Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Groove Transcription - Ernie Isley, "Footsteps in the Dark"

I can't tell you how many drummers I've heard in wedding bands, on cruise ships, etc. play this tune wrong; pretty much all of them.  So, I would be remiss as your faithful drum blogger not to shine light on this egregious error.

It'll take you 2 minutes to get it under your hands, and probably a little longer to make it feel good.  Then you can show the world that you actually took the time to listen to the tunes you're playing ahead of time rather than coming out with the same jive-ass groove that you played on that Spinners tune in the first set.

It's generally the verse that is played wrong, but while we're here, check out the chorus as well:

For those of you that complain of boredom in the aforementioned wedding gigs, or other performances of the like - which, admittedly, I have been guilty of myself - learning to play these grooves the way they were written will not only beat the boredom, but will also make your band sound better, and drastically expand your own drumming vocabulary.  So get on it, and you will definitely have a "good day" *snigger*.


Friday, August 15, 2014

Solo Transcription - Philly Joe Jones, "Minority"

If I had a gun to my head and was forced to pick a favorite jazz drummer it would have to be Philly Joe Jones.  And apparently I'm not alone.  Bill Evans expressed on more than one occasion that he considered Philly Joe to be "the ultimate jazz drummer", and his "all-time favorite…"

Why, then, he didn't hire him more often, I'm not really sure, but at least we have Everybody Digs Bill Evans.  This is Evans' second album as a leader, recorded shortly after he left Mile Davis' group, and before he returned to record Kind of Blue.

Many critics argue that Evans hadn't quite reached his full musical potential when he recorded this album.  True as that may be, I feel that this is the first time Bill Evans really sounds like Bill Evans.  Maybe it's the block chord voicings, or maybe just a lot happened in the two years between New Jazz Conceptions and Everybody Digs Bill Evans, but for me this is the first time that Evans playing screams "I'm Bill freakin' Evans!"

It could also have something to do with the sidemen.  Granted, Paul Motian played on Evans' debut release, but they hadn't yet teamed up with Scott LaFaro to create the trio that would turn Evans into a jazz superstar.  On Everybody Digs Bill Evans we hear Philly Joe teaming up with Sam Jones.  The two were playing together on a number of different projects around the same time, and obviously knew each other as musicians quite well.  Also, Evans and Philly Joe had become close friends while they worked together in Miles' group.  That's one of the things that makes this record so great for me, personally; the Evans/Philly Joe combo.  Besides the fact that Philly Joe is my favorite jazz drummer, and Evans one of my favorite pianists, the two have a very obvious chemistry.

The opening track, "Minority", has Philly Joe sounding particularly Philly Joe.  Nothing too flashy but taste and style (and Wilcoxon) oozing from every note.  Check out some of the Philly Joe-isms in the last two bars of the first section, the third full bar of the third section, and the first two bars of line 3, page 2. 


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"The Low End Theory" Exercise Routine

Lately I've been doing my snare drum/practice pad work along to records rather than with a metronome.  If nothing else, it's simply more entertaining than listening to the incessant beeping or clicking of a metronome.  But the advantages of practicing this way go far beyond beating boredom.

For starters, I find that playing along to music really keeps me focused.  When playing exercises - let’s say Stick Control - to a metronome I generally either count bars, or often times use a stop watch, running the exercise for a set amount of time before moving on.  With the music on I can ignore bar counting, or clock watching and just focus on my hands.  When the song is over, new exercise.

I also feel that practicing to music adds a certain subtlety to your playing.  A metronome (which I’m not discounting, by the way) is a blank canvas.  It’s only about tempo.  How fast, or slow, can you play Exercise A?  When playing to a record you’re practically forced to find some sort of pocket.  Even if you’re just playing something as simple as paradiddles, if you’re playing them to a groove you’re going to naturally add nuance to your playing to get inside said groove whether you realize it or not.

Furthermore - and this is my favorite thing about it - practicing this way kills two birds with one stone.  I don't know about any of you out there, but I feel as though I never can listen to as much music as I’d like.  There simply aren’t enough hours in the day.  There are plenty of great old records that I haven't yet listened to, and tons of exciting new albums being released all the time.  It’s impossible to keep up with it all.  If I’m playing along to a record I’m not only practicing, but also enjoying the record that I’m playing along with.

There’s no formula to this.  You can run pretty much anything along to whatever record you like; rudiments, Stick Control, Wilcoxon, whatever.  What I often like to do, however, is write a routine to a whole album; one exercise per song.

