Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Kiko Freitas-style samba

It's been about 12 years since a Brazilian friend of mine first introduced me to the drumming of Kiko Freitas.  Recently I finally got to see him play live with Brazilian legend João Bosco.  Kiko was one of the first Brazilian drummers I was exposed to when started really digging in to this music.  He’s one of those drummers who sounds exactly like their records when playing live which was hugely satisfying.

I’ve written about Kiko’s playing before on this blog, and mentioned him in a couple of my Modern Drummer articles from a few years back.  In the MD article I mentioned a signature groove of his whereby he plays this rhythm on every beat in his left hand.

This underlying rhythm is one of the driving forces behind samba.  In his right hand he then plays 8th notes, so we're left with this:

By sticking it in this way we get a steady stream of really swinging 16th notes, but our right hand is free to do a little bit more.  The most basic approach would be to move between the ride and snare, like so:

It’s also quite nice to go to the floor tom to emulate a surdo.

These grooves are particularly useful when playing a fast samba where most of us mortals can’t play that crazy-fast right hand thing that guys like Kiko and Edu Ribeiro can do.

I really enjoyed seeing Kiko put this groove to use with João Bosco in London a couple weeks back.  And at the concert he took this idea to another level.  He still had the 1ea rhythm in his left hand, but he then proceeded to play a telecoteco pattern on his ride cymbal, which was absolutely killer.

I was able to find a video of Kiko playing this groove on YouTube.  This particular pattern start around 1:49.

As with any groove there's a lot more to it than is notated.  You'll have to listen and play along to properly imitate the inflection and swing.

Try any or all of the ideas above with some of these rhythms in your feet.

And also remember that there’s always the “Jazz Samba Builder” that you can pull some ideas from as well.

Monday, April 01, 2019

Shuffles according to Keith Carlock

Not much to say about this one.  Pretty much does what it says on the box.  In a video for OnlineLessons.tv Keith breaks down a few different types of shuffles.  His drums sound great, his playing sounds great, the tempos are awesome; all the makings of some great practice loops.  So, here they are, along with a sheet that has each one notated along with a few extra variations.





And here is the accompanying sheet.  Drop me an e-mail for a PDF.

Monday, March 25, 2019

7-stroke roll permutations

I recently had a friend working on rolls, and in asking me some questions about them I realized that he was only playing them exactly as they are written in the 40 PAS rudiments.  To my mind, the numbered rolls are simply an indicator of how many strokes are to be played within a certain amount of space, and should not be limited to the way they are notated on the chart hanging in every percussion studio in the world.  So I whipped up this handy dandy sheet of a few simple permutations of the 7-stroke roll.

Also included are the various styles of notation, which we’ve already covered before.  For less experienced players, I find this more modern style of notation to be a little be clearer in showing how many strokes are intended and where the composer would like those notes to be placed.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Dig This - Philly Joe videos

There is surprisingly little footage of Philly Joe out there.  But seemingly out of nowhere, this live video of a late Bill Evans trio with Philly Joe and Marc Johnson just popped up yesterday:

And then sure enough, in the "Up next" section, I see this interview with Jones from a Jazz Oral History project at Howard University.  I haven't even watched it yet, but I'm looking forward to checking it out.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Very basic (but useful!) Syncopation concepts

I've been noticing lately that a number of my students - particularly some of the stronger players - have some deeply ingrained habits when it comes to stickings.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but those habits certainly can (and do) cause repetition of musical ideas, and often prevent them from expressing their ideas.

Because they are more advanced players it's easy to keep throwing advanced concepts at them as they are fun for me to teach and they enjoy learning them.  But sometimes it's important for both the student and myself to take a step back to revisit the "easy" stuff.

This is obviously not a new concept by any stretch of the imagination; as a matter of fact it's probably much the oldest one in the book.  There is now about 18 million different ways of using Ted Reed's Syncopation, but for once we're going to do what it says on the box; we're going to play the music as it's written!  But we're going to stick it a few different ways, and you might find that some feel more comfortable than others.  Or, in my case, you'll find that students who can play some really difficult music still struggle with some of these basic stickings.

Head over to your old friend, page 37, and start by playing the whole page, as written, with alternating sticking; by which we mean you change hands with each stroke no matter where in the bar it falls.

Next, play the same page with natural sticking, meaning play each stroke where it would naturally fall if your hands were playing constant 8th notes.  In the case of this rhythm it means all of the downbeats will be on one hand, and all upbeats on the other, like so...

And speaking of constant 8th notes, if you or a student are struggling with natural sticking, or even if you're not, trying filling in all of the 8th notes and treat the written rhythm like accents.

Scoff if you will, but this is something we should all revisit from time to time, and I definitely recommend getting your students to do it

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Applying the Rudiments - 5-Stroke Roll

I find one of the biggest disconnects with younger/less experienced players is between rudiments and actual music.  So often they're told, "You need to learn your rudiments!", but not why they should learn the rudiments, or how to actively apply them to music making.

So, let's start with a pretty basic applications in a straight ahead sort of style, first by playing the 5-stroke roll as it's often notated in books:

Next, trade fours with yourself, preferably with a metronome, or better yet, a record.  Four bars of time, and four bars of 5-stroke roll as written above.  For now keep your feet going while you "solo", like so:

There are infinite possibilities here when it comes to orchestration, but if this concept is new to you or your student let's just start by keeping all the double strokes on the snare and moving the single strokes to the toms; right hand to the floor tom, left hand to the mounted tom:

One of the things with rudiments that I don't think is immediately obvious to students is the idea of permutation.  Keep in mind that a 5-stroke roll is just that - five strokes; two double strokes and a single stroke.  There's nothing to say that it has to be played exactly as written above.  We can start it anywhere in the bar to create new rhythmic ideas.  With that in mind, try starting with the single stroke, and also starting on the upbeats.  For the sake of clarity I've left out the bass drum and hi-hat notation, but I'd still recommend keeping them in for now.

