Friday, May 29, 2020

Piano comping on the kit

We're often told to listen to other instruments as we can learn a lot from them.  But not many people ever say what it is we can learn from those instruments.  Well, one thing that we drummers can take from harmonic instruments like piano or guitar is comping ideas.  After all, they're acCOMPanying the soloist just as we are, so why should their rhythmic ideas be seen as any less valid than that of a drummer?  Simply put, they shouldn't, because they aren't.

Here I've transcribed Bill Charlap comping behind trumpeter Brian Lynch on the album Brian Lynch Meets Bill Charlap.  Joe Farnsworth is on drums, so there's plenty of other great material on the record for us to check out at some point, but for now we'll stick with Bill.  I've simply written out the rhythmic ideas of his comping, and what we're left with is a sheet that looks very much like a page out of The Art of Bop Drumming, but in a less exercise-y, more musical form.

We can use this sheet in many of the same ways as AoB, or Syncopation.  Here are a few.  Play a stock ride cymbal pattern, and hi-hats on 2 and 4 unless otherwise noted.

  1. Play it with your left hand.  If you're new to this type of playing or independence maybe start with just two or four bars at a time.  Imagine, or write in, repeats.
  2. Play the whole thing with your left hand, right foot, and left foot individually
  3. Alternate notes between two or three different voices
  4. Play downbeats on the bass drum, and upbeats on the snare drum
  5. Any time you see two or more consecutive 8th notes play them all on the snare until you reach the last note which you then play on the bass drum
  6. Play any 8th notes on the snare, and anything longer on the bass drum, or bass drum doubled in the right hand, regardless of where you are in the ride pattern
  7. Improvise.  Play all the notes where they are rhythmically, but interpret the chart however you see fit.
These are, of course, just a few of the countless ways to approach this sheet, or any others like it.  Todd Bishop, over at Cruise Ship Drummer! has about a million and one different approaches to using this type of material, Robert Breithaupt has a nice list, and there are countless other sites and books offering different approaches

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