Monday, August 2, 2021
Monday, July 26, 2021
Friday, July 23, 2021
Thursday, July 22, 2021
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
From the Granelli family's FB page…..
We are so sad to report that Jerry Granelli passed away at his home in Halifax, Nova Scotia around 9am Atlantic time this morning. This December, just before his 80th birthday, as some of you might know, Jerry suffered a near fatal case of internal bleeding. He was rushed to the hospital where he spent the next two months in ICU. After finally being stabilized, there were still more time spent in hospital as he slowly recovered while dealing with a number of other long term health issues exacerbated by his initial issue. He recovered enough to finally return home. He has been getting better, going out for longer and longer walks, going to the Y, making friends with a crew of scooter & walker users.
Jerry was a true force of nature, he will be greatly missed by his three children, five grand children and all of the countless people he touched through his music and spirit.
This past Sunday he put on a Workshop: Art In Everyday Life - The Creative Process, as part of the Creative Music Workshop program at this year’s Halifax Jazz Festival. It was attended by people, in person, as well as being simulcast- here it is: https://youtu.be/dGJqZOVI4tM.
“One reason why people like improvised music is that it’s a direct reflection of life, not something we thought up. It scares you…makes you think you’re going to die for a moment…do you have the courage to play? Can I move out of my desires and wants, and into compositional choices?”
Jerry was already making plans for a number of new recordings, to produce a play about his life and of course he was looking forward to performing Tales of a Charlie Brown Christmas this coming December in Halifax. Next year the plan was another cross Canada tour as well as a tour in Europe. His career spanned 60+ years and Jerry has had the opportunity to perform with the likes of Charlie Haden, Mose Allison, Sonny Stitt, Sly Stone, Ornette Coleman and Vince Guaraldi. Jerry has recorded over 30 albums, his last a tribute to mentors Mose Allison and Vince Guaraldi. His compositions have been recognized by institutions such as the ECMAs, the Junos, The Grammy Awards, the National Library of Congress Sound Archives, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Jerry has spent his life dedicated to the art of improvisation, helping young musicians see the connection between life and the art they create and the ordinary magic of living a spontaneous life. A long time practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism Jerry has been an important proponent for people in all walks of life of meditation practice and living one's life awakened and fearlessly.
A large network of both music and Dharma students will miss his fierce spirit and compassion.
His life and work live on through them.
The only thing I would add to this statement is that Granelli, like Paul Motian and Guy Nadon, was a drummer who pretty much lived the evolution of Jazz in his own playing. He started out playing fairly straight ahead piano trio, but went on to play very open form music. No matter the style, he always played with taste and imagination. I saw him playing about 5 years ago, and he performed with the fire and energy of a person in his 20s. He will be missed, but not forgotten…….
Monday, July 19, 2021
This was inspired by a recent post by Joe Farnsworth on Facebook. I can't post it here but I would highly recommend checking it out. He says he's demonstrating some ideas that Art Taylor was shown by Kenny Clarke. He then proceeds to play A LOT of brushes. :) A fair amount of it went by so quickly I just grabbed a couple of things. ( There was certainly lots more to learn but I had a limited amount of time to watch it.)
So, the following 3 videos deal with what i got from it. Some of it might not even be correct. Mr. Farnsworth plays a different grip than me, has more together on the brushes than me and is much better dressed than me, for a start! Okay, here they are:
Thursday, July 15, 2021
Monday, July 12, 2021
Here's some great footage of Al Jackson Jr. playing with Booker T & the MGs.
A few observations:
Check out the big dynamic range!
Even when he's chocking the cymbal on his left side, he switches hands and brings his RH to the snare to keep the backbeat going.
Even though it's a shuffle feel, he keeps his timekeeping to quarter notes and occasionally goes to triplets in his fills. Very elemental, in the best way!
Also he's bending the pitch on the small tom near the end of the tune. he was a colourist while still taking care you the groove! Enjoy!
Friday, July 9, 2021
In an interesting example of serendipity, I was listening to an interview with Colin Moulding ( ex-XTC ) where he mentioned the quote below as inspiration for his newest single and the same day Dan Weiss featured the quote on his IG page. Great minds think alike. Anyway, here it is…..
To be nobody-but-yourself-in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody but yourself-means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.
- E.E. Cummings
There you go. Lots to chew on there……………..
Monday, July 5, 2021
Peter Erskine's Infinity Drummers List is the gift that keeps on giving. recently, he posted this great track from The Yellowjackets featuring the incredible Will Kennedy on drums…….
Cool groove, huh? And here's Mr. Kennedy explaining the main beat he played…..
Also worth mentioning is how Peter Erskine described the performance on the recording. please note how Will keeps things bubbling and interesting without ever losing focus or the groove. He is a master at improvising within the "fusion" rhythm section arena ... exciting without blowing his cool.
Of course Mr. Erskine is absolutely right, and that got me thinking about how we as drummers have balance different amounts of keeping the form, groove, and interaction with the soloist depending of the style/situation we're in.
