Monday, May 10, 2021

Elvin-ish Quarter Note Triplet Exercises in Four-Note Groupings ala Bill Stewart

Last week I received more e-mails requesting PDFs than I have in a long time.  It seems many of you really enjoyed the various Elvin inspired exercises.  I've been enjoying them too, so I kept going with them.

This time around I've taken the quarter note triplet exercises, and experimented with playing groupings of four notes.  Because there are only three notes in the bar, the four note phrases will roll over the barline, and resolves tidily after four bars.

Starting on the beat looks like this:

While starting on the second note looks like this:

Bill Stewart does this quite often to great effect.  You can see one example of it here on the blog in the transcription of "Metamorphosis".

Adding this variable to the mix means that the possibilities are pretty much endless in terms of voicings, but I came up with three simple ideas to get you started.

Pick any two voices, and play two of each: SSBB; HHSS; BBHH, etc.

Pick any two voices and treat one as A and one as B: BBSB; SSBS; HHSH, etc.

Use all three voices and treat one as A, one as B, and one as C: BSBH; SHSB; HBHS, etc.

Friday, May 07, 2021

Elvin-ish Quarter Note Triplet Exercises

If you've listened to any Elvin at all you'll almost surely know that, in addition to the sounds we explored in the last two posts, quarter note triplets are a big part of Elvin's sound.

Because we'll still be playing three notes for every two beats, we can use all the same voicing options we did on the two inner triplet exercises.  If we start on the beat, then there's really only one note different in the whole thing: the first non-ride cymbal note will be on the downbeat, rather than the second partial of the triplet.

I've written it out again, however, with both the two and three voice versions on one page because A) it's easier to visualize if you're new to this, and B) to emphasize the placement of these notes, as it's far too common that this: 

Gets played like this: 

And for a whole other set of options we can leave the ride cymbal alone, but shift all of the comping notes an 8th note later.

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Elvin Jones' Inner Triplet Exercise, part 2

Continuing on with the Elvin exercise we looked at on Monday, we can also play just two voices per cycle through the ride cymbal pattern.  Remember, we're simply using our left hand and both feet to fill in the triplets not being played on the ride.  By using only two voices each time we're left with doubles on each voice.

I don't feel this is necessarily any more difficult or any easier than the three-voice interpretation, but rather is just a different sound, and certainly gives us a lot more variations to experiment with.

Monday, May 03, 2021

Elvin Jones' Inner Triplets Exercise

I've been re-visiting a lot of Elvin lately as I have a student who is just beginning his deep dive into the material.

In gathering some material to send over to him I was reminded of this excellent post by Canadian drummer, Jon McCaslin on his long-running "Four on the Floor" blog.  The whole thing is definitely worth a read, but today I want to focus on one exercise in particular that Jon saw Elvin demonstrate at a clinic in the late '90s.

The concept is fairly simple.  You'll play a stock ride cymbal pattern in your right hand, and fill in the remaining triplets on another voice.

Each time through the two-beat ride cymbal pattern we have three notes to play and three limbs to play them with, so start by playing each limb once.  That gives us six different combinations to work with.

This wasn't mentioned in the original post, but by playing a double stroke on the snare drum we end up with further Elvin-esque ideas.

Drop me an e-mail if you'd like of PDF of this worksheet, and be sure to check out "Four on the Floor".  There is a ton of great stuff over there.

Saturday, May 01, 2021

Flam Accent/Swiss Army Triplet/Single Flammed Mill Study

 How's that for a nice, concise name?

I've been working these three rudiments on the set with a student of mine.  Some came easier than others and flowing between them was one of the rough spots.

When this happens either with my students or myself I'm a big fan of creating simple exercises that can be played on the pad or even just on your lap.  If you've checked out any of the other studies I've posted here before, then you'll know that I also like to make them naturally flip to be practiced off both hands.

So I quickly jotted down this little study that incorporates all three and naturally switches hands.  Try repeating it with drags added as well.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Bira Presidente Trademark Language

I recently came upon this video on pandeiro legend, Bira Presidente, talking about his playing style.  At the 1:15 mark Bira demonstrates the same trademark sounds that we looked at awhile back in the transcription of him playing "Vai Lá, Vai Lá" with Fundo de Quintal.

Here's the original post of the transcription, and notation of the phrases in the video below.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Latin Bell Patterns with Syncopation

Allison Miller has been posting some great practice ideas over on her Instagram page, and this one popped up the other day.  Play any common Latin Jazz rhythm with your feet and left hand, like so....

...and then read page 38 of Syncopation with your right hand on the ride cymbal.  As Allison points out, this really helps to free up your right hand and allow you to break away from common patterns.

This is the same general concept as the Kiko Freitas samba ideas we looked at recently where the feet and left hand play common samba rhythms and the right hand improvises in a telecoteco style.  Both of these are a really nice way to break out of the habit of thinking about ostinatos in your right hand and improvising with the left.

If page 38 is going by to quickly for you, don't forget that pages 34-37 are great to give yourself a little more time and repetition to get used to this, or any, concept.  I often do this myself and recommend it to my students as well.

