Thursday, September 29, 2022

Seven Solos in Seven Days Part 3 - For Han Bennink

UPDATE: Thanks to a newly developed illness (Rhymes with "bovid". I knew my luck wouldn't hold out forever.) I will be pausing this and will record the last 4 solos next week sometime. Thank you for your patience…..

 I recently looked at my calendar and realized I wasn't playing much. Instead of complaining and getting depressed about it, I would record a solo every day for a week. The solos are all improvised, and created from the first thing I play when I sit down at the instrument……

On to day 3. A piece on brushes dedicated to a very inspiring individual….

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Seven Solos In Seven Days- Part 2 A Good Day For Bad Hair

  I recently looked at my calendar and realized I wasn't playing much. Instead of complaining and getting depressed about it, I would record a solo every day for a week. The solos are all improvised, and created from the first thing I play when I sit down at the instrument……

Okay, day 2. The title for this came from the realization that, despite my continuing best efforts, I STILL CUT OFF THE TOP OF MY HEAD ON THE VIDEO. Oh well…. enjoy.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Seven solos in Seven days- Part 1 Echoes of Daylight

 I recently looked at my calendar and realized I wasn't playing much. Instead of complaining and getting depressed about it, I would record a solo every day for a week. The solos are all improvised, and created from the first thing I play when I sit down at the instrument. Here goes…..

Monday, September 26, 2022

Young Ted vs. Old Ted: A "lively" discussion

"Man, I NEVER play hi-hat on 2 & 4. I'm the hippest thing going!"

                                                                  "KIDS THESE DAYS!!!!"

The following is an imagined conversation between 18 year old and current day (57 yrs.) me. We are meeting in a club at a jam session…..

Old Ted: Hey son, you sound great. May I talk to you a bit about what you played?

Young Ted: Um… I guess so, but you're not my Dad. Also, should you be standing up right now? A person of your advanced age should probably be sitting.

OT: What? ( These young punks…) Anyway, did you know the form of that tune you were playing?

YT: Form? Yeah, it was medium swing tune.

OT: Well, that's the style, but there's more to it than that. Do you know the melody to that tune, "Sonny Moon for Two?"

YT: No, I would have read it, but I forgot my Real Book. What are you getting at anyway, Gramps?

OT: GRAMPS??!!! Look, kid, you have some talent and enthusiasm, but I don't feel like you're really playing for the band….

YT: Look Mr. Warner, I'm sure you mean well, but I'll have you know, by mid-May of my grade 12 year, I was the best drummer at my high school…..

OT: Have you ever listened to any Sonny Rollins recordings?

YT: Sure, I have his album, "Don't Ask" which was recorded waaaaay back in 1979, and contains his greatest composition, "Disco Monk"! I probably have 2 or 3 other Jazz albums as well. Anyway, why are you asking? I play drums not saxophone! 

OT What?? You listen to all the instruments…. Look here young man, when I hear you play, it doesn't feel like you're playing the form of the tunes or representing the soloists…..

YT:  Mr. Weber, I'm sure when dinosaurs walked the earth and you were my age, unsolicited advice like this was appreciated but…..



OT: Hmmmm…..need a drum tech?

Youngsters: Realize that there are people that have been doing this a lot longer than you and may have learned a thing or two….

Veterans: Appreciate the enthusiasm (and hubris) of youth and realize that wisdom comes with time….

Monday, September 19, 2022

Drummers and Practice Space

 I once remember reading someone mentioning something to the effect of that if you go into a public space and play a violin, everyone smiles, but if you play a drum, someone’s going to call the cops! (Thanks Karen!) It’s true. It’s challenging to listen to someone practicing drums, so it’s equally challenging trying to find a place to do so. Here’s some things to consider.

1. Communicate and get along with your neighbours. 

Get to know the people near your rehearsal spot. Are there any days/times there’s simply no one around? You may have to adjust when you practice but it's a small price to pay to get at the drums on a consistent basis. Also, if you practice at the place you live, NEVER ISSUE NOISE COMPLAINTS AGAINST YOUR NEIGHBOURS UNLESS IT’S ABSOLUTELY INTOLERABLE. It’s very easy to get into a passive-aggressive situation where things that people would normally ignore if you hadn’t annoyed them, lead to them issuing complaints about you. I get this is tricky, but try and “live and let live”, if possible.

2. Consider all spaces.

Is there some sort of business near you that is closed in the evenings and/or weekends? Perhaps they would like someone occupying part of their space to avoid robberies, make some extra coin, and support the arts? You never know. If you’re a student, can you practice at school? And don’t tell me you never can find a free room. Most of these buildings open by 7am, and in most cases, you could practice BOWLING, let alone drums, IN THE HALLWAYS until about 10am!

3. You may need to “prepare” your instrument. 

There are many low volume cymbal and head options these days, or you could even buy an electronic drum set and play with head phones. I’m not crazy about this option, but it’s certainly better than never practicing.

4. If you are storing the gear you use on gigs, you will need 24 hour access. 

This complicates matters somewhat. I have both headed out to and returned from gigs at all hours of the day and night, and even loading drums in and out can be quite noisy. Be as flexible as you can, but having your own key and entryway to your space is ideal.

5. Don’t be willing to practice in a space that is excessively dirty, unhealthy, or unsafe. 

Asbestos insulation? Super rough neighbourhood? Rickety steep stairs that have you fearing for your life? I’ve been in some bad situations and believe me, it’s just not worth it.

In conclusion, realize that through your life and your various living situations, you will practice in many different types of environments. Flexibility, communication, and patience is the key! 

