Sunday, December 22, 2019

Brasilian Rhythms - Entradas

Looking at telecoteco again, let’s talk about entradas.

An entrada is exactly what the word translates to, an entrance.  This entrance takes a slightly different form depending on the style of samba.  In a batucada or enredo setting, this is more of a bold statement, announcing that the tamborims have arrived to the party.  It reminds me of the way a conga player plays his big fills after the downbeat of the next section, rather than leading into it.  Some batucada-style entradas are longer than two bars, and generally lead to the carreteiro style of tamborim, which is the constant swinging 16th notes achieved by turning the drum with the left hand.  Some of these entradas are traditional and commonly heard across various groups, whereas other are composed for a specific escola de samba or their enredo (show) for the year.  A few examples:

In a pagode setting, however (or on a drum kit in our case) an entrada is simply a way to set us off on the right foot, especially when our telecoteco is likely to begin on a syncopated note.  We discussed last time about how telecoteco has an “up” side and a “down” side.  To start on the down side you could probably get away without playing an entrada at all as the pattern starts clean on beat one.  However, to start on the up side we use the entrada to set our ears and sense of time before we get into the heavily syncopated pattern that just seems to effortlessly roll over barline after barline.  This could be as simple as adding one downbeat to the start of the syncopated side….

But, more often, an entrada is two bars long.  A few examples….

Generally, these entradas start on the downbeat of a new phrase, but I have occasionally heard them played in the two bars leading to the new phrases, almost like a fill, such that once the downbeat of the new section is reached the listener is already hearing telecoteco.  Here’s an example of this that we’ll talk more about next time.

Finally, I know I said that entradas start on a downbeat to set our ears, but there is one instance in which it starts on a syncopated note.  One syncopated note on the “e” of one, followed by some steady 8th notes until the start of the phrases is reached.  That lone 16th note is generally given a pretty sturdy accent, sort of like a kick in the pants to get the section going.

Below are some various entradas followed by telecoteco and partido alto patterns.  Bear in mind that the entradas are not married to the specific patterns that follow them.  Pretty much any of these entradas will work with any variant of telecoteco or partido alto, so long as you are on the correct side of the beat.  Experiment with some of the entradas here along with some of the telecoteco variations from last time.

Friday, December 06, 2019

New release by Joy Ellis - "Dwell"

Pianist/singer/songwriter, Joy Ellis, with whom I've been working for 10 years now has just released her new album, Dwell, to some lovely reviews.  Putting this record together was a lot of fun and a good challenge for me as Joy was after some unique rhythmic ideas.  Trouble was, she didn't know exactly what she wanted, but she did know exactly what she didn't want.  So, I was forced to come up with some new grooves with which I am pretty happy.  Two in particular that I felt came out nicely were "Castles" and "Family Tree"

I've also gotten a lot of compliments on the snare sound of the title track, "Dwell".  Funnily enough, this is an old Yamaha Maple Custom which was missing one lug entirely.  I tuned it all the way down until it was just barely finger tight, and put a wash cloth on about a quarter of the head.  We recorded at the phenomenal Eastcote Studios in London, and despite being surrounded by thousands of dollars of drum mics, engineer, George Murphy, opted to simply put a good ol' SM57 on it.

You can check out the entire album in the sidebar.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Flam Accent/Pataflafla Etude

Here's a little ditty I was fooling around with earlier today combining flam accents and pataflaflas.  I was almost immediately reminded of my drum corps days when any flam-based exercise would always be amped up a notch by adding drags and "cheeses".  At tempo this becomes a nice chop buster.

E-mail me for a PDF

Monday, November 04, 2019

Dig This - Jack Sperling playing brushes

I recently stumbled across this video of the great Jack Sperling playing some burnin' brushes with singer/guitarist Caterina Valente.  Jack spent the majority of his career as a sideman to some of the biggest singers in the biz; Tex Beneke, Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Bobby Darin just to name a few.  He also did a fair amount of studio work, appearing on the soundtracks to big name films and TV like Peter Gunn, Rawhide, The Days of Wine and Roses, Bonanza, Charade, and Hogan's Heroes.

