Monday, April 27, 2020

More changing implements

Toronto based drummer/percussionist Brian Barlow recently hipped me to this great John Riley tutorial on switching from sticks to brushes, or vice-versa. Check it out!

I have to admit, I'd never thought about switching implements in this fashion, and started practicing this concept of doing all the work of the switching within the hands and using the feet only for normal timekeeping functions. We can also try this while soloing for an extra challenge..

As well, we can….

1. Practice various lengths and tempos of trade with timekeeping and soloing..

2. Practice doing trades where we use ONLY our feet in the last bar before each switch. ( Basically the opposite of Riley's approach. )

3. ""                                              " RF,LF, and LH.

4. Same as 3 but use  RF,LF, &RH combination.

4. Trade where we only use bass drum in the bar before the switch.

5. Same as 4. but substitute hi-hat for bass drum.

Obviously, some of these approaches to trading implements will feel more natural and comfortable than others. All we're doing is increasing our options and creating variety in how we make these transitions. Good luck, stay safe, and have fun.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Extended techniques

Hey folks,
One of the good things about having more time to practice ( because nobody is playing gigs ) is that we can experiment with different sound colours and effects on the drums. Here are 3 videos I recently filmed on the subject. They're pretty self-explanatory but I will mention….

1) No there wasn't an earthquake while I was filming it. ( Do I shake THAT much? I must have been nervous! )
2) This is a selection of just a FEW possibilities. As I mention in the videos, go find some of your own!

Stay safe!

Monday, April 20, 2020

Brush Isolation patterns

Hi Folks,
Pretty quick post. Both these brush patterns involve moving in straight horizontal lines away from us. RH going right, LH going left. First one in 4, second one in 3. They are good for us to get out of playing sustained sounds with circles all the time and when we want a pattern that has a little bit of a break in it. Here goes……

Oh yeah, that first one is in 4/4 but the left hand is doing a dotted quarter things….

                     UPDATE! Bonus 3 pattern added……

Thursday, April 16, 2020

The problem with play-alongs, pads, and alphabet paradiddles

Okay, I haven't had a rant in a while and since I'm cooped up like everyone else, I might as well let fly!

I, like everyone else, am not performing live these days. One way I try to keep my musician instincts in place is to play along with recordings. Now, I think it's important to make distinctions between drum covers, loops, play alongs, and playing to recordings

Let's start with drum covers. These are almost always incidences of individuals platying along to a recording and playing exactly what's on the recording. Someone learns the drum part to a U2 or Nirvana tune, and plays it exactly that way.
Pluses- easy to tell if you're correct, can work on steady time and correct feel.
Minuses- don't really need to listen beyond time and feel, not creating anything new.

Loops tend to be just a piece of a composition repeated over and over again with no variation.
Pluses- Can concentrate on a particular groove without having worry about shaping a song form. Good for playing "against something". (See my groove surfing " post. )
Minuses- Not dealing with a whole composition or the time/dynamic variables that go with it.

Play alongs are a little different. They are usually recorded to click and one instrument at a time so they can be played on with the drums removed. They usually involve different interpretations of difficult compositions and are usually about learning an arrangement and playing it the same every time.
Pluses- Good for learning and memorizing arrangements, showcasing hard material
Minuses- Usually so concerned with showcasing drumming they don't hold up as compositions. Click allows one to get "lazy" about listening.

I feel playing to recordings creates particular challenges because often we are playing with recordings done without click so we have to learn to "balance" all the natural dents and shifts in the time. Therefore we can't get so wrapped up in what we're playing that we stop listening on a deep level. This also involves reacting to what's going on in the recording rather than just aping a part or playing some slick stuff over a backing track or loop.
Other ways we can challenge ourselves to listen on a deep level are 1) Play the recording at a lower volume than is naturally comfortable ( also helps considerably with developing one's low dynamic range ) and 2) Playing along with music you've never heard before and trying to build a part for the song on the spot, and commit to what one's done even if it feels like wrong turn.

Okay, what else?
Oh yea, I finally figured out why I find pads such an unfulfilling playing and listening experience. Acoustic drums and cymbals vibrate, A LOT!  I personally find a lot of joy and excitement to these vibrations, to the point that I think my physical and mental health is improved when I experience these on a regular basis. It's okay if you don't feel that way, I've just realized this is what works for me….