And on a completely unrelated note, here’s a medley of footage of Duncan Hopkins’ 2 guitar band at the Toronto Jazz festival. I was to go into the studio with a version of this band (except with Reg Schwager instead of Sam Dickinson), but my ailing appendix had other plans! Luckily the great Montreal-based drummer Michel Lambert was able to do the recording. It's of mainly Kenny Wheeler's music so it will be great to hear what Michel does with that. :) 

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Emotional effects of Music

Musicians listen to music in numerous ways and for many reasons. Often, we are trying to educate ourselves, cram for a gig, or critique a student. Today, however, I'd like to talk about emotional listening. What was the first music that got you excited? Not necessarily excited about playing either, but just excited in general. A partial list of music that had this effect on me would be:

- "Roxanne" - The Police
-"Just What I Needed" - The Cars
- "Adagio For Strings"- Samuel Barber
- "Seven Steps to Heaven"- Miles Davis
- "After the Rain" - John Coltrane
- "Tomorrow Never Knows" - The Beatles
- "Two Folk Songs"- Pat Metheny 
-"Smokestack Lightning"- Howlin' Wolf

…and many more! What all this music did for me is that it elicited a strong response. Sometimes tears because it was so beautiful, other times it felt like i was going to jump out of my skin because I couldn't believe how cool it sounded! In many cases I can remember exactly where I was when I heard something for the first time. Notice that most of the music was recorded quite a while ago. As one gets older and more "sophisticated", (read jaded) it's harder to be gobsmacked by something one hears, especially if one is an active, studying, musician. So, I was quite pleased recently, while listening to a show on CBC that plays music I generally don't care for to hear this, and I immediately needed to find out more about them….

Now, this may not have remotely the same effect on someone else, and that's one of the coolest things about it. I can't explain why it hits me as hard as it does. It has a pretty melody and I really like the singer's voice, but there's an intangible "thing" that I can't explain, and I have no desire to either!

 Treasure any music that hits you on an emotional level, and don't deny any that affects you this way. It's not particularly cool in the Jazz community to like The Ramones as much as I do, but to try and "bury' any love of music that doesn't meet with the cognoscente's approval, feels dishonest and harmful. 

 If you're like me, all your "emotional" music experiences will inspire you to create sonic art that is honest and without artifice that may perhaps reach someone else in the same way. :) 

Monday, September 5, 2022

Music Rooms: What they are and are not

  Clubs that host music are an interesting animal, to say the least. They have to sell food/drinks, pay their staff, deal with customers of all kinds, etc. The job of running a club is VERY difficult, especially in this post-lockdown economy. Yet, some clubs distinguish themselves as true MUSIC ROOMS. I would like to discuss what makes these places special, as well as mention what policies and practices  prevent a venue from achieving this. As usual. I will "out" the spaces that I feel deserve this designation, and not mention any names of clubs that fail in this regard. You know, "if you can't say anything nice" etc….

I would also like to be clear that not all music rooms are created equal. Some venues are eligible for grants, or have a lot of support from nearby synergistic businesses and so on….

A true music room will make you feel you are part of a team

A venue depends on many people such as bar staff, managers, door people etc. and they all have a role to play. The best venues do not have an "us and them" mentality and understand issues that musicians face. it also goes without saying that musicians need to be sensitive and aware of what the staff are going through and act accordingly. If you're saying to yourself, " Hmmm, the manager is dealing with a group of unruly customers who are refusing to pay their bill and a holding up chairs in a menacing way… I KNOW! This would be a great time to hit him/her up for another gig!" , please think twice, or three times before acting! Also, ALWAYS TIP YOUR SERVER EVEN IF THERE IS A DEAL OR FREE FOOD AND DRINKS! THEY ARE WORKING HARD! …And speaking of which…

A music room makes paying the band a priority 

I'm not saying there can never be a tip jar or playing for the door situation, but there should be a guarantee or reasonable expectation of payment. We appreciate that you are running a business BUT if the band is good and professional, they are making your business better! 

A music room never descends into an unannounced open mic night or a karaoke free-for-all

If a venue presents music and then lets whoever wants to play and/or sing at the end of the night (that isn't a scheduled open mic night or jam session), what are they saying about the hard-working professional musicians who just presented their music?

A music room helps the musicians be their best

This can be many things. A band menu with more than 3 items, or no band menu at all, just a choice of what to eat. House gear (amps, drums, PA). A staff that won't let the musicians be unnecessarily harassed. Not all music rooms will have all these elements, but even if these things have been thought of, it helps a lot. I've said it before but it bears repeating. If there is house gear, it's the musicians responsibility to treat it with care and respect!

A music room responds to musicians requests for gigs in a reasonably timely manner

Again, I get that people running clubs have very busy lives, and lots of musicians want to work. Then again, I remember contacting a (now defunct) club 7 times for a gig playing for the door on a Monday! This, for me at least, is stretching the bounds of "reasonably"! :) 

As I mentioned, I'm not going to "out" any venue that is lacking in the above mentioned elements, but I will mention a few clubs/rooms that exemplify what I have been talking about. They include, but are not limited to:

The Rex Hotel (Toronto)

The Jazz Room (Waterloo)

The Yardbird Suite (Edmonton)

The Bassment (Saskatoon)

There are many more rooms, in Canada and abroad, that also satisfy the qualifications of a Jazz Room, so pardon me for leaving them out.

In conclusion, there was one place I worked, that always made a big deal about the tip jar and talked about "putting a little love in the jar". I've always despised that phrase, so as a response, I give you my beloved Fabs. People who knew a thing or two about playing different styles of music venues…..

Monday, August 29, 2022

Redeveloping "working" chops

 One of the things I've noticed has live music work has (thankfully) opened up a bit is how much certain non-playing abilities have atrophied. These include:

-Finding cheap parking in close proximity to the gig

- Finding parking AT ALL!!!