Caterina Valente was a lovely surprise for me.  I was not familiar with her before seeing this video.  She was born and raised in Paris, and at 88 years old it appears she still lives there.  Not only is she a killer guitarist and singer, but she does so in 11 different languages, and can actually speak six of them.  The interweb also tells me she's an actress and dancer, but I haven't checked that out as of yet.  What you should check out though is this video of her and Jack playing together on "That Old Black Magic".  Dig the big ol' Rogers kit, too.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Dig This - Edu Ribeiro's playlist

One of the few e-mail subscriptions I still allow to get through to my inbox is that of Edu Ribeiro, one of my favorite drummers.  Recently, Edu sent a list of seven of his favorite recordings and drummers.  It reads like a who's who of Brazilian artists and drummers, including some of my own personal favorites, and even one I must admit I wasn't really familiar with.  Check it out....

Tutty Moreno - Forças d'Alma

Tutty is one of my biggest influences (and according to Edu, his single biggest).  His touch and feel are magical, and he plays samba in a unique fashion that is like absolutely no one else.  He's most often heard on the albums of his wife, Joyce, but here Edu chose Tutty's solo album from 1998.  Edu goes on to say that he had the opportunity to buy Tutty's kit.  I believe the one on the cover of this album may have been the one that Edu now owns and can be seen playing in certain YouTube videos.

Raul de Souza - A Vontade Mesmo

This is a great Samba Jazz record from the 60s that I only discovered about a year ago.  At the time didn't even realize that it was Airto on drums, because it sounds so different to the Airto we've all gotten to know with the huge percussion setup.  Here he's playing a standard drum set in a jazz setting.

Egberto Gismonti - Em Família

Most of my experience with Egberto Gismonti has been through his records on the ECM label.  But this is an early 80s EMI record that I hadn't heard before.  It features Nenê on drums, who, according to Edu, "pioneered this approach to bring the percussion rhythms to the drum set"

Edison Machado - É samba novo

This is an album that is very near and dear to me.  When I was first having my mind blown by Brazilian music, composer Flavio Chamis was helping me with my graduate research and introduced me to this album and explained it's importance.  It remains one of my personal favorites.  Edu says:
The origin of Samba Jazz!  This is a photography of new style coming up from the clubs in Rio at Beco das Garrafas.  Edison playing is high energy.  The sidemen are amazing too: Paulo Moura is playing saxophone, Raul de Souza is there too! 

Rosa Passos - Pano para manga

Rosa Passos is such a treasure of this music.  She personifies that Brazilian feel that is incredibly intense and driving while somehow very light and relaxed at the same time.  This album features Erivelton Silva on drums.

Elis Regina and Tom Jobim - Elis e Tom

Don't need to say much about this one.  You've heard me talk about it before.  The collaboration of one of Brazil's finest composers with one of it's finest singers, and behind the scenes is one of it's finest drummers, Paulo Braga.

Celso de Almeida Trio - Sambalanço

This is a relatively new release of a drummer Celso de Almeida, who, right there with Edu, is one of the finest samba drummers alive today.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

New blog on the block

Kyle Andrews, a great young drummer from West Virginia, now has his own blog over at  Kyle studied at West Virginia Wesleyan College with my good friend James Moore and went on to do a Masters at Indiana University.  He is now freelancing in Philadelphia, and no doubt tearing it up as he is a very fine drummer.  Kyle has some great knowledge to drop, so do swing by and check out the new blog.

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Articulation Control with Paradiddles

At the moment I have a couple of students working on Wilcoxon’s “Paradiddle Johnnie” from “Modern Rudimental Swing Solos”.  Both of them are playing really well, but are finding it difficult to control their stick heights/volume so that there is only two distinct levels of sound - accent and unaccented.

In passages such as this one, in “Paradiddle Johnnie”…

…the students are unintentionally producing a third sound by giving additional weight, or emphasis to unaccented notes that fall on a downbeat.  What comes out is a sound that is softer than an accent, but louder that a tap stroke.

So, to help remedy this, I whipped up a simple paradiddle exercise that isolates those phrases, and other ones similar to it.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Weekly Wisdom

As I mentioned the other day, I recently got to catch up with my old college friend, Mike Dawson.  Being the managing editor at Modern Drummer, Mike is a pretty well connected guy, and therefore has a lot of great stories about different drummers.  Last week he told me a great story about one of our mutually favorite drummers, Steve Jordan.  Mike was interviewing Steve and was hoping for a long, deep answer when he asked, "How do you know if what you're playing is really grooving?"  Mike told me that Steve leaned his head forward, looked over the top of his sunglasses, and said,

"Man, if you have to ask that question, it's not really groovin'"

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Freedom Through Discipline

Last night I had the pleasure of catching up with an old friend of mine from WVU, Mike Dawson.  You may know Mike from his Instagram page and/or YouTube channel that is chock full of excellent content, or from the podcast he hosts with Mike Johnston called the “Mike and Mike Podcast”.

