Saturday, November 28, 2020

Rim Click/Tom LH combos

Hello drumming world. I have been thinking a lot lately about repeated comping patterns with the Left hand in a swing setting, namely rim click/tom ideas. I've often thought about these types of ideas as similar to background figures with a large ensemble, or repeated riffs with a small group. Of course, the most famous of these riffs is the "Philly click on 4" , utilized to such great effect on the Miles Davis tune, "Milestones" ( I'm not going to post it here because, if you don't own this recording already, you really should.) I've come up with some combos of my own, as shown below.

                                                                                  And here's some video of me playing the examples…….


Some brief notes. If you are going to play 4 on the bass drum in this exercise, play it MUCH softer than I did here. :) Play each example for a while, possibly while singing a standard tune to yourself and playing the example for at least a chorus. These types of ideas are only effective if you commit to them!  A couple of them I played inaccurately at first, that's why some are repeated more than 2xs. Also you'll notice that they went from 1 bar, to 2 bar, to 4 bar phrases. Don't be afraid to create longer phrase lengths with this idea. I feel it's very effective. Also notice that the last 2 examples suggest 5/4 and 7/8, respectively, even though the ride and h.h. are in 4 throughout.
Don't be afraid to come up with your own combos. Also remember that some soloists DO NOT like this sort of accompaniment, so be prepared to ditch this if they give you the hairy eyeball! :) 

As always, have fun and be good to yourself. Oh, and here's the pdf

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Abstract Solo

Hey Folks, I was thinking it's been a while since I played a solo that was rubato/colouristic rather than just demonstrating something I've been working on. This has little nods to Bartok's "Concerto fro Orchestra" as well as 'Trane's "Interstellar Space". Mallets mainly, experimented with preparing the floor tom with my coat as well as adding my "16 Zildjian China type for added spice! Hope you dig it……..

Friday, November 20, 2020

A different kind of clickbait

Or is it clickgate? As I tell the tale of one of my weirder experiences in 45 years of playing music, you'll see why I'm using that term!
Fairly recently, the leader in a big band in Montreal asked me to  remotely record a tune with the band. I have certainly done this in the past, and since covid hit it's become a very frequent occurrence. I filmed myself playing the chart we were doing on my Zoom camera ( they wanted video as well ) . I checked it ( I was playing to a click track in headphones ) and it sounded good so I sent the file to the leader. A couple of days later he sends me a message saying that he would like me to record to a click this time. Confused, I checked the recording I sent him. It still sounded fine and I told him i had played to a click. He then sent me this:

Wow! I was flabbergasted! What's especially weird about this is that it sounds like I'm really dragging. Believe me, my natural tendency is to rush, not head the other way! :)
Anyway, other musicians have told me they've had similar experiences, and I've had it described to me as the different programs not being able to "talk to each other" . Apparently these syncing issues are not uncommon, so they're something to be aware of. Just another example of how we can think that a good take is an absolute "truth" and the time can't be messed with after the fact. But nowadays, anything's possible! :)

Stay groovy! :)

UPDATE: Here is the final video without all the issues. It was great fun to play with these people and I feel like I've made some new musical friends! :) 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Todd's Sticking 2

Hey folks, here's another sticking I adopted from Todd Bishop. In this case the sticking is RLRLLLRR which I'm playing in 8th notes with half notes on the BD and the hi-hat doing dotted quarters, first closed, then open, and finally alternating open and closed. I put the sticking on the snare with snares off and it gives it a sort of completely unauthentic but fun Calypso vibe. Later……

Sunday, November 15, 2020


 Like many life-long musicians (or really anybody), not everything in my career has turned out exactly as I wanted or expected, One gets gigs, one loses gigs, one isn't called for certain gigs, one interviews for gigs and doesn't get them etc. etc. etc. I don't think I'm alone in that I can get quite obsessed with the things that didn't happen. This is far from productive, so I decided to approach things differently when these thoughts come up. I simply switch my thoughts to "what am I grateful for?". It's easy to focus on the negative, and the music business can be extremely heartbreaking, but it's important to not let that paralyze our creative impulses. Feeling super down and can't think of anything to be grateful for? Here's some examples….