-Figuring out a good route to the venue that doesn't take too long

-Selecting the best drums, cymbals, and sticks for the gig AND NOT FORGETTING ANYTHING *

-If you're the leader, picking sets, which tunes to play, avoiding consecutive keys, grooves, and tempos…

-Negotiating with management

-Paying everyone

The thing is, all these skills, just like musician ones, can get out of shape if we don't use them regularly. 

Don't be too impatient with yourself if they have to ramp up again. We were doing this for a long time before it all stopped for 2 years.

* But if you do forget something (say, a snare drum) if you find yourself in the east end of Toronto, go see Nathan at the rental counter of the Scarborough Long and McQuade, he'll fix you up. :) 

What a coincidence! Here's me playing with Kirk MacDonald at The Black Bear Pub on Tuesday July 19th, 2022. Oddly enough, I'm playing a rented Mapex Black Panther snare! Even more oddly, this is the last footage of me playing while still having an appendix, as it was removed 2 days after. Life is interesting, that's for sure…..

Monday, August 22, 2022

Recent online stuff

 Hello all,

I thought I would post a couple of things from some of my other social media, just because I don't think it garnered enough attention! :) 

From a recent tweet……

There's nothing wrong with ambition, as long as it's accompanied by taste….

I posted this for all the naysayers when a musician tries to go beyond their instrument's normal role and experiment. (Hence the ambition.) But it's always good to remember your role in the band and how to carry that out effectively. (Taste.)

Also, here's a few brush patterns I posted on Instagram recently. In all of them, both hands are circling counterclockwise and the right brush is running over the left hand to create a flam sound. I've said it before but I'll say it again; learning to play circles in either direction with both hands is extremely useful! :) 

Finally, here's a beat I got hipped to from Cruise Ship Drummer's more Reggae lead-ins post. It's the main part Sly Dunbar plays on the tune "The Dope". Fantastic! 

So cool how a lot of these intros/fill-ins are quite ahead of the beat before settling into a super laid-back groove. I will post more about the relationship between placement of the beat between beats and fills at a later date. Groove on, my people! 

Saturday, August 13, 2022

In Our Right (Hemisphere) Minds: A discussion with Lefties playing Right Handed Drums

 I am left handed. I share this distinction with roughly twelve percent of the world, like our friend Ned here.

Yet, like a lot of musicians, I play my instrument right handed. I share this situation with many drummers, and decided to host a virtual roundtable on the subject. I queried Seattle-based drummer/educator Todd Bishop, New York Jazz Veteran Ben Perowsky, Boom Tic Boom and Artemis' Allison Miller, and Cheap Trick/Tinted Window/Fuse's Bun E. Carlos. Their thoughtful and insightful responses were as varied as  their playing styles, and I hope you find them as fascinating as I did!  ( I have placed their individual bios at the end of this post.)

1.What led you to play a right-handed drum set up?

Todd Bishop:I had about a year or two of lessons before I got a drum set, and was basically playing right handed in my lessons. My older brother is a drummer, and there were always drums around the house, so I think I just copied his set up. There was never much conversation with my teacher or my brother about whether I should play right handed or left handed.

Bun E. Carlos: I got a drum set when I was 12 and I didn't really know how to set them up so I copied what I saw in the catalogue, which was with the image flipped. So I played them left handed for about 4 months, until I saw some bands that all had them set up the other way.

Allison Miller: I had a very surly, ornery, and demanding first teacher and he told me "Nobody is going to wait for you to set up the goddamn drums left-handed at a jam session"! So you're playing right handed." I will add that I was young, so I didn't know any better anyway, and I already had been doing a bit of right hand lead playing prior to any private lessons.

Ben Perowsky: They were set up that way! (Laughs)

2. Have you ever experimented with playing a completely left-handed drum set, e.g. playing hi-hat with your right foot?

TB: I might have done it once just as an experiment. I may have played on a lefty friend's (he was right handed, incidentally) drums in college once or twice. Found it highly weird.

BEC: I never got too lefty with my feet. I never saw a drummer set up completely left handed for years after I started. It just seemed perfectly natural to set up right handed.

AM: I have. In fact, in the last couple of years when I do get time to practice I always designate at least 30 minutes to playing left handed.

BP: I think I could count on one hand the number of times in my life I have sat down at a completely lefty kit, and every time I did it it was so weird! 

3.  Do you tend to play open handed (left hand on hi-hat and ride) or cross over to play hi-hat? Why?

TB:All of the normal hi-hat/ride cymbal stuff I do with my right hand. Maybe for a moment I'll do it with my left if I drop a stick. The way I play-- and I think many or most jazz musicians play-- is based on a right hand lead on the cymbal— cymbal beat or solo line. It's an entire system. I spend a lot of time developing that, and it would be stupid for me to have to relearn it backwards just to hit something on the left.

BEC: After I had been playing for about a year, I saw Dennis Wilson playing with the Beach Boys, and he played open handed, so I started doing that. But I had already learned to play right hand lead, so I started doing it both ways. When I was 13, 14 when I started it didn't seem very difficult to switch it up. When I'm playing something syncopated on the snare, I tend to play open handed, but if the snare is on 2 & 4, I play hi-hat or cymbal with my right hand. Conversely, Cheap Trick did a handful of gigs opening for Mahavishnu Orchestra and Billy Cobham let me sit at his kit and I added a crash over my hi-hat as well as a ride so I could play more open-handed stuff, although I also realized at that time that my future wasn't playing double bass drums! (Laughs.) 

AM:  Yes, when I started embracing my left hand side, I felt like I started playing more "open-hearted", and what I mean by that is literally opening up my chest, because my arms aren't crossed. People call that "open-handed' playing, but I like to call it open hearted, and it opened up this whole symmetry of the kit. Previously, I felt like I had been leaning to the right, and it felt really unbalanced, and when I started playing left-handed, it felt like it fixed that balance problem, both physically and spiritually. That said, I find playing left-footed quite difficult. So, it's kind of like Lenny White's approach, where you play left-handed, but right footed.