Let's take a look at a very different example. Here's Rashied Ali playing with John Coltrane on Trane's tune "Ogunde"
Now, there's definitely a "Head" in the sense that there's a melody that's played at the beginning and end, but the band plays rubato throughout so they're not necessarily thinking of a groove, more like keeping the momentum going while filling up the sonic space. And as far as the blowing goes, they're playing off the spirit of the melody, but otherwise it's definitely open….If you don't generally play styles like this, it's good to play along with open form music to figure out ways to support the soloist and create variety without necessarily playing in a strict tempo.
Now, here's an example that plays against type. Although Tony Williams was very at home in Avant Garde musical situations, he also knew when a tune needed a relentless groove as a "hook". I won't tell you what the tune is, but if you've heard it more than once, you will recognize it from the first couple of bars….
Also note that Tony doesn't really deviate much from that groove the whole performance through. Certainly he follows the dynamics inherent in the tune and the soloist's needs, but for a drummer who could play lots of crazy things, HE DOESN'T. Why? Because that doesn't suit this tune…….
I think what we can conclude is that we as drummers are constantly navigating how attention we're putting on the form/arrangement, the groove, and the soloist and/or vocalist. There is no "one size fits all". it totally is situation dependent. As always, use your ears, both when enjoying other's performances as well as when you're in the driver's seat!
Thursday, July 1, 2021
It's no secret that the first people who lived in the land we now call Canada (and still do. See diagram showing percentages of population by province/territory)) have been treated horribly by the Europeans that "settled" this nation.
It is time for the descendants of the settlers to listen, learn, and make reparations. We have to do so much better………
UPDATE: Please join me in this course (you can take it for free online) from the University of Alberta). I started it a few days ago and I've already learned so much!
Monday, June 28, 2021
Extreme listening is probably a misnomer, but I wanted to talk about focused listening today. Simply put, it can be as basic as listening with no distractions. I like to practice listening (to recordings) at home as intensely as I would on gig, and try to give it the same sense of responsibility. Try to learn everything you can each time through the recording. As an example, I randomly pulled up this recording from my library.
Wow! Fantastic. Louis Hayes is someone I really have slept on, and I'm going to address that! But here are some brief notes I made on one pass through the recording. I can't say I'd never heard it before, but I don't think I'd listened to it in such an active way before. Okay, here goes…
Notes on Phineas Newborn Jr. “Juicy Lucy”
Trio, Pno, bass, drums,
4 bar piano intro
2 feel on the As in head, 4 to the bar on bridge
higher dynamic on bridge in head
4 feel for solos
Piano solos first
plays 8ves, busy stuff too
four on snare and piano comping in second chorus of piano solo for first 2 As
bass solo 2nd, dynamic in piano and drums significantly lower 2As
“Shout”in B section
Last A back to the head
2 bars tagged 3xs
4 choruses in total
So, not bad. As you can see, the first listens are about a lot of the macro issues of the recording. These include things like form, how many solos, instrumentation, overall dynamics etc. But this is just the beginning. In subsequent listenings you can get to things like dynamic curve and interaction between soloist and drums, and specific drum things you want to lift, is the tune a contrafact of another tune, listening to each player individually all the way through, etc. This is where the real deep learning takes place and of course, can be a great alternative to physical practice as it's easily as, if not more important.
Happy EXTREME listening, but don't be chicken about it! :)
Friday, June 25, 2021
So, why create content when you can just steal someone else's hard work? :)
Seriously, before you read any further you need to go to this recent 4 on the Floor post.
Now, check that out and get that together, which is a tall order in itself! As I was doing that myself , I came up with some variations on Mr. McCaslin's thought-provoking and challenging material. Let me be clear, this is not about "one-uppersonship", but rather a demonstration of how the creative process is often a collective one, where ideas are shared and discussed, even if it is only in an online fashion.
Okay, so once you've got Jon's exercises reasonably well in hand you can…..
1) Make all LF notes splashed hi-hat.
2) " "" " alternating splashed and closed hi-hat.
3) Make all non-cymbal or bass drum notes either buzzes or dead strokes.
4) Make all bass drum notes muted (sticking the beat into the bass drum head).
5) "" "" "" alternated muted and open notes.
6) Divide the triplet ideas between RH and LH. Snare plays dotted quarters. BD plays quarter notes.
7) "" "" "" Snare and bass drum alternate dotted quarter notes, either start w/ snare or bass drum.
8) " "" """ Snare and bass drum play dotted quarters in unison.
9) "" "" Snare and bass drum play dotted quarters in doubles.
10) Same as 9) but sn & bd play the pattern in paradiddles.
11) As originally written but left hand moves to another drum or cymbal every stroke
12) As any above but sing any blues head while doing it. You will notice that the dotted quarters work out over a blues evenly, so it's also a way of checking if you're playing it accurately.
