Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Time to take stock

          One of the ways we can make the best of the social isolation we're dealing with is to look at aspects of our playing that we don't have time to   usually think about, let alone address, when we're playing and living normally. I have decided to "take stock" of what I'm doing as drummer. What could be changed, improved etc.Perhaps you will use this as inspiration to take stock of your own music, so let's all take a look at some of the things we've been taking for granted.

1. Sound 
This is a great time to record yourself and think about how you feel about what you hear. Or you could just try tuning your drums a different way and see how that affects how you play. Tune your drums high? Take them down and see how it sounds/feels. Like to play your snare drum low with loose snares? Crank it up for a change. For me, I've been playing on a ride cymbal in the place I've been practicing that's quite dry. Think DeJohnette/Earth cymbal unlathed sort of vibe. I decided to get over my "tape on a cymbal equals moustache on Mona Lisa" attitude and put a couple of pieces of duct tape on my 22" old K. I'm digging the results ( Lots of stick sound, way easier to control etc.) Time will tell if this drier ride sound becomes a permanent part of my set up but regardless I'm sure it will be healthy for me to shake things up a bit.

2. Types of Techniques/Ideas
This can be a great time to dig into things you normally don't do on gigs or practice much. For example, I've never done much with double paradiddles ( RLRLRR LRLRLL ) but I recently discovered some great exercises on thatdrumblog . Mr. Adam Osmianski's excesses are great because they intersperse different accents and diddles with the regular sticking, and  they are all 1 bar examples so they are very handy for variations of voicing on the drum set, as well as not being too much to keep track of, and therefore are easily memorized etc.

Although I haven't done a lot of this so far while isolated, this can be a great time to try out different set ups, and types of drums and cymbals. The drums I'm playing on in my rehearsal space feature 10" and 14" toms. I'm not convinced I would ever use a 10' tom in my set up without a 12" as well ( I find the 10' not versatile or gutsy enough) , it's been fun to have something different to play on and hear.

4. Listening
Because a lot of us have a bit looser schedule, it's a great time to listen to things we don't normally check out, or don't have time to in depth. In fact, I have dishes to do after I finish writing this, so I'm going to listen to some sort of classical piece I haven't heard before. Longer pieces of music are especially handy to check out right now, and I've enjoyed listening to the almost 17 minute Bob Dylan song, as well as some of Mile Davis' electric period music that i haven't heard much of.

You know, before we know it, we'll all be back to our busy lives, let's use this time to expand ourselves as musicians, and ultimately  humans. 

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Playing beautifully

One of the positive things I'm trying to take away from my forced isolation is the chance to not only practice more, but practice differently. I decided yesterday to try and play and work on whatever i was doing until it sounded beautiful to me. What were the factors in that? Well many, but some of the things I was looking for was time/groovyness, pleasing and consistent sound, good balance between the different voices of the drum set, being able to play it at different tempos and volume levels and not sound strained etc. I certainly practiced longer on smaller amounts of material. I realize using a term like beautiful might seem vague as you could say it's in the ear of the beholder, but I think that's good. We all need to decide what we think is beautiful and would to hear, and then go after that.

Also inspiring to me has been watching other talented players post stuff that sounded beautiful to me. I'm thinking about people like Ferenc Nemeth, and Toronto's own Chris Wallace, as well as non-drummers Trevor Giancola and Mike Murley.

Here's a few tunes from Peter Hum's Quintet at The Rex, shortly before our tour was postponed by COVID19. Hopefully we'll be able to resume in the not too distant future, because, this is a group that I believe plays beautifully together.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

New 5 beat over BD patterns exercises

Hi all,
Depending on your viewpoint, you could see all my posts lately as an altruistic ray of hope for my online drumming friends, or just a way fro me to keep my sanity during quarantine, or both! BTW, my online hang is still going on at 3PM everyday. ( See my previous post for details.)

Anyway, here's a five beat idea I've been playing for a long time. RLRRF, with a double stop on the last R w/ the LH playing the open H.H. and then closing it on the 5th beat.  Then add either a Samba or Salsa style BD pattern.Confusing? Wait until you see it written out! :)
 Okay,  here's  a few videos with first the dotted quarter/8th note pattern and then the tumbao type pattern. Then the next 2 have us playing the foot part with the H.H. open, giving it much more of a  70s Tony Williams /Punk Rock vibe.

