Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Sticks (Baquetas) ala Toninho Pinheiro

Apparently, this is how the great Brazilian drummer, Toninho Pinheiro, liked his sticks....

And I think his were even sharper.

Now, I didn't want to destroy a perfectly good pair of sticks, so I figured I'd try it on an old pair first.  These were chewed up from many a rim click, and the tips were chipped.  So I sanded the shaft smooth, sanded the tip all the way off, and then applied a couple coats of finishing oil, and I have to say, they're actually pretty cool.  Not sure I'll be doing it all the time, but it was a worthy experiment.

Toninho first started doing this because he was playing background music in restaurants and wanted a more delicate sound without having to mute his heavy Zildjian Avedis cymbals.  It ended up becoming part of his sound as he found the modified sticks to be perfect for the delicate cymbal sound needed to play Bossa Nova.

I didn't do the final step, which was, after removing the tip with sandpaper, dipping the new tip in a mixture on paint thinner so as to draw out any moisture, which further helped to create a light attack.  He used to heat his sticks for the same reasons.

I've read that other Brazilian drummers of the time did this as well so as to be able to play faster tempos at lighter dynamics, but I can't seem to find reference to any names other than Toninho.

Tonhino's name doesn't seem to get mentioned as much as Edison Machado, Milton Banana, and Dom um Romão, but you should definitely check him out if you're at all interested in Brazilian jazz.  He did long stints in Jongo Trio who supported Elis Regina, Som Três, a trio with Cesar Camargo Mariano that backed Wilson Simonal, and with Dick Farney's trio.  And he worked as a sideman with many of the biggest names in Brazil, like Alaíde Costa and Beth Carvalho.

Friday, February 10, 2023

"Thoughts by Elvin"

This list of quotes by Elvin Jones has been around for awhile, but I've been seeing it make the rounds again lately in the drumming and jazz circles of social media, and they are great.  The list was apparently compiled by Norman Grossman, an old New York drummer who worked at Frank Ippolito's drum shop where Elvin taught along with Jo Jones.

The original list, which was apparently typed up by Ed Soph, is below, but for clarity I've typed them out:
  1. The drummer’s role is to provide a basis for anything that is being played. The mistake that many drummers make is not to keep time when it is needed. A thorough knowledge of any style is a prerequisite.
  1. Good time should be the rule not the exception.
  1. The role of support is an obligation. There is always a demand for a good musician. No matter what you are playing, make it the best thing that ever happened in that style.
  1. One of the mistakes of inexperienced drummers is to try to do too much while not implying time. This, coupled with pyrotechnics injected at the wrong time, is disastrous.
  1. One should add to the beauty of a piece rather than detract from it.
  1. Learn as many tunes as you possibly can.
  1. The ability to draw a tone out of the drum is very difficult but necessary. It depends on your stroke, your ear, your tuning and you.
  1. It appears that most great drummers are rudimentary oriented.
  1. There must be a consistency of time in everything you do.
  1. Tuning and dynamics are the ways to validate a good musical idea.
  1. Playing should be like walking. It should be a natural function of life for a musician.
  1. Ideas only have meaning if they are used at the appropriate time in a piece.
  1. All rhythms do exist individually. However, it is the putting together and the end result of the combinations which is finally judged.
  1. All combinations should result in the projection of one feeling and one rhythm.
  1. Playing in free-form requires more discipline than almost anything else. To avoid anything one must have a detailed knowledge of it
  1. The ability to read music should be acquired by all who consider themselves musicians.
  1. The musical content is always more important than the visual.
  1. One should explore all the possibilities of a drum set in order to use it musically.
  1. One should know one’s capabilities.
  1. The condition of the body is a very important factor in playing.
  1. A truly creative person never steps on other artists. He adds to their expression.
  1. Always listen to everyone, including yourself.
  1. All musicians have a responsibility to respond to each other.
  1. No matter how much talent you think you have, develop it.
  1. Think of one single line no matter how many things you are playing or hearing.
  1. The connecting of logical rhythmic phrases to each other is always my aim.
  1. Practice as much with your feet as you do with your hands.
  1. The most important thing a drummer can do is to keep time.

Friday, January 13, 2023

Weekly Wisdom

I just finished a book by one of my favorite authors, and fellow Pittsburgher, David McCullough.  It was about some of the pioneers who left New England to start settling western lands of the US, in this case specifically along the Ohio River.  It's an excellent book, aptly titled, The Pioneers, if you're interested.

A quote from one of the settlers really stood out to me:

Count the day lost at which the setting sun sees at its close no worthy action done.