13) Oops! Lucky 13! I almost forgot. Practice as is but experiment with different ride rhythm articulations. i.e. Accent on 2& 4, accent on the skip beat, more of a dotted 8th/16th feel etc.
Obviously, these are just a small sample of the mischief one can get into with these.
Also, I realize these coordination exercises can be very challenging, but just stick with them, and as Jon rightly mentioned, play slow and steady. I often compare coordination on the drum set as like a series of rooms with doors at either end. One struggles to get a door open, you then get comfortable with it, and then the next door appears!
Rinse and repeat for the rest of your life!
Much thanks to Jon for these great exercises. Remember, when another musician gives you a challenge, it really is a gift! :)
* I haven't had any alcohol or sugar in a year and a half, so please enjoy whatever refreshes you! I highly recommend one of the naturally flavoured soda waters currently available!
Wednesday, June 23, 2021
Monday, June 21, 2021
If there has been theme to my drumming practice the now year and a half of weirdness we're experiencing, it could be foot ostinatos. I have used this time to work on left foot clave, over the bar line foot patterns etc…..but I was recently reminded of a great clinic Ian Froman did and that inspired this latest group of exercises.
In a nutshell, Ian has a concept of opening up and making one's time feel more modern through subtractive processes. In other words, he talks about leaving notes out of the ride rhythm, and interrupting the constant 2 & 4 on the hi-hat. This is what the first two exercises are demonstrating. I then added in the bass drum, and the rest is various combinations of the 2 feet.
Friday, June 18, 2021
As we're nearing the year and a half mark of no to minimal work for music-makers, I'm reminded of the cliche acting line, "What's my motivation?". This is apropos for all musicians as this time as we have to balance, even more than usual, the void between art and commerce. I recently compared re-heading and putting new snares on, accessing all my cymbals etc., to the owner of a bus company who has all their fleet in the garage for maintenance, but is unsure if the the wheels will ever roll again. I got some very heartfelt and kind responses to this, but most people thought that meant I was giving up music. Nothing could be further from the truth, but I am harbouring doubts about whether I ever will make even a meager living from playing the drums anymore. Perhaps because I have never made much money from playing, I am quite prepared to find another way to pay my bills, and in fact this process has started already. If some sort of" live music boom" ends up happening when things open up and more people are vaccinated, nobody would be happier than me, but I'm not counting on it. Perhaps I'm fortunate, but I studied music for at least 10 years before I became a "professional" at it. During my early years of study, I developed a love of learning about music for it's own sake, and that has helped me immensely during this time. I'm currently working on soloing on "Giant Steps" on piano. Is anybody clamouring for me to do this? Definitely not. But I'm having a great time and learning lots.
Don't get me wrong. I miss so many things. The camaraderie with the band, waitstaff, and audience, the team effort of making music, hearing a band and peers develop, recording, etc. But there's more to it for me. I'm on a path, and will continue on it for as long as I'm able.
So, ask yourself, "What's Your Motivation", and decide. It's your choice and your choice only……..
Thursday, June 17, 2021
I get that drum, cymbal, and stick companies are trying to sell product. They are in business after all.
However, the sound, feel, and concept of what happens to those objects comes from YOU!!!!!!!!!
Case in point, the first time I saw Elvin Jones play, he was playing borrowed cymbals he'd never seen before, and it sounded like it always it. It didn't matter!
And speaking of Elvin, here's his trio with Joe Farrell and Jimmy Garrison playing "Keiko's Birthday March" on the BBC. Enjoy!
Monday, June 14, 2021
I'm not going to lie to you. Recently ( this was written in mid-May) life has been challenging. I have had a very slow recovery from a knee injury, there are no gigs of course, and I haven't been able to play a full drum set in over a month due to the current lockdown. What's keeping me sane? LISTENING! And to that end, I have decided to listen to ( and eventually play along with) every tune on Peter Erskine's Infinity Drum Playlist. Here it is on youtube….
And here's the Playlist spreadsheet with Mr. Erskine's illuminating notes on each track…..
Phew! 300 and some recordings, with new ones being added every day! I am about 80 or so in, and again I'm not going to lie to you, I was amazed and how many recordings (drummers) I didn't know! Rather than beating myself up for this, I instead am enjoying all this great music I was previously unaware of.
It's also interesting to observe my reactions to the different tunes, styles, and drummers. There's a lot of "Wow, I slept on that" exclamations to a lot of the small group pieces, a great appreciation of a lot of the fusion and big band recordings, and some tunes that really GET to me emotionally (The James Brown, and Michael McDonald tunes, in particular). There's also occasionally things that I probably wouldn't have gone out of my way to listen to, which makes the playlist even more handy as there's something to learn from every tune on the list. It's also cool to see how the tunes reflect Erskine's own experience and demographic (he'd be about 10 years older than me, I suspect) through the inclusion of the Stan Kenton and Maynard Ferguson big band stuff, for example.