-Your health

-your family and/or friends

-music you love to play or listen to

-the weather and the natural world

-your resilience in a difficult life-path

I could go on, but you get the picture. Also, often in hindsight, we realize that gig we wanted and thought would be perfect for us wasn't at all, and maybe something better came along (or we avoided something worse) by not getting it. Without getting into it too heavily, I feel that all of us have a higher purpose that we might not be aware of!

The fact that we have been isolation for so long is something that many musicians would see as totally negative, but even that has been very beneficial for me. For sure, COVID 19 is a terrible disease that has killed and compromised the health of many people, and I would never want anyone to think I wish the virus hadn't happened and the effects of the quarantine had been achieved some other way. The quarantine (again, not the virus itself) has changed me for the better in quite a few ways.

-My drumming and piano playing has improved a lot. I can't remember a stretch of time when I've practiced daily so consistently.

-My health has improved. As of this writing, I haven't had any alcohol or refined sugar in months and I'm down 2 pant sizes. I also have been regularly walking 10,000 steps and have also enjoyed swimming and bike riding.

-I have had a chance to listen to a TON of music of all kinds

-I have become somewhat more computer and recording savvy due to remote teaching and recording.

-I have had more time to blog, as my post-lockdown output attests to!

I think a big part of being a creative person is being able to see the potential in something that initially is negative, and like anything else in the arts, it gets better with practice. I implore you to try it. What do you have to lose? I believe we are all destined for great things! :) 

Friday, November 13, 2020

Todd's Sticking plus clave

Hi folks, just a quick post showing something I've been working on lately. I really like the idea of treating RH and LF functions with the hi-hat separately, and then putting them together to see what I've come up with. In this case I've taken a RRRR LLRL sticking lifted from a recent, great  Cruise Ship Drummer post. I then played a 3:2 Rhumba Clave with my left foot while keeping the RH part of the sticking on the hi-hat as well. The bass drum part was supposed to be the tumbao, but when I pressed record on my phone, my RF did something else, and I think like it better! The next step for me will be doing this kind of thing with various bass drum ideas…..


I also wanted to pass on my congratulations to all my American friends on the recent election and hope that this is a new day dawning for your great country and that you get the democracy you so very much deserve.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Soloing and Context

Well, it's been awhile SO IT'S TIME FOR A RANT!!!!!!!

I've never been one of those " I hate drum solos,  I only want to support the band"-type people. I enjoy the challenges soloing on the drums requires.
That said, I don't like many of the drum solos I hear. Why? Because there's usually very little context to them, or the context is, to my ears, flawed….
let me elaborate on things a good solo (on drums or ANY instrument) requires…

1. Thematic material/storytelling
So much of what I see and hear these days involves playing something fast/technically difficult, and then moving onto to some other fast/technically difficult thing and THAT'S THE ONLY THING THAT LINKS THE TWO IDEAS! It's like telling a story that only has a bunch of different endings, or a joke that's only several punchlines! You have to get the audience from A to B to C, and sometimes that involves playing things that aren't necessarily hard to play!

2. A reason for the material to exist
This is crucial, and should probably be item #1. What's the reason for what you're playing? If the only reason is because it's difficult and impressive, that's not much to base your narrative on. I think that's why I often find drum solos and clinics ESPECIALLY boring, because they exist only to impress, and really don't take me on any sort of musical journey. ( See item #1)

3. Energy/Interest created from the solo itself
So much of what I hear is a bunch of drum "stuff" played against something, whether it be a (questionable) recorded track, or some sort of vamp. I don't hear a lot of soloing that is compositionally sound in and of itself. Remember, you can use the tones of the drums and cymbals themselves to make melodies, or you can abstractly "represent" a tune through thematic playing etc. Don't get me wrong, soloing over something can be very beautiful, but should never be an excuse to have poor architecture in one's solo.

Now, let's pause for a short intermission while I play one of the great examples of soloing over a vamp Chick Corea's "Quartet No. 2" with Steve Gadd singing/crying/wailing over the vamp! Fantastic! Listen to how it builds!

4. Space, the final Drum Frontier
Mr. Gadd, as usual, provided a perfect segue. The music/solo needs to breathe, so LEAVE SPACE. It makes everything played so much more powerful!

Okay, that's enough grumpy old man stuff for now. Remember when you solo, PLAY MUSIC!!!!!

Monday, November 2, 2020

At Home With Ted Podcasts

During isolation, my lovely wife Heather interviewed me about various aspects of music. Here are 3 of the episodes….