Okay, another brush post. I'm slowly trying to film myself playing every brush pattern I've created and there's quite a backlog. Explanation is in the video.
Monday, May 16, 2022
Monday, May 9, 2022
These are some grooves inspired by some footage of Will Calhoun with Living Colour I saw recently. In his case, he was throwing in some quarter note triplet ideas in a rock groove with his LH while playing straight 8ths with his right. That led me to experimenting with playing one set of quarter note triplets plus a quarter note with my feet (which creates a pattern 3 beats long, so it goes over the barline nicely in 4/4) while my hands play a straight rock groove. I was thinking of the Zep tune "Ten Years Gone", both in tempo and general vibe. The following filmed examples show me working through this starting it with either foot, playing the "footings" (as opposed to stickings) in doubles and paradiddles, putting in splashed hi-hat, and reversing the hands and feet.
Monday, May 2, 2022
Monday, April 25, 2022
It's funny, I began on this posting because of a Twitter conversation fellow blogger Todd Bishop and I had, but he beat me to it!
I will, however, further stress his point about the current pattern of trying to get viewers/subscribers by preying on young player's insecurities! NO DECENT TEACHER WILL EVER DO THIS! Musicians are a community, and we take care of and encourage each other. Dave Holland once told a room full of young musicians at The Banff Centre something to the effect of, " We are all on the same path, we may be at different points along it, but it's still our common road."
I am reminded of the fashion industry's penchant for selling clothes and make up by attempting to make women feel they aren't thin enough/blonde enough/busty enough/light enough/dark enough/Tall enough etc.. etc.. In both cases, this is people that don't care about you just trying to make a buck. Please ignore them. We are all unique beings with so much to offer. Find your community that supports you and lifts you up. :)
….and speaking of supportive, encouraging people, here's a great interview with Trumpet and composition master Kenny Wheeler. I met him at the Banff centre as well, and was lucky enough to work with him a handful of times of the years. He was always encouraging and positive, and I miss him a lot.
Monday, April 18, 2022
Thursday, April 14, 2022
I've mentioned this before, but one of the silver linings to the dark cloud of things being shut down is the chance to assess elements of one's sound. Inspired by Paul Motian's list of cymbals that made the rounds, I decided to do an inventory of all the cymbals I own. 8 rides, 3 splashes, 5 crashes, 1 China type and 3 sets of hi-hats. For someone who has been playing for over 40 years, that's not really that much. Then I started recording myself and playing various combinations of of my collection.I won't post most of the videos because they do go on, but I have been making notes and will share them here. Hopefully, my insights into the qualities and interactions of my various metal friends will inspire you to assess your sound as well.
I will be grouping my cymbals by categories such as Best at playing with others (blend, in other words), Most similar Sounding, Darkest, Lightest, Trashiest, This Needs to Go, Loudest, Quietest, Hardest to Control, and anything else I can think of…..should be fun!
Well, first of all, I should say that after 3 or 4 days of cymbals comparisons, my ears were getting fatigued. I remember checking out cymbals at the Zildjian factory some time ago, and after about an hour it was like, "Um, that sounds like a cymbal, and so does that!"
Most Bull in the proverbial "China" Shop
This was easy. My 16" Zildjian Oriental Trash doesn't sound like anything else I own. Because I tend to view China-type cymbals as crashes (like DeJohnette) rather than rides ( like Mel Lewis), the trash cymbal is thin fast, and nasty! The ironic thing is, because the sound of this pie is so specific, it actually works wonderfully with all the other cymbals because it's always a great contrast! Whenever I get a bit burnt out on this sound, I put it away and when I come back to it, it sounds fresh again!
Most Same-y Same-y ( Or, "Why do you have two of these?)
There were a few of these. My 12" A Zildjian splash and my Dad's old A Zildjian Hi-Hat (which is actually 11", my mistake earlier) sound close enough in pitch that I wouldn't ever use them both at the same time, so if I get some sort of Manu Katche tribute band together, I'll only have 2 splashes available! :) I will use the newer 12" and keep the 11" mainly for historical and sentimental value. I also have an 8" Zildjian splash that does sound quite different than the other ones…...
Also the two 16" crashes' pitches are very close. I will use them both for slightly different things however, as the A Zildjian ( the first "Good" cymbal I ever bought myself!) is better for high volume situations. The K Constantinople crash seems to "max out" after things get loud, and I have found this true with all the newer Ks I've tried.