BM: I play open-handed almost exclusively. It's like I'm left-handed on the top but right-handed on the bottom of the kit.  I started taking lessons when I was about twelve, and we stuck with it because I was used to it.

4. Do you tend to lead ideas moving around the kit with your right or left hand? Did you have to train yourself to start things with the opposite hand?

TB: I lead with the left hand a quite a bit when playing on the drums-- toms and snare-- but that really evolved out of a musical idea, like it was an extension of left hand-role stuff. I think I'm loathe to move my right hand off the cymbal, so starting with the left gives me a little head start. It also puts the right hand, still kind of the main hand, in some unusual spots rhythmically. I'm not real clear on it. Nothing to do with being left handed. 

BEC: I always led with my left hand, up until about 1990, when I got a house and was able to practice every day, rather than only getting to play when I was on the road, and I worked on leading with my right. But because I usually lead with my left, playing along with Beatles records and playing Ringo licks was always very easy for me.

AM: I tend to lead with the left and play opened handed most when I'm soloing, and this happens more and more often. It feels liberating and open! This is over a long period of time, but I feel like I'm now embracing and learning to go with my natural inclinations as a lefty, rather than a conscious training.

BP: I always played very "left-centred" but I think some more conventional things slipped in there organically, probably just because of the logistics of the kit. Almost everything I could play on the instrument, I would try to play left hand lead first. I studied with Gary Chester at one point, and he was very about being able to play everything both ways. When I started studying formally, I spent about a year playing completely righty, but it didn't stick.

5. Do you think being a left handed player on a right handed drum set gives you any physical advantages over a right handed player?

TB: No, I had to work to get my left hand up to speed like everyone else.

BEC: Nah, not really that I know of, unless you're doing Beatle-type songs.

AM: I think there are many advantages. I think my left hand has always been strong. My technique has been strong. Being able to left hand lead has allowed me to utilize all the options on the kit and get around it freely. I feel very comfortable playing ideas with my left foot, leading with it, and I think it's as fast as my right. Same goes for my hands. So, lots of advantages.

BP: I don't know… I think left foot independence stuff might be a little easier for me.

6.  Any disadvantages?

TB: No.

BEC: Yes, I realized that if I wanted to play like Mitch Mitchell, I would have to get drum lessons and do rudiments, and be able to lead everything with my right hand.

AM: No

BP: I will say the other side of the coin is that I have to work extra hard on my right foot. I'm definitely left-footed! 

7. Has being left handed influenced whether you use traditional or matched grip?

TB: No. I played traditional grip for awhile in college because it looked cool, and will shed it a little bit every decade or so. I mostly play matched grip because my hands are pretty well trained for that, and it requires less thought.

BEC: I mainly play matched. I tried to hold my sticks traditional like they did  in band at school when I started, and it didn't feel right. In 1976 I broke my left arm and when I healed, I pretty much healed it up by playing live when the cast was off, and when I tried to hold the stick marching style after that, it didn't turn as easily as my right hand. I couldn't even play traditional now even if I wanted to.

AM: No, I play mainly traditional these days. I started with that grip and kind of veered away from it for awhile, but then came back to it. I will also switch back and forth and most of the times I don't even think about it.

BP: I play pretty exclusively matched these days. I would like to experiment with playing the "reverse" traditional grip, but have never found the time to do it. The one year I played exclusively righty, I played traditional grip, and really liked it. 

8. Have you ever been given negative feedback from anyone (teachers, relatives etc.) for being left handed in general?

TB: Nothing negative, I always got the feeling that it was special and a little bit odd. I never got put fully in the left handed box, I just kind of struggled along doing some ordinary things not very well.

BEC: Oh yeah. They tried to make all the lefties "write correctly" in 3rd grade. They made us all stay after school once a week, and learn how to hold a pen correctly while writing a line on a piece of paper. After about 3 weeks of this, we all decided it was stupid and didn't show up the next time! 

AM: No, if anything I've gotten compliments around my left hand chops etc. Sometimes I wonder if I would have had a different journey with my ride cymbal beat (in terms of developing my sound and my swing) if I had played completely left-handed, but I've never had anybody challenge me on this. I think these are all inward questions everyone has to seek out. No regrets!

BP: (Laughs) Not really. Maybe some confused looks or comments, but no real grief about it. Sometimes when I see footage of myself I think, "That is so weird looking!" I guess I give myself grief! 

                                                                         Todd Bishop

Todd Bishop has been performing and teaching professionally in Portland, OR, the west, and internationally since 1985. He has led jazz, avant-garde and indie rock groups and produced six CDs of original music for Origin Records.
                                                                                                                                                                     Bun E. Carlos

Brad M. Carlson (Stagename: Bun E. Carlos), is the original drummer for American rock band Cheap Trick. Carlos has two side bands with former Cheap Trick bassist Jon Brant: The Bun E. Carlos Experience, and the Monday Night Band.In 2009, Carlos formed a new band, Tinted Windows. This new project ran alongside each of the artists' main bands. Tinted Windows played its first publicized gig at SXSW in Austin, Texas on March 20, 2009, and appeared on late-night network TV shows. Their album was released on April 21, 2009. 

