhythmic grid.
We've already seen that we can change any 8th note idea to triplets to make it more compelling, and the opposite ie true as well. We can also, however, change any idea to an odd grouping, and that really starts to sparkle!
If we again take RLRR LRLL and play it as 2 sets of quintuplets in a bar of 4/4, the quintuplets themselves don't go over the barline,  but the sticking does! This sounds really cool, especially when we again orchestrate the hands. In fact, a favourite exercise of mine with "Stick Control" is to take the first 3 pages and play the stickings as quintuplets, septuplets, and groupings of 9, all in 4/4. That's definitely something you'll never hear a drum corps play! :)

4. Change the attack
Now let's take RLRR LRLL and....

a) Buzz the first L
b) Buzz all Ls
c) Deadstroke the first and 5th notes
d) Deadsroke all Rs

So, here all we're doing is not playing all the notes as regular strokes, and again this creates interest.

5. Add accents, especially in unusual places
Take the paradiddle  and accent other notes the than the first set of each 4 ( the standard way ) and you'll get some very cool textures, especially accenting either the first or second note of a double. This is also great for your hands!

6. Substitute feet for hands in a portion of the lick
Some possible ways to evolve the feel in our paradiddle

So, plenty of linear trouble was can get into with this one.

Obviously, working on rudiments and rudimental ideas ( I make that distinction because although paraddiles are a great lick and a great example to use, I actually don't think of them as rudiments per se.) are a great way of helping us create quality sounds, but to a drum set player, they are just the beginning and a mere means to an end. So, don't be afraid to take these building blocks and do something creative. That's what it's all about.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Please do us like that

Quick post. Here's engineer Shelly Yakus talking  about his work on Tom Petty's "Don't Do Me Like That" with the great and underrated, in my opinion, Stan Lynch on drums.

Man, I love those splat-y 70s snare drums! It's interesting to note that producer Jimmy Iovine tried to replace Stan Lynch on this recording, but couldn't find anyone who fit the band and the recording better. I can't really imagine anyone else playing drums on this! Keep that in mind if ever anyone tries to replace your track, it might be just as likely that the producer doesn't know what he/she is talking about and are trying to justify their existence as the actual drumming isn't making it. :)

Be back soon.......

Thursday, August 8, 2019

The "this drummer is on the wrong gig " videos.

I'm sure many of you have seen this type of video on youtube, and probably the "drummer on the wrong gig" is now an official sub-genre.
So here's the one that started it all. Drummer Steve Moore playing with a cover band at a fairly low-key gig somewhere.

I was very entertained by this video, as were most of the drummers I showed it to. I do however, think it's mislabeled. How is he on the wrong gig? Try just listening to it and ignore all his visual stuff. Guess what? He's playing the gig! The drums sound appropriate, and the time feels good. Mr. Moore is doing his job! If he wants to add a little flash for his own amusement, as long as he plays the music, it's his prerogative!

Okay, here's a bit more suspect example.

Hmmm. Well how about our white haired friends? Is the volume appropriate? No. Is the time solid? Not really. Are the visuals getting in the way of the sound and consistency of the drumming? Definitely. Maybe he did steal the show, but crime doesn't pay!

Finally, here's a more current ( currant? ) example.

Look, I get it. It's a sort of dumb gig and the drummer is even in disguise. But if you want to play Speed metal, Mr. Giant Bird or whatever you are, get a Speed Metal band together. maybe it was his or her last day on the gig.

I also really dislike how this is labeled. Overqualified? You mean to play with taste? Playing appropriate is just as much a technique as playing fast, probably more.

This is something I used to do all the time. Put stupid things into the music that didn't belong there. It's egotistical and immature. remember, do anything you want, but PLAY the GIG!


Tuesday, August 6, 2019

"Chops Justified " Music

Hi all,
I shouldn't have done this, but I was procrastinating, trying to avoid working on my Masters thesis. So, I went on Instagram and looked at some drum videos. I know! I should have known better. ( Hey! That would make a good tune title! Fabs rule! )
I've probably mentioned this TOO much but, once again, these people seem to mainly play some complicated beat they've memorized and play it like they're a robot. They don't really develop ideas, and everything is a beat or a fill, and never the twain shall meet!

                    Are you talking about me again Ted?   

Anyway, thanks for your input Ilene! So, I was thinking that these people always play "compositions" that exist only so they can show off some drum stuff! Fear not, you will never get the melodies to these stuck in your head, because these tunes don't have melodies! So, henceforth, I will call this egregious sonic experience "Chops Justified" Music, because the only reason it exists is to show off how fast you can play! NO THANKS!!!!

Now, I make a very important distinction between "Chops Justified" music and what I know as Fusion. Good fusion takes the compositional ambition of Modern Jazz and mixes it with the excitement of Rock and is beautiful and powerful indeed. I never listen to Electric Miles, Weather Report, Metalwood,  or Alan Holdsworth ( to name a few ) and think they are justifying anything but making beautiful music.
So, in conclusion, I thought I'd post something that is blatantly NOT "Chops Justified" music. Here's Jason Raso, Stu Hamm, and Marito Marques playing Jason's super fun tune, "The Pork Chop Express"

So, why is this true fusion and not Chops Justified? Well, there is a lot of humour. CJ Music tends to be really self-important! It is concise. It says what it needs to say without a lot of extra fireworks or anything. It utilizes the 2 bass thing in a collaborative rather than competitive way. Finally, it shows a lot of humility and lack of ego. ( Full disclosure: Jason is my neighbour and he'd never make me coffee again if I complained about him! )
All joking aside, I'm really looking forward to playing some real Fusion with Mr. Raso  later this month. I just have to convince to change the title of his tune to "The Pork (Non-) Chop(s Justified) Express. Just rolls off the tongue, don't you think? :) 

Thursday, August 1, 2019

The Garden of Sound

No, I'm not getting all poetic, just posting two videos related to Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun". A great 90s track with some KILLER drumming from Matt Cameron on it.
Here's an interview with the producer,  Michael Beinhorn.

One of the takeaways for me, aside from what mics were used on the drums because admittedly, I need to learn more about that side of it, is that the musicians recorded their parts separately. I never would have guessed that because it sounds very live and natural.

And here's Matt Cameron's track, semi-isolated. Phew!

I love the way that dude plays! See ya soon......