My apologies about the shaky  camera and the "Belly Cam"! :) 

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Let's De-Isolate!

Hey all,
I'm not afraid to admit I'm finding the lack of work, no money, and social isolation in general very challenging. In an effort to share stories of hope, practice ideas, and just general drum related hangage, I'm hosting an online meeting at 3PM EST all this week. Please come by if you feel like it. The link is https://zoom.us/j/2265007321

Would love to virtually see you! :)

Also, here's a great doc about Stan Levey and the Lighthouse scene in the 50s. ( Thanks to Adam Nussbaum for sending this out. )

I also have a new set of exercises that I'm going to film tomorrow, so stay tuned! :)

Monday, March 23, 2020

The Case of the Busker Bandits

Heard  a DJ on a Toronto-based classic Rock station talking about a recent incident on the subway there. Apparently, there was a pair of buskers in the subway and it turned out they were playing to tracks, and there was a subsequent uproar. I find this ironic to say the least. Firstly, isn't the whole situation with busking a "pay what you want to" one? So, if the "act" amused you somehow, what do you care if they were playing or miming? I don't think the Toronto Transit Commission offers a "Truly Live or your Money Back" plan! Also, I imagine the same people that were complaining about the canned buskers performance wouldn't think twice about paying upwards of $100 to see some of the latest Pop phenoms playing to pre-recorded backing vocals, instrumental backing, or complete miming!

Which brings to mind another point. The DJ, who I believe has worked in radio for a long time, claimed that  they wouldn't be able to tell a live performance from a mimed one! This is a major effect from the erosion of Music education in the last 20 years or so! This is yet another example of how people don't even understand what live music sounds like anymore!
Here's some ways to tell if the performance is the real deal of memorex/Milli Vanilli.

1. If it sounds EXACTLY like the recording, it probably is the recording!
Human beings are magical creatures, but they do not possess machine-like consistency. All vocals will have little shifts in inflection and tone colour. For something someone sings to be heard, they need to be very near the microphone. Same goes for instruments. Some notes will pop out more than others. Tempos and keys can be different. I still remember seeing Genesis and they played " I Can't Dance" a tone down ( probably to help Phil Collins' voice) but with it being in A rather than B, it sounded much tougher and bluesier, probably due to the open strings on the guitar and bass.

2. It's really difficult to move around a lot onstage and maintain instrumental/vocal precision. 
Do you really think that band doing something that looks like a gymnastics routine is able to make the gig sound exactly like the recording, including never sounding out of breath, despite doing double duty on vocals and aerobics?

I've mentioned this before, but I think we need to view live performance as a time to take the recording to possibly a new place, or at least a fresh one. Isn't it cool that the performance we're witnessing, even if it's material the artist has played many times, is unique? So, let's all go dig some live music and appreciate it for what it is! :)

Thursday, March 19, 2020

More Social Isolation Brushes and short solo

Hey everyone. I think I'm probably trying to justify all my time in quarantine by posting so often but here's another new brush thing. I'm going to call it either Tilt-a-Whirl or Cement Mixer. As I demonstrate, it works at a lot of tempos. In fact, it might become my new fast tempo go to pattern. I also play it in 3 and reverse the direction of the circles.

Now here's a short solo mainly using low volume sounds. I call it "Ghost Town" after my view of downtown Guelph the other day.

Hang in there. This will be over eventually.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Social Isolation Figure 8s

Like many musicians right now, I have had many engagements cancelled. To try and make the best of a difficult situation, I've been working on some new brush patterns involving figure 8s. The videos below are:
1) The original figure 8 in both hands balled pattern I learned from Regina drummer Barry Weafer when I was in grade 9.
2) Ride rhythm pattern in R.H. w/ left hand doing the figure 8 pattern in a quarter note triplet pulse.
3) "" " " in a JAZZ quarter note triplet pulse.
4) Same as 2) but with Afro Cuban 12/8 in R.H.
5) Same as 3) but with "" " "

Have fun. Stay safe and sane! :)

Here's 3 more using the figure 8 in the R.H. First one with figure 8 and ride rhythm R.H., quarter note circles L.H., Second one, just figure 8 in R.H. and left hand dotted quarter note circles, third one, R.H. as in first example and left hand as in second example.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Paul Bley Rants

Thanks to my friend and piano master Steve Amirault for hipping me to this series of rants from Paul Bley. Amazing how much of the future he saw…….