Mike was in London for the first time, giving a masterclass on creative practice skills.  In it he touched on an idea that some of our teachers at WVU showed us, and something I have mentioned here on the blog before: forcibly limiting yourself in various ways in order to foster creativity.  I always explain to my students that these exercises help develop the control to play exactly what we want to play, when we want to play it, rather than letting parts of ourselves go on autopilot, or work by muscle memory.  Mike described this in three simple words: Freedom Through Discipline.  By disciplining ourselves to only play certain things, or not play certain things, we are developing the control to be completely free with our creativity and improvisation.  Mike employs this idea in his own way, so I’ll leave you to check out his work yourselves, and rather than attempting to give you a recap of last night I’d like to share with you one of my own ways of putting this concept into practice.

Mike does a lot of playing with ambient loops that often don’t imply any specific time or feel.  Rather, it’s up him to see where his creativity takes him with each sound.  So today I gave this idea a try.  I pulled up a random template in Ableton and composed a beat over it.  At the time I just played, and I didn’t write anything down, but for the sake of this post I jotted it out when I was finished.

Since the loop had a decidedly acid house sort of feel I decided to imagine my playing as a drum machine.  The 4-bar groove repeats exactly the same, ad nauseam.  I could “mute” one or more channels, or fade channels in and out; the channels being the voices of the kit.  Therefore, the only rules I imposed on myself were this:
1. When playing the groove, I MUST play the groove, and only the groove, note for note; no extra notes or different voices, and no leaving out notes unintentionally.
2. To improvise I can only change the volume of each voice, or take one or more voices out completely

This sounds a lot easier than it turned out to be.  For one, I thought of the bass drum line as a short AABA form, so it was important to stick only to those two rhythms.  To not add extra notes just because I felt like it, or because I lost my focus was surprisingly difficult for the first couple minutes.  Taking out the snare had its share of difficulties as well.  While it seemed easy enough at first I noticed that my left hand and right foot weren’t alway perfectly aligned.  This was another thing that Mike touched on in the masterclass; use this disciplined practice time to highlight problems in your playing and iron them out.

Lastly I tried full mutes of the entire groove, attempting to stop on a dime in a specific spot in the phrase, and coming back in in a particular spot.  To come back in, say, on the & of beat 2, with full confidence, in perfect time, and without adding or leaving out any notes is much harder than it sounds.

I encourage you to find your own loops, and write your own parts, but if you’d like to start by trying mine, the notation and loop are below.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Brasilian "Comping" Rhythms - Telecoteco

If you’ve listened to, or played, much Brazilian music, you’ve certainly come across these rhythms regardless of whether or not you knew their names.  I’ve written about partido alto and Bossa Nova in earlier posts, so today let’s look mainly at telecoteco, which serves the same role, and is essentially a substitute for, or variation of, partido alto.

The telecoteco rhythm shares a similarity with Cuban clave in that it has two “sides”.  The rhythm is two bars of 2/4 long, and can be played starting on either bar.  There is an “up side”, starting on the second 16th note, and a “down side”, which starts on the downbeat.  As in Cuban clave, the melodic line of the song is directly connected to the direction of the telecoteco rhythm, and should not cross it as this creates some pretty unpleasant rhythmic tension.  One place in which telecoteco differs from clave though is that improvisation within the constructs of telecoteco is perfectly acceptable, whereas in clave it absolutely is not, but more on that in the next post.  For now, here are the most common variations of the rhythm:

E-mail me for a PDF of this sheet

There are a few different approaches to telecoteco.  In the more traditional styles of samba, such as batucada or pagode, the direction of the telecoteco does not change during the song under any circumstances.  Getting on the wrong side of the rhythm (playing cruzado) will draw the ire of other players around and you can expect a fair amount of eye-rolling and ridicule.  On the other hand in the more jazz influenced styles of samba in the 1960s and 70s where you’re more likely to see drum set and piano it seemed to be more acceptable to freely switch between the up and down side, the telecoteco being more of a vibe than a rule.  I also feel like the more traditional styles of samba tend to play more on the “up” side of the telecoteco, whereas jazz-oriented (and gringo) interpretations tend to start on the “down” side.