So, thank you Peter Erskine. Not only for so many of your own great drum performances, but for sharing these recordings with us and will keep me engaged, sane, and learning until we can play again! :)
Friday, June 11, 2021
It must be all the time off, but I find myself extra rant-y these days. Today is no exception. I continue to be bombarded with warm-ups, chop builders, practice pad etudes, etc. I think it's important to stress that all this-physical-functioning-at-the-instrument is just a MINOR part of what we do!
We absolutely need to
-be able to read music
-know forms and melodies of many tunes
-be able to interpret and memorize new compositions quickly
-listen deeply, not only to the other musicians around you, but yourself as well
-have a sound that you desire, and not just play any old way (see above)
-be able to shape a band's sound and vibe with our playing
-groove, in every sense ( this includes rubato music)
There are so many people out there that constantly play at one dynamic, or one style, or always play the same stuff behind a soloist. Do yourself a favour. learn a standard tune ( if it's a great American Songbook tune, learn the lyrics as well ) and CREATIVELY apply it to something you want to do on the drumset. Making exercises out of drum books is okay, but it really is then just taking you a step further away from the music.
Thanks, and happy musicality!
Monday, June 7, 2021
I hear a lot of musicians complaining about the tunes they are required to play. Yes, I agree some tunes seem "hipper" than others, yet when we blame a lacklustre performance on the material we are playing, we abdicate a lot of our personal responsibility and power. Bill Evans described tunes as "vehicles". In other words, we can inject whatever we are playing with as much life (or death) as we want.
I've probably mentioned this before, but the first time I saw Ray Brown's trio play, they opened with "You Are My Sunshine" with Ray playing the melody. It's probably not the most amazing composition ever, but it sure sounded great when they played it! Sure, they could have played some more obscure original tune, but they started with "Sunshine". Everyone knows that tune, and it got the audience on board IMMEDIATELY.
Even if you're playing tunes that don't include improvisation, do what actors in the theatre do and create "the illusion of the first time". You want to make your performance always sound fresh .
As well as Ray Brown, Sonny Rollins always has played music familiar to all and added the hipness himself! Here's a concert he did in Montreal where he opened with the Dolly Parton hit " Here You Come Again". Sonny sounds great of course, and check out DeJohnette's serious badass shuffle!
In conclusion, if you find yourself disliking a certain tune, find a way to rearrange it, or change what you're playing, or change your attitude to what you're already playing etc. Accept your boredom/frustration with a tune as a challenge, and as a creative person you will find an innovative solution! I look forward to hearing it!
Sunday, June 6, 2021
Wow ! Check this out. Noted Bassist/Educator/Author Ronan Guifoyle interviews Pat Labarbera about his work with Buddy Rich and Elvin Jones!
It's a fantastic interview and even offers some insight into possible tensions between Elvin Jones and Tony Williams.
Thursday, June 3, 2021
When I was 14 years old, I had been playing the drums for 4 years. I hadn't really played with a band, other than concert bands. What did I appreciate in drummers I saw and heard? Flash, speed, volume, and spectacle. That was about it. As time went on I learned about what it takes to be a team member and make a band sound great. I listened to music and tried to learn why the drummers (and other musicians as well) made the musical choices they did. I tried my very best to serve the music the best I knew how, and still strive for this everyday.
Why, do you ask, do I bring up the idea of a 14 year old boy's aesthetic?
BECAUSE THE MUSIC WORLD SEEMS TO BE DOMINATED BY IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Everywhere I turn, social media is filled with stick-twirling, no dynamics playing, self attention seeking, frankly….IDIOTS!
And the worst part is, most (but not all, mind you) of the industry, from publications, to instrument companies, etc. is ENCOURAGING AND CELEBRATING THIS!!!!!!!!!!!
I mean, if I was just starting out, I would probably feel if I didn't have blistering hand/foot chops and some sort of gimmick, that I wouldn't have a place in the music world. As well, I probably would have ignored all the things that have kept me working as a musician. Things like reading, brushes, blending in an ensemble and dynamics, various feels, and listening, to name a few.
I sometimes feel worried about where the drums are headed these days. I believe the pioneers of this instrument didn't give their whole lives to developing the modern drum set so self-centred kids could do circus tricks in the pursuit of "likes". There has GOT to be more to it than this……..
Okay, rant over. Throw away your practice pad and learn how to make a band sound and feel great…...
Saturday, May 29, 2021
Tuesday, May 25, 2021
Monday, May 24, 2021
Sunday, May 23, 2021
Monday, May 17, 2021
As I have said recently, the net is such a strange place. I started one evening trying to figure out who the drummer was with Woody Herman when I saw the band play in Regina in the early 80s. I didn't find out for sure, but I came across the name Dave Ratajczak on a Thundering Herd record released around the same time. This research into Mr. Ratajczak's work lead me to a short film he starred in, entitled The Drummer . ( Sorry, I can't seem to embed it, but just click on the link. ) Dave Ratajczak, as well as being a great drummer, has real presence on the screen. So many elements of the movie ring true, especially the weird social experience of playing a wedding where you haven't met any of the band before and are assumed to be the leader because you got to the gig first and that you and the rest of the group live together like the Beatles in the HELP movie! Also worth noting is the sexism directed towards the female vocalist as well as the economic realities of trying to survive as a musician in a big urban centre. Most films about musicians I find incredibly phoney and inaccurate, but Bill Block (director) did an amazing job! I would encourage all musicians to see it.
