Monday, January 31, 2022

Don't give up your sound…FOR ANYONE!!!!

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 FORM guys, the Form!

 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…..

And, Mike and I both hung our heads in shame and thought, "The Form".

But a cool thing happened, Mike and I both started take much more responsibility for song form and developed our strength and awareness of it. To this day, Mike's ability to concentrate and navigate song forms is second to none, and I would like to think that i have developed a similar skill set.

So, thanks so much Dave. I have been lucky to have performed with him a handful of times since, and I believe I've been a lot better equipped to contribute to the music. So folks, don't fret if you have a slightly embarrassing situation with a musician with more experience than you. It's the way you'll learn! :) 

Monday, January 17, 2022

"Slashing" Flams

 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…..

It's hard to see here, but I'm sort of making a circular/scooping motion with my arm so I can reach both surfaces on the way down. It's interesting, it seems to bring the sound of the tom out more when I buzz the stroke, otherwise it's easy to lose the sound of the drum over the volume of the cymbal. I will keep working with it though.

Here's another video where you can see the motion I'm making a little better. Sorry about the low volume of my talking in this one…..

Finally, I mention how this technique can have sort of a loose, almost crude feel that I really like. I'm not sure if this is what he's doing on this tune, but on the Fleetwood Mac tune, "Hold Me" there's a great fill after the break down, (2:45) where he sounds like he went for his tom and accidentally hit his cymbal too! Great, cool fill! Here it is….

Also, although this has nothing to do with what I was discussing, check out how he switches from hi-hat to bell of the cymbal halfway through each chorus. A truly unique player, who also looks great in archeologist's garb! :) 

Have fun! 

Sunday, January 16, 2022

A little fun on the floor tom….

Here's a cool thing to do with brushes. The LH is clockwise circling in a dotted quarter rhythm while the RH  plays alternating legato strokes in a 7 beat downbeat/upbeat pattern. Will this beat be a in a world famous tune that rockets me to stardom while becoming part of the sonic signature of a whole generation? :) Probably not, but that's okay…………

Oh, I played this on the floor tom because the head was in a bit better shape than the snare drum head. Again, this is the drum set at the studio I rehearse at and these are NOT my preferred drum heads. I happily use ATTACK drumheads and everyone should go out and buy them! :) 

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Thursday grab bag!

 Hey all,

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…

…And here's some great footage of Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Dave Holland, and Brian Blade from  2004…...

Monday, January 10, 2022

As promised...

 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….

Next I'll playing a 7 beat figure between my ST., snare and bass drum, while playing a 3 beat figure I've been playing SINCE HIGH SCHOOL in the RH/LF. I'n still thinking in 4/4 though, and relating it all to a 12 bar Blues internally.

In closing, I remember seeing Steve Smith do a clinic and someone asked him how he prioritized his practicing. His response was "If you're playing with a band on the weekend and they're playing Brick House, learn how to play Brick House."

Hoping your practicing is mighty-mighty, and you're just letting it all hang out! :) 

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Likes and shares do not a gigging drummer make…...

UPDATE: I was just hipped to the latest missive from a reasonably well known youtuber/provocateur. I won't name them here but their handle is drummer plus either a ratio or a percentage (whatever that means.) This individual claims that drummers can now be divided into "gigging" and "internet" players and that the people who have embraced being online are the ones who are facing how the world is now, taking advantage of technology etc…
The major problem with this is the way one seems to get noticed online is with a lot of lowest common denominator pizazz designed to flabbergast and impress the viewer. So, what we end up with is more and more circus trick videos from people who don't even have enough together to successfully play the average wedding gig! And the proliferation of such material is helping ensure that later generations will be even LESS EQUIPPED to just play normal gigs like backing a blues singer, being in the house band at a jam, playing with a strolling Dixie band, etc.
Now, maybe many don't think this is important, or most live gigs won't come back or whatever. I certainly can't predict the future. I will say that if said future doesn't value playing with actual musicians in real time in a room together, I'm not sure how interested I am. If that makes me unhip and old fashioned, so be it.

Stay tuned for a post where I give shout outs and links to all the drummers online who I feel are providing good information and helping to educate the players of the future.

Okay, on with the show! 

 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.)

5. Improvise

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

Jan. Sale at Drum Joy With Ted

Hey all,
Ontario ( and lots of other places, I'm sure) has gone back to online learning only so I thought I would offer a sale on my teaching services for the month of January.
Details below….

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Letting go

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! :)