Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Time, fills, and other myths

I  really wouldn't be surprised if anyone reading my blog thinks that I have a personal vendetta against Instagram. I don't. I just feel that the Instagram part of the social media neighbourhood has a lot of sensational qualities that can lead musicians, especially drummers, down the wrong path. Take this idea of "killer fill"-type posts I see constantly. I really feel, after one has been playing a couple of years, there is no point in differentiating between "time" and "fills".       
I mean, if we're not keeping time while playing fills we've got a problem. Also, as soon as we're playing anything, including a patterned beat, we are filling up a sonic space in the music.
Another problematic element is the idea that somehow playing some sort of pattern or groove, especially a hypnotic, repeating one, is boring, and the "fills" are where we get to shine . I must admit when I was younger I too, suffered from this limited thinking. No wonder when I listen back to old recordings I hear that impatience and lack of maturity in the grooves I was attempting to play. If all I was thinking about while I was keeping time was about how I was going to dazzle everyone when I played a fill, I wasn't truly in the present, where most great music lives. 
Yes, I admit there are times in the music where it makes sense to stay on one area of the drum set and play something solid that doesn't change constantly. ( Philly Joe on "Milestones', anyone? ) Then there are times when the music requests the excitement that moving around the drums and cymbals creates.
Some music requires no fills, some music requires so much moving around the instrument that one can't tell where the "time" stops and the "fills" start. In short, figure out what the music needs and judge yourself accordingly.

As a great example of someone to appears not to be worried and/or making value judgments about the dreaded time and fills, I give you the wonderful Paul DeLong. Yes, sometimes he spends more time on the toms and other locations in the music he's focused on the hi-hat, but MOST IMPORTANTLY, he's always playing and representing the flow of the music. Beautiful. See you soon.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Kenny Clarke Interview

 I just stumbled upon this. Eloquent, sophisticated,  and intelligent. Whether playing or speaking, that's Kenny Clarke. Enjoy! 

Thursday, August 20, 2020


One of the current ideas that's floating around in this time of Covid/Lockdown is creating challenges online.. You know, for 1 month I'll only cook with tofu/exercise an hour a day/stop watching reality shows etc. But in our daily practice sessions, we can challenge ourselves in more practical ways, no matter what it is we're working on…..

1. Change the tempo
Whatever you're working on, play it after several different tempos, especially slow ones. That's where you'll find out if you really have something together or not…..

2. Change the dynamic
A very similar concept to #1, but now we're working on varying the volume of what we're working on, and not just playing it FF and then pp, but utilizing crescendos and decrescendos too!

3. Change the articulation
Okay, so now you can play the lick faster or slower and louder or softer, but how about the whole thing as dead strokes? Doubles? Buzzes?  Or combinations of the aforementioned and the original idea? This will really kick your behind, believe me!

So, as we can see, there are many ways to vary any idea we're practicing to learn it in a more complete way. One of the other benefits of this is, the idea we've been practicing becomes much more available to us in a playing situation if it doesn't rely on a specific tempo, dynamic, or articulation. We can even revisit old ideas and breathe new life into them by practicing this way.
Have fun and good luck!

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Simon Phillips Video

hey all,
I stumbled onto this great footage of Simon Phillips the other day. For me, he's my favourite of the post Cobham open handed drummers. I always get the feeling from him that he's using his impressive technique to serve a higher musical purpose and this well-constructed solo is no exception. Enjoy.

Wow! he even played the hi-hat with his RIGHT hand for a second there……    :)

Sunday, August 9, 2020

3/4 Variation on John Riley Brush Pattern

Well , the youtube title describes it accurately, if not that artfully. This is a 3/.4 version of one of the fast brush patterns found in John Riley's Art of Bop Drumming book. I like it because the movement of both hands alternating a left to right line across the drum for me was a new one, and so much of brush playing is getting comfortable with new movements. Funnily enough, I never found the 4/4 version worked so great on fast tempos for me, but I use it a lot with medium grooves. I play the pattern first with the skip beat on the + of one, and then with the + of 3, with a couple of variations thrown in at the end for good measure. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Words of Wisdom from Steve Jordan (Now with extra Porcaro)

I'm posting a short video with Steve Jordan.

 I'm especially struck by his comments on paying homage, and also his ideas on bigger hi-hats. I have to admit, I sometimes thought that was just a fad, but he makes a lot of sense.

Hmmmmm…. anybody got a set of 19" New Beats?  :)

UPDATE: As this was about to be published, I got hipped to this footage of Jeff Porcaro in his prime tracking for a Steve Lukather album. Fantastic!!!!! He is so missed …..

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Art Taylor, Al Foster, and the ride cymbal

Hello folks,
I stumbled onto this great footage of Art Taylor playing with Dizzy, Johnny Griffin and Stan Getz playing Stella By Starlight in "71, so let's start with that…..


Great, right? It's so awesome to hear Art Taylor playing, and the great big sound he gets when he's comping but here's the thing, it's very easy in a swing situation to get obsessed with all the independent stuff and ignore our main voice in the situation. That would be the ride cymbal of course. Rewind to earlier today when Dan Weiss was talking on his instagram page about practicing only ride cymbal. I have done this as well, and I think if one is serious about getting their Jazz ride cymbal playing together, it's well worth doing.

As I was mentioning before, it's easy to get distracted by the other parts of the drum set. When we play ride cymbal alone, we're getting to the heart of the time. There is nowhere to hide, and no way to wow people into thinking the time is strong with a bunch of chops-based baloney! We also have to really feel the space between the ride cymbal notes. Check it out, it'll totally change your playing.

…And what i mean by practicing ride cymbal is to play just that instrument along to recordings and make it strong and groovy.
Right after i checked out the Dizzy vid, a Joe Henderson came up with Al Foster playing. Here it is. They are also playing "Stella"

  Also great. Working on copying the ride feels of Air Taylor and Al Foster would be a great way to start to design one's ride feel. Enjoy and have fun!