As you get more comfortable, experiment with different sounds on the ride.  Play the bell, shoulder it a bit, etc.  Or, if you prefer a bit more structure in the practice room, try this....

Play everything on the bell.  But whenever there are two or more 8th notes in a row, start on the bow, and only play the last note of the group on the bell.  So the first two lines become this...

And if you have checked out Allison Miller yet, definitely do so.  Allison is a fellow WVU grad, though she finished a few years before I got there.  I've been to a few of her masterclasses, and her educational style and ideas are just as bad ass as her playing.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Transcription - Charlie Smith, "Hot House"

This is one I've been meaning to do for a long time.  Years, really.  I remember the first time I saw this video in college, and was struck by a few things.  For one, I don't know that I had seen a left-handed jazz drummer before then.  Also, the band seemed like an unlikely bunch.  For one, I was surprised not to see Max Roach on drums, and two the bassist, who is named Sandy Block, seemed kind of old for that crew.  And the pianist is Dick Hyman, who was also a host of the television show that this performance was on.

The drummer is Charlie Smith.  His name isn't thrown around as often as the likes of Kenny Clarke or Max Roack, but he had an enviable career working for the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Erroll Garner, Benny Goodman, Oscar Peterson, and more.

I love Charlie's feel on this tune, and the minimal set up with the jumbo bass drum.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Dig This - Chick Corea and early Return to Forever, Live

Despite being supremely bummed out about it, I didn't post anything last week when Chick Corea passed.  There wasn't much I could say that hadn't been said already.

The only good thing to come out of the loss has been the past week being absolutely filled with people posting Chick's music everywhere.  A particular one that jumped out at me was this live video of a very early incarnation of Return to Forever.  It's basically the first version of the band with Chick, Stanley Clarke, Joe Farrell, and Airto.  Flora Purim is missing, though, and Bill Tragesser is on percussion behind a young Airto that we get to see on kit rather than his usual percussion setup.  Those first two albums are my favorite version of the band, and some of my favorite Chick material period.

Friday, February 12, 2021

More tips on the Kiko Freitas-style samba

Edu Ribeiro has been doing a very enjoyable series of live-streamed interviews with some fantastic drummers over the past few months.  Back in December Kiko Freitas joined him, and they ended up spending quite a bit of time talking about Kiko's unique way of playing samba, and he brought up some points that I thought were worth sharing.  Two in particular really stood out to me, both of which regarding the left hand playing "1ea".

1. Don't be afraid of rebound.  We're often fed the idea that we should be able to stroke out everything on a feather pillow.  That's all very well and good, but that doesn't mean that we always should stroke everything out.  The "syncopa" rhythm that Kiko plays in his left hand is imitating a few different instruments of the bateria, but mostly the repinique.  Kiko points out that stylistically the repique is played with a group of three notes that come out of one motion, or throw of the stick.  It's this rebound that actually creates that distinctive swing.  So don't try to chop out each individual note.  Throw the stick and let it do a lot of the work for you.  Which brings me to my next point....

2.  Don't think of the downbeat as your starting point.  Initiate the motion on the last 16th note of the rhythm.  So, rather than thinking "1ea, 2ea", think "a1e, a2e".  Again, this will strengthen that characteristic swing feel.

Keep these points in mind while you give it a try with this sheet.

Here is the whole interview.  They had some technical difficulties, but it's worth sticking it out as they share some great information.

Friday, February 05, 2021

Marcio Bahia RLL sticking

One of my favorite Brazilian drummers, Marcio Bahia, recently posted a few videos to YouTube in which he plays a three-note sticking of RLL as a way to come up with some creative orchestrations over common Brazilian grooves.

It's pretty much the same principal as my 3-5-7 exercise, in which you play odd groupings over duple meter.  But as I said back then, resist the urge to think of this as 3/16 or 3/8 over 4/4 or 2/4.  Just think in whatever meter the groove is in and play 16th notes with a RLL sticking in your hands.

Marcio takes this concept a step further by incorporating accents. Once you're comfortable with placing accents on each part of the sticking you can play some common rhythms that accompany the foot parts.  The RLL sticking will give you some interesting orchestrations of those rhythms if you leave your right hand on the hi-hat or ride, and your left hand on the snare and/or toms.  From there you can/should improvise with both the accent placements and the voicings around the kit.

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

You Be the Drummer - Christian McBride, "Fingerpainting"

This one somehow slipped past me.  Released in 1997 I only discovered in a few weeks ago.

Here, Christian McBride, trumpeter Nicholas Payton, and guitarist Mark Whitfield play an album comprised entirely of Herbie Hancock repertoire.  Bass, trumpet and guitar is a really nice combo that you don't hear very often, and makes for a great drummer-less recording.

The straight ahead stuff is really swingin' (like there was any doubt), and there's a nice variety of tempos and styles as well.  Check it out.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Solo Transcription - Gaylord Birch, "Yes We Can Can" live

Following on from the first Gaylord Birch post the other day, here is a live version of the same tune where he gets more of a feature.  This is my kind of drum solo.  Just a kick-ass groove that everyone can still dance to with some bells and whistles thrown in for pizzazz.  I love the way that old kit shakes as he plays the living crap out of it, and that backhanded crash at 3:22 gets me every time.