I was quickly reminded that it's waaaay too easy these days to waste our short time on frivolity, and if want to do something - in my case be the best drummer I can be - then we should get our heads down and get on with it.  I'll be remember this one on days where I'm tempted to not practice, or I find myself wasting perfectly good time on social media.

Friday, January 06, 2023

Allison Miller's post-Christmas work out

Allison Miller posted this exercise on Instagram the other day to "reconnect the four limbs after not playing during the holidays", and I've really been enjoying as I took an extra long break from my usual practice routine this Christmas.

Allison explains that she's been doing this exercise for 20 years as a way to "connect with [her] ride cymbal better and ... understand the connection between the four limbs".

It's quarter note triplets played as paradiddles between the right foot and left hand, starting first on the downbeat, then on the second partial of the triplet, and finally the third.  For brevity I've just jotted them all down one after another, but Allison puts four bars of improvised time between each one.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Transcription - Cuca Teixeira, "Tá Perdoado"

In re-listening to Samba Meu for the repique de anel arrangement in the last post I was also reminded of the fantastic playing by the two drummers on the record Camilo Mariano and Cuca Teixera.

The transcription below is of Cuca.  You can clearly see/hear his style on this tune just as you can in the transcription of “Recado” that I did way back when.  I love the interplay between the rim click and hi-hat.  I’ve got a post in the works for further developing that sound, so hopefully I’ll get that up soon.  In the meantime….

Friday, December 16, 2022

Transcription - Nene Brown, "Trajetória"

Continuing on with more repique de anel, here is some modern playing, this time by Nene Brown with Maria Rita.

This track comes from Rita's 2007 album Samba Meu, which is basically how I learned to play pandeiro.  The album came out right at the same time I bought my first pandeiro.  I listened to it over and over and over again, and tried (and initially failed) to play along to the record.  At first I couldn't even make it through a single tune, but with practice I could get through the slower songs, then the faster ones, and eventually I could play the whole album top to bottom with no break, which was incredibly satisfying.  So as this record was so influential in my pandeiro development I thought I'd revisit it to try to find some repique material.

As mentioned earlier, Nene demonstrates some more modern language that we don't hear in the earliest Dotô recordings.  There are some different rhythmic ideas, and he also presses the head for higher pitched sounds, which I notated that with dots above the notes.

Even if you're not interested in playing repique de anel, there's some great material here that you can develop for the drumset or other instruments.  Or even just listen and follow along for a better understanding of some of the phrasing that happens in samba.

Tuesday, November 08, 2022

Four-stroke ruffs

Carrying on with some Philly Joe-ish ideas, here is a simple sheet on the four-stroke ruff, a rudiment you'll hear plenty of if you're checking him out.

The four-stroke ruff is more a sound than a sticking, because just about any sticking you can come up with is valid.  The most common sticking, and easiest place to start is with single strokes.  It's also common to see this labelled as the "Single Stroke Four".

The least common, but still worth trying out is double-strokes:

Two paradiddle inversions are common as well, particularly in classical repertoire:

No matter how balanced one's hands may be, each of these stickings gives the four-stroke ruff and different sound and feel.  That final one was a favorite of Philly Joe's.

To practice these, try starting with metered triplets and 8th notes like so:

By playing them in that order, one hand stays on the beat throughout the entirety of the passage.

But remember that a ruff is technically comprised of three unmetered grace notes rather than triplets.  They should be played very close to the primary note.  Experiment with different degrees of openness and closed-ness, playing them somewhat wide so as to hear each note individually and also crushed down to create one fast sound.

Drop me a line for a PDF of this all on one sheet.

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Philly Joe Jones three-beat triplet phrase

If you dig in to Philly Joe, you'll hear this signature phrase come up a lot.  It's simply three triplets, often played more than once so it rolls over the bar, with an accent on the first note of the first triplet each time.

You could, of course, simply play this as single strokes with no problem.  But it is generally accepted that Philly Joe played it R L L, followed by a paradiddle-diddle, like so:

To my knowledge, Philly Joe played it primarily (maybe even exclusively) off the right hand as notated above.  But we never miss a chance to create an exercise and work on something in both directions.  So, to get familiar with it try releasing with a quarter note and then starting with the left, back and forth:

Once it feels comfortable play it multiple times in a row on each hand until it resolves, and then again, flip it to the other side.

If you're practicing this on the kit, with the hi-hat on 2 and 4, it would be worth shifting the whole by a beat as well to experiment with different placements.

Another thing that Philly Joe would do with this lick is launch into with another single stroke triplet, preceded by an accent eighth note.  Again, try this leading both left and right.

And, again, shift that by a beat for more options.

As always, drop my an e-mail if you would like a copy of all of this on a neatly organized PDF