Phew! Is anybody (besides my Mom) still reading this?……………….
Least interesting cymbal
My 2002 Paiste 20". Now, that isn't to say it isn't a good cymbal. In fact, if I had the dough and played a lot more Pop and Rock I would love to have a whole set of these. They record well too! ( Lot of highs and low, and not so much mid-range.) So, what's the issue? Well, it doesn't have a ton of character, IMO. Sometimes the things that make a cymbal challenging to play, are also what make it interesting. Anyway, it is a nice clean sounding cymbal, and I'm glad I have it.
Most interesting cymbal
Probably the old K (20") I've had since high school. It's very thin and therefore it took me a long time to learn how to play it without washing out. I traded it for a 20" A Zildjian mini-cup ride which Ive NEVER regretted getting rid of. The mini-cup is again, a good quality cymbal, but it seemed to combine the worst elements of a flat ride and a regular cymbal, without any of the benefits of either!
Is there a cymbal I still want?
Speaking of flat rides! I'm still looking for one. I had an A. Zildjian flat ride for awhile but it was too bright. I like most of the Jazz drummers in the GTA, borrowed Don Thompson's Paiste 602 flat ride. ( The "Now He Sings, Now He Sobs" cymbal. ) I LOVE the 602s, but getting them to blend and harmonize with any other cymbals I find very difficult. I'm still looking though. I borrowed Kieran Overs' 20" K Flat ride ( Where would we drummers be without borrowing other instrumentalist's cymbals?) and that was pretty close. If I can find one for a decent price I'd probably grab it. (UPDATE: I bought a 20" K Zildjian light flat ride that I am really enjoying.)
Most Whacky Overtones
Oddly enough, the 3 Old Ks I use were beaten out by my 22 A Zildjian from the 70s. (Mids for days), and the 19" K. Dark Crash (2000s) , that, despite being quite a low pitched cymbal, has a strange kind of brittle brightness that I've never quite gotten used to. It seems to have mellowed a bit, however, so maybe it just needs more time.
Hi-hats, not so catchy-matchy
Of the 3 sets I have, only the old Ks are actually a matched pair. (I absolutely LOVE these hats, and if I was only allowed on set of hi-hats, I would play these quite happily.) One is an old A. Zildjian bottom I'm using as a top cymbal and a Sabian (the only cymbal of this make I actually own) Flat Hat on the bottom. The other "set" of hi-hats is a newer K. Zildjian on top and a A. Armand Zildjian on the bottom.
Anyway, I would encourage everyone who has been amassing gear to go through it and access occasionally.
Monday, April 11, 2022
Monday, April 4, 2022
When I was in high school, I read an interview with Wynton Marsalis where he said something like, "When you transcribe, you're learning to read a solo more than play it". Now, because I was young, inexperienced, and prone to black and white thinking, this formed my attitude about transcriptions for the next 40 years!
Cue recently, when a pianist/composer friend of mine asked me to transcribe some timekeeping on the drum set for an arrangement she was writing. It happened to be the first chorus of this:
Monday, March 28, 2022
Programming Note: Well it's definitely Monday. :( Seems I can't post this on the blog, but please use below as a link to watch this incredible footage. I promise it'll be worth it!
Wow! This is a great set from one of Joe Henderson's great working bands with Al Foster, George Mraz, and Bheki Mseleku. Al Foster is such a great example of someone who really found his own voice. It's also worth noting how "common" all the tunes they play are, and how often they (especially Joe) played them. Just goes to show that's it's not the tune, but the person playing it! Enjoy.
Monday, March 21, 2022
I have spent a LOT of time over the years working on Paradiddles and Paradiddle Inversions. What I haven't spent as much time on, is Double and Triple Paradiddles.
So, quick review.
Double Paradiddles are RLRLRR LRLRLL so if we want to play them in a very "consonant" and non-over the bar way, they work great as triplets or in 3/4.
Triple Paradiddles are RLRLRLRR LRLRLRLL (although we could certainly start both of these rudiments on the left hand as well.) This sticking adds up to a bar of 4/4 on each side of it, so that works quite well to start with.
Here are a few ways I used these rudiments. Most of them voiced around the drum set and quite a few of them going over the bar. Note I didn't film most of these or even write them out, but you will benefit from filling in the blanks on these yourself, as well as coming up with your own ideas.