In an enredo, or batucada ensemble you’re most likely to hear telecoteco being played on a tamborim.  In terms of moving this to the set, the obvious approach is to play these rhythms on a rim click, or maybe snare drum or tom.  Head back to the Jazz Samba Builder and try some combinations of right hand and foot ostinatos while adding these telecoteco variations in your left hand.

But, don’t forget the concept we talked about back in May based on Kiko Freitas' style of playing, wherein we move the ostinato part to the left hand, and improvise or “comp” with the right hand.  Check out that post here, and try some of the same foot patterns with telecoteco in your right hand.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Transcription - Carter McLean Bovid Drum Heads Demo

Here's a little transcription I did just for the sake of transcribing something on my day off yesterday.

If you nerd out on enough drumming videos on YouTube you may have come across Carter McLean.  Besides playing with Charlie Hunter and the Lion King on Broadway, Carter puts out some great YouTube content.  His videos are very popular amongst his viewers, but he doesn't have nearly as many subscribers as his playing warrants.

Carter's videos are simple and to the point.  There's no superfluous nonsense, such as unneccessary theme music, and titles like "Are YOU making THIS drumming mistake that will RUIN YOUR LIFE?!", or "Do these THREE things to get the gig with Beyoncé."  Most of them are just videos of him playing along to recordings or demoing new gear (of which he seems to find a lot of cool niche stuff).

I stumbled across this video yesterday of Carter trying out some Bovid heads, which appear to be hand constructed animal skins heads, made in the same fashion as hand drum or frame drum heads.  The video is supposed to be about the heads, but Carter plays some really nice stuff.  So, on a lazy Saturday afternoon I figured I'd jot a bit of it down.  I often like to transcribe things like this that have no immediate context to a piece of music.  I feel like it opens up the possibilities for personal application a bit more.

Anyway, here's a few bars of Carter playing, starting around 4:08 in the video below.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

João Gilberto (1931 - 2019)

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll know what a huge loss this is.

Alongside other greats such as Antônio Carlos Jobim, Vinicius de Moraes, Oscar Casto Neves, and Luiz Bonfá, João Gilberto essential created an entirely new genre of music in Bossa Nova.  As this nice article from NPR says:
Gilberto deserves to be a kind of patron saint of understatement, whose early recordings transformed the boisterous celebration of samba parades into music of arresting intimacy.
Despite being a guitarist, Gilberto's relaxed rhythmic drive is something for which all of us drummers should strive.  His phrasing was second to none; meticulous and impeccably placed with the coolest sense of nonchalance one can imagine. It is for precisely these reasons why in the past I have recommended playing along to Gilberto’s records in YBTD posts.

Though it's a sad day for all lovers of Brazilian music, we are in the fortunate position in this day and age of having hundreds of records that we can still listen to, from which we can continued to learn and draw inspiration.

Obrigado, maestro, por tudo que você nos deu.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Developing a Kiko Freitas-style left hand samba ostinato

I've been working a lot with the Kiko Freitas idea that I posted last week, wherein Kiko plays the underlying samba rhythm... his left hand, and teleco teco... his right hand.

Put together it looks like this....

Of course, to work up this particular pattern up one needs only to take it in small chunks and piece it together.  But if we think of this as a concept, rather than just one groove, we can make so much more out of it.

In this idea, our left hand plays an ostinato, essentially doing the job that our right hand generally does; it becomes a ride pattern.  So, if we can make this left hand pattern second nature to the point where we can improvise (i.e. comp) with our right hand, we'll have opened up a whole world of possibilities.

The best way to attack this is the same way you learned to comp with your left hand while playing a swing pattern on the ride cymbal; practice playing the right hand on each division of the beat, then in groupings of twos, then threes, and finally, add stylistic figures such as partido alto and teleco teco.

If you spend some time with this sheet it shouldn't be too long before you feel comfortable enough to start improvising with the right hand on the ride cymbal or a tamborim.  In an upcoming post we'll talk about how to improvise with these rhythms in a stylistically accurate fashion.

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 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