Alison Miller

NYC-based drummer/composer/teacher Allison Miller engages her deep roots in improvisation as a vehicle to explore all music. Described by critics as a Modern Jazz Icon in the Making, Miller won Downbeat’s 67th Annual Critics Poll for “Rising Star Drummer” and JazzTimes’s 2019 Critics Poll for “Best Jazz Drummer.” Boom Tic Boom, Allison’s longtime band, won Jazz Journalists Association’s 2019 award for “Best Mid-Sized Ensemble.” Her composition, “Otis Was a Polar Bear”, is included on NPR’s list of The 200 Greatest Songs by 21st Century Women. In January 2020 Miller along with her band, Boom Tic Boom, tap dancer-Claudia Rahardjanoto, and video designer- Todd Winkler premiered this new multimedia suite, In Our Veins, with a seven show tour sponsored by Jazz Touring Network and Mid Atlantic Arts. The project explores multimedia performance as a vital form of knowledge production through the poetic interpretation of historical events and their association with the geography, ecology and flow of specific rivers. As a side-musician, Miller has been the rhythmic force behind such artists as Sara Bareilles, Ani DiFranco, Natalie Merchant, Brandi Carlile, Toshi Reagon, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Patricia Barber, Marty Ehrlich, Ben Allison, and Late Night with Seth Meyers.

Ben Perowsky

 Ben Perowsky’s notable career has placed him among a small vanguard of players able to move between jazz, experimental music and cutting edge pop and rock. He cut his teeth as a youth playing drums for the likes of Rickie Lee Jones, John Cale, Roy Ayers, James Moody, Bob Berg, Mike Stern and Michael Brecker. Broke ground driving back beats for NY bands Elysian Fields and Joan as Policewoman as well as John Lurie’s Lounge Lizards. He Co-founded the electric jazz group Lost Tribe and has continued to record and perform with pop and jazz legends such as John Scofield, Belle and Sebastian, John Zorn, Dave Douglas, Lou Reed, Pat Martino, Tegan and Sara, Uri Caine, Steven Bernstein, Walter Becker, Vernon Reid, Loudon, Martha and Rufus Wainwright. Ben has produced 8 critically acclaimed records to date. He currently plays in a band called RedCred with John Medeski and Chris Speed.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Physical logic (Flams)

This, like many of my posts, was inspired by Dan Weiss….

Certain things we do on the drums have a certain "physical logic" to them. Flams are a great example. Creating a good flam usually requires having the sticks at 2 different heights, so it makes sense that we might accent the "main" note of the flam. But, because a flam is a thickening of a stroke , it already is emphasized without an accent. In this set of exercises, we're working on playing unaccented flams surrounded by accented strokes, like so…...

I have also made some videos utilizing this concept. NOTE: I am still working on this idea myself, so I don't have these perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. I decided, however, to leave them as is. There are a few reasons for this. I, like all practicing and growing musicians, am a work in progress, and I wanted to reflect that. I also think there's too many demonstrations of concepts that are more like ego trips that are designed to distance the person posting from the people reading. This isn't the case. I am just like you and am continuing to learn new things and challenge myself. :) 

So, have fun with this, and don'y worry if it's slow and awkward at first. Anytime you challenge yourself, you are improving the musician you will be in the future. :) 

Monday, August 1, 2022

Thomas Sowell on Maturity

 "You have matured when you are no longer concerned with showing how clever you are, and give your full attention to getting the job done right. Many never reach that stage, no matter how old they get. “

Monday, July 25, 2022

The 3 Bloggers: Top 20 Drum Solos

UPDATE: As it turned out Four On The Floor and Cruise Ship Drummer never agreed to this but I'm posting in hopes it will encourage them to post their favourite 20 drum solos, because I'm curious! :) 

 Once again, in conjunction with Cruise Ship Drummer and Four on the Floor, we will be giving you, our loyal blog readers, 3 views for the price of one. Todd Bishop suggested we list our top 20 drum solos. This should be interesting. To be honest, there are tons of drum solos I don't like much. A lot of them feel to me like they don't have much to do with music. I'm also aware that the importance of a lot of them is pretty subjective. Okay, on to the list. I also have a youtube playlist pasted at the bottom of the post

1. Steps/What Was- Roy Haynes

2. Salsa For Eddie G.- Jack DeJohnette (NOTE; This tune was not available on youtube so I substituted Jack's great solo on "What I Say" by Miles Davis

3. Cherokee- Max Roach

4. Hank's Symphony - Art Blakey

5. Salt Peanuts- Max Roach

6. Crisis- Elvin Jones

7. Salt Peanuts- Philly Joe Jones

8. Moby Dick-John Bonham

9. Seven Steps to heaven- Tony Williams

10. I Want To Be Happy- Jo Jones (Tune starts at 9:00 on playlist) 

11. Countdown- Art Taylor

12. I'm an Old Cowhand- Shelly Manne

 13.  Israel- Paul Motian ( They're actually trading choruses). Is that cheating? 

14. The End - Ringo Starr

15. Quartet No. 2 - Steve Gadd

16. Philly Joe - Ah-Leu-Cha (this could also be debated whether it's a "drum solo")

17. West Side Story - Buddy Rich

18. Funky Drummer - Clyde Stubblefield

19. Mars - Rashied Ali

20. Personal Mountains -Jon Christensen (Again this wasn't on youtube so I substituted this one.)

The Playlist

Monday, July 18, 2022

Dig Diz: 2 Chorus drum solo analysis

Greetings. Today I'm posting a run down of a 2 chorus drum solo I did on Mike Murley's composition "Dig Diz" on a quartet gig at the Rex June 5th. Thanks to Elena Kapeleris for capturing it!

The reason I'm going through what I played on this solo is not to say how great I am or anything, but to explain why I played what I did, and the thinking and logic that is going on when I solo. I love Max Roach, Roy Haynes, etc.. but I can't claim to have any idea of what they think about when they play! Also, I will be mainly talking about the why of what I played rather than the what. This isn't a transcription, but rather an overview…. Okay, here it is…..