1. Triple in 8th notes in 3/4
2. Triple in triplets in 4/4 and 3/4 (add whatever foot patterns feel represent these time signatures).
3. Doubles in 8th notes in 4/4.
4. Doubles and Triples in 8th notes in 4/4 w/ dotted 8th notes in bass drum.
5. " "" in hi-hat. ( BD plays quarters)
6. 4-5 in Triplets
7. 4-6 in 3/4 time.
8. 4-7 with 7 beat on again/off again BD pattern.
So, as usual, there's tons of work to do.
We can also play with putting in accents that don't naturally go with the stickings. Try playing double paradiddles in 8th notes in 4/4 but only accent in half notes. Or here's a fun one. This is a Triple Paradiddle w/LH on snare and RH on hi-hat with dotted quarter accents and a 2-beat feel in the feet. It has a sort of relentless feel that I like, and seems to get more powerful the quieter I play it. As always, play for the music and be kind and gentle with yourself.
Monday, March 14, 2022
Monday, March 7, 2022
I have mentioned before that I am exclusively a matched grip player. Except for a very brief period in my early 20s, I haven't even attempted to play traditional grip. When I experimented with conventional grip I realized that I would have to practice incredibly hard to even get it to a passible level, and I decided to focus on other things. I have nothing against anyone playing trad grip, or switching to it. It does drive me a little crazy however, when people try to associate a grip with a style of music. Lots of great Rock players play traditional, lots of wonderful Jazz players play matched. I wish that was the end of the discussion, but far from it!
Lots of trad players (especially American ones) justify what they're doing as part of a legacy. I also think it's a way drummers demonstrate how much time they've spent with the instrument by learning the "harder' grip, and maybe playing matched as well. I've argued against these points until I'm blue in the face, so I won't bother to do it again. I will, however mention a few advantages that matched grip has that maybe don't get mentioned that much…….
1.) Matched grip is a much more "elemental" way of holding the sticks.
Yes, obviously it's easier to play louder but rather I'm talking about getting in touch with the first instinct someone has when they pick up the sticks. If someone has never seen someone play traditional grip, there's NO WAY they will grab the sticks in that fashion the first time they play. Even if they have seen someone play trad grip before, they invariably get it wrong. The first person to ever play drums with sticks played like Ringo, like it or not! To play matched is to be in touch with the primitive, non-intellectual, and emotional beginnings of the instrument!
2. One hand can "teach" the other.
Because both sticks are held the same way, if you do something you like with one hand, you can mimic it to learn it with the other. I recently realized I had a better way of choking cymbals with my RH, so I'm setting about teaching my LH to do the same…… (See video below.)
Monday, February 28, 2022
How many of us have had a similar experience to Homer (from 0:43 - 0:53)?
….In the late 80s, I auditioned for the Jazz program at the Banff School for the Arts. I wasn't very good, was supremely unconfident in my musical abilities and myself in general, and I really didn't know that much about Jazz or how to play it. Nonetheless, I played for Dave Holland in Montreal and he was kind enough to let me attend. I am still thankful for that. The drum prof in the program was a very well known player at the time, with MASSIVE amounts of technique, and I was super intimidated. Despite this, I learned a lot from him, but at the same time, he was very distant from the students. He also never let us forget that he was the voice of authority, and that we really didn't know anything. ( And thinking back on it, he was absolutely correct!) When his time at the school was up (it was a month long program, but most of the faculty were only there for part of the time) he said something to the effect of, "When I got here, you all really sucked, but now you suck a little less, and that's because of me!"
That was my first experience with a gatekeeper.
I'm not actually putting down the gatekeepers, as I think they have important roles to play. The gatekeepers keep us humble, they help us to gain strength and resilience, and they help us to learn to believe in ourselves.
That said, for a young, mediocre drummer who was scared of his own shadow, it wasn't much fun! I desperately wanted this person to like me, to like my playing, to acknowledge me as one of "the cats". As someone who was the product of a broken marriage and who's father lived in a different city than me, I'm sure there were some "daddy issues" in there as well. So, in other words, I wanted this person who had just met me, didn't like my playing, probably thought I hadn't done any work to learn the drums or the music it was involved in; I wanted him to sooth my bruised, fragile ego, and self-image problems. That was an impossible task, believe me!