Solo starts around 3:02, but you should just listen to the whole thing

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Transcription - Gaylord Birch, "Yes We Can Can"

This one has been in the drafts folder for a loooong time.

I remember the girl across the street from me growing up and her parents were big fans of the Pointer Sisters.  Then a few years ago I was reminded of them when this tune came on the radio very late one night as I was driving home from a gig.  I checked out the record the next day, read up on the drummer, Gaylord Birch, who I wasn't really familiar with, and made a note to transcribe that cool breakdown.

Fast forward a few years and my buddy from college, Steve Bidwell, posted about Gaylord on his blog, which reminded my that I had never finished this post.  Long story short, here we are.  Gaylord is killer, there's a cool transcription below, and you should also check out Steve's blog.

Transcription starts around 3:38

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Broken air conditioner snare drum solo

Well, folks, this is what it's come to.  Levels of boredom and frustration so high that when someone posts a video on YouTube entitled "Broken air con that plays a jazz drum solo!!" you think to yourself, "Hey, maybe I'll transcribe that!"....and then you actually do it.  So, for your Saturday evening pleasure, I give you, Snare Conditioner.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Steve Jordan practice loops

I've been having a lot of fun with these practice loops lately.

At first I was using them to search for a greater level of detail and depth in my playing, sitting on each one for long stretches, and spending time focusing on each limb individually and what makes someone like Steve Jordan groove so hard.

But after awhile I just let go of the intense focus and started straight-up playing them.  I've never really been one for meditation, but there was definitely a level of catharsis in it.  You don't have to think about form, or fills, just relax and play.

However you choose to use, I hope you enjoy.





Friday, January 08, 2021

A Jazz Drummer's Listening List

Happy New Year, everyone.

A current student of mine is preparing to head of to a music conservatory next year and asked for a list of important jazz records to listen to over Christmas break.  So, I put this list together.  Given the extra time we all have on our hands at the moment, I think some deep, active listening could do us all some good.

I've broken it down into two sections, roughly by style and time period.  The first list covers mostly bebop and hard bop of the late 40's and 1950's.  The second is the more modern sound that developed the 1960s, covering mostly the 60s, 70s, and 80s.  Both lists are organized by band leader to make them easier to find.  But be aware that different albums by the same band leader may have different drummers, so whatever you listen to be sure to look up who the drummer is.

Obviously, there is a ton of great music that is not on this list, including material from before and after these periods, as nothing on here is from the 20's and 30's, or 90's and 2000's.  Also, there's no mention here of "Latin" styles, etc.  But the albums on this list cover the styles that have been canonized as "jazz drumming", and have had some of the biggest impact on the way we play now.  Also, the music on this list probably best represents that which one would most likely be spending a considerable amount of time with in jazz school.

This is not a “best” list.  As I said, there are countless other records that could easily be included, but I wanted it to be a manageable size, so I’ve chosen albums that are historically important, can be found easily, and that I’m personally very familiar with and/or have meaning to me.

Happy listening.

Bebop/Hard bop

Clifford Brown and Max Roach

Clifford Brown and Max Roach

Art Blakey


We Three

We Three

Miles Davis






Bag’s Groove

Kind of Blue

Dizzy Gillespie

The Giant

Sonny Side Up

Art Pepper

Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section

Art Pepper +11

Thelonios Monk

Monk’s Dream

Brilliant Corners

Hank Mobley

Soul Station

Roll Call

No Room for Squares

Wynton Kelly

Smokin’ at the Half Note

Wes Montgomery

Full House

Ahmad Jamal

Live at the Pershing

John Coltrane

Blue Trane

Giant Steps

Bill Evans

Everybody Digs Bill Evans

Sonny Rollins

Way Out West

Saxophone Colossus

Freedom Suite

Oscar Peterson


“Modern” - 60s, 70s, early 80s

Miles Davis

Four & More

My Funny Valentine


Miles Smiles


Filles de Kilimanjaro

In a Silent Way

Bitches Brew

McCoy Tyner

The Real McCoy

Ornette Coleman

The Shape of Jazz to Come

John Coltrane

A Love Supreme

Herbie Hancock

Maiden Voyage

Empyrean Isles

Cecil Taylor


Joe Henderson

Inner Urge

The Kicker

Kenny Dorham

Una Mas

Eric Dolphy

Out To Lunch

Chick Corea

Now He Sings Now He Sobs

Return to Forever

Light As A Feather

Keith Jarrett

Standards vol 1 & 2


Dave Holland

Conference of the Birds

Pat Metheny

Bright Size Life


Question & Answer

Wayne Shorter

Night Dreamer

Speak No Evil

Wynton Marsalis

Standard Time vol. 1

Larry Young


Bill Evans

Sunday at the Village Vanguard

Trio 64

Trio 65

Waltz for Debby