Friday, May 14, 2021
Thursday, May 13, 2021
Monday, May 10, 2021
Instagram/Tik Tok Fame
Super obscure world music beats
The latest hip drummer
Playing on vamps
Odd time signatures
A particular grip
Playing like a drum machine
Latest IG Hero/Heroine
Sunny Murray/Allison Miller
Classical snare studies
A loose, comfortable grip
2 feel on the high-hat
Playing on form of a tune
Open solos that tell a story
Long running music venues
Stick Control/Accents & Rebounds
Knowing melodies/forms of tunes
Playing gear you think sounds best
Presence and Respect from musical peers
Papa Jo Jones
Keep in mind, these are just my opinions. Go develop your own.
Friday, May 7, 2021
Monday, May 3, 2021
Hi and welcome to part 3 of the series where Four on The Floor, Cruise Ship drummer and I all write about a given subject. This time we're talking about technique, specifically on how it relates to the drums.
What is technique? Well, one definition of technique I found states that it's a way of carrying out a particular task, especially the execution or performance of an artistic work or a scientific procedure.
I bring up this definition because often technique is equated with "velocity". I suppose speed is one tiny aspect of technique, but there's so much more to it than that. I'm now going to take us through all the things that, for me, define technique.
1. Time feel
I have never had a " you got it, or you don't" philosophy. To play good time at various tempos and styles, is challenging, and must be practiced! Sure, everyone has tempos and feels they gravitate towards, but to truly fill in the gaps, we have to work on this tempos that are challenging to us. Case in point, I am naturally a very ahead of the beat player, so to learn to lay back better, I had to practice playing behind the metronome, and play along with great back of the beat drumming, and to learn to place the feel where the drummer on the recording was. Like most aspects of music, time feel is something we work towards, and is a HUGELY important technique. I'm also including playing rubato in this! That's another technique that's frequently ignored.
This is ignored a ton by people. Playing the same things at different volume levels while maintaining time and groove is challenging, to say the least. Proud of your blisteringly fast single stroke roll? Let's hear it at ppp. If you can't do it, your technique is not what you thought it is.
Closely related to dynamics. Simply put, what do people hear when we play, and is it what we intended them to hear. Where are we striking the instruments? If I'm hitting rims constantly, it may be I have some sort of "concept", but it's more likely I have to refine my technique. This is part of the reason I don't put much stock in "pad practice", because it doesn't deal with sound at all, unless you're going to play a practice pad on the gig!
Another thing that gets better the more we pay attention to it. If we constantly try and find different avenues, sounds, and textures it tends to perpetuate itself! Don't be satisfied with doing the same things?having the same set up/checking out the same music all the time. That's bad technique, as far as I'm concerned!
I think because velocity can be easily measured ( they don't give out those pseudo wrestling belts for being able to play a really slow, sensuous Bossa!) it's often focused on at the expense of all the above considerations.
5. General Concept of the drums
There are a lot of different ways to approach playing this instrument. Over the course of my career, I realized I wanted to be working with the drums. I view my instrument as someone I am singing or dancing with. To be honest, I hear a lot of ham-fisted and stiff drumming out there. I think when one's first goal is to be impressive and fast, the drummer becomes more like someone colonizing and controlling the drums rather than someone engaged in a dialogue. The latter is what inspires me. Just a few of the drummers doing this ( and I'm bringing this group up because I've heard these players most recently ) would be people like Joe LaBarbara, Allison Miller, and a delightful young drummer I was just hipped to, J.D. Beck.
As people who read this blog know, I rarely "out" anyone, even when I don't like what they're doing. I will, however make an exception for the renowned ( for her racism rather than her drumming) individual Hillary Jones, who exemplifies the "colonial" style drumming of which I speak. This shows up as much in her drumming as her words.
I guess what I'm getting at the end here is, how are each of us going to approach technique, and I think deciding what's most important whether it be fast single strokes, grooving like Levon Helm, or Instagram-ready stick twirling is something we all have to figure out.
Okay, now go work on your technique.
Thursday, April 29, 2021
Monday, April 26, 2021
This is inspired by a recent Cruise Ship Drummer post. I'm always interested to hear what people are practicing. As I've mentioned before, I really enjoy practicing, even after playing for 45 years!
Maybe before I talk about what I'm practicing, I'll also talk about the why and how. :)
Obviously, people at different stages of their development practice different things. I used to practice sight reading music, every day, but it's been a long time since I've done that. At this point, my reading ( at least with non-pitched instruments) is either good enough to get through whatever's thrown at me, or if it's super challenging, I either get the music in advance or I practice super challenging in the short term to "ramp up". I'd say at this point, only about 1 in 6 gigs (when we were working) requires any reading beyond looking at a lead sheet and interpreting it.