Let's play the single strokes as an eighth note rather than a quarter note for a longer phrase.  This will create a hemiola that will naturally resolve after three bars.  Try playing these in both four and eight bar phrases.  For four bar phrases you'll play measures 1, 2 and 3, and then measure 1 again.

And lastly (for now) turn the whole thing into triplets:

The examples here are just the tip of the iceberg as the possibilities really are endless.  Of course I recommend you put in your Wilcoxon time, and if you really want to go deeper into this stuff check out Joe Morello's book Rudimental Jazz.

Here's the whole sheet laid out.  Please feel free to get in touch if you'd like a PDF copy.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Mel Lewis' "Rub-a-Dub"

Full disclosure: this is a re-blog of a re-blog, so I'm taking no credit here.  I was over at Cruise Ship Drummer! as I often am, where Todd was developing some ideas based on a post by Chris Smith about Mel Lewis' "Rub-a-Dub" lick.

As a pretty big fan of Mel's playing I'm ashamed to say that I had never heard the name "Rub-a-Dub".  I immediately recognized the sound and concept when I heard it, but I didn't realize that Mel had given it a little onomatopoeic name.  It's a pretty simple concept, and a clever way of seamlessly making ensemble hits be it in a big band setting or over a solo vamp.  When done right, it sits in this beautiful space where it's busier than general time keeping, but isn't full-on Buddy Rich.  It's the best of both worlds, and depending on how you play it you can lean more heavily to one side that the other.

The other beauty of it is that although it is born from a pretty specific style, the idea is extremely applicable to other ways of playing.  Straighten out the 8th notes, and you're well on your way to a very cool ECM sort of sound for starters.  Anyway....

The basic sticking looks like so:

LRR = Rub a Dub

Voiced on the kit, keep the left hand on the snare and the right on the ride cymbal (at least to start).  This is what allows it to feel simultaneously like time playing and soloing.

The first of each right hand is also played on the bass drum.  This is where most of the hits should fall.

From there, you can start moving the left hand, or the second right around the kit.

Chris gives a far better explanation of it than I have, and he plays some great examples, so be sure to check out his video, as well as Todd's posts taking it a few steps further.  Chris wrote out the ideas on his blog, but I knocked them into Sibelius so I could print it out for some of my students who will really benefit from it.  I am, of course, happy to send anyone a copy if interested.  Just drop me an e-mail.

Definitely check out the rest of Chris' "The Drum Hang".  It's a brand new blog - only seven posts so far - but he's putting out content pretty consistently and it's all great stuff.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Product Review - Backbeater by Makers4Good

I recently received an e-mail from the very nice people at a company called Makers4Good, asking if I would demo their new product.  In the past I’ve turned down product review requests for items I really don’t feel I would use or my students could benefit from.  This device, however, sounded pretty interesting, so I thought I’d take it for a spin.

The product is called Backbeater, and the idea is actually very simple.  A basic piezo trigger is connected to a metronome app that they developed.  The trigger is used to access the tap function on the metronome.  That’s about it.  Pretty clever in it’s simplicity.

In the box you get the trigger, and a splitter allowing you to connect the trigger to your phone or tablet while also having your headphones connected.  This is available on their website for $69.95.  The app is downloaded separately for free.

To connect the trigger you simply loosen one of your snare drum tension rods, slide it under, and retighten.  While this does work, I found it a little surprising that the attachment mechanism wasn’t on the device itself like many other triggers, allowing you to quickly attach and detach it.  It’s not a huge deal, but it would be nice to not have to mess with your snare tuning to connect it.  It would be extra cool if the attachment mechanism were a more generic type of clip, which could then be attached to something other than a snare drum.  If it could attach to a hi-hat, for example, it would be great for other styles of music, like jazz.

Once the device is connected you’re pretty much ready to go straight away, though you may need to take a few minutes to get it dialed in to your style of playing, and set your options as you’d like.

There is a sensitivity setting which allows you to play ghost notes without having the app pick them up.  As I spend a lot of time playing jazz I was kind of hoping that I’d be able to play with brushes and have the trigger pick up the back beats only.  Unfortunately, with even the most sensitive setting it only picked up the strokes with an unmusical snap played very close to the trigger.  So it appears that this is a sticks only device.

At first I had some problems with false readings from my leg bumping the wire.  It was only then that I realized that the cable could be rotated, allowing more freedom in terms of where the device is placed.

In the app, along with sensitivity, you can set your desired “window”, as they call it.  The window they are referring to is the window of time over which your strokes are measured.  So, a window of 2 measures every two beats, meaning it’s telling you exactly where you’re playing; very accurate, but completely unforgiving.  A window of 4, on the other hand, takes the last four beats you played and displays the average tempo.  This, therefore, is not accurate down to the exact BPM, but is a little bit forgiving, which could be useful for younger players.

The “beat” setting allows you to set how many beats per bar you wish to measure.  For example, at a beat setting of 2 you can set your tempo to 120, but only measure beats two and four.  The app will still read 120 rather than 60.  Another feature that is nice for younger players.

The app also allows you to create a setlist of preset tempos and name them, which could come in handy in live settings if you play to a click.

All in all I think this is a cool product with the potential to be even better the more they continue to work on it.  Professionals can certainly make good use of it for fine tuning their tempos; for example I found that I often fluctuated by a few BPM when switching between swing and “latin”.  But I feel it would be most effective for less experienced players with the aid of a teacher.  If you are interested in Backbeater, you can find more information, and purchase it at https://makers4good.com/backbeater

Thank you to Makers4Good for letting me check out their device.  Great work, team!