So, "Dig Diz" is a contrafact (tune based of the same chord changes) of Dizzy Gillespie's "Woody N' You". Both tunes are 32 Bars, but Murley's tune's form is ABCA, whereas Dizzy's is the slightly more common AABA. I think it's also important to note that Mike Murley's idea to have the drum solo right after the head breaks up the typical solo order in a tune, and perks the ears up a bit.

Chorus 1
First 4 measures- I start off quoting the last rhythm in the melody. This is a way of connecting the head and solo form, and also is a strong rhythm to begin with. In the next 4 bars I play around with call and response quarter note triplets between the bass drum and flammed snare, all the while being conscious that I don't have to fill up all the spaces in the measure, especially this early in the solo.
Second A, I'm using a little motif (with a 3 beat feeling) which I end first with the small tom, then the large tom. I then take the motif and stretch it out by changing it's subdivision from 8th notes to quarter note triplets (those again!) All the while I'm still hearing the melody and form in my head.

To help delineate the bridge, I play 8th note triplets on the small tom, this is the first time this rhythm appears, the first time I'm using both hands on the tom, and finally, this is the first time in the solo 4 on the hi-hat appears. Also note, a lot of the ideas don't necessarily start or end on beat 1. Notice again I leave some space, this helps everyone (including yourself) hear and understand your phrases. Last A I quote the melody a bit, then just play some of my "drum stuff'. it makes sense within the context of the solo because I'm hearing the melody and form very strongly. I then look up at Murl, because when we originally recorded it, I only played one chorus in the beginning, but he signals for me to continue.

 So, at the top of the 2nd chorus I continue the idea I was doing, but go back to the quarter note triplets around the drums.  ( At this point, I could argue I'm using the triplets as thematically as the head!) For the rest of the first A of the second chorus, I'm playing a 3 beat figure double stop sort of thing. I've played this sort of thing before, but that's okay. It's part of my vocabulary! :) 2nd A, I'm playing a rhythm with some left hand flam slashes, which I then take the spaces out of and make a 3 beat thing, this continues uninterrupted over the bar line into the bridge, where I bring the dynamics was up for drama, and yes, play the dreaded quarter note triplets again! :) For the last A I stick to the snare as a way of "winding down" I also quote the melody in the first 4 bars to also signal that the solo is ending soon and "reorient" anyone who might have lost their place. Although I might lose them again as I play a few more 3 beat ideas on the snare and finally quote the last 2 bars of the melody, which is what I started with. This gives the solo a  circular quality and leads nicely to the tenor solo.

Phew! So, please realize that there are infinite ways of structuring a drum solo. However, I would contend that  having a solo with a strong structural foundation is way more important than whatever "drum stuff' we fill it up with. We want to take the listeners on a journey, and just playing a bunch of difficult drum things with no spaces (or dynamics, or overall plan) isn't much of a trip, especially with current gas prices! :) 

So, enjoy playing your solos that are melodic and logical, even though they're improvised! 


Monday, July 11, 2022

Habits and more thoughts on Bass/Drums

 Just a couple of things that came up from some recent posts. One was my recent posting of the Bernard Purdie interview and his thoughts on China-Type cymbals. He mentions that when you mount them right side up, you have a variety of sounds, whereas when they're upside down, you have one sound only. WOW! OF COURSE!You know, for someone who enjoys getting as many sounds out of drums/cymbals as possible, it surprising this had to be pointed out to me! Anyway, I have started mounting my China-types right side up and am loving the results! :) 

This brings up an even more important point though. DON'T TAKE ANYTHING FOR GRANTED!!! Question everything. Nothing "has" to be a certain way. 

The other thing I was thinking about was my recent post on playing with my bass player friend Drew. It's important for non-bass and drums people to realize that NOBODY except the bassist and drummer know what they are going through, and in most bands, they are doing the heavy lifting! They are stoking the fires in the coal room that are making the engine run!  So, take your bassist and drummer's word for it when they talk about the people they work best with. Just as I wouldn't assume I know what truly makes a magical two horn frontline, non-rhythm players (and even pianists and guitarists)  shouldn't assume they know on a micro level what is going on in the rhythm section. :) 

Play on, good people! 

Monday, July 4, 2022

Rick Beato interviews Bernard Purdie

 Another great Beato interview. Mr. Purdie discusses elements of his feel, different studio techniques and how he adjusted to them etc. Interestingly, he reverses his tom order like Max and also offers some interesting views on how to mount a Chine-type cymbal. Lots to learn from this drumming giant! 

Monday, June 27, 2022

Lee Morgan with the Oscar Peterson trio

 Music scenes are funny. Some players work together constantly and rarely work with another group of musicians. To the best of my knowledge, the following footage is the only time that Lee Morgan ever worked with O.P.'s trio. Enjoy! 

A couple of observations. I would love to get even a tiny bit of the swagger Morgan puts in every note he plays! Also, I'm yet again reminded of how versatile Ed Thigpen was! :) 

Friday, June 24, 2022

The Music of Cuphead - The Delicious Last Course: Recording ‘High-Noon H...

The Cuphead game continues to be the gift that keeps on giving. This is a behind the scenes look at the recording we did last year, during the height of covid. Kris Maddigan again created some great compositions and arrangements, and John Herberman is a great conductor to work with. And how about Russell DeCarle's yodeling? Fantastic! 

Monday, June 20, 2022

We are all Ferdinand Magellan, Matthew Henson, and Amelia Earhart

What do these three people have in common? They are all explorers! It's my view that creative musicians have a responsibility to explore at their instrument, every day! One of the interesting things about practicing in a shared space is how often I either hear someone trying to recreate something they've already heard (e.g. a cover band) or playing playing the same thing, week in, week out. I realize people play for many reasons, and have different levels of ambition etc., but I think the idea of exploring as a musician is an aspect of creativity that gets overlooked a lot. Next time you are practicing, I would invite you to ask yourself questions such as:

How can I make this different?
What would happen if I….?
How can I expand on this thing I've already done?
What would this sound like?