But here's the thing. As soon as I stopped looking at others for approval, I was better able to follow my own path and really get to work. A great saying I heard in therapy circles is, "What you think of me is none of my business"! As long as we care about what gatekeepers think, we will always be in our own way. A lot of the "clubs" these people run that won't have you as a member have nothing to do with music. They will reject you because of the place you come from, your gender, your sexual preferences and identity, even your skin hue.(And please note I'm not accusing anyone in particular of this.) Even when you're not barred from entry by these things it might be what gigs you play, what grip you use, the amount of flashy technique you do or don't have etc…..
So, by all means, learn everything you can from everyone. Just realize you're not going to be able to hang with all of them, and that's okay. From every report I've heard, Tony Williams was the ultimate gatekeeper. Mr. Williams was and will continue to be a beacon of everything I love in drums and music, but we were never going to be bowling buddies or anything. :) I would also gently advise people to try and leave one's ego out of interactions with other musicians when you meet them. Case in point, I've heard the great Lewis Nash live a few times in recent years, and I've told him how much I enjoy his wonderful playing. Since I wasn't taking a lesson, or playing a gig with him, it didn't matter if I told him whether I played drums, kazoo, or the radio! Me shoehorning that into the conversation would just be my ego, and therefore useless, so I didn't mention it.
So, as the waffle people say, Lego your ego!!!
Have fun and be good to yourselves.
Monday, February 21, 2022
….I really need to come up with catchier titles for some of these posts!
The first video is more ideas based on using my RH to hit 2 surfaces almost simultaneously with sort of a scooping/slashing motion, in 2 very contrasting beats. I also think this camera angle helps you see it better….
Monday, February 14, 2022
Monday, February 7, 2022
Monday, January 31, 2022
As someone who generally plays Jazz, I play for small audiences in small venues (COVID lockdowns notwithstanding). One great part of this is that I am rarely mic'd, so the drums are exactly as one would hear them acoustically in the room. So, generally I have been able to do my own "mix" with very little sound reinforcement. I think this is an important skill to learn that perhaps people that only learn and play on electronic drums or only play through a sound system miss. The relationships between the volume of your cymbals and drums, the amount they ring etc. are YOUR CHOICE, and good sound engineers will understand this. Occasionally when playing a festival, I may get an individual doing sound that maybe hasn't heard a lot of the type of music I play, and in that case, diplomacy and positive communication are the key. (Unfortunately, I didn't have many of these chops when I was younger.)
Quick example, I was working at a Jazz festival once, and the house sound reinforcement people were generally people that only understood doing sound for big Rock shows, and the results weren't that good, .This was true from both the listener's and performer's perspective. During this festival I got to see Brad Mehldau's wonderful trio with Larry Grenadier and Jorge Rossy, and even though they were still dealing with the same sound people as everyone else, they sounded fantastic! Now, one factor is that they are all magnificent players, but another is that they played super quietly! There were lots of dynamics, but at a much lower level than most bands. When you play like that, the sound people aren't getting a ton of signal in their mics, so it's very difficult for them to manipulate the tones they're getting, and all they can do is make them louder. :) A great lesson.
Okay, maybe this was a rant, but I'd call it a mini-rant! Work on your sound and I'll see you soon!
Monday, January 24, 2022
The year was 1983. I was a (self-appointed) hot shot going to St. FX U in Nova Scotia, and I was attending a summer Jazz camp. Many great guest artists were there to teach, but none more anticipated than Saxophone master David Liebman. Now, to be honest, I didn't know Liebman's music super well at this point, just that he had played with Miles and Elvin and was seen as someone who was on the cutting edge of the music.
He was there for several days, giving a great concert with the faculty which concluded with Naima on solo piano! Heady stuff. He also played for the drummers and sounded like Elvin, but even looser, if such a thing is possible!
Well, it was with all this in my head that I found myself playing "Confirmation" with him at a jam. I'm not sure who else was playing but my very good friend and long time musical collaborator Mike Downes was on bass. I don't think I'm telling stories out of school to name Mike on this, as we have spoken of the experience since and he has helped me recall some of the details.
So, anyway, we're playing, and for me I'm sure I was worried about being impressive and hip, and probably not listening very well. But even with my "green ears" I noticed that we were playing a lot of A sections in a row for an AABA tune. So, after the tune ended, Liebman looked at us, and in his classic NY style said this…..