- I tend not to practice pure technique. At this point, I want everything I look at to have some sort of application. If I am practicing single strokes, for example, I will practice moving round the drums, or playing something with my feet underneath. One thing I have been working on is "push/pull" things with my hands (either off the rim, the so-called "one hand roll", or just in the middle of the drum or cymbal.) I currently put them into beats at various tempos, and I do seem to be getting better control of them with either hand.
-Speaking of the feet, I seem to have spent a lot of the pandemic working on foot ostinatos. A lot of the typical ones I've spent some time on, like left foot clave/salsa bass drums, but also have made up some of my own involving 3 and 5 beat patterns that go over the bar, or even odd groupings within the bar.
-Whenever I hear a feel on a recording that I like or seems unusual/challenging for me, I try and play along with it. I still think this is a huge challenge! If you can stay with the recording for it's whole length without ego-ing out on your own playing and losing where you are, you've probably really learned something!
-Working a lot on beats/ideas that utilize articulations such as buzzes or deadstrokes to create variety.
-I try to improvise short "pieces" often at the beginning of my practice.
-Trading, soloing and playing over vamps. Practicing playing rubato.
-I also try and review my last day's practice by either expanding on it or simply seeing if I can still play it a day later! This really helps with thematic thinking. In fact, at this stage, I'm just thinking about the whole time I've been playing as a 45 year long practice session, with some breaks! :)
-Also continuing to work on other instruments. One of the cool things about that I tend to work on really different things with each axe. If I'm practicing harmonica, I play 12Bar 3 chord blues. On piano it's mainly Great American Songbook and Jazz standards, learning to play the melodies and how to improvise on the chord changes. On ukulele, it's Pop songs I sing along to. Although I've mentioned this before, it bears repeating that these other instrumental perspectives have helped my drumming immensely!
So, this is what I'm doing. People will practice different things depending on their needs. Assess yours, either on your own or with a teacher, and then get cracking!
Thursday, April 22, 2021
Just a quick announcement that Cornerstone Records has digitally re-released the Mike Murley album Time and Tide. The album is sort of transitional and the handful tunes I'm on are only my 3rd recording, I think.
You can download it here.
…and from that album here's Jim Vivian's tune "Parabola"
Man, it's quite something to listen to something I recorded ALMOST 30 YEARS AGO! Jim, Murl, Dave, and I have all grown as musicians (and people) since then, yet at the same time there's an essence, a kernel of truth, that's been there the whole time. To observe this sort of growth in oneself and others is one of the great pleasures of being involved in music this long. I highly recommend it! :)
Monday, April 19, 2021
Friday, April 16, 2021
What's the first thing we hear when a drummer (or any musician) plays for us? We experience their sound, of course! Yet many teachers, myself included, do't talk about sound on the drum set very much. Why? Well, in a pedological environment, sound can be a tricky and subjective thing to evaluate. I also feel many people think that because sound production on a drum or cymbal is a relatively simple thing, (after, all, don't you just hit the thing?) that there's not much one can say about it. But say about it I will! Let's look at ways we as drummers can improve our sound.
This may seem pretty basic, but many drummers don't listen to the sounds they're making. That's why I don't recommend practice pads when an actual drum set is available and practical. It doesn't matter what fancy and impressive things are achieved on a pad because we don't play pads in performance! Also, only play the sounds you mean. Many "accidental" sounds on drum set can include:
- cymbals and/or drums hitting each other after we have played them.
-playing on an odd part of a cymbal or drum out of physical habit, rather than musical need or concept. This can include playing near the edge of the cymbal when riding it, playing toward the outer rim rather than the centre of a drum, hitting rims often, missing intended rimshots frequently, etc. Let me stress that ANY sound of a drum or cymbal is fair game and will be appropriate at times, it's just they have to be intentional!
Now, this will mean different things to different people. I would recommend listening to drums and cymbals of players you like and try to determine things you would want in your sound.. Does the player you like have theirs snares tight or loose? Do they tune high or low? What relationship between the top and bottom heads creates the sound you like? Do they even have bottom heads on their toms and bass drum? Are the drums muffled or ringy? Do you like the toms to dip in pitch? Cymbals bright or dark? Thin or thick? Do you like your drums sound with brushes but not with sticks and mallets? Some of these things will also depend on the type of music you're playing and the sonic environment the style tends to have. In all cases, don't be afraid to experiment with tuning, muffling, and cymbal choice, and if one plays a lot of different styles, they may need for more instruments to be purchased or compromises made. The more you listen and experiment, the more you will develop your personal appetites of what the drums should sound like.
3. Listen Part 2 (in context)
This is also style dependent. How loud of soft should you play with the band you're with? How does your sound mix with the rest of the ensemble? How does your sound change when you go from playing with a distorted guitar to a muted trumpet, for example?