I realize that there are many nuts & bolts sort of things we have to learn to either cover an upcoming gig, or develop our sound and technique. I would, however, encourage you to devote a little practice time everyday to be the Magellan/Henson/Earhart of your instrument. You could well be on the way to discovering the New (Sonic) World! 


Friday, June 17, 2022

Bill Frisell Wisdom

 A Guitar Player article in which Bill Frisell offers his Top 10 Tips For Guitarists has been making the rounds, although it would be probably be more accurately described as "Top 10 Tips for Improvisors". Fantastic stuff. Enjoy.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Count Me In and Motian in Motion: A tale of Two Movies

 I recently saw the two films mentioned in the title of this post. To be sure they are very different films and have contradicting aims to some extent, but they both left impressions on me and I would to discuss their contrasts in depth.

Count Me In is very much a celebration of drums and drumming, and in that sense, it's great to see these hard working people in the back of the bandstand getting their due. Many well known drummers such as Cindy Blackman, Chad Smith, Stewart Copeland, and Taylor Hawkins (RIP) are interviewed and provide insight into a drummer's role in a band. I believe this is something the general public doesn't know a lot about, so this is certainly welcome.

The film isn't without its problems though. Although I realize it's a feature on Rock drumming and mainly British players, you can't really tell much of the story of the drum set without mentioning not only some of the great African-American pioneers of the instrument (which they do in passing) but also all the great BLUES drummers as well. Without these people, there's no drum set! As well, although they do feature some lesser known and up and coming female drummers (such as the super-positive online force that is Emily Dolan Davies), the filmakers seem to find it necessary to emphasize how these young women can "hit as hard as the men" etc. etc. and further perpetuate the idea that drumming is a one dynamic event. I would hate for a young female drummer to think that playing at a low dynamic range ( as many gigs require) is somehow not proving oneself or being too "girly". This is not a new problem, but this film tends to continue to play into these one dimensional stereotypes of drummers, be they male, female, or trans……

Motian in Motion, by contrast, is very much a portrait of a great Jazz artist. There is great access to Mr. Motian not only performing and hanging out with his fellow musicians, but also interacting with club owners, doormen, etc. It really is an amazing and rare glimpse into a creative soul who completely followed his own path, and was brave enough to do so. It is interesting to note, however, that even though Motian worked with such female artists as Jane Ira Bloom, Carla Bley, and Geri Allen, to name a few, he doesn't seem to have any women in bands he led. (If I'm incorrect about this, please let me know folks.) This may be just coincidence, but in this day and age, the omission certainly is noticeable and curious.

Regardless, both these films are very worth watching, and there is much to be learned from both.

Here is the trailer for "Count Me In", currently available on Netflix.

…And here is "Motian in Motion". Enjoy! 

Monday, June 6, 2022

Finding your place……..

 Growing up as a musician, you are taught to grab at every opportunity that comes your way. When you're young and seeking to gain experience, this makes perfect sense. But there does come a time when it's good to take stock of the work one is doing and whether you are in the right place. Case in point. Through a bunch of experiences, both good and less so, I realized that ongoing teaching of students younger than around 14 and beginners was not the best choice for me. Firstly, there are people much better at this than I, and this isn't something I want to focus on anymore. This isn't a hard and fast rule. If a student is super keen to study with me or if it's a camp or clinic situation, I'll certainly wave this (somewhat loose) rule. I also don't want anyone to think I don't enjoy interacting with young people. Nothing could be further from the truth. I would just prefer interacting with them as a musician rather than a teacher. There's also gig situations that I'm less likely to take now as well. There would be nothing worse than me playing in some situation I don't want to be in, especially when there are other players that would enjoy the experience. I can guarantee you that every time you see me behind my drums, I want to be there. :) 

Finally, there may be times when you feel what you are doing  (as a musician or teacher) is not understood or appreciated. In these cases, it's best to let go of them and "find your people" so to speak. :) 

…..and although this has nothing to do with anything, here's me practicing  a groove and employing an accent on 2 & 4 with the bass drum.

Friday, June 3, 2022

Camera Pigeons at Hirut Cafe June 3rd, 8-10PM


TONIGHT! Camera Pigeons (Dan McCarthy, Lauren Falls, Kelsley Grant and myself) are at Hirut Cafe (2050 Danforth Avenue
Toronto) from 8-10PM. Fun sounds will ensue!

Monday, May 30, 2022

My Gig with Drew

 I recently played a gig subbing for an ailing Tim Shia with his group, "Worst Pop Band Ever". It's a great band including Adrean Farrugia – Piano, Chris Gale – Sax Dafydd Hughes – Keys, and a dear friend I met at McGill many moons ago, Drew Birston on bass. Now, I wasn't super familiar with their repertoire but I also knew they were a strong enough unit that they would be able to play with whatever I was doing and accept it. So, we get to the first tune, it's counted off, and we begin to play. What happened next was incredible. From behind me (where Drew was set up with his bass and amp) there was this beautiful sound, feel and energy. From note one (both literally and figuratively) Drew had my back. Everything i played was so supported and complimented.  Drew and I have played a lot in the past, but for the last 15 years or so, have ran in slightly different musical crowds. So, getting to play with him again was like returning to a super comfortable home I had forgotten I had lived in! I was just blown away! 

What created this feeling? Well, as I mentioned before, Drew has a great sound that compliments as well as provides bottom and foundation for any band he plays in. He also has great time, that he takes complete responsibility for, thus making it very easy for a drummer to play with him. He has great taste, and always provides the music with just what it needs. Above all , he is always LISTENING! 