Recently I wrote an exercise routine to A Tribe Called Quest’s, The Low End Theory.  I tried to get a little bit of everything in there, as far as rudiments go.  There are single and double strokes, diddles, ruffs, drags, flams, etc.  I also attempted to get as many specific rudiments in there as I could without simply playing each rudiment one after another.  For the most part the difficulty increases as the album goes on and the player gets warmed up, although there are a few more relaxed patterns spaced through the routine as a breather.  I didn’t overly overly concern myself with trying to conform these exercises to the grooves, although there are a few places where I tried to emphasize the backbeat, write the accents to the bass line, etc.

I’ve been playing this one for about a week now, and really enjoying it.  The tempos on the album are perfect for these types of exercises, and the album is just the right length.  Try to play the whole thing through without stopping.

And don’t forget to enjoy the record!  If you haven’t heard it before (shame on you), it’s definitely worth picking up.  I could easily write a whole post on the album alone, but let's save that for another day.  In the meantime, enjoy, and please leave me a comment letting me know how it's working for you.  Shoot me an e-mail if you'd like a PDF.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Jojo Mayer's "Street Beats"

If you haven't yet checked out Jojo Mayer's Secret Weapons for the Modern Drummer DVD, do yourself a favor and pick it up.  A couple of years ago I decided to do some heavy duty maintenance work, completely reevaluating the ergonomics of my setup and going back to square one with some technique things.  I picked up this DVD and watched the whole thing 3 or 4 time before I even picked up the sticks, then went back through it bit by bit as I practiced.  The change in my hands was incredible.  I have a more in-depth post about ergonomics and technique with some more information about my experience with this DVD coming soon, but todays post is about the added bonus that came with these discs.  In between a lot of the lessons there are some killer grooves and solos.  You've probably seen the majority of them all over YouTube.

I've jotted down a few of my favorites here, and made some loops for you to play along to.





Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Solo Transcription - Tony Williams, "Seven Steps to Heaven"

I was pondering what to post today and realized that I haven't done any classics lately.  So here you go.  Tony.  Seven Steps.  Not much else to say.

Solo starts around 2:30

Monday, August 04, 2014

Weekly Wisdom

"There's a way of playing safe, there's a way of using tricks and there's the way I like to play, which is dangerously, where you're going to take a chance on making mistakes in order to create something you haven't created before"
-Dave Brubeck

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Modern Drummer - August 2014

I was having a pretty bad day today until the mail man came with a check from Modern Drummer Magazine, which means that the second part of my series on applying batucada style drumming to the drum set is in the August issue.

Check it out!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Developing the samba suingue

There is a common, and really annoying, misconception that all "Latin" music (whatever that means) is felt in the same way.  How many times have you been on a  gig and heard someone say, "Is this swing or Latin?"  This is a pretty ignorant approach.  When we say "Latin", we're really referring to Latin America, which can mean anything from Cuba to Mexico to Brazil to Argentina.  Certainly the music of these countries aren't all going to sound or feel the same.  I suppose in a jazz setting, where we're often playing Americanized versions of these styles it's somewhat acceptable to generalize the feel a little bit, but if you really want to play the music from the aforementioned - or any other - Latin American countries it's important that you do your homework and figure out the feel.

So today I have a practice loop for you to help you get a handle on the Brazilian samba feel.  This is a very unique feel that us gringoes often have a hard time executing.  I've seen a lot of people spend a lot of time trying to notate this feel, and give it fancy names.  For me, this sort of defeats the purpose.  Did you spend hours trying to notate Art Blakey's feel?  Of course not.  You put on your head phones and played along until you FELT it.  Learning the Brazilian feel is no different than learning to swing.  The Brazilians even use the same term, swing, or suingue.

I found a video on YouTube of Mestre (meaning director) Odilon playing a basic samba swing feel on a caixa, which is a Brazilian snare drum.  Mestre Odilon is one of the best known and respected bateria directors in Brazil.  If anyone is going to swing hard, it's him.  Take your favorite samba patterns and play along with this loop.

If you aren't very familiar with the rhythms of the samba, it's OK.  Here's a little chart to get you started.  These are some of the most common patterns that you're going to see in a jazz, or drumset, samba.

Now, granted, there are quite a few differences between the jazz samba and the batucada style of Mestre Odilon and the samba schools in Rio, but this will still most certainly help to develop your feel.  Besides, the early greats who first developed the jazz samba, like Edison Machado, Milton Banana, Toninho Pinheiro, Paulinho Braga, and José Roberto Sarsano, were simply trying to capture the batucada feel on the drumset.  Be sure to check out those players, as well as today's greats like Tutty Moreno, Marcio Bahia, Edu Ribeiro, and Kiko Freitas.

It's definitely also worth digging into the batucada style of samba, but that's a whole other beast in and of itself.  I've written a series of articles on applying batucada patterns to the drumset, which I think/hope Modern Drummer is going to be printing periodically in the coming months, so keep your eyes peeled for that.  In the mean time check out some of my other posts on samba, or Brasil.  I've also got a few transcriptions in the works which will be posted here soon.