Monday, August 24, 2020

Steve Smith Flam Exercises

Just a bit of a re-blog today.  I recently stumbled across a video of Steve Smith going through one of his warmup routines, which essentially is just various combinations of flam taps.  It's fun to play through, and I thought my students my enjoy it, so I put it all on one sheet so I could share it with them, and you.  The video is below.  Drop me an e-mail if you'd like a PDF.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Solo Transcription - Stan Levey, "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To"

My buddy, Pedro Velasco, from Machimbombo, has been posting a lot of transcription videos lately and asked me to collaborate with him on one.

Here's Stan Levey and Lee Konitz trading fours on "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To", from the album Originalee Konitz.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Stick Control with Flams

I could pretty much just leave you with the title.  Because that's exactly what I'm suggesting: play Stick Control as flams.  At least the first few pages.

Why?  Because it incorporates all four common strokes, and is therefore a great way to practice them naturally, using a lot of muscle memory that you already have built in.  We're used to keeping grace notes low, bringing them up for primary notes, playing primary notes as downstrokes in preparation for grace notes, etc. etc.  So let's use that to our advantage.

Let's break a couple of them down as we did when we looked at how to practice flam rudiments.

For example, number one is just a single stroke roll.  That will now become hand to hand flams.  Think about what each hand will be doing individually.  The right hand starts with a primary note which will be a down stroke so that it is low and ready to play the next grace note.  That grace note will be an upstroke so you're ready for the next primary note.  Therefore our right hand will play DOWN, UP, DOWN, UP, repeatedly.  The left hand will do the same, but starting with an upstroke.

Let's skip now to number 3, which is a double stroke roll, meaning we'll play two right flams followed by two left flams.  The first stroke will be a full stroke as it is a primary note followed by another primary note.  That second primary note, however, will be a down stroke in preparation for the grace note that follows.  The grace note will be a tap since it's followed by another grace note, and the second grace note will be an up stroke to get ready to circle back around to the first primary note again.  So, in this example our right hand will play FULL, DOWN, TAP, UP.

So, as you go through each one take a moment to think about what each hand is playing.  Chances are you won't find it terribly difficult because as I mentioned earlier a lot of the motions will be built in through muscle memory anyway.  But putting your focus on it will improve your stroke control in other applications outside of flams.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Survival and Phrasing at Extreme Tempos

I recently received an email from a reader of the blog asking about very fast ride cymbal playing, specifically Kenny Washington's approach on this tune:

Although it’s very common, regardless of the tempo, for a drummer to play “1, 2&, 3 4&” (Spang, Spang-a, Lang, Spang-a, Lang, etc.), the most important thing is actually the quarter note pulse keeping time.  Check out some Jimmy Cobb if you haven’t already.  Even at medium and slow tempos sometimes all he’ll play is quarter notes, leaving out the “&s” all together (Freddie Freeloader is the classic example).  At breakneck speeds such at “Jubilee”, this can be very helpful to remember, as playing quarter notes is an excellent way to survive that tempo for an entire tune.  Also, Spang, Spang-a, Lang non-stop through an entire tune at this tempo might be a little bit too dense and get in the way of the blistering fast piano lines, though I have little doubt that Kenny could do it if he wanted to.

So, what I think it boils down to is that it’s likely Kenny is attempting to do two things here:

1. Conserve energy
2. Leave space for Bill (probably more so this one)

Two further things worthy of note, though:

1. Even when Kenny is only playing quarter notes, beats 2 and 4 have a little more “weight” to them.  It’s almost not even an accent.  Those notes just somehow feel a little bit “bigger” or “heavier”.  So even when you’re not playing the “a-lang”, that emphasis on 2 and 4 is still present on the ride cymbal.  

2.  When Kenny does play three notes in a row on the ride cymbal it’s almost always on beats 2 and/or 4, where it would naturally be if he was playing spang, spang-a, lang.

Here is a sheet with various phrasings of Spang-a Lang in amongst a steady quarter note pulse.  Push the tempo just a bit past your comfort zone and with your hi-hat on beats 2 and 4, play each example on the ride cymbal 4, 8, or 16 times.

As you get more comfortable try improvising.  Play the quarter notes with the "weight" on 2 and 4, and then start peppering in the “&s” where you see fit.