In conclusion, developing own's sound is easily as important as anything else we practice on the instrument. We ignore it at our peril!
Now go develop your sound! :)
Monday, April 12, 2021
Friday, April 9, 2021
Wednesday, April 7, 2021
Wednesday, March 31, 2021
Monday, March 29, 2021
Thursday, March 25, 2021
Monday, March 22, 2021
In the third instalment in my series on drummers that have worked with XTC, I spoke with Chuck Sabo. Mr. Sabo is especially significant in that he is the last drummer to record with the band, the fantastic results of which are documented on Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol. 2). Before we get to the interview, here's some biographical information about this musician's long and varied career.
Chuck Sabo (Charles Edward Sabo Jr.) was born August 22, 1958, and grew up in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in a family of non-musicians. His parents supported his interest in and aptitude for playing the drums, and he began his career playing in cover bands in the Allentown area.
Sabo moved to New York City in 1980 at age 21. While taking drum lessons with Sonny Igoe he worked moving furniture to subsidize his music career. In the early part of the decade he made his first significant industry connections, recording his first major label project (1982's The Eleventh Hour) with Tom Dickie and the Desires managed by Tommy Mottola.
He also played in the early 1980s in New York City with the Comateens, and his stint in NYC ended after he recorded their final album, Deal With It, in 1984. After touring Europe with the group to support the album, he decided to stay in London.
He began his UK career being offered gigs with two bands, Decadence, managed by Mick Rossey, who was also managing Flock of Seagulls, and Glasgow band Talking Drums, who were managed by Miles Copeland. He went with Talking Drums and moved to Glasgow for a short time, but soon returned to London, where he played with a number of bands and became further known on the music scene.
In 1988 he was the session drummer for Étienne Daho's album Pour Nos Vies Martiennes. The following year he toured Europe with Daho.
Sabo played on Martyn Ware's 1991 British Electric Foundation album Music of Quality and Distinction, Vol. 2, which included recordings with Tina Turner, Chaka Khan, Terence Trent D'Arby, Billy Preston, and others. In 1992 he played on Tashan's 1992 album For the Sake of Love, produced by Ware. He toured with Shakespears Sister and played on their album Hormonally Yours as well as Right Said Fred's album Up. In 1993 he was the session drummer on Take That's album Everything Changes. In 1994, while he was recording Marcella Detroit's album Jewel, its producer Chris Thomas arranged for Sabo to play on the last track ("Duets for One") on Elton John's Duets album. That led to sessions for The Lion King soundtrack, where Chuck played on "Circle of Life," "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," and "I Just Can't Wait to Be King." Sessions with Kiki Dee and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark followed.In 1997 Sabo played on Natalie Imbruglia's hit Grammy-winning RCA album Left of the Middle and toured with Imbruglia supporting it.
In 2000, Sabo played on XTC's final studio album, Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2). His work the following year included Jimmy Nail's album Ten Great Songs and an OK Voice, and a return engagement with Imbruglia for her second album, White Lilies Island.
The success of the Natalie Imbruglia project and others enabled Sabo and his then-wife Jeanette Landry to set up a home studio, where among other projects they wrote and recorded with singer Sally Ann Marsh, who was later signed to Jive Records. Her success led them to a publishing deal with Dalmatian Songs in the U.K. and with BMG in the rest of the world.
In 2003, Sabo performed on three albums that Brian Eno produced, Roy Orbison - 'You May Feel Me Crying' On the Platinum Collection Album, The Pet Shop Boys, and 808 State 'Lopez'.
In 2007 he joined the drum faculty of the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance in London.In 2019 he released three singles, "This Cowboy Ain't Going Home," "The Politician," and "Keep Running Forever," in advance of his forthcoming debut album Running the Human Race[and a single ("Dark & Rainy Street") co-produced by Chris Thomas.
If you've heard any of Chuck's many great recorded performances, and would like him playing on your recording, he can record tracks and send them to you! How great is that?!!! You can contact him via his website.
Although there were many artists we could have discussed, Chuck graciously answered my XTC-centric questions. His replies, like his playing, were concise, yet thoughtful and illuminating.
How did XTC come to be aware of you?
Matthew Vaughn, the programmer, who had worked with the producer before, recommended me as I had just finished recording The Lion King with Elton John and Matt was on that project.
How did you learn the tunes? Did they send you the tracks beforehand?
No, I never get the tracks sent beforehand. I just listen to them, make a chart of the arrangement and how I'm going to approach it, and then just go in and play it.
When you were tracking with XTC was the whole rhythm section recording at the same time or were you by yourself?
I was by myself with the guys ( Andy Partridge & Colin Moulding ) and Steve, the producer in the booth. I was tracking along to the instruments that had already been recorded.
Were you aware of XTC before you played with them?
Oh yes, I was aware of their songs, particularly their hits, but I've become much more aware of them since, I have to say.