All this adds up to a musical relationship between he and I that can withstand long absences, yet still grow and improve as we both gain more experience and knowledge. I am fortunate to play with many talented, team-player type bassists, but sometimes it takes these long absences for me to appreciate how special these relationships are, and how lucky I am to have them. The really cool thing is that anyone who is willing to study, listen, practice etc. can also have these relationships, and they are one of the great rewards of being a musician! 

To conclude, I'm embedding a couple of instructional videos that Drew did for one of his many projects, Sultans of String. It not only provides some great information on the acoustic and electric bass, but is also a glimpse into his unpretentious manner and sweet personality. :) 

Monday, May 23, 2022

Double stop contrary accents

Originally I wrote this in January and it was slated to be published in a drumming magazine, but their phone seems to be permanently off the hook! :)  So I am presenting it here.

It's a pretty simple idea conceptually. Both hands are playing the same rhythm, usually steady 8th notes or triplets, but the hands are accenting in different spots. A tricky idea in practice! So here's 2 possible ways to play/apply it. First one is with brushes and  I'm playing 8th notes in both hands, but the RH is accenting a 7 beat on/off pattern and the LH is playing dotted quarters….

The 2nd example is playing a shuffle in both hands w/ the LH mainly accenting 2 & 4. (Hmmm, what's the application for this? A Blues Band with an identity crisis?) 

Next is the shuffle again w/ RH accenting 2 & 4 and LH playing a 5 beat pattern… The one following it is the same except I've switched to str, 8ths and the LH is playing cross stick.

Next, I'm playing all triplets/12/8 with both hands and the RH is accenting a shuffle while the LH accents Jazz/Displaced quarter note triplets

Finally, I'm playing triplets again. LH is accenting a 4 beat pattern and the RH is accenting 2 & 4.

I recall going through one of Chuck Silverman's books that had a beat which was a Bossa with accenting 2 & 4 and a contrasting Partido Alto LH part with accents in completely other places. It nearly killed me, but I eventually learned it, and gained so much accent flexibility in the process. My hope is that these exercises will help you in the same way. Have fun and be kind and gentle with yourself.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Ballad Make Work Project (Brush Pattern)

 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 9, 2022

Layered Grooves

 Hey all,

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.

Now, you will notice that the execution in the quarter note triplets isn't perfect sometimes. I actually think this is okay because that rhythm wavering a bit can sound sort of cool, especially against the straight hand part. Remember, when you pit straight against swung in a beat there's always going to be a bit of a rub. These are not super-tight completely locked in type ideas. They are more of a loose flowing thing with the feet. Again, use these sparingly on gigs and with taste and good judgement. :) Have fun.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Kirk MacDonald Trio at the Black Bear Pub

One of the cool things about the "everything is recorded' era we're in now is that there is always fresh documentation of one's work. This was filmed about a month ago. I was playing with long time associates Kirk MacDonald and Mike Downes, and this is what happened when someone in the crowd requested "Nardis". It's a very honest representation of where I am right now, and I'm good with that. :) 


Monday, April 25, 2022

Beware of the online bullies

 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

3 ideas for medium tempo brushes

 Here's a handful of videos I recently filmed dealing with ways of getting more variety from brushes at medium tempos.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Cymbal Assessment

 Hey all,

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! 

The results:

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.

Happy trails! 

Happy trails! 

Monday, April 11, 2022

Ron Carter, Jim Hall Telepathy

This is a recording I had heard about for a long time, but I hadn't listened to.

 Full disclosure, I'm late to the party. BUT WHAT A PARTY IT IS!!!!! Everyone should listen to this. Why? Here's a just few reasons…

1. Hall's mastery of thematic soloing is only matched by masters like Sonny Rollins. JH never wastes an idea, or even a note. All musicians can learn from this.

2. The use of space by Carter and Hall is exquisite. Again, they never fill a space in the music superfluously.

3.  There is serious, deep, listening going on here.

4. The time feel is fantastic.

Speaking of time feel, this would be a great "drummer less" recording to play along with. It will work your dynamic range (try it with both brushes and sticks), sense of time, and most of all TASTE! :) 

Okay, now go get playing/listening!!! :)  

Monday, April 4, 2022

Transcribing and dependent coordination

 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:

Of course, I love Mickey Roker, especially his playing on this track, but I hadn't listed to his playing on it in detail. This is where transcribing led me to some conclusions that I wouldn't have made UNLESS I was listening to it multiple times in a row AND was able to look at it! Hence, the advantage of transcribing. :) I might post it here at some point, but I actually believe the actual act of transcribing is where the transcribee learns the most. Case in point, Roker plays a lot of ride rhythm without the skip beat. He certainly doesn't play just quarter notes on his cymbal, but he is judicious about where he plays the +s in the rhythm, using it to decorate rather than dominate. This led me to realize that a lot of my work on independent coordination had become somewhat of a trap. When one works on something a lot, the opposite thing gets increasingly more challenging. For example, try playing the standard ride rhythm  and sometimes DON'T play the cymbal on 2 & 4. Conceptually easy, but there's a lot of muscle memory to get past! :) So, I started working on some "dependent coordination" ideas. I didn't write them out because these will work on any beats you know well.

Take any standard beat and….

1) Never allow a quadruple stop. (4 limbs playing at the same time).

2) " " " a triple stop. (3 limbs).

3) " " " Double stop. (2. At this point, you have become a saxophone player!)

Mix and match which limbs/parts of the kit become "immutable" and will always sound when you're making a choice of which combinations to play and what to leave out.
There are tons of examples of this we already play. For instance, in the Charlie Watts beat, the snare/LH on 2 & 4 is more important than the hi-hat/RH, hence the snare alone on those beats.

Have fun and experiment with it. I guarantee it'll kick your butt a bit and get you thinking about why you orchestrate things the way you do. :)