Friday, April 17, 2015

Staircase of Independence

This is an exercise I typically give to my students who are fairly early on in their jazz drumming journey.  But lately I've also been giving it to more experienced students as a bit of a brush up.  What I've found is that every single one of them finds at least a few of the bars difficult.  The reason for this, I'm guessing, is that fact that most of us work out of books like Syncopation and The Art of Bop Drumming, which presents pre-composed musical ideas based on common jazz vocabulary.  However, many students don't take the time to learn to place notes in every crack and crevice.

I once got into a bit of a debate with a reader of this blog, who, after seeing another exercise I had posted told me that "Life is too short to waste time on such 'exercises'".  That made me stop and think for a minute.  Could he be right?  After all, we're trying to make music.  Everyone seems to be obsessed with technical aptitude nowadays; sometimes to the point of detriment to the music.  Why bother with hours of patterns and exercises?  We should be expressing ourselves!  But my doubt was very short lived once I remembered my own advice that I give to all of my students, which is to remember that music truly is a language and all of these exercises that we work on are part of our vocabulary.  The larger our vocabulary, the more effectively we can articulate what it is that we would like to convey.  It’s no different than speech, really.  As toddlers we could point and bang things and shout to get what we wanted, but as we get older and develop a fuller vocabulary we can be more specific and convey our feelings with eloquence and style.  By working exercises like this we further our ability to take the ideas that we think and feel and release them through our limbs.

OK, on to the notes.  You can apply this to any number of styles, but as I said, I generally use this with students who are learning to play jazz.  Swing time in the right hand, read the exercise with the left hand, right foot and left foot.

I’ve notated it so that makes sense to read it both across and down.  By reading across you shift horizontally, one note at a time.  By reading down you start in the same place every time but add two notes, then three.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Dig This - Sammy Davis Jr. on the skins

Well here's a great video for a Monday morning.

Apparently, not only was Sammy Davis Jr. a phenomenal singer, and one of the coolest cats ever to wear a suit, but he could actually kick a band as well.