Monday, January 17, 2022
Okay, this is one of those things that I don't have a name for, but I thought the "slashing flam" sounds sort of swashbuckling, so let's go with that for now. It involves hitting two different drum/cymbal surfaces almost simultaneously, with one stroke, creating a flam sound between those surfaces. The history of me using this technique is sort of funny. In the '80s I was checking out an Ed Soph instructional video and was trying to learn this thing he was teaching where you sort of pull your arm out for accents or something. Anyway, i never learned the technique and probably misunderstood it in the first place, but afterward I noticed that I could hit either left side cymbal/small tom or hi-hat/snare almost simultaneously. But I currently started working on this with my right hand to play right side cymbal/floor tom or left side cymbal/small tom. Here is my first attempt, playing it in a 7 thing with a 3 beat cross stick…..
Sunday, January 16, 2022
Thursday, January 13, 2022
I know Rick Beato can be polarizing (partially because he's become so successful) but I think he offers some great thoughts here on having people you trust vetting your work for you…
Monday, January 10, 2022
Here's what I was working on the other week when I made the post justifying that I was working on it!
First is a RLRLRLR 7 beat sticking, going between the small tom and crosstick with the Tumbao BD and half note LF. I'm thinking about it in 4/4. In fact I'm singing "Blue Bossa" to myself while I'm playing….
Wednesday, January 5, 2022
Alright! It's time for THE FIRST RANT OF THE YEAR!!!!
Unsurprisingly, it involves that frequent bane of musician's existence, social media, especially Instagram.
As I've mentioned before, IG is inundated with drummers performing death defying feats. The problem is, doing your trapeze act doesn't have a lot to do with playing a gig! Playing a gig calls on a drummer to have taste. as well as good ears and judgment.
So, the next time you get down on yourself because you aren't able to play things that only people who know nothing about playing music WITH OTHERS dig, remember that 90% of these IG warriors CANNOT:
1. Read a chart (or any written music) to save their lives.
2. Play anything they're playing below a FFF dynamic, therefore making it useless when actually playing with a band.
3. Play any beat or solo that doesn't glorify them in some way.
4. Blend with a band. (See 2.)
6. Shape a tune, solo, evening of music, or collection of compositions in a recorded format.
7. Choose feeling in the music over some impressive things they've worked out. I.E. TASTE!
8. Relate to the music in any other way except what the drums do.
9. Problem solve in the moment, like professionals do on gigs all the time. I.E. Is the bassist dragging? What should I do? Is my dynamic appropriate for the band and the room?
Don't fool yourselves folks. All the likes and shares in the world won't equal nailing the gig!
Thanks, and Happy Rant-y New Year.
Monday, January 3, 2022
Saturday, January 1, 2022
The period between Christmas and New Year's has been traditionally a time for me to get some practicing in, and now, with a new lockdown as a possibility, there are even less demands on me than ever, due to no gigs!
I stumbled on to a couple of 5 and 7 beat things I liked, within both 4/4 and 3/4 time. (I might put them up on a future post).
And your next question should be "SO WHAT?"
That is a truly valid question, because as I was developing these ideas I was struck by the fact that I may never play these live. Maybe in a solo, but the likelihood of playing them within a group context is extremely low. But yet I still persist, because…..
-Any of these overlapping metre things help me tighten up my time, no matter what I'm playing.
- Finding new grooves and orchestrations perpetuates itself, and keeps the flow of new ideas going.
-Hearing long odd phrases helps my concentration and keeping track of time signatures and forms.
And here's the thing. If any of these things work their way into my playing on a gig, it will have happened organically. The days of me trying to justify things I've worked on to satisfy my ego are over, thank God!
So, if I'm on a gig and they call "Back In Black" or a Country Waltz, and I try to shoehorn this stuff in, I'M BEING A TOTAL DOOFUS AND WILL LIKELY NEVER PLAY WITH THAT BAND AGAIN!!!!!
And, if I'm on a gig and I attempt to play the AC/DC tune or a Country Waltz, and it sucks, GUESS WHAT THE NEXT THING I PRACTICE SHOULD BE?????
Find your role within what ever the music you're playing is, and then play the crap out of it!
Also, Happy New Year! :)