Finally, I recently saw a relatively famous drum teacher showing an exercise where one plays paradiddles and the recites the alphabet, then recites it by speaking two letters then thinking the next 2 etc. I think maybe he even got into reciting it backwards but I didn't get that far.


How is this useful? Well, I suppose it helps us remember our alphabet, but I assume most of us have that together, more or less. Maybe if one is doing some sort of drum/spoken word solo gig, although I don't think those come up that much. It's a bit sad because players (especially young ones, and I was certainly in this group myself) see something like this and think, " this is difficult, so I should learn it". The problem is, it also has nothing to do with playing music, Now, playing paradiddles while singing a standard tune, or even counting bars into 4 and 8 bar phrase lengths. Long story short, time is valuable. Don't waste it practicing dumb things……..

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Al Harewood ideas

Guitar great Reg Schwager recently posted this great Horace Parlan track on social media

It features the almost criminally ignored Al Harewood. I lifted 2 timekeeping ideas from this, although the track is chock full of comping gems.

In the first one, which appears in bar 7 of the head, he plays this great double time phrase on the snare. It's very reminiscent of something Roy Haynes might play at a similar tempo. ( See example 1)

Note: The ride cymbal and snare should not line up in this case. Try to keep the snare straight and the cymbal swung. Also crescendo the snare throughout and accent the last note. Okay, here's the second idea, played during the piano solo.

This is a great variant on the "Philly Joe click on 4" thing because it creates a 2 bar rather than a 1 bar phrase. Cool! Now let's look at a partial list of ways I've worked this material over the last few days.

With idea 1)
-play snare drum idea on bass drum
- play "" "" on snare and bd together
-play idea on bd and snare alternating
-play idea alternating between SN. , BD,  and hi-hat
-play idea on snare while playing rest of 8ths in bar on hi-hat alternating hands w/ samba bass drum
-play idea as double stops on snare and cymbal w/ samba bass drum
-play idea as is with double time swing time keeping
-as above but with 2 feel on cymbal
-play snare idea with rh while filling in rest of 8ths with left and left foot clave and tumbao bd
-play snare idea on closed H.H. w/ right hand while playing 2 & 4 on snare w/ LH and BD pattern of your choice
-play idea in half time w/original rest of beat
-as above but with double time 2 feel on RC and HH

…..Phew, as you can see there are a lot of options and you know what, find your own variations on the 2nd idea. The only limit to any of this stuff is your imagination! :)

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Brush nuance exercises

Hey all,
Hope you're hanging in and staying safe. I saw a recent post by Dan Weiss on Instagram where he was doing finger control stuff with brushes and it reminded me of the different types of effects we can get with brushes on the snare drum while keeping our brushes on the snare head the whole time. The video below demonstrates 3 different techniques for this and the sounds they create. The first one is using very small fast movements to create accents. The sound is quite thin and staccato, even though we are still getting the sustain from the brushes continuing to sweep the drumhead. The next one is using the amount of brush surface to create the accent. This results in a lush, big sweeping sound, and generally a  legato feeling. The final way I demonstrated is to use the fingers to strike the drumhead with the part where the brush handle meets the wires, all the while continuing to sweep. This is the only stroke mentioned here where we actually get the whole drum to respond, rather than just the head. I demonstrate the 3 techniques with just quarter notes, and then the ride rhythm.

Now, if you'll forgive me, I'm going to go all FOUR ON THE FLOOR  on you and tell you what I've been listening to lately.

Sam Rivers "A New Conception" ( Steve Ellington on drums)
Sonny Stitt "Pow" ( Roy Brooks on Drums )
Mahler 3 ( Many percussionists on drums )
Bobby Timmons "Chun-King" ( Tootie Heath on Drums )
Miles Davis "On The Corner' " and "Big Fun" ( DeJohnette, Billy Hart, Billy Cobham, Al Foster, Don Alias on drums )
Ray Bryant "Sound Ray"  ( Harold White on drums. A new discovery! )

As before, keep practicing and say positive, healthy and safe!