 1) Practice makes perfect. Imperfect is better.

2) Music paper is senile. Recordings do a better job.

3) Rehersals are counterproductive. Repetition is a downward spiral.

4) Choice of instrumention now determined by the ability of the individual. Since the distribution of a CD lasts only 60 days you will have to make many recordings to be in the pipeline.

5) Each new advance in recording media requires the musician to sustain creativity for an ever increasing length of time, therefore composition is impossible because the next CD length will be 144 minutes per side.

6) The audio only CD has already gone the way of the wax cylinder because Video is here.

7) Record companies will download their music directly to the home via the Internet...

8) Press kits can be ordered 24 hours @ day, internationally for the price of a local phone call.

9) Jam sessions with a master will be on line in real time w/ an Internet headphone mix.

10) Improvisation is brain food for the listener.

11) Live performance can be booked directly by fans in each city.

12) Acoustic instruments are museum pieces of the 20th century.

13) Electronic musical instruments will all have the same appearance - that of a briefcase.

14) The central activity of all artists is the creation of copyrights.

15) A 30 year old artist is 10 years old with another 40 years left to improve.

16) Since you will never like your first 10 copyrights, make them quickly.

17) The record company is your adversary: against their own best interests, they demand loyalty.

18) A biography is a collection of self-serving anecdotes.

19) The piano solo, has always always been a stage wait, in a jazz band.  Nothing new in

Improvisation, was ever created by a pianist.

20) Imitation is a form a flattery, but please.... take only the best & .......omit the rest.

21)You can always tell what a musician will sound like by looking at their record collection.

Surgery is required. Ones favorite recordings must be disposed of.

22) Reverse the proceedures in classical music & you have the ideal jazz education.

23)Not only can one make new music music in real time, one can also write books, make paintings, invent theories & create life.

Here's Paul Bley playing the great Carla Bley composition, "Ida Lupino"

Saturday, March 7, 2020

That time I subbed for Steve Gadd…….

It must have been something like 15 years ago. It was a beautiful summer's day in Guelph. Around 7:30AM, the phone ran. I thought to myself that it must be my then mother-in-law as NO ONE ELSE would call us at such an early hour! As it turned out, it was Gap Mangione. I had worked on and off for him, usually in big band settings, on and off since the early 90s. he said " I'm recording in Rochester today, how soon can you get here?" I estimated that, if the border was relatively smooth, I could be there by noon. He then mentioned that Steve Gadd was supposed to record with him, but couldn't because he had developed kidney stones. ( Gadd, by then had moved back to his hometown of Rochester, and was around when he wasn't touring the world with the likes of Eric Clapton etc.) So, I wolfed done breakfast, grabbed some gear and got to NY state as quickly as I could. Ironically, when I got to the studio I ran into local Toronto bassist Neil Swainson, who was there for the session as well! ( Gap like his Canadians) Anyway, the session went fine, and if I remember correctly, I was on some of it, and Mr. Gadd played on some of it at a later date.
I met Steve Gadd several years later when he performed at Humber! he played with an ascetic Jazz combo, and electric jazz combo, and a big band! What a treat to hear how he navigated all these different styles. When i talked to him, i mentioned that I came and played when he couldn't make it and he thanked me graciously. It things like these that remind me of how small the music world actually is, and how it's important for us to play our best, but also be the best humans we can be.

Ta-ta for now…...

Monday, March 2, 2020

New Ted Quinlan video


Here's yet another performance video from ted Quinlan's Juno nominated recording, Absolutely Dreaming. This tune is called "X marks the  Spot" Enjoy.