Did most of the direction regarding the song come from the writer , either Partridge or Moulding?
Did Partridge and Moulding differ in their methods of recording their songs?
No, but they were similar in that they made suggestions about the drum parts rather than demands.
Once I got set up and got the drum sounds, they were already pretty happy about things. Andy didn't suggest, but he did ask if I'd ever tuned the drums to any particular key, which isn't something I've done. I just tune it to my ear, and if there's any problem with the tuning in a song, I'll re-tune or mute the drums a little bit, so there's not so much ring.
Everything went really smoothly. There were very happy with the drum tracks. When we started, I think they only had 2 or 3 songs in mind for me to record, but we ended up doing 7. A couple of them had drum tracks already, which I replaced.
Were there any tracks that were more challenging or you had to think about more than others?
No. However, Maypole was different than most pop arrangements and my chart took slightly longer to write out before I played it.
You were one of the last people to record with them as a band. Did you get any sense that things were coming to an end or they were getting tired of working together?
I didn't feel that. In fact, we all went out for dinner on a couple of occasions. What I felt most, was their frustration with their record labels and how that had taken the wind out of their sails.
Was there anything in particular you learned from working with XTC?
Every session is different and enjoyable for different reasons, but no, nothing stuck out except that it was a great session, and I enjoyed working with the guys.
…..and for those of you who just can't get enough XTC, I'm posting interviews with Dave Gregory and Andy Partridge from Gregg Bendian's great series The Progcast. Enjoy!
Monday, March 15, 2021
Saturday, March 13, 2021
I don't care if it's an open air venue! The drums are STILL too loud!
I think with all the information on music we're flooded with these days (and I realize that I'm contributing to this as much as anyone) we're led to believe that there's certain books that we HAVE to go through…..
This really isn't the case, at least as far as I'm concerned, so today I'm going to look at what many people view as "standard" literature and talk about my relationship to it. Hopefully this will show that although some concepts may be very important, we can arrive at them in a variety of ways…
1. Stick Control
Monday, March 8, 2021
Thursday, March 4, 2021
Monday, March 1, 2021
In the second instalment of our Three Bloggers series, Cruise Ship Drummer , Four on the Floor , and I will be comparing notes on Miles Davis' classic 50s quintet album Milestones. I look forward to hearing my compatriot's insights on what was a very important recording in my development.
First of all, Milestones establishes Davis as a complete and utter badass. How? Let me count the ways…..
-Out of the seven tunes, four of them are 12 bar blues forms. (At least for the blowing. "Two Bass Hit"'s head form is a little different.) Miles, however achieves variety by varying the tempos and keys. He also plays piano on "Sid's Ahead" (apparently due to red Garland walking out after a disagreement) resulting in a largely cordless or minimal chording performance.
-Further variety is achieved on side two due to the modal nature of the title tune, and then the piano trio version of "Billy Boy". Yes, Miles is such a badass he doesn't even play on one of the tunes! Again, like all his albums, Miles understands how to structure a recording for maximum effect and drama. No wonder he started titling his work Directions in Music by Miles Davis. He played the whole band as well as the trumpet!
I will address some other general factors with the album before I get to Philly Joe's drumming on this.
Another way the solos are linked on this is how much trading there is. Not only between the horns and drums, but between the horns themselves. Stitching the whole tune together by use of the passing the baton idea of a soloist referencing the previous soloist's last idea is utilized throughout the recording, but particularly on the title track. Check it out…..
Also, for me, this very catchy tune reached me in a way that say, Parker's couldn't, with the level of knowledge I possessed when I heard it.
Okay, on to Philly.
The title track is also interesting because Philly Joe doesn't treat it as a typical Jazz Drum performance in that he mainly sticks to his click on 4 pattern throughout. I've never heard him discuss of how he conceived his playing on this tune, but I'm wondering if the slower harmonic rhythm and singable melody caused him to take this static, hypnotic approach more akin to Pop and Funk drumming than anything he had done previously. Regardless of source of inspiration, Philly's concept differentiates "Milestones" from the rest of the tracks on the album…
Also worth noting is that Philly only has one tom on this recording, most likely his mounted tom. For someone of his brilliance this isn't even remotely an issue, for he always gets the most out of what he's playing and orchestrating. I actually learned his trades on "Dr. Jeckyll". Despite the tempo, there's a lot of great Philly language that isn't super difficult. The trades on "Sid's Ahead" are also great for working on one's slow tempo trading language. In general, I find Philly's playing a little less slick than other recordings of his, and I actually prefer it. It's also easier to figure out what he's doing when he only has one tom, although I find the splashy cymbal sound can create the opposite effect when attempting to check out his ride patterns.
Finally, if you want to learn to play brushes, you need to check Philly's work on "Billy Boy".
All in all, Milestones is an important and innovative, yet listener-friendly Jazz album that contains all the elements of great music. A timeless classic, and everyone serious about this music should spend time with it. :)