Thursday, October 08, 2020

Developing New Orleans Second Line Grooves

Here is a sheet of rhythms as well as a handful of methods for building vocabulary and developing feel for a New Orleans Second Line Groove.

The New Orleans sound features a heavy influence from Caribbean, so it's quite common to hear rhythms that are essentially clave patterns with some variations and a different type of swing.  The difference is that these clave rhythms are the basis of the groove, but are not necessarily linked inextricably to the melody as they would be in Cuban music.  For example, listen to Dr. John play "Iko Iko".  The groove is clearly based around a 3-2 son clave, but the vocal phrasing, especially in the verse, sounds pretty 2-3 to me.

The sheet below is going to provide our bass drum parts as well as our snare drum parts.  In many ways this is a bit of a drag and drop sheet, like the Samba Jazz builder.  The first three examples are common bass patterns, which we'll discuss how to use in a moment, and below that are simply clave patterns with some small variations which increase the feeling of syncopation.  We'll use those in both our feet as well as our hands.

So, let's look at some ways we can use these rhythms.  In each example below you'll probably want to play the hi-hat on 2&4.

1.  Play any pattern from the sheet with your bass drum.  On the snare drum play steady 8th notes, and accent each 8th note prior to a bass drum note.  For bass drum notes that are only a quarter note apart I generally wouldn't bother trying to squeeze an accent in between them.  Here are two examples.  The first one is 3-2 Son in the feet, the second is 2-3 Son.

2.  Again, play any bass drum pattern and constant 8ths on the snare drum.  But this time play a different clave as accents on the snare drum.  In the first example below you will see the mambo bass drum pattern with 3-2 Son clave above it on the snare, and in the second example you'll see 2-3 Son in the bass drum with 3-2 Son above it.

3.  Play this sticking RLRR LRRL.  The right hand results in a rhythm called the "Cinquillo".  You can play everything on the snare as in the first two examples, but this also moves around the kit quite well.  Put your right hand on a cowbell or ride cymbal, get the toms involved, etc.  Just get creative with it.  You'll have to experiment a bit with the various bass drum parts as some work better than others.

4.  Another sticking.  This time RRLR RLRL.  This is generally associated with Johnny Vidacovich.  It works the same as number 3.  Orchestrate it around the kit and be careful with the bass drum part as they don't all sound great.  This sticking works particularly well with the mambo bass drum part.

5.  Use either of the two methods from numbers 1 or 2, but rather than play constant 8th notes on the snare drum, just play the clave pattern on the snare while playing the jazz ride cymbal pattern.

6.  Some options for rolls:
  •         Play a roll of beat 4 of the second bar
  •         If there is an accent on the & of 3 or the & of 4 place the roll there instead
  •         If there is no accent on beat 1 you can continue the roll from the previous bar through beat one and until you reach the next accent.

The swing feel in this style of music is a different beast altogether.  It's not as triplety as bop swing, but it's not exactly straight either.  As always, your best best is going to be to listen a bunch.  The go-to tune that most people recommend is The Meters "Hey Pocky Way".  You could also check out some Dr. John.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Unaccompanied Solo - Edu Ribeiro, "Diddle Diddle"

Continuing on with another unaccompanied solo, this time by Edu Ribeiro.  This piece comes from Edu's 2017 album Na Calada do Dia.

A few weeks ago I started to transcribe it and by strange coincidence the next day I received an e-mail from Edu's mailing list which contained a download link to a PDF of the solo. But I decided to carry on with my transcription, anyway, as the recording has a few small differences to the score, which is also lacking some of the articulations heard in the recording.  Also, the stickings are written using D's and E's, the common way in Brazilian Portuguese.

So, here's my version of it.  If you'd like the original from Edu himself head over to his website, and sign up for his mailing list.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Kenny Washington Unaccompanied Solo

To the best of my knowledge there's not a whole lot of literature out there for unaccompanied solo drum set.  Admittedly I've never looked that hard as I've not often had the need for it, but prior to lockdown I had a student whose school music teacher was often asking to hear unaccompanied solos.  So we did Max Roach's "The Drum Also Waltzes", some variations on Nate Smith's "Pocket Change", and she wrote some material of her own.  And then I quickly started to run out of suggestions, or at least suggestions that I thought were cool enough to be worth spending our lesson time on.

Enter Kenny Washington.  I know the term "musical drummer" gets thrown around far too much these days, but I'm going to use it anyway here to refer to Kenny.  Even when he is demoing a drum set as he is in the video below, Kenny is always making music, as opposed to simply ramming notes.  There's always a clear shape, structure, and purpose to his playing, which I really appreciate and enjoy.  The end result is that those drum demos end up sounding very much like an unaccompanied drum solo that might actually be worth performing, s
o I've taken the liberty of transcribing it.

Now, for over six years, That Drum Blog has been full of free content for everyone to enjoy and learn from, and that's not going to change.  But, in addition to all of the free content that I will continue to provide, I will also be posting some larger, more detailed projects for you to purchase, this Kenny Washington solo being one of them.

In the coming days there will be payment links set up for automated instant downloads, but until I get all that infrastructure in place we'll have to do it the old-fashioned way.  If you'd like a PDF of the solo below please send $3 via PayPal to and I'll get you a copy within 24 hours.

Monday, September 07, 2020

Transcription - Wilson das Neves, "Deixa Isso Para Lá"

One of the great Brazilian drummers whose work we have yet to explore on this blog is Wilson das Neves.  Besides being a great drumset player, das Neves was also a percussionist, singer, and composer, and worked in the realms of samba, bossa nova, and samba-jazz

Though he died in 2017, das Neves remained active for the duration of his life, appearing on the Roberta Sá album Braseiro which we've looked at before, and in the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics in 2016.

In 1968, das Neves released an album together with Elza Soares entitled simply Baterista: Wilson das Neves.  On it is the piece "Deixa Isso Para Lá" which is transcribed below.  While it does include the rest of the band, the bulk of the tune is a drumset and vocal duet between the two leaders.

As we've recently been talking about rhythmic direction in telecoteco and how some of the samba-jazz drummers of the 60s and 70s were liberal in their treatment of it it's interesting to note that das Neves actually adheres quite strictly to the rhythmic direction in this recording, (and nearly every other one I've heard).  His rim clicks play very much like a tamborim part from a samba.  I'm presuming this is because das Neves had a background in traditional batucada-style drumming and spent time in one or more escolas.  With that in mind, check out the extra beat in the middle of page 3.

In old jazz recordings it's not completely uncommon to hear what may sound like a bar of odd time, or an extra beat.  Usually, this is from an old-school tape edit where two takes are being spliced together.  However, that doesn't appear to be the case here.  Rather, I think it's more likely the Wilson is playing those quarter notes in the subsequent bars to see where Elza is going to phrase her melodic line in an attempt to stay on the correct side of the rhythm.

Also, note that at the beginning of many of the phrases you can clearly here das Neves playing an entrada before carrying on.

Finally, if you speak Portuguese, or know someone who does, it's worth checking out this short documentary on the making of Baterista: Wilson das Neves.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Steve Smith Flam Exercises

Just a bit of a re-blog today.  I recently stumbled across a video of Steve Smith going through one of his warmup routines, which essentially is just various combinations of flam taps.  It's fun to play through, and I thought my students my enjoy it, so I put it all on one sheet so I could share it with them, and you.  The video is below.  Drop me an e-mail if you'd like a PDF.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Solo Transcription - Stan Levey, "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To"

My buddy, Pedro Velasco, from Machimbombo, has been posting a lot of transcription videos lately and asked me to collaborate with him on one.

Here's Stan Levey and Lee Konitz trading fours on "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To", from the album Originalee Konitz.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Stick Control with Flams

I could pretty much just leave you with the title.  Because that's exactly what I'm suggesting: play Stick Control as flams.  At least the first few pages.

Why?  Because it incorporates all four common strokes, and is therefore a great way to practice them naturally, using a lot of muscle memory that you already have built in.  We're used to keeping grace notes low, bringing them up for primary notes, playing primary notes as downstrokes in preparation for grace notes, etc. etc.  So let's use that to our advantage.

Let's break a couple of them down as we did when we looked at how to practice flam rudiments.

For example, number one is just a single stroke roll.  That will now become hand to hand flams.  Think about what each hand will be doing individually.  The right hand starts with a primary note which will be a down stroke so that it is low and ready to play the next grace note.  That grace note will be an upstroke so you're ready for the next primary note.  Therefore our right hand will play DOWN, UP, DOWN, UP, repeatedly.  The left hand will do the same, but starting with an upstroke.

Let's skip now to number 3, which is a double stroke roll, meaning we'll play two right flams followed by two left flams.  The first stroke will be a full stroke as it is a primary note followed by another primary note.  That second primary note, however, will be a down stroke in preparation for the grace note that follows.  The grace note will be a tap since it's followed by another grace note, and the second grace note will be an up stroke to get ready to circle back around to the first primary note again.  So, in this example our right hand will play FULL, DOWN, TAP, UP.

So, as you go through each one take a moment to think about what each hand is playing.  Chances are you won't find it terribly difficult because as I mentioned earlier a lot of the motions will be built in through muscle memory anyway.  But putting your focus on it will improve your stroke control in other applications outside of flams.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Survival and Phrasing at Extreme Tempos

I recently received an email from a reader of the blog asking about very fast ride cymbal playing, specifically Kenny Washington's approach on this tune:

Although it’s very common, regardless of the tempo, for a drummer to play “1, 2&, 3 4&” (Spang, Spang-a, Lang, Spang-a, Lang, etc.), the most important thing is actually the quarter note pulse keeping time.  Check out some Jimmy Cobb if you haven’t already.  Even at medium and slow tempos sometimes all he’ll play is quarter notes, leaving out the “&s” all together (Freddie Freeloader is the classic example).  At breakneck speeds such at “Jubilee”, this can be very helpful to remember, as playing quarter notes is an excellent way to survive that tempo for an entire tune.  Also, Spang, Spang-a, Lang non-stop through an entire tune at this tempo might be a little bit too dense and get in the way of the blistering fast piano lines, though I have little doubt that Kenny could do it if he wanted to.

So, what I think it boils down to is that it’s likely Kenny is attempting to do two things here:

1. Conserve energy
2. Leave space for Bill (probably more so this one)

Two further things worthy of note, though:

1. Even when Kenny is only playing quarter notes, beats 2 and 4 have a little more “weight” to them.  It’s almost not even an accent.  Those notes just somehow feel a little bit “bigger” or “heavier”.  So even when you’re not playing the “a-lang”, that emphasis on 2 and 4 is still present on the ride cymbal.  

2.  When Kenny does play three notes in a row on the ride cymbal it’s almost always on beats 2 and/or 4, where it would naturally be if he was playing spang, spang-a, lang.

Here is a sheet with various phrasings of Spang-a Lang in amongst a steady quarter note pulse.  Push the tempo just a bit past your comfort zone and with your hi-hat on beats 2 and 4, play each example on the ride cymbal 4, 8, or 16 times.

As you get more comfortable try improvising.  Play the quarter notes with the "weight" on 2 and 4, and then start peppering in